Ny Times What Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn

Sure, those video filters on the Internet are great — but we’ve all seen the nasty stuff that creeps past them. Should young people take their time in their bedrooms before staring at virtual sex scenes?

Ny Times What Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn

If you learned a lesson about human sexuality from your high school biology class, it’s likely that if you’re reading this, you already know: Humans can experience pleasure. This month, the PBS Newshour delved into the connections between teen sexuality and digital pornography.

This comes amid a growing conversation about the effect of pornography on sexual attitudes and beliefs of young people. As the recently published book Sex and the Game, by Ian Kerner, persuasively argues, it influences so many questions about sex that we’re all asking ourselves: “What does sexual intercourse feel like? What do you think happens when people perform it? How is the act of sex generally received by others? Are there different types of sex? How does sex differ between men and women?” In conversations about sex, “sex is everywhere—i.e., it’s ubiquitous.”

Add pornography to this mix, and we’re seeing what happens when it bubbles up from the Internet. The Newshour asked a few students at The Bronx High School of Science for their thoughts on the topic, and these students provided a rich variety of perspectives.

“When I was working with the male anatomy, I found out that boys get very anxious, especially if they have a lot of erections. Because they’re not seeing any of those things, they just think that everything is OK,” said one student.

“I’m not going to say that watching porn is good for women because it’s not good for women at all,” said another. “I think it makes girls feel insecure about their bodies.”

But a few students said they don’t necessarily see pornography as a problem. “Porn is harmless, and it’s for the guys to look at and not to see the whole spectrum of girls’ bodies,” said one student.

But it appears the value of depictions of women’s bodies in porn might be falling. Roughly 15 percent of people between the ages of 13 and 19 say they’ve watched an explicit sexual video, down from 27 percent in 2007, and below the historical average of 20 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. Last year, 72 percent of men said they had watched online pornography, while 76 percent of women did. As the Newshour points out, some of the decline may be down to the rise of subscription services like Pornhub, with tens of millions of users, and offer filters and filters to block inappropriate content.

Regardless of whether you believe some of the depictions of young people in sex that appear in porn are consensual, there’s no doubt that as a society we’re in trouble if these videos are being viewed as both normative and acceptable. Not only do they fail to depict the real challenges of sex that so many young people experience, they don’t even acknowledge that people might have different sexual preferences, either — a serious issue for people who like to maintain the wide, open sexual spectrum.

The Newshour’s presenter, Professor Janis Chang, brought a representative from the Los Angeles-based group Unchained Collective onto the program to help advance conversation about these issues. Speaking about children and families, she shared with the students a powerful scene from a presentation that she gives at Planned Parenthood. In the film, nine-year-old (and the youngest person) who struggles with the pressure to maintain a heterosexual, two-sex relationship that will feel natural to her extended family, is secretly filmed by the father of her friends. When she appears to disobey him, she’s sent to a group of men, who repeatedly threaten to beat her. The film ends with her decision to leave.

Shown alongside the scene from Unchained’s video, a video of a 9-year-old son who is struggling with the pressures of being gay in an Asian-American family, ends with the mother of her friends placing the camera to her son’s face and saying, “Don’t worry. I know, she’s there.”

And what about America’s 21st century media landscape? Should laws that make it illegal to record people engaged in consensual sex in their homes, should they be changed?

“If we allow sexual content to be the norm for young people, we’re creating the very personhood the material is trying to make obsolete,” said Chang. “How much do we take it seriously? And what is it that we really think we are doing to people by not realizing what they need and wanting to have?”

Even if you say that pornography doesn’t affect your life, doesn’t change you, how safe are you?

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