Reading Gail Dines’ ‘Pornland’ makes me feel quite ill in places. In my quest to find out more about the porn industry, I’ve been keen to avoid seeing any images (that would simply perpetuate the abuse), but rather read descriptions in order to redeem this knowledge for good purposes. And it’s tough stuff. Whether you focus on the physical effects (e.g. anal reparative surgery) or the mental consequences (e.g. self-destructive behaviour), it really is tortuous and bleak.
On a wider level, it is heart-breaking to read about how young women’s body confidence is being dismantled – in some cases destroyed – by the ruinous expectations set up by the porn industry. So many feel the need to look like porn stars, with the endless waxing involved, otherwise they risk rejection by potential partners. (Pornland, Dines p99ff) Reading the disgust with which some have been greeted for not waxing sufficiently demonstrates the totalitarianism of the porn industry – ‘it’s our way or social exclusion’. And the mainstream ‘women’s’ magazines who peddle the same line in more acceptable ways simply add fuel to this fire. This is, of course, before we get into the details of what might be demanded in the bedroom. I recently heard of a case where a marriage broke up within a couple of years because the husband’s previous porn consumption had led to demands that could not (and should not) be fulfilled by his wife. I’m sure this is a widespread issue leading to misery, separation and possibly violence.
So here’s a suggestion I open up for discussion: is there a place for education about pornography, its values and its effects, in Relationships and Sex Education in Schools? Could it be taught in age-appropriate ways through the age range Year 6 to Year 11 in a way that builds self-esteem for both sexes? And could parents be sent a summary of the presentations to provoke family conversations?
Your thoughts are most welcome…