Harmless Pornography?

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There has been an ongoing war within the world of research around the impact of pornography. Although there is some limited research suggesting it may be harmless, there is a growing literature that speaks in fear of a pornography tsunami that has the potential to reshape society. Of particular concern, is the impact that frequent viewing of pornography is having on our children and adolescents.

For the past 20 years brain researchers have been using terms such as neuroplasticity and synaptic pruning, telling us that the brains of our young people are continually rewiring themselves based on their exposure to the environment. With online pornography having entered the environment, we are now not-so-eagerly awaiting the results of this horrifying social experiment.

We now know that around 90 percent of children have watched online pornography. That boys aged between 12 and 17 are the largest consumers of online pornography, and that access to extremely violent and disturbing content is more freely available and accessible than the latest Disney movie. We also know that up to 60 percent of teenagers have been asked to post sexual images of themselves online, and we fear that parental monitoring of children’s online activity is a lost-war.

In terms of long-term effects, there are concerns about increased difficulty with developing of intimacy in relationships, the possibility of addiction-type behaviours, increases in sexual dysfunction, and the normalisation of sexual violence.

As parents, I believe that we have to have a voice that can be heard above the noise of popular culture. We have to be vocal in expressing what we think about the sexualisation of children, the use of sexualised language, and the use of pornography. If our own struggle with pornography keeps us silent on this issue, then we need to manage our struggle in order to show our children what we want for their lives. We need to esteem others, move beyond the importance of physical appearance, and show our children that consuming people for personal satisfaction is not a recipe for a fulfilling life.

As a parent I believe that there is increasing evidence suggesting that this is an area that we cannot be complacent about. I want my children to grow into adults who can experience fulfilling emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical relationships and so I’m prepared to risk being a prude. I’m prepared to talk with my children about healthy sexuality and I’m prepared to present an alternative perspective, and even to suggest that life without pornography might be beneficial…

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