Saturday, 10 September 2011

Digital sexual contact

This week I have read 3 separate stories (just on BBC) all talking about how the internet is negatively impacting the sexual health of the nation.

Young get sex health warning
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-14837229
MPs told young children accessing explicit porn
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-14845299
.XXX web domain registration begins
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-14821192

Now the third one might be a bit unconnected but the discussion around it all fits. What is the modern impact of all the sexual content on the internet. For one year I have been teaching on the issue of "sexting" in secondary schools. Working hard to try and help young people understand the emotional consequences of taking the risk of sharing naked or provocative pictures. This work has opened up my perspective to the much larger area of the impact of digital sexual content. Trying to do research on this topic is a lot harder then looking at STIs. Emotional and social consequences can not be tested or measured in the same way. But in the lack of clear empirical evidence you have to go with what you can find. What I have found through news stories, media outlets (http://sexperienceuk.channel4.com/topics/porn is a good resource) and personal experience shows a clear pattern.

Digital sexual content impacts peoples view of sex

Everything from body image, sexual performance, aggression, the use of equipment and relationships. It is all impacted by the media (like it always has been) but the increasingly young age that teenagers encounter digital sexual material is likely to be having a clear impact on their view of what is 'normal'. We are at the early stages, the first decade, of this happening and we do not yet know the long term consequences. Only in 10-20 years will we get a better understanding of the emotional and psychological results.

This is unavoidable, but what we can do is try and equip young people we are in contact with to deal with this issue. This autumn I will be starting a new course looking at the myths of pornography with 14-15 year olds. My first attempt to tackle this huge issue. I'll let you know how it goes.