QotD: “The trouble with being a teenage boy today”

While some girls feel they are expected to look and behave like porn stars, with hairless, glistening bodies, a few boys are turning to plastic surgery because they worry their penises aren’t large enough. A friend who is a north London GP and mother of two boys says, “I’m getting requests from teenage boys for penis enlargement. That’s surely a result of too much porn.”

Almost every expert, parent, teacher and teenager I talk to feels that it’s the rise of online porn that underlies the current problems – for boys and girls. Only 25 per cent of parents think their 16-year-old sons have watched porn. Yet a survey by the NSPCC showed that two thirds of 15 to 16-year-olds have seen pornography online, and nearly a third of 11 to 12-year-olds, with the majority being violent and non-consensual.

“Pornography is everywhere,” says Mohammed, now in the sixth form of an all-boys school in Yorkshire and a champion debater. “You can’t avoid it. It’s just a click away while you are doing your homework and it makes you feel inadequate. That’s why my generation needs alcohol or drugs to do this kind of stuff. I envy my friends who’ve been in a steady relationship since they were young, and my parents, who had an arranged marriage.”

Our children have become subject to the whims of a vast $97 billion profit-seeking industry that has no concern whatsoever for their emotional or sexual health, according to Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on child protection. He has been demanding a national debate about the potentially devastating impact of online porn ever since I first interviewed him a decade ago. The sense of young male entitlement, he says, “sometimes feels medieval. Boys get some of their sex education from porn, which once might have been a picture of a naked woman spread across a page,” but now involves images of gagging, rape, anal sex and domination. “More and more children are watching hardcore porn and it soon becomes normalised,” says Bailey, who is heading the police service response to investigating the Everyone’s Invited allegations. “You can’t rely on families or schools alone to tackle this. The tech industry needs to take responsibility. No one under 18 should be able to see this stuff.”

Dr Caroline Douglas-Pennant, a counselling psychologist working in west London, who has four daughters, believes boys need new boundaries. “Boys think about sex a lot of the time, but it’s vital they understand that their sexual needs are not more important than women’s and what may even have been tacitly acceptable in their parents’ generation is unacceptable now,” she says. Children receive sex education classes at school. “But a lot of boys and girls feel that adults and teachers are still letting them down. They are being tokenistic and just ticking the boxes with their relationship and consent classes without helping them address the real problems. It’s the competitive, pressurised, misogynist culture we need to tackle.”

Porn, she agrees, has exacerbated the situation. “It gives the message women are constantly available and enjoy aggressive sex. Boys at 17 are driven by testosterone. They need to be shown how to control it. Dads are extremely important role models for loving and respectful relationships for their boys and we need to encourage them to think about their position in the conversation and be curious about why they may feel defensive or attacked.”

From: ‘The trouble with being a teenage boy today’

2 responses

  1. It is important to share this stuff even when a good chunk of the original post seems way off base. Porn is not the cause, it is a symptom. Of what?

    The disease that is corroding our society is at root patriarchy. In a patriarchy men have an incredible pressure to perform. In patriarchy men feel an obligation to dominate women. The obsession with the size of the male sex organ is based on the mistaken belief that male power, specifically sexual power, is genital in nature. This leads to dehumanizing women, objectifying them, sexual using them (and women who participate in this trope do so because they face immense pressure to do so already in school). It is a horrible state of affairs and our young people are all victims.

    The solution is not to ban porn, which seems an impossibility. What needs to happen is for us to recognize that social media should be 18 and up only. That true equality needs to be achieved. That sex work should be decriminalized and destigmatized. And that women (and men) know they own their bodies.

  2. You make some good points, but complete decriminalisation of the sex industry (which means decriminalising the sex buyers, pimps, and brothel owners, as well as the prostituted person her/himself) will not improve the status, welfare, or equality of women.

    Decriminalisation has already been shown not to work, in Germany, the Netherlands, or New Zealand, you can see the categories in the side bar for further info.

    Please read this post for my take on ‘banning’ porn:

    Why (and How) I am Anti-Porn

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