In a society where technology is faster than ever, easy access to hardcore pornography has become a norm for teenagers in Britain.
The Channel 4 for documentary ‘Sex in Class‘ which aired last week followed renowned Belgian sexologist Goedele Liekens as she attempted to teach teenagers about porn fantasies and the realities of sexual pleasure.
The documentary opened with the startling fact that more than 80 percent of British teenagers have seen porn by the time they’re 13. As shocking as this may seem, the internet makes this information readily available to anyone with a internet connection. Despite the on going attempts from Sexual Health Charities such as the Terrence Higgins Trust, the Family Planning Association and Brook – who are featured in the documentary – to encourage young people to talk more openly about sex , it’s clear more needs to be done, starting with school first.
Failing our teens?
Belgian UN goodwill ambassador for sexual health, Goedele Liekens is challenging the way Britain is teaching it’s teens about sex. Only recently has compulsory sex and relationship education become recommended for students. The current system seems to be one highlighting only the risks of sex; infection, disease and pregnancy.However, this isn’t working.
Britain is the worst in Europe when it comes to rates of STIs and teenage pregnancy. But Liekens advocates for a vastly different programme, including information about pornography, consent and sexual pleasure. Liekens challenges the stereotypical British attitude towards sex, bringing in vulva puppets and a wall chart of varied genitalia. Though controversial, the programme highlights important gaps in the knowledge of young people.
Porn distorting reality
The most significant impact on the way teenagers see sex, undoubtedly comes from porn. When one of the boys in the show is asked to pick the most appealing picture from a wall chart of vulvas, he picks the one without any pubic hair, something routinely represented in pornography. When questioned about it, the boy proudly claims that if he was with with a girl who had pubic hair, he would dump her the very next day. In order to challenge the boys, Liekens sets them homework to shave their pubic hair at least once a day “maybe even two times, so you get a rash”.
In another activity where the groups of teens are asked to write their ideal sexual scenario, ideas from porn again were obvious. One group focused on the act of a blow job, ending in the guy ‘jizzing on her face’, as an ‘obvious’ end, clearly making all girls in the room feel uncomfortable. While the prominence of porn isn’t going anywhere, the problem is there’s no alternative message to combat it. British schools are failing in teaching young people about sex, respect and health relationships so the only source for this knowledge is online porn.
An empowering step for girls
At the beginning of the programme it was clear to see that the female voice was lacking. The young women in the class felt uncomfortable and slightly embarrassed by the comments of their male counterparts. The influence of pornography clearly created an imbalance in the gender relations in the teen group. Porn not only shows inaccurate images of relationship and sexual activity, but it also reveals dangerous messages about male dominance and female submission. This was startlingly true when one boy in the show commented that girls should always let partners ejaculate on their face as a sign of ‘respect’.
It also became clear the ignorance the girls had about their body. When asked to label their cervix, clitoris or urethra, they were unable to. What was clear, is that there’s something missing when it comes to sexual pleasure for women, as demonstrated in porn, which means girls cannot communicate how to have fulfilling sexual experiences. In order to tackle this, Liekens gave the girls a hand mirror and asked them to explore their bodies. By the end of the course, there was a real change in the voice and confidence the girls had in being able to talk openly about sex and feel empowered about their decisions.
Though it might seem initially shocking to us to teach kids in schools about pleasure, porn and masturbation, it really is worth it. The young people after completing the course, saw real changes. Isn’t this what young people deserve?
An honest open voice, it is certainly needed now in a time were porn has such a stranglehold. The question comes whether this should become an assessed topic. If it is, would it force schools to provide a comprehensive sex education that is so lacking and inconsistent at the moment? Goedele Liekens gives a window in to what could be for young people in Britain.
You can now found out how much you know about sex by taking the Sex Education Test.