On Sex, Defining Normality, and the Wonders of Technology

I was wandering around the interwebs a few weeks ago, and came across this interesting, and rather disturbing, TED talk from Cindy Gallop. Now, it’s not new — it’s four years old — but I believe it’s at least as relevant now as it was in 2010.

Note: This video is NSFW and includes graphic sexual language. If you’re not up to listening to it, I’ll recap below.

For those who didn’t watch, what Gallop is basically saying is that young men and women (in their mid-twenties and younger) are growing up believing hard-core porn to be an accurate depiction of sex. And so young women pretend to like things that they don’t actually like (because it’s “normal”) and young men behave like… well, like male porn stars.

But let’s face it, we all know that real sex — sex based on mutual love and respect — is very rarely, if ever, like a hard-core porn film. At least, I assume it isn’t for everyone else. And if it is, then I would like to think that it’s still based on mutual enjoyment and respect.

Another point Gallop raised is the idea that parents don’t talk to children about some of the most important aspects of sex — from consent, to mutual pleasure, even to respect. She blames this on being a puritanical society, which may well be true. But I wonder if her parents talked to her about those things. Mine certainly didn’t.  And so if nothing’s changed, why has everything changed?

And that brings me to my next point.

In the same week that I saw this TED talk, I read about some other worrying situations. Children as young as 12 engaging in sexual acts far outside what any reasonable person would consider “youthful experimentation”. Twelve and thirteen year olds addicted to hard-core porn. Children as young as 10 being charged with sexual assault. Playground antics that are anything but innocent.

I’d link to some articles but, honestly, I don’t want to read them again.

Whenever these situations occur, there is one overriding response from the general public.

fault

Where were their parents?

  • What have their parents been teaching them?
  • What have their parents been letting them watch?
  • Why didn’t their parents know what they were doing?

Valid questions, certainly. But before casting judgement, I’d like to share a little story.

When I was ten years old, school was full of children giggling about new words and concepts they’d learned from older brothers, sisters, and TV shows. The word ‘sex’ had everyone blushing and giggling, even though none of us really knew what it was. Words like “penis” and “vagina” had us in paroxysms of hilarity. Lunch-times had us giggling about the idea of being *heeheehee* naked with someone else.

So one lunch time, we snuck back into the classroom and — wait for it — got out a… dictionary.

dictionary“Look up *giggle* sex,” said one girl.

And so we did.

(In case you’ve never done it, the dictionary definition of ‘sex’ is profoundly unsexy.)

And then we looked up penis. And vagina. And intercourse. And tampon. (Because clearly someone had been remiss in delineating certain facts about puberty.)

And when we’d finished, we put the dictionary away and went on our way, proudly able to tell the boys in the class that we knew all about sex. Because, you know, dictionary.

If our parents and teachers had known what we were up to, would they have demanded they remove dictionaries from the school room? Probably not. They probably did the same thing when they were children.

But the question is moot. Because our teachers and parents didn’t know. And why would they? We were at school. Using school resources. In a safe, school-based environment. Sure, we were giggling a lot, but we weren’t smuggling in magazines, or reading erotica. We were looking up information in a state-sanctioned, parent-purchased educational resource.

Fast forward to today.

Most kids don’t use dictionaries anymore.

Many children wouldn’t even know how to use one.

When they want to know what a word means, they refer to the state-sanctioned, parent-purchased educational resource that sits on their desk at school or at home.

computers

Do me a favour. Go type the word ‘sex’ into Google and see what happens.

And then tell me again how important it is for children to have access to their own laptops, tablets, and phones.

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3 Comments

Filed under Opinion

3 responses to “On Sex, Defining Normality, and the Wonders of Technology

  1. cindygallop

    Thanks for highlighting my TED talk! Actually, that talk is now nearly 6 years old – I delivered it at TED 2009 – and the response was so extraordinary that this is where I’ve taken MakeLoveNotPorn since (I wrote this for Ireland at the request of the Irish Journal, but it applies to every country, everywhere);

    http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/column-embarrassed-to-talk-about-sex-and-porn-ireland-this-is-your-wake-up-call-853199-Apr2013/

    and this is my most recent talk about MLNP and why we’re doing what we’re doing:

    http://www.swiss-miss.com/2014/05/cindy-gallop-make-love-not-porn.html

    • Thanks so much for dropping by, Cindy. I found your TED talk really interesting, and it’s great to hear what you’ve been doing since. (Sorry about misquoting the timeframe — that will teach me to go by the date on YouTube rather than investigating further!) I think what you’re doing with MLNP is great, and I wish you all the best with it.

  2. I remember investigating some things in the encyclopedia, too. 🙂

    It’s interesting that at one point you talked about “mutual love and respect” and then a little later you talked about “mutual enjoyment and respect.”

    Two different criteria, obviously. What bothers me is not only the fact that porn is pretty much just another genre these days (and it seems to be a whole different beast than it used to be – – who’d bother with anything as prim as Playboy or the others nowadays?), but in terms of sex the main other opinion out there, in popular culture, seems to be that it will be True Love and it will Last Forever and the lighting and music will always be perfect.

    As a great philosophy once observed, sex can be a natural and zesty enterprise, with mutual enjoyment and respect, and sometimes with unexpected noises and bad lighting and no music at all. Sometimes you laugh a lot and end up on the floor, or even in a different room than you started in, and without any idea that it will Last Forever and Be Perfect.

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