Columns

The challenge of a porn-riddled culture

Diane Abbott

Sunday, January 27, 2013    

Print this page Email A Friend!


LAST week I gave a major speech on the sexualisation of women and girls in British culture. I described it as the "pornification" of British culture. But I believe that with increased materialism and the rise of new media these issues are becoming a challenge all over the world.

Adolescents have always been interested in sex and have always dressed to shock their parents. And there is a danger that we adults forget what we got up to when we were teenagers. But the growth of sexuality as a commodity and the rise of new media have created new challenges.

We see the saturation of the media, advertising and billboards with images of women which, a generation ago, you would only have seen in pornographic magazines. Here in Britain you can purchase T-shirts for little girls with the slogan "future porn star".

There are padded bras, thongs and high-heeled shoes marketed and sold to children. You can even buy little girls' pencil cases with a Playboy Bunny logo. There are the ubiquitous "slack" music lyrics. And there is the pressure on women to achieve an artificial "pornified" image.

Above all, the issue is the easy availability of hard-core porn on the Internet. Some researchers say that, shockingly, in Britain the average age of kids viewing hardcore porn for the first time has dropped from 11 to eight.

Young children can view material on their mobile phones that would not even have been widely available a generation ago. Mobile phones are also being used for so-called "sexting" -- the sending of sexually explicit messages and photographs.

Children don't seem to realise that once those images are out there, they are out of their control. And girls feel under pressure to please the boys in their life.

Research on "sexting" has found rates of anywhere between 15 per cent and 40 per cent in school-age children. Increasingly young girls are subject to "slut shaming" and sexual bullying in schools. And, of course, the behaviour labelled sluttish in school girls is exactly the same behaviour school boys boast about amongst themselves. New technology, same old double standards.

Sexual liberation was considered a good thing. But a "pornified" culture can be a prison, putting incredible pressure on young women.

But there are things that communities, the church and parents can do. We need to focus on preparing young people to form healthy relationships, deal with issues of self-esteem and encourage them to resist peer group pressure. Above all, girls must be taught to value themselves and understand that they can say no.

Parents should be given information and support to educate their children about the issues. Your parents are a powerful force in shaping a child's attitude to gender and sexuality. Even if children are sometimes loathe to admit it.

We must make it easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted material across all media. We also need to help our young people use new technology and media safely.

Talking about sex with your children is often embarrassing, both for parents and the children. But churches, the extended family and parents need to be prepared to have conversations with children about sex, pornography and technology. Otherwise our children may be pressured into behaviour that they may live to be severely embarrassed by.

Diane Abbott is the British Labour party MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and the party's spokeswoman on public health

www.dianeabbott.org.uk

ADVERTISEMENT

POST A COMMENT

HOUSE RULES

 

1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper – email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed: advertising@jamaicaobserver.com.

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email: community@jamaicaobserver.com.

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy



comments powered by Disqus
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Poll

Do you think chikungunya cases are being under reported by the Health Ministry?
Yes
No


View Results »


ADVERTISEMENT

Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon
ADVERTISEMENT