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Should Children Study Porn In School?

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Artwork by Zoe Ligon.
As a young person navigating their way around the internet, it's virtually impossible to avoid porn. Sexually explicit pop-ups are ubiquitous, music videos abound with gyrating crotches and even Google Images, with its SafeSearch option, is bursting with graphic content.

In this context, then, should we consider giving children the intellectual tools to accurately interpret what they're seeing? Yes, according to BBC broadcaster and Woman's Hour presenter Jenni Murray.

Speaking to The Times and Sunday Times, she said teenagers should be shown porn at school and made to analyse it, like they would a Jane Austen novel, to highlight that porn culture is not a realistic depiction of sex.

“We give our kids a Jane Austen to read and we say ‘OK, let’s analyse it, what is she saying and what does it mean?’," Murray said.

“Why not show them pornography? Put boys and girls together in a class, you show them a pornographic film and you analyse it in exactly the same way as you teach them to read the other cultures that are around."

This would highlight to young people "that not all women are shaved, that not all women make that bloody noise, they are only making it because they need a soundtrack,” she said.

She also called for sex education to fall under biology, rather than be taught as a standalone subject, “because no parent is going to say ‘I don’t want my child getting involved in science’”.

A new subject called gender education – without the word 'sex' in it, so that parents can't complain – should also be taught, to educate children about consent and behaviour, and teach teenagers about porn.

Given that more than half (53%) of 11- to 16-year-olds have seen explicit material online, and that many teenagers are at risk of becoming "desensitised" to porn, according to research commissioned by the NSPCC this year, Murray might have a valid point. Can we really afford not to educate children about porn culture?
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