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Discussing pornography in schools

The debate goes on.

Having worked directly with over 500,000 young people we are completely involved in the topic of relationship education first hand and over the last 15 years we have seen a change in the ideas and attitudes of those we work with – pupils, parents and teachers.  Although our projects are varied (performances, workshops, focus groups, films, consultations) each one is interactive and explores the views and opinions of those taking part, making the sessions relevant to those involved and current to the differing ideas on this sensitive issue.

We strongly believe from our work that the way to approach relationship and sex education should include a much broader look at our world – the internet, mobile phones and the whole sex industry - you cannot separate topics into small boxes or educate on these complex subjects in a 20 minute PowerPoint presentation.  Technology, the media, the fashion industry, the internet and much more has been targeting our young adults for years with no formal setup in place to educate parents or young people on how or what to do about the effects and influence it is having. So many people, ourselves included, are being sold an image of beauty, sexuality, love and relationships that undermines our self esteem and promotes an image of what we should be – and what we should be doing. We have worked with children as young as 9, 10, 11 years old who are feeling this pressure.

We have to highlight these issues within education? Who is arming our young people with the skills and abilities to define what is real? What is healthy? What is positive? We are dedicated to bridging this gap - through our plays, debates, workshops - but we aren’t reaching enough schools or pupils due to school budgets and lack of resources.   Young people are a great target audience for people to make money from; they have increasing hormones, they are impressionable, they are trying to make sense of who they are, and ultimately the money they have is expendable. They have been unscrupulously targeted for years. With easy access to the Internet on phones, at home and at school the sex industry, the fashion industry and the media are having an ever-increasing educational and informative influence on our young people and many people have stood by silently and let it happen. Yet now that it is a requirement to address some of these matters in schools people are talking, shouting and even demonstrating. It is more important than ever to create relationship, sex, Internet education that can be as compelling, as exciting, as influential as the media campaigns it is battling, but with the added bonus of focussing on the well-being of young people and not just the money it can make at any cost.

Could it be that companies, who traditionally make money from our young people, start supporting work within education to help young people in understanding the world we live in, how to contribute positively within it, how to communicate well and how to have happy healthy relationships?

Our philosophy is that we ‘go beyond the surface’.  Educators can’t just walk into schools and start telling young children about pornography – that isn’t the way forward.  We are just scratching the surface. Children need the skills, ideas, information and support to deal with their changing world. The first step with younger years is to look at the Internet itself to help them question the reliability of sources and understand that it is not all real. With older pupils there is a need to explore attitudes without saying what is right or wrong but by asking ‘Why do you do something? What do you get out of it? Where have your thoughts come from?’ This way we are allowing these subjects to be explored openly within a nurturing environment that forms it content from the students themselves, respecting their individuality, personal experiences and maturity.

As one 13 year old boy explained to us in our ‘Sex Factor’ project during a debate on the subject of pornography he was asked “Why do you think pornography is real when you don’t watch a soap or a Hollywood film and think it is?” His response was “I can see real life around me and learn from it – my family, school, but I can’t see people having sex!” Pornography was his only point of reference. Children and young people are learning uncensored from the media and technology and we must accept and respond to this.  

We care about the society we live in and the issues we cover, we care about those we work with. We really care about this! 

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