Friday, 15 March 2013

The P*** Word by Keren David

Trying to research this blog post was not easy. Just typing the words 'porn' and 'children' into Google felt a little bit dodgy. It was research, officer, honestly it was.
However this is what I found (thank you 

 - In 2010, a Home Office report warned the "drip-drip" exposure to sexual imagery - which included pornography, "lads' mags" and sexual imagery in advertising - was distorting young people's perceptions of themselves, encouraging boys to become fixated on being macho and dominant, and girls to present themselves as sexually available and permissive.  

 - A survey of 16-24 year olds by the University of Plymouth and the UK Safer Internet Centre found that one in three admitted porn had affected their relationships.

 - Almost a third of 16-18-year-olds have seen sexual pictures on mobile phones at school at least a few times a month, a 2010 YouGov survey suggested.

I suspect that the figures quoted here underestimate the number of children accessing porn on their phones and the (all too suitably named) iTouch. And we're not talking soft porn. Kids are able to access the sort of stuff that was, only a few years ago, pretty specialist stuff. The Home Office fears about gender stereotyping are just the beginning. How about the kids who are so desensitised that they can't form actual sexual relationships? How about the kids who get their ideas about normal from the fantasies of pornographers?

Very few YA writers are tackling or even acknowledging this subject, and who can blame us? How easy would it be to get such a book through the gate-keepers? How controversial would such a book be? Remember the fuss over Melvin Burgess's Doing It which accurately reflected how teenage boys talk and think about sex (surprise, not aways in the most politically correct way).  I did sneak a mention of porn into Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery, but I didn't elaborate on it. Too much risk that a likeable character would seem revolting and sleazey.

 But by ignoring it,  are we doing both boys and girls a disservice? Are we ignoring one of the biggest changes to teenage life since rock and roll? By peddling romance to girls and failing to reflect reality, are YA books becoming part of the problem? And are there books out there which talk about porn?

I don't have any answers. I'd love to know what you think.


  1. Keren, as you know this is close to my heart but like you I have no answers. I wish I did. In my research I found that the representation of sex has changed and it has become more graphic rather than implied. But doesn't it have to, as you suggest, bearing in mind what they can access? It is a difficult one but is this 'new adult' genre going to be addressing it I wonder? I am great believer that if the story calls for it fine, but if it is there just for the sake of it, cut it out. I hope that makes some sense

  2. I don't think you have to go as far as actual porn to see the kind of sexual role models children live with. Just watch MTV with the sound off. Or Google Rihanna/ Chris Brown. I remember Madonna's book Sex going round the 6th form common room when I was at school,we thought it was the coolest thing ever. I still have in my 'box of things from being a teenager' a picture of her from a mag that I cut out and stuck to my wall when I was like 16 or something, she's got her back to the camera, wearing nothing but a pair of leopardskin shorts cut out to show her bum cleavage, and she's got Access All Areas written on her back in lipstick. I should add, I'm not a prude, I had a life when I was a teenager (haven't got one now :)) and it was good, and I'm glad I had it, but when you're a tad older you do look at these things with slightly more... aware eyes, I guess.
    Basically what I'm saying is, kids don;t have to go to the top shelf to see porn, they can just watch a Britney Spears video. It's not a matter of porn being 'out there', something 'apart from' normal life, it *is* normal life. I'd say we are all, as a society, ignoring that fact.

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