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How Sex Ed Can Help When We Stumble Upon Porn

Sex Education, Sex Ed, Porn
By , 18, Contributor Originally Published: January 28, 2016 Revised: April 13, 2016

My parents did their best to halt the fast-advancing, grown-up world from prematurely encroaching on my early universe of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, friendship bracelets and games of capture the flag. My childhood laptop was a barricade of parental protection software, making it shocking that, a week after my tenth birthday, an email that appeared to be from a former acquaintance slithered into my email inbox. Seemingly innocuous, the email was cloaked to look like any other message.

When I opened the email, a video of a puppy said, “Click on me.” I clicked and was immediately accosted by a video of a very tan man and blindingly blonde women having rather violent, degrading sex as a bass-heavy, pop-rock song blared in the background. The screen froze. Frantic, I clicked, sweated and hit “Esc” until the video stopped playing. I sat—stunned, red-faced and paralyzed with an unfamiliar anxiety. This—regrettably—occurred before I was even able to define sex. (I had personally deduced that babies were the result of a couple rubbing noses and ears together.)

The Problem With Premature Exposure

Even as I eventually learned about anatomy, intercourse and conception from in-class worksheets and dated PSA videos in health class, the idea of sex was still laced with aggression and underlying shame. The birds were hawks and the bees were poised with stingers ready. I felt guilty. When I overheard an elementary school acquaintance christen anyone who had viewed porn as a “pervert,” my scalp burnt with embarrassment. I figured all sex must have to be similar to what I had seen, and I was shocked that so many trusted adults engaged in such a demeaning pastime.

With so much access to electronic devices, young people should be educated that the Internet and other media can convey harmful, misleading messages

Though I attempted to bury the memory, the hefty burden of guilt remained. Years later, I came across documentaries and literature about sexism and body image in the media that addressed unintentional exposure to pornography. These references, not school health classes, helped me identify the source of my anxiety and progress past it. School health classes did cover important information on menstruation, puberty, intercourse, contraception, etc., but my classes never even grazed the topic of pornography.

The “Adult” Sphere

The problem isn’t simply blatant pornography either. Not all porn clickbait is easily distinguishable with a neon “Click Here for Hot Girls! XXX” pop-up. Mainstream media relays hyper-sexualized imagery and attitudes about gender roles before someone has even grown out of ordering off of the kid’s menu. Access to overtly (and often unrealistic) sexualized depictions has undoubtedly increased, courtesy of the Internet and handheld devices.

The so-called “adult” sphere is only a click away. Don’t get me wrong—I love a raunchy music video as much as the next gal, but what may be deemed titillating for a young adult has no place in a child’s view of the world. With sexually explicit content so readily available, how can we prevent premature exposure to porn before realistic views of sexuality even have the chance to develop?

Solutions in the Classroom

Proper education is the only remedy. It wasn’t just seeing that video that struck me with anxiety. It was also the fact that no one ever discussed how this exposure can happen unintentionally. I wish someone had informed me that I was neither perverted nor guilty for being confused about what I saw. With so much access to electronic devices, young people should be educated that the Internet and other media can convey harmful, misleading messages.

The classroom can’t lag behind. It must adapt. Then, when parental protection software falters, a girl or guy won’t be ashamed to ask a trusted adult or friend for guidance. Eventually, the flashy, sensationalized images I came across were countered with honest, healthy ideas about sex from books, trusted adults and friends, and I came to accept the latter as the norm.

Feeling such unexplainable guilt while still in polka-dotted training bras did not set me up for a future of ease and security in my own body and the world around me. A simple, “Don’t feel ashamed,” from an educator might have sufficed. I just needed some assurance that I was not alone. When you’re young, the world is composed of seemingly never-ending mysteries. Comprehensive sex education—not pornography—should convey what we should expect from the boundless sphere of sexuality.

Lily Brock is a contributor who lives in Virginia.

 

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