Professor warns of ‘outsourcing’ of sexual education to pornography

Sandy Rushton

Cambridge Philosophy Professor Rae Langton has warned of the “outsourcing” of sexual education to pornography. This comes as a study by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers has claimed that sexual education in secondary schools is widely deficient.

The survey reflects the prominenceof pornography in the lives and relationships of young people nationwide. Worryingly, almost 60% of teachers who cover the topic said that they had not received any specific training and of those who had, fewer than half (41%) felt it was adequate.

This deficiency has little to do with willingness on the part of educators, as more than half of the respondents said they were prepared to teach pupils about pornography related issues if they received specific training.

Mary Bousted, the ATL’s General Secretary, said: “The majority of our members feel it’s important that young people are taught about the dangers of pornography so they can protect themselves in today’s increasingly sexualised society.”

Among the Cambridge student body, the extent of the problem remains to be seen. One female first-year, who volunteers as a sex educator for UK charity Sexpression, reported cases in which under 13-year-olds described being shown porn by elder siblings.

She told The Cambridge Student:“It’s dangerous to show kids at that age those kinds of relationships.” However, she also noted that the children she works with seem to be aware that these scenarios are not like the real world.

Louise Ashwell, Women’s Officer at Trinity Hall, remarked that “the kneejerk reaction is to say porn is uniformly bad; I don’t think that’s true, and certainly for many people it can be a valuable means of finding out more about their sexuality”.

She also said: “banning it would be impossible, and indeed unhelpful, so in the meantime what we can do is to make sure it’s something being talked about”, citing affirmative action such as Union debates, and forums and workshops by the CUSU Women’s Campaign.

Maria, an undergraduate at Selwyn, told TCS: “We need to diffuse the myth that porn is an accurate re-enactment of reality. When people start confusing fantasy with reality porn starts to become dangerous.”

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