The education secretary continues to overlook the campaign for better sex education. Yet how can the battle of the sexes ever resolve while the battle for real sex education is raging, and everything from pop to porn fills in the gaps?
Porn, Porn Porn, Porn, Porn! It’s not covered in sex education yet it is absolutely everywhere. Does the mere mention of the word make your brain – if it were hooked up to a neurologists scanner – light up like Blackpool illuminations on acid? I’m guessing it doesn’t.
Even repeated five times it is extremely unlikely. The word alone doesn’t even prompt the flicker of a fading fairy light’s worth of activity in most people’s brains. Subject as we are to sexualized images on a daily basis, it is not surprising we are becoming desensitised to things that not only were once seen as shocking, but were actually completely unknown!
And you don’t even have to access porn to begin the process. As a recent spate of releases show, the pop video is porn’s knicker-wearing twin sister! While open letters ping pong around the Miley Cyrus hashtag, Rihanna’s most recent video ‘Pour It Up’ simply slips through the net of normality. Afterall she was never a Disney princess – though she does have s a clothing range in River Island!
Void of vaginas and penetration, the simulation of everything is no longer utilised as a shock tactic, but is absolutely standard; for women at least. For despite how ‘empowering’ and ‘liberating’ it is to express you sexuality by licking sledge hammers, pole dancing, or shaking your ass with the extremity of someone attached to a pneumatic drill, we are yet to see many men partaking.
For despite how ‘empowering’ and ‘liberating’ it is to express you sexuality by licking sledge hammers, pole dancing, or shaking your ass with the extremity of someone attached to a pneumatic drill, we are yet to see many men partaking
And this why I dressed up as a monkey! Alongside Yas Necati, and campaigner Jody Appleton, as the ‘three wise Michael’s’, we demonstrate outside the entrance of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester last week. Lead by the Telegraph Wonder Women, the Campaign For Better Sex Education is urging David Cameron to bring sex and relationships education into the 21st century, yet his education secretary Michael Gove, does not want to listen. Positively against reform Gove has responded that “the right thing to do is to trust teachers”. Yet with sex and relationship guidelines that were last updated in 2000, what exactly does he expect teachers to be able to do.
With an education system that is this far away from actual real twenty-first century sex, the battle of the sexes doesn’t stand a chance. While this battle exists in the disparity of representation in pop videos, it exists everywhere! See them as a clear social barometer for sexist bullshit.
While this battle exists in the disparity of representation in pop videos, it exists everywhere! See them as a clear social barometer for sexist bullshit
Yet I’m particularly fond of artists expanding their sound and expressing themselves through image and video, and am far from adverse to sexual liberation (I am a Prince fanatic, need I say more). But what I see in the Cyrus and Rihanna videos, is not sexual expression, but some sort of validation. It’s like by conforming to the porned notion of sexuality, they are validating themselves as sexually attractive people – therefore validating themselves as people, full stop, for all that matters as women.
By conforming to the porned notion of sexuality, they are validating themselves as sexually attractive people – therefore validating themselves as people, full stop, for all that matters as women
Their voices are not the most important thing, the songs are vehicles through which to demonstrate their willingness to do as much as is necessary to be the most acceptably, sexually attractive. The responses to this falls into two camps. First there is incessant slut-shaming. An over-focus on the poster girls of the issue as opposed to the system they represent. It’s like criminalising a meth addict instead of dealing with Heisenberg. The second is the “It’s her choice, she can do what she likes, therefore it’s all ok” line of debate! Which sees the mainstream Stockholm Syndrome of female sexuality wrapped in the guise of sexual liberation.
And I am far from prudish. As the disturbing reality of ‘Porn On The Brain’ is showing, most young people know all that there is to know about porn content and terminology, discussing terms I genuinely had never heard of at that age, or in fact before watching the programme. And if you, or any kids nearby, fancy finding out more you only need head to 4oD, ignore the warning and click accept. Then you can ogle at the type of images that were the extent of my teenage access to porn, and hear presenter and ex-Loaded editor Martin Daubney detail much, much worse.
Part of another campaign, channel 4’s Campaign For Real Sex, ‘Porn On The Brain’ explores the dark side of something that is accessible to most kids with a smart phone. In fact you only need to know someone who has online access and you’re entering into a world of, as Daubney puts it, “Male dominance and female humiliation.” This domination/humiliation pattern is key; from rapey t-shirts sold on Amazon and worn around campus, to the 1 in 4 women subject to domestic violence in their lifetime. Yet our brains are not hard wired to this. Such disparity is shaped, not by real sex education in schools, but by a money-shot mindset that has gradually been allowed to drip in.
The personal role Daubney has played in such a consensus seems lost on him. Being a supporter of No More Page 3 from day one – page 3 being an early contributor towards this drip drip of casual misogyny – it still surprises me how many people do not see the direct link between tits in papers, ‘lads mags’ in supermarkets, completely demeaning pop videos and extreme, seriously-scary-shit online porn!
It still surprises me how many people do not see the direct link between tits in papers, ‘lads mags’ in supermarkets, completely demeaning pop videos and extreme, seriously-scary-shit online porn!
Yet neither pop videos nor porn, as with most other subjects that actually relate to the sex we have, are part of sex education taught in schools.
Guest tweeting for The Women’s Room recently, I asked their online twitter community “What do you think should be discussed in sex education in school”. Immediately issues such as porn, sexuality, consent, pressure/shame and even, Gove forbid it, enjoyment, were raised as being key to basic sex education. The importance for these to be taught in a none cissexist or heternormative way was apparent and a strong need to explore these things collectively, not gender separate, in order to openly and healthily understand each other as people.
Issues such as porn, sexuality, consent, pressure/shame and even, Gove forbid it, enjoyment, were raised as being key to basic sex education
Really interesting points were raised such as “students should be taught that consent isn’t the absence of no, but the presence of yes”, and “Pressure/shame, girls shamed when they do have sex, boys shamed when they don’t” highlight the need to discuss a lot more than the biology of sex. This would not only require reforms in what is taught, but substantial training of teachers who are required to teach it. And while Michael Gove would rather not see, hear or speak of the issue, the three wise monkeys outside the conference discovered a different feeling amongst most Tories we spoke to.
Rather than strong opposition, many agreed with the demonstration and voiced openly their distain for Gove. Others however did not agree with us; “I completely agree with Michael Gove on this I’m afraid” was one of the more cut-and-dry responses, another more vague said “I agree with SOME sex education, up to a point, and from a VERY suitable age”.
It is possible by such an ‘appropriate’ age many young people will have seen: “a women lying in a public park, there’s a man in a gimp mask, he’s fisting her, there’s another man, he’s pissing all over her face”, as was described by Daubney, in the first ‘Porn On The Brain’ episode; something he had reached within a few clicks of the online porn world. They will have needed to know the meaning of consent and will know more than most the real sense of pressure and shame that is their experience of sex. Unlike 4oD, online porn rarely comes with a warning & accept process, neither do most kids in school who happen to have it on their phone in class. And seeing as though you only need to know someone with online access, all the parental controls in the world can do is struggle to keep up.
This is a tweaked (not twerked) version of an earlier post, and a less sweary more version can be found on the Telegraph
Today i’m listening to John Maus
For once an image that actually relates to my post. This is an AMAZING piece by artist Sarah Maple who I was lucky enough to work with on the recent equals exhibition I co-curated. This piece was exhibited alongside some of her paint and photography pieces. Sarah’s work is absolutely spot on, exploring feminism in an accessible and very funny way I thoroughly encourage you to check out here work.