Monday, 13 October 2008

growing up too young

Paul Sheehan had an interesting article, titled We live in a sexual twilight zone, in last weekend's Sydney Morning Herald. He starts from considering two current films, Towelhead and Candy Girl, which have themes of sexuality in young teenage girls and young women, and Bill Henson's photos of naked pre-teen girls which caused a furore in Australia recently (Sheehan defends Henson).

He quotes sources indicating a high level of sexual interest and fantasies in young women and even young teens. For example, one Australian study shows that almost all children had seen internet porn by the age of 15, and for most of them it was their primary source of information on sex. A third of 13 year old girls have had sexual experience. (However the study was small and almost certainly not representative.)

He doesn't blame the internet, but considers "it may have created a more accurate mirror of who we collectively are as a society, in conflict with the laws and conventions we have constructed." That's a scary thought. And he concludes with this sobering idea:

"Frankly, it is our culture saturated with debt, consumerism, two-income families, one-parent households and a coarsening public domain that has done more to truncate the innocence of youth than random perverts, a reality we have barely begun to acknowledge."

1 comment:

  1. it may have created a more accurate mirror of who we collectively are as a society, in conflict with the laws and conventions we have constructed

    I think that's wrong. Our internet activity (such as viewing porn) represents what we would do if nobody's watching. Which is very different from what we would do in social situations, or to other people. Even what we say on the internet is often closer to what we wish we could say in "real life", because the element of social pressure (and immediate feedback, which you would get from somebody's body language if they were physically present) is absent.

    What I do think is dangerous about the internet is you choose what you view, and there is no means of assuring that what you have chosen is balanced. With other means of teaching young people about sex, you can ensure that various views are included, and if you don't then since people are viewing the material as a group someone is going to point this out and everyone gets a more balanced view of things. On the Internet, you only view what you choose, alone, and no matter what it is, there is a group who shares your view of it. Whereas in real life you mix up with people of all kinds of views, on the internet you can do that, or you can self-select into groups with views that agree with yours. And you have no sense that your group is a minority, because you don't see the other groups.

    Great for getting different viewpoints, and understanding what people truly think, and what they would say if they were just among sympathetic friends, but not so great for teaching kids about sex.


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