This week I spoke about the work of Girls Out Loud and the need for us all to step up and be real role models for our teenage girls at a women’s conference in Chester. As ever I was overwhelmed by the number of women, in many cases Mums, who came to talk to me after my presentation sharing stories relating to their daughters and/or their daughter’s friends. I am rarely shocked by their tales. As a youth advocate, I have worked with teen girls for many years now and have probably seen and heard it all but on this day I left with a new story, one I hope and pray does not become a trend.
‘Jane, I really resonated with your presentation, particularly around sexual exploitation and the effects of mainstreaming porn. My daughter’s school has just installed poles in the sports hall to encourage girls to work out.’
As I left the venue I was sad then, angry about this. The naivety of such a decision? I am all for encouraging girls to participate in PE but is this the best they could do? For me, it is a cop out.
I know many of you may think this is harmless and I am well aware of the value of pole dancing as a workout as many women have told me, repeatedly, if I ever mention my distaste for this. Just because it demands fitness is no justification for bringing a product of the sex industry onto school premises. What next? Waxing in health and beauty lessons? The best approach to anal sex and watching a live boob job op in biology? I despair. I am frustrated enough when women glamorise porn but atleast they are making a personal choice, one, I can only assume they are mature enough to make?
We have a generation of youngsters who are getting their cues on how to behave sexually from a porn industry that we have mainstreamed. Girls want to look like porn stars and boys expect girls to behave and perform like the women they see on film, in pop videos, in the media, on their PS3 game consoles and on reality TV. Again, many of you will be in denial about this and say ‘not my girl or boy’ but the biggest consumer group of internet porn users is 12-17 year olds so they are someone’s children?
Porn is no longer the naughty top shelf magazines or the blank covered videos under the bed. The imagery is everywhere and our kids are growing up, knowing far too much, too soon.
By-products of this industry include, 8 inch+ heels, growth in invasion cosmetic surgery, waxing head to foot, big, pouting lips, sexting, girls posting and posing in sexual positions on fb, perma tans, big hair, big lashes and body piercings, overtly sexual dressing up and dancing, inappropriate sexual behaviour, multiple sexual partners, pregnancy, growth in STD’s, reality TV, violence in young relationships, often damaging sexual experimentation. Shall I go on?……
Porn is fake, the stuff of male fantasies and the majority of it is definitely NOT female friendly so is it any surprise that girls are displaying inappropriate sexual behaviour, place far too much emphasis on appearance, see sex as a commodity to exchange for power, are desensitised to intimacy and quite often get into dangerous relationships and sexual situations? It is not fair to simply blame the boys for their demands or behaviour as they are just normalising what they see on their computer screen and watching girls in the sports hall pole dancing is not going to help the situation anytime soon.
The more we glamorise and normalise the products of the sex industry, the more we steel their childhood years and what about the girls that are appalled by this? Well, they become alienated, subject to serious peer pressure and potentially bullied.
Be assured, if my daughter’s school made the decision to offer girls the option to learn to pole dance in PE lessons, both myself and my husband would be making noises not only to the Head but to the Governors and if necessary the local press. Personally, as if you needed a reminder, I feel this is categorically unacceptable. Rant over, but I leave you with a challenge…..
Reality TV is part of this porn poison and a key influencer for young girls. I challenge you to watch some of this stuff over the following month in order to make your own mind up about the content and messages rather than take my word for it. And if you have a young daughter call it research! Tune in to The Valleys, Jordie Shore, The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE), The Kardashians or any of the holiday docu soaps like Sun, Sea and Sex or Holiday Reps Abroad. It is all there, in full colour. Take a deep breath and good luck!