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It used to be a case of "talking about the birds and the bees" or hoping that some other adult, usually a teacher, would do it for you. Unfortunately for parents these days, there’s another element to sex education that needs to be addressed - "porn literacy", writes parenting columnist Ian Munro.
Learning about pornography and its impact on intimate relationships with others is now an essential for adolescents as they learn about their changing body, their developing sexual feelings and related sexual behaviours towards others of all genders and orientations.
The rise of online pornography has had a much more devastating effect on the views of young males about sexual relationships than the "Playboy under the mattress" ever did. Its graphic portrayal, often accompanied by violence and rape and sometimes with underage participants, is largely focused on personal gratification with little or no respect for others.
Pornographic sex never includes the things that healthy, respectful sexual relationships are based on such as getting to know each other, having fun together and with others, holding hands, cuddling and kissing.
The relationship between pornography and sexual behaviour continues to be debated by experts. Many young males will undoubtedly view porn and move on as has always been the case. However, those more inclined to unhealthy sexual relationships probably feel more empowered to go down that path, more aggressively and with a greater sense of their right to have access to the bodies of others regardless of consent.
Dr Elena Martellozzo, an associate professor in criminology at Middlesex University, holds that the implicit message that men had a "right" to women’s bodies undermines any notion of consent.
According to her research published in March, 65% of 15 to 16-year-olds in the United Kingdom reported seeing pornography, with porn more commonly seen by boys. Just over half of the boys in the study aged 11-16 who had seen porn felt it was realistic compared with 39% of the girls who had seen porn, with 44% of boys and 29% of girls saying it had given them ideas to try out.
"If boys believe that online pornography provides a realistic view of sexual relationships, then this may lead to inappropriate expectations of girls and women. Girls, too, may feel pressured to live up to these unrealistic, and perhaps non-consensual, interpretations of sex."
One thing the experts do agree on is that better sex education is crucial, including open, honest conversations about consent.