Trying to research this blog post was not easy. Just typing the words 'porn' and 'children' into Google felt a little bit dodgy. It was research, officer, honestly it was.
However this is what I found (thank you BBC.com)
- In 2010, a Home Office report
warned the "drip-drip" exposure to sexual imagery - which included
pornography, "lads' mags" and sexual imagery in advertising - was
distorting young people's perceptions of themselves, encouraging boys to
become fixated on being macho and dominant, and girls to present
themselves as sexually available and permissive.
- A survey of 16-24 year olds by the University of Plymouth and the UK
Safer Internet Centre found that one in three admitted porn had affected
- Almost a third of 16-18-year-olds have seen sexual pictures on mobile
phones at school at least a few times a month, a 2010 YouGov survey
I suspect that the figures quoted here underestimate the number of children accessing porn on their phones and the (all too suitably named) iTouch. And we're not talking soft porn. Kids are able to access the sort of stuff that was, only a few years ago, pretty specialist stuff. The Home Office fears about gender stereotyping are just the beginning. How about the kids who are so desensitised that they can't form actual sexual relationships? How about the kids who get their ideas about normal from the fantasies of pornographers?
Very few YA writers are tackling or even acknowledging this subject, and who can blame us? How easy would it be to get such a book through the gate-keepers? How controversial would such a book be? Remember the fuss over Melvin Burgess's Doing It which accurately reflected how teenage boys talk and think about sex (surprise, not aways in the most politically correct way). I did sneak a mention of porn into Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery, but I didn't elaborate on it. Too much risk that a likeable character would seem revolting and sleazey.
But by ignoring it, are we doing both boys and girls a disservice? Are we ignoring one of the biggest changes to teenage life since rock and roll? By peddling romance to girls and failing to reflect reality, are YA books becoming part of the problem? And are there books out there which talk about porn?
I don't have any answers. I'd love to know what you think.