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Children of the Porn: Will Hiding From Pornography Actually Work?

Children of the Porn: Will Hiding From Pornography Actually Work?

In an Oakland, California elementary school classroom last month, two second graders got into a whole heap of trouble. Trouble for second graders usually means not sitting still, disregarding the direction of the teacher, and putting your hands on another child. Well, these two 7-year-olds were offenders of all of the above, and more. While details are sketchy (at best) reports say that the two offending children (one male, and one female) engaged in some form of oral sex in the classroom, while the teacher was otherwise occupied.

Needless to say that everyone has been severely disciplined, and a torrent of outrage and “What is this world coming to?” remarks have filled the comments section on just about every post/news story relating to this event. Some point to bad supervision, and some blame bad parenting and a morally compromised environment, while others blame the accessibility to pornography for such events. In all likelihood, this event is exceptional and fairly isolated (for now) but likely had more to do with learned behavior that was either observed or (sadly) inflicted in the form of abuse. Not a pretty picture, but maybe not quite the smoking gun needed to further incriminate the problem of pornography being a readily accessible form of entertainment for all.

While we use the internet for a number of necessary, and unnecessary, forms of communication and entertainment (emails, online shopping, social networking, and actual work) a great deal of internet usage is employed for uploading and viewing all sorts of forms of pornography. This is a fact (as you read this, you or possibly the next person to happen upon this page, is electively interrupting their cycle of ritual masturbation to read me blather on about other people pleasuring, and possibly corrupting, themselves with the use of internet pornography). Cultural critics have long speculated that the great prevalence of pornography is significantly attributing to the erosion of social and moral standards, as well as corrupting our children and planting ideas in their collective heads that wouldn’t otherwise appear until they are well into their college years.

The thinking is that in viewing pornography in this way (no matter what age you are), consumers are subjecting themselves to images that are personally harmful, psychologically impactful, and socially destabilizing; a conclusion based in part on the idea that sexual pleasure is inherently corrupting. While I am neither an advocate for, nor an outright opponent of, pornography in all of its forms, I am keenly aware that the flood gates are unquestionably open, and have been washed downriver in a tide of lurid and salacious images and buffering video streams, and there really isn’t much we can do to ignore it, try as we may.

Pornography is unquestionably a shady business trafficking in the exploits of young women, but it is a multi-billion dollar business that needs to be reckoned with on an individual, and maybe a personal level. A good friend of mine with a teenage son told me a story about arriving home in the middle of the day just to discover her son at the family computer, with his pants around his ankles, and engaged in some computer-assisted self-love. She was compelled to have a conversation with him that not she, nor her very embarrassed son, was ready to have. Maybe the “evils” of pornography are not something we could legislate away, because as many people are there are who detest the existence of porn, there are millions more who watch it and engage in it. Without question, pornography is not appropriate entertainment for young children, but is it reasonable for parents and guardians to expect adolescents and teens to turn away in shame when their hormones are telling them to stare into the abyss? Maybe, if we could remove some of the shame and stigma attached to watching (and dare I say, enjoying) porn, we could escape from the rigid thinking, harsh judgment, and guilty feelings (and avoid unfortunate incidents where young children are objectifying one another) that prevent real explorations into how pornography functions in society.

Just a thought.

Read more: Children, Family, Love, Parenting at the Crossroads, Sex, , , , , , , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

90 comments

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11:48AM PDT on Nov 1, 2011

Thanks for the balanced info on such an important and emotive topic. Porn seems to be filing a social void.

10:38PM PST on Mar 3, 2011

I think this kind of thing has to do a lot with the kids' families itself.
Kids copy what adults do!!

12:03PM PST on Mar 1, 2011

Thanks for sharing:)

11:15AM PST on Feb 28, 2011

I don't get why two kids in school trying to have sex has to do with pron. Maybe they did see it on tv or teen agers or what ever. It really worries me it happened in school with other kids and a teacher which goes to show us teachers need more help in the room full of kids. No one teacher can be everyplace at the same time. I do find it odd this was not noticed though.

2:35AM PST on Feb 28, 2011

Hopefully parents will not try to steer children away but rather educate them to be caring lovers, so that as they learn they can discern for themselves.

below some interesting articles on children and pornography, and the evidence seems to show that it may not be as harmful as some suggest, and does not appear to increase sex crimes.

http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-11-legalizing-child-pornography-linked-sex.html

http://www.physorg.com/news187448961.html

5:15PM PST on Feb 27, 2011

I agree with some of the other posters here that it starts at home. If parents are too busy or self-centered or too tired to mind the store, then send their kids out into the world, then why should we be surprised about the results? Parenting is a 24-hour a day job...no matter what the circumstances, if people aren't up to the task, then they shouldn't have any.

2:37PM PST on Feb 27, 2011

It starts at home. Talking about porn started with "Friends" or Seinfeld. Jerry Springer definitely lowered the bar. Teenagers are laughing and showing their younger siblings porn, who take the actions to school not knowing what they are doing. The world has gone to hell and it is too late because both parents must work.

1:22AM PST on Feb 27, 2011

I hope that the two kids did not have their sexuality permanently disturbed by the overreaction of the teachers and other adults that came to know of it. This should have been dealt with kindness and finesse, with a pinch of wisdom.

10:14AM PST on Feb 26, 2011

I'm not sure how to feel about this.

3:06AM PST on Feb 26, 2011

A book I think deals intelligently with this subject it Harmful to MInors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex by Judith Levine (University of Minnesota Press). Needless to say it immediately ignited a firestorm of outrage, as any sane approach to the subject is likely to do. On a related topic I also recommend The Eros of Parenthood by Noelle Oxenhandler. This began as a New Yorker article on how to honor and enjoy the natural sensuality of parent-child affection without crossing the line into sexual abuse. Oxenhandler expected a negative reaction to the article but instead many readers urged her to turn it into a book.

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