I remember overhearing a conversation between a group of lads at school once about Katie Price (Jordon back in the 90s)…they were talking about a magazine shot they’d seen of her where she looked ‘dirty’ and ‘up for anything’.
I knew that it was just boys trying to be men, but I do remember that feeling of inadequacy and perhaps a pang of jealousy. Aside from the fact that my thirteen year old body bore absolutely no resemblance to Jordon’s, I didn’t look dirty and I certainly wasn’t ‘up for anything’. But the boys I secretly fancied seemed to like that.
I also remember conversations about the shocking sexual exploits and experiences of my (predominantly male) peers – of course now I know it was (mostly) made up. Fantasies they’d conjured up from those porn magazine passed underneath the desks in class, or from their dad’s 80s porn collection which they’d chanced upon at home.
Luckily, I wasn’t that impressionable at school and for the most part I was pretty sensible. Yes, I was a typically boy-obsessed teenager, but I had self-respect and the lines were very black and white between what was a ‘normal behaviour’ for a teenage girl, and what was an airbrushed porn star or glamour model ‘up for anything’.
Now the lines are so horrifyingly grey.
In this digital world where relationships are formed through a mobile phone screen, where we use social media ‘likes’ to measure how likeable, beautiful or witty we are. Where the home no longer symbolises the end to the social pressures of school – our kids are constantly online via their laptops, their mobiles, their computer consoles…Where most children have seen pornography by the time they leave primary school.
Quite frankly, raising a daughter in today’s world scares the hell out of me.
Girls are becoming increasingly sexualised and objectified through social media (and traditional media for that matter). And the saddest thing about it? They’re doing it to themselves. Whenever I go on holiday now, I see girls posing on the beach, their mate or boyfriend taking picture after picture of them whilst they get the best angle of their bikini clad body to post on Instagram.
And those endless selfies – all to get a shot of someone that doesn’t resemble them at all, but conforms to what is socially accepted as pretty/beautiful/sexy in today’s image conscious world. If I was feeling inadequate in comparison to Katie Price in the nineties, I really can’t imaging how teenage girls feel today.
But back to the topic of pornography…
This week there’s been more debate about whether kids should be taught about pornography and sexting in school. I’m with the 71% who thinks it should…
As adults I feel we have a responsibility to accept that our children are exposed to far more information and graphic content than we ever were. And they’re subjected to far more judgement, criticism and social pressure to look and behave a certain way. Accessible (and evermore graphic) pornographic content is just one of many types of media that is having a huge impact on the way teenagers (girls especially, but boys too) see themselves, the way they see their bodies and the way they view relationships.
We need to accept that ‘the birds and the bees’ is not really the crucial lesson to be taught in sex education today. Let’s be honest, we all knew about that long before we heard them from the science teacher – even in the ‘olden days’ before t’internet. The crucial lesson is about how we educate kids to deal with the social expectations placed upon them in this 24/7 media-crazy world.
Whilst I’m not suggesting that we all bar our kids from the internet and banish their mobile phones, we do need to teach our kids that what they see online of people’s social media profiles, celebrity culture and pornography does not represent real life. We need to teach them to respect themselves, value each other and know that there’s far better ways to prove their worth than a perfect selfie, a set of tits that goes viral, or ‘being up for it’ like the girls on our screens.
Do you think kids should be taught about pornography and sexting in schools? I’d love to read your thoughts below