Ms Sless wants to equip children with the skills to navigate sex healthily and can't be victimised through their ignorance.
Ms Sless wants to equip children with the skills to navigate sex healthily and can't be victimised through their ignorance. Viceland

Kids could be taught how to understand porn

A NEW plan might finally see lobby groups taken out of our children's sex-ed classes. 

It's one of the most awkward things for Australians to talk about, but porn-viewing habits may have a profound impact on the way we think about sex from a young age and it may be time to think about it differently.

That's the argument SBS' Viceland's Marty Smiley will be exploring in a special feature on "Porn Education" in schools tonight, and one interviewee in particular put forward a radically different approach to sex education.

Author Eva Sless said she believes vibrators should be given out in schools and sex workers, sexual health doctors, gynaecologists and child psychologists should be brought in to help children understand porn.

Presenter Marty Smiley said he wasn’t 100 per cent sold on the Ms Sless’ idea, but said she has a point. Picture: Viceland
Presenter Marty Smiley said he wasn’t 100 per cent sold on the Ms Sless’ idea, but said she has a point. Picture: Viceland

"I mean, sex workers know sex," she said.

"They have the forerunners in sexual health. They know pleasure. They know how their bodies work, how other peoples' bodies work, it's their job, and people get really weird about that suggestion."

After speaking to a parent who didn't want porn involved in their kids' education at all, Mr Smiley met with Ms Sless, who argues this type of attitude is problematic.

"I think there's a real problem when you match pleasure and shame," she said.

"There is nothing more conflicting, I think, than something that feels amazing, and being told it's absolutely wrong, and that does awful messed up things to kids' brains."

She said the blame for this lies with all of us and the government education system that she argues pushes an idea that if we teach kids about sex, they're going to go out and have sex.

"That's not the case," she said.

"No one is suggesting to play hardcore BDSM pornography in classrooms, and if they are, then I'd be worried.

"But, there is a real need for this education about pornography whether or not it's shown or just spoken about."

Ms Sless said vibrators should be handed out to children in schools. Picture: Viceland
Ms Sless said vibrators should be handed out to children in schools. Picture: Viceland

And, the statistics in the Viceland feature show Aussie kids are watching more porn than ever before, with 93 per cent of boys and 61 per cent of girls are being exposed to pornography online.

An Australian study found that 47 per cent of 15 to 19 year old boys saw pornography every day.

But what effect is this having on young minds?

Mr Smiley also talked to Liz Walker, who described the impact pornography had on her when she was just six - and she now campaigns for child protection from porn.

"So at the age of six, I was on a school bus and a girl who was a couple of years older than me, hopped on the bus and she said: 'Hey, I've got something to show'," she said. "She was really wide-eyed and excited.

"She showed me a really graphic magazine, it was a big step up from your Playboy and Penthouse type mag, and it was image after image after image of people having sex, and it really, really shook me."

She told Mr Smiley the images "aroused" her young mind and affected her ever since.

Liz Walker campaigns for child protection from porn. Picture: Viceland
Liz Walker campaigns for child protection from porn. Picture: Viceland

"I didn't know who to talk to," she said. "I didn't know how to process that, and it literally, now I know, I internalised those messages.

"It just triggered something in me. A six-year-old can be aroused, and so that's an uncomfortable conversation that a lot of parents don't want to have."

However, she doesn't believe the burden of tackling this awkwardness lies solely with parents.

She is calling for porn to be considered a public health issue that needs to be a priority in schools - as the average age of first viewing pornography in Australia is 13 years for boys and 16 years for girls.

However, there is no national sex education curriculum - which makes implementing this idea difficult in practice.

"In states like Victoria and South Australia, kids do learn a little bit about porn but In Queensland and Western Australia, basic sex ed isn't even compulsory," says Mr Smiley in tonight's feature.

Mr Smiley's feature on Porn Education can be viewed here.


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