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Our daughters are abused by a culture of porn

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Offline the leveller

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Our daughters are abused by a culture of porn
« on: February 03, 2013, 08:54:20 PM »
Our daughters are abused by a culture of porn
Young girls, under pressure to have sex as never before, need parental protection
 
Mary Whitehouse made it her mission to battle pornography in all its forms Photo: Rex Features
 By Allison Pearson
7:53PM GMT 23 Jan 2013
905 Comments
It?s not often that I unleash my inner Mary Whitehouse, but the way young girls today are expected to conform to a hideous porn culture makes me want to don a pair of glasses with upswept frames and get myself one of those battleaxe perms. A friend?s daughter recently started at a highly regarded boarding school. When her mother asked how she was enjoying the mixed-sex environment, the girl said quietly: ?You have to give the boys oral sex or they get cross.? Reeling with shock, the mum protested that her darling daughter did not have to do anything of the sort. ?Oh yes you do,? replied the girl. ?And you have to shave down there or the boys don?t like it.?

The girl in question is not some brazen, street-smart sixth-former; she is 14 years old. With a woman?s body, perhaps, but still a child. A child who, as far as her parents were concerned, was leading a sheltered middle-class life, not auditioning to become a professional footballer?s WAG. Teenagers have always had secrets, places where they go to try on their new selves, be it the pages of a padlocked diary or the back row of the movies. But mine is the first generation of parents that has to protect its young not just in the world we can see and hear, but in a parallel, online universe for which we barely know the password. And it?s really tough. Tougher even than we know.

This week, both Labour?s Diane Abbott and Tory MP Claire Perry have spoken powerfully about the need to take action to protect vulnerable girls. Perry was accused of ?snooping? when she suggested that parents should monitor their child?s Facebook and texts. Meanwhile, Abbott pointed out that fast-developing technology and a ?pornified culture? has led to what she calls ?a secret garden, striptease culture in British schools and society, which has been put beyond the control of British families?.

Only last week, we heard the awful story of Chevonea Kendall-Bryan, who fell to her death after pleading with a boy on the pavement below to erase the recording of her performing a sex act on him. ?How much can I handle? HONESTLY. I beg you, delete that,? texted Chevonea. She was 13. Thirty years ago, keeping your kids safe was a doddle. The nearest your average boy got to pornography was a contraband Playboy, which looks as quaint and charming as The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady next to websites such as YouPorn. Those of us who squiggled I LOVE STEVE on the back of our hands in biro in 1975 will struggle to comprehend that girls are now encouraged to write a boy?s name on their naked breast, take a picture of it and text it to their inamorato. ?Not my daughter!? I hear you cry. Really, are you quite sure about that?

According to Perry, half of all teenagers regularly see pornography and a third of children have received a sexually explicit text or email. If your dear son is consulting YouPorn on his mobile, then, believe me, he will have some pretty strange ideas about the act of physical lovemaking. I spent three minutes looking at YouPorn yesterday and I felt like I needed at least three years in a darkened room listening to the B minor Mass to reconstitute my soul. What the hell would this writhing abyss look like to a 14-year-old who has never seen a penis?

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Scary and hugely pressurising, would be Steve Biddulph?s answer. In his timely new book, Raising Girls, Biddulph says that about five years ago (around the time that sexting and camera-phones were taking off) psychologists began to notice a marked and sudden plunge in girls? mental health. The average teenage female was ?stressed and depressed in a way never seen before?. Girls were growing up too fast, much faster than their mothers had. Our 18 is their 14, our 14 is their 10.

Mainstream media has made porn-inspired sex seem compulsory for girls at ever younger ages. ?So what?? says the liberal parent who doesn?t think it?s cool to challenge their child?s lifestyle choices, and may secretly envy them. Biddulph has harsh words for these hands-off mummies and daddies: ?Having your daughter as a friend ? so much easier than actually raising her,? he mocks.

Every word of Raising Girls rang true for me. I winced when I read about those parents who are ?over-involved one minute, distracted the next?. Guilty as charged, m?lud. And I thought about the scene in Borgen, the acclaimed Danish drama, when Brigitte, the prime minister, has been too busy to pick up her teenage daughter?s distress signals. Laura ends up needing medication for her anxiety; the gnawing anxiety that she?s not perfect enough, not pretty enough, not popular enough, and all the damnable delusions of deficiency that beset our beautiful girls in this hyper-sexualised age.

Eighteen months ago, my own daughter was in hospital with an undiagnosed stomach complaint. A consultant said he was seeing an epidemic of teenage girls under incredible pressure in every area of their lives. ?Count yourself lucky,? he said. ?Others go towards anorexia, drink or drugs.? One problem for parents is age: hardly anyone over 50 is technically capable of following their children down the dark online pathways where pornography lurks.

I have therefore done what Biddulph advises and drafted some ?aunties? into the Daughter?s life. In their twenties and thirties, these tech-savvy guardian angels follow her on Facebook, tipping me off at the first sign of anything worrying or gently nudging her to take down an unsuitable photo.

Call that snooping? I don?t give a damn. You wouldn?t let your child wander unprotected in a real alien land, so why is this virtual one any better? ?Safety takes precedence over privacy,? insists Biddulph.

I known it?s embarrassing, and no one wants to have the conversation, but as a society we really do need to teach children a healthy, emotionally connected view of sexuality that has nothing to do with the porn version that has saturated their parallel world. Sex education should be as much about psychology as biology. And the advice to our darling daughters needs to be hastily updated. For example, ?Oral sex does not generally precede kissing in a relationship with any boy worth loving.?

To insist on that is not a Moral Panic, as some are claiming, but a fulfilment of our deepest responsibilities. Oh, Mrs Whitehouse, thou shouldst be living at this hour!


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