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Pornography isn’t bad – sexual education is

Nowadays pornography is the main source of sexual education amongst children and youth. According to Ševčíková and Daneback who conducted a largescale study of adolescents in the Czech Republic, 56.8 % of them reported an online pornography use, while 33 % of them claimed to do so for educational purposes and 46.1 % viewed pornography because they were curious [Ševčíková, Daneback 2014]. Such high percentage is attributed to pornography’s accessibility and anonymity. Although pornography depicts unrealistic sex, it also shows what’s sexually possible – but it shouldn’t be a primary source of sexual education, because porn is meant for entertainment. In the following essay I argue, that online sexually explicit materials aren’t the problem. The problem is the sexual education in the Czech Republic, because it is not comprehensive, lacks conversation about porn and is generally taught in a way which makes adolescents feel awkward.

There is no doubt that pornography is easily accessible. If you type “porn” in Google, you are presented with more than four billion results. Even if you don’t search for porn intentionally, there is a high chance that you will be exposed to sexually explicit content by an advertisement or a spam e-mail. Though pornography is not legal in Czech Republic for people under eighteen years of age, it is extremely easy to avoid this obstacle: you just have to confirm your age through a one click and that’s it. Today’s children are not dumb – they are more skilled with internet and technologies than their parents and there is no point in pretending they’ve never clicked on nor searched for porn.

Acknowledging this situation is especially crucial in times when there is no cohesive sexual education at primary and secondary schools. While biological, social and psychological development of the human, the differences between sexes and love and responsibility, are all mandatory topics for primary schools, the educational framework is defined so broadly that it is actually up to headmasters of particular schools how these topics will be embedded in the teaching curriculum [Kuncová 2014]. I suggest you ask anyone around you if they received any kind of sex education in school: most usually, they will response with “Nope.” Of course there will be few people who experienced sexual education – usually as a part of their natural science course. They will probably recall embarrassing sessions in which the teacher explained the anatomy of the human body and how babies are made. There will be even a smaller group of people lucky enough to see a live demonstration of proper condom use in school. I am 22 years old and when my generation was young, we had mostly access to teenage magazines with Q&A sex column. Are you wondering what children have access to nowadays? The internet. And they will not hesitate to google sex-related topics, because unlike their friends, internet is anonymous and will not spread rumors about their intimate questions. Inevitably, googling sex will lead them to pornography.

But why is pornography potentially harmful for children? There is nothing wrong with pornography itself. As sexual educator and a sex-shop owner Amy Boyajian put it, the problem is that porn is not meant for education, but for entertainment [Wildflowersex 2019]. Usually those perfectly round breasts and never-ending erections are not real, nor are those five orgasms in a row and the willingness of the performers to try almost anything. It is all scripted and edited. But how could the kids know, if no one tells them? A study conducted by Peter and Valkenburg in 2010 reported that the more porn adolescents consume, the more real and useful it seems to them [Peter, Valkenburg 2010]. But porn isn’t real – it is a scripted fantasy.

Despite this, according to a feminist author and a supporter of pornography Wendy McElroy, a fantasy which might be very beneficial: “(…) it gives a panoramic view of the world’s sexual possibilities; it allows women to “safely” experience sexual alternatives,” she claims [McElroy 1995]. What she says is true – there is even a famous saying called the rule of the internet number thirty-four which states that if something exists, there is a pornographic version of it. There is no doubt that pornography depicts an astonishing range of sexual practices which can be safely explored in one’s privacy and anonymity – and that is a positive fact. All things considered, although pornography is definitely easy to get to and it depicts sex far from reality, it allows people to safely get to know various sexual practices. That is why, in my opinion, we shouldn’t ban and condemn pornography – it is a valuable source of, as McElroy put it, “the world’s sexual possibilities,” [McElroy 1995].

The main problem is that adolescents turn to porn to learn about sex, while we still lack the conversation about porn. Such conversation should be a part of sexual education, which is taught inconsistently in Czech Republic. If sufficiently executed, such education would teach children and adolescents that although pornography is a great source of what is sexually possible, in most times it isn’t a realistic depiction. A possible solution might be a non-profit organization like The Porn Conversation, founded by a feminist porn-maker Erika Lust. The aim of this organization is to provide educational materials discussing pornography for children of different ages. Such materials, distributed in every school, would be an unobtrusive way to educate children without making them feel uncomfortable. They could be enriched with more information about safe sex and anatomy. According to website Teaching Sexual Health, which is aimed at sexual educators, it is also good to use a question box, where students can submit their sex- and intimacy-related questions anonymously and the teacher answers them [Teaching Sexual Health 2019]. I believe that these measures would be a great solution to this problem.

Michaela Lebedíková is a Master’s degree student of Sociology

Article was written in Writing Sociology class

Sources:

Kuncová, M. 2014. “Penis a vagína aneb Víte, co se vase děti učí ve škole?” Aktuálně.cz [online] Available from: https://zena.aktualne.cz/rodina/penis-a-vagina-aneb-vite-co-se-vase-deti-uci-ve-skole/r~i:article:802946/?redirected=1552669909

McElroy, W. 1995. XXX: A Woman’s Right to Pornography. NewYork: St. Martin’s Press. [online] Available from: htttp://www.wendymcelroy.com/xxx/

Peter, J., P. M. Valkenburg. 2010. “Processes Underlying the Effects of Adolescents’ Use of Sexually Explicit Internet Material: The Role of Perceived Realism.” Communication Research, 37 (3), 375-399. DOI: 10.1177/0093650210362464

Ševčíková, A., K. Daneback. 2014. “Online pornography use in adolescence: Age and gender differences.” European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 11 (6), 674-686. DOI: 10.1080/17405629.2014.926808

Teaching Sexual Health. 2019. „Instructional Methods – Teachers“. [online]. Available from: https://teachingsexualhealth.ca/teachers/sexual-health-education/understanding-your-role/get-prepared/instructional-methods/.

Wildflowersex. 2019. An Instagram post from 6. 3. 2019. Available through: https://www.instagram.com/p/BurSczrlxTY/

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