The Ins & Outs: Don't mistake porn as educational TV

 One great thing about getting off to internet porn is that you can find pretty much anything you’re looking for. From the run-of-the-mill scenes of two attractive people making passionate love to the dirtiest fecal play rape scenarios — if you’re into it, the internet has it for you.

But the internet has now provided accessibility to a wide array of pornographic material. Many young people just learning their way around the sexual arena are being exposed to images that may be hard for their young minds to interpret. These days, like many aspects of humanity, the internet has changed the way we consume porn, putting thousands of hours of porn, free of charge, literally at our fingertips.

The problem isn’t with porn itself; the problem lies with our inability to talk about sex. Sexual education in school typically doesn’t start until 7th or 8th grade, and with nearly 30 percent of children exposed to porn by age 13, according to a study by the School of Behavioral Sciences at Penn State Har­risburg, we’re sending kids out into a vast wilderness of internet porn with no context to evaluate it.

But placing all the blame on schools isn’t fair because much of the responsibility for teaching kids about sex should fall to the parents. Our button-down culture, which uses sex to sell almost everything, still treats it as a taboo topic of conversation. I’m sure talking to kids about sex isn’t easy, but it has to be easier than dealing with a kid who grows up with a sexual dysfunction from seeing porn they don’t understand.

At the risk of sounding ancient, I’ll admit that my own first exposure to porn came at a time before it was all over the internet, when it was still a rare and sacred thing. The odd nudie magazine pilfered from a friend’s older brother was something to be treasured and coveted, and in the absence of that, a glimpse of some side boob or the beginning of Baywatch was usually enough to make a deposit in the spank bank.

But porn is everywhere these days. It’s not like you can just wander around the internet and avoid running into pornography. A study published in the Official Journal of the Academy of Pediatrics found that 42 percent of kids between 10 and 17 had been exposed to internet porn, and of those, 66 percent had come upon it by accident.

Porn is also overwhelmingly made for and consumed by men. A study published in the journal “Professional Psychology: Research and Practice” in 1999 found that males make up roughly two-thirds of porn consumers, which means that porn is often tailored toward men and their fantasies of subservi­ent women.

There’s nothing wrong with a little dominance or submission in porn if that’s what you’re into, but children exposed to this kind of gender-based power dynamic run the risk of interpreting this behavior as the norm instead of fantasy role-playing.

Sex is a two-way street, on which both genders must travel. In a world already struggling with sexism and misogyny, porn often serves to reinforce the subservient roles women play in popular culture. Introducing boys to sex through porn without any ex­planation of how sex works in the real world is not a good way to set them up for a healthy adult sex life.

The trick isn’t to hide away the porn in a lockbox or blanket your computer in passwords and security programs — childlike curiosity has a way of getting past those types of measures. The solution is to stop treating sex like some sort of taboo topic. If you have a little brother, cousin or nephew who is coming into porn-viewing age, strike up a conversation with him about how porn differs from real life sex.

And if you grew up watching internet porn, remember that porn is meant to satisfy your fantasies, not mimic what sex is like in the real world. If you find yourself watching a particularly lewd scene that you want to act out, discuss it with your partner and lay out some ground rules. If you’re lucky, you might just be able to turn that fantasy into reality.

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