One of the most disturbing recent trends in gender relations, to my mind, is the effect that pornography, in its current ubiquity,is having on younger people. This is not to say I am against porn. Like almost any straight male, for me to make that statement would be the height of hypocrisy. What I am against is the accessibility and lack of context that teens, pre-teens, and even younger children have to kinds of footage that would make the pornographers of yesteryear blush.
My level of early exposure to pornography was on par with most men my age. The odd videotape that someone’s father had hidden poorly, the occasional magazine stolen from the convenience store while working in a group of like-minded pre-pubescent children of the 80’s. It seems pretty innocent in retrospect, and the material was awfully tame by today’s standards. All the same, I feel that that exposure, and the fire it stoked to see more of the same, stunted me in certain respects.
There were a lot of reasons behind my awkwardness with girls, but it can at least be partly blamed on the skewed way porn made me look at women. They were portrayed as lusty, wanton sexual vessels that were always turned on and ready, so when they didn’t act that way towards me, I was confused. I blamed them for not being into me when they were supposed to be, and blamed myself for not being the oily alpha-male that I saw in these films. Since I was a silly, awkward teenager, it never occurred to me that it was all only because I was a silly, awkward teenager.
If that limited exposure did that to me, I can only imagine what the current state of availability is doing to boys and girls growing up now. I don’t really have to imagine, though. It’s been well documented that teenage boys are looking at a disturbing amount of porn online, on their phones, and on TV. They look to it as instructional material for sexual relations, which leads them to pressure teenage girls to do things that retired porn actors will tell you have destructive physical consequences. Since context, or even the basic idea of sexuality being a means of expressing affection, has been removed from these acts, all these kids have to go off of is the mistaken notion that everyone else is doing it.
It may seem like I am just clutching my pearls, but what all of this portends is pretty disturbing: a generation of young men, from all backgrounds, drastically desensitized to violent, abusive sex. A generation of young women that are increasingly pressured to meet the depraved demands of their male peers. A colder world where young people are more interested in emulating what they see in blue movies than in falling in love.
Maybe that all seems melodramatic, but ask yourself this, if hardcore pornography permeated our collective consciousness this much in the twenty years since I was a pre-teen, how will our kids look and behave twenty years hence? There is no way to put the brakes on any of these degenerative attitudes with the tools available to us. It would be wrong and quite impossible to censor this material. Parental controls are joke. Parents themselves are only too willing to let the internet and popular entertainment fill in the blanks for kids about sexuality and gender roles. Where does that leave the next generation?