Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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Porn and incorrect reasoning

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2009/mar/30/teenagers-porn-sex-educatione by Denis Campbell shows several examples of both a twisted view of porn/sex and grossly incorrect reasoning. A few quotes with comments:

Schoolchildren, it appears, are big consumers of porn. [...] teenagers’ sexual attitudes, behaviour and hang-ups are influenced by [porn] [...] One doesn’t have to be a prude to find this all very unsettling.

With the ages mentioned later, there is nothing unsettling about schoolchildren being big consumers of porn to a rational thinker: This is a natural exploration of one of the most important things on the mind of the average teenager—I would even speculate that previous generations has had a too small exposure to anything sex related, which has done more damage and led to more twisted views than modern porn does. (If, OTOH, children of eight years were watching porn, then a case could be made.) If there are additional hang-ups (to what is already provided by e.g. TV) this is bad, but it should be addressed by attacking the specific problems, not porn in general. Also note that everything has positive and negative sides: Condemning something based on the existence of negatives is not intellectually honest—the net effect must be investigated.

Mobile phones and the internet, despite supposed controls and content filters, make porn-sharing all too easy. Their [the teens] viewing includes bestiality, group sex and lesbian intercourse.

The phrasing “all too easy” outs the bias of Mr. Campbell. As to the specifics, group sex and lesbian intercourse are both considered main-stream porn by today’s standards, and notably many straight women (cf. the forums of Women’s Health) prefer lesbian porn. Bestiality, OTOH, is a very tricky area, which would need to be investigated scientifically with regard to psychological side-effects, willingness of the animals, and so on, before it can be better judged. However, let us say for the sake of argument that bestiality is something that should be out of bounds (a possibility that I fully recognize): The mere claim that the “viewing includes bestiality” is insufficient. For all we know it could be a fringe phenomenon, or just be something that the individual teen has watched once or twice for curiosity value; and without data to the contrary (e.g. “twenty per cent of all teens watch at least ten minutes of bestiality a week”) this may well be a straw-man or a scare tactic from Mr Campbell. (Certainly, it seems reasonable to assume that the teens would be more interested in naked young women respectively naked muscular men.)

Three in 10 pupils say they learn about sex from porn. Yet porn actors never use contraception on camera. For all the bravado, there’s an undercurrent of ambivalence. Asked whether "pornography might give boys or girls false ideas about sex", 60% said yes.

That teens learn from porn need not be bad—many adults do to, and view it as something positive. Notably, sex education in schools focus on preventatives, reproduction, and related themes, leaving teens unprepared to satisfy their early partners; and porn could be a valuable complement. (However, some care should be taken that misconceptions do not become to prevalent. In this regard, Mr. Campbell’s point is not entirely without merit.)

That 60% of the teens are aware of the possibility of “false ideas” is something highly positive, and should reduce the perception of porn as a threat in this regard—fore-warned is fore-armed.

The claim about contraception is a definite untruth: Condoms do, admittedly, occur in only a minority of all porn; but that minority is far too large for the statement to be justifiable.

[Teenage boys interviewed] say the most attractive [breasts] are the ones that have been surgically enhanced. Alarmingly, a posse of their female classmates says the same thing. Both sexes are unimpressed with normal breasts, which [...] are often not symmetrical and sit down, not up.

Here the implicit message is “Porn has twisted the teens perception of what breast should look like; ergo, porn is bad.”—demonstrating a complete misunderstanding. Naturally, plastic surgeons (and the women who have plastic surgery) know what they are doing and go for improvements in attractiveness—if this was not possible, then breast implants would not be as popular as they are. Teens (and adults) prefer the look of surgically improved breasts because of inborn reactions, and, unsurprisingly, porn actresses with such breasts are very common.

Notably, symmetry is a trait generally considered attractive in most contexts (e.g. facial features); and for evolutionary reasons it is perfectly natural that breast that go up-wards (implying a younger woman) are more attractive than the down-wards going (implying a women past her ideal age as a mate in older times, often even a women who already has children).

Freakish ideas [women shaving their pubic hairs] of physicality are now mainstream.

This may not be the natural state, but neither is blonded hair on a woman, a shaved face on a man, or the use of deodorants by either sex. It could very well be argued that pubic shaving is just a further step in the development of hygiene and aesthetics—“freakish” is a word that I cannot see as justified in any manner. (Even I, as a man, regularly trim my pubic hairs; although, admittedly, I would feel extremely weird actually shaving them.) I note that women who want to be given head are wise to shave; and that a hair-less “area” can be seen as a natural sign of attractiveness (by younger women having less natural hair than older, and the above principle).

Unsurprisingly, 45% of girls at Sheringham are unhappy with their breasts and almost a third would consider surgery. [Similar statements about boys and penises.]

In as far as these problems go back to porn, this could be a valid area of concern; however, it could be countered in other manners, e.g. sex education stressing that porn stars are usually noticeably above average in many regards. Further, women have been obsessed with and unhappy about their looks for far longer than porn has been freely available—and I note that there is no direct attribution to porn in the text, only an implied one, for girls; whereas it is explicitly stated for boys. If nothing else, the insecure could always look around in the locker room during PE to get their bearings on what the real-life “competition” looks like.