Pornography and sexual harassment in schools

Pornography and sexual harassment in schools

There’s been a lot of news coverage recently about sexual harassment experienced by young people, from young people, at school.

Thousands of stories have been shared online that make shocking reading and have sparked fresh debate about sex and relationships education.

We run REAL workshops with Year 9 students across the Wokingham area. One of our workshops is a safe space to discuss relationships, including sexting and what good boundaries might look like in a relationship. We believe it’s so important to have open conversations about this that really make young people think and grow in self-confidence.

“Boys have constantly asked my friends and I for nudes, and some have sent them as the boys have repetitively asked for sustained periods of time until the girls give in to stop harassment, and boys think that this is therefore consent.” (Testimony, Everyone’s Invited)

What’s the role of pornography?

One aspect that sometimes feels like the elephant in the room is the fact that most teenagers today have watched pornography online before having any real-life romantic relationships, many from as young as 10 years old. The material they stumble across can be violent and of course does not include any notion of love, trust or consent. What impressions and expectations does this create of sex?

We know that many curious young people look at pornography to find out about sex. A large study in 2016 found that most boys (age 11-16) said they thought that porn presented a realistic depiction of sex, and nearly 40% of 13 and 14 year-olds wanted to try out some of what they had seen.

The author of this study said: “If boys believe that online pornography provides a realistic view of sexual relationships, then this may lead to inappropriate expectations of girls and women. Girls too may feel pressured to live up to these unrealistic, and perhaps non-consensual, interpretations of sex. This is clearly not positive for developing future healthy relationships.”

While these hot topics are being discussed so much among young people, it feels like a great time to be bringing ‘Object’ back to our local schools. From late April, young people will be taking part in our project that explores the effects of pornography.

In previous years, we’ve partnered with drama students from Artemis College (South Hill Park) to produce and perform a thought-provoking theatre piece, followed by discussion groups. This year, to keep in harmony with Covid restrictions, the young students have produced an excellent film on the same topics, and they will facilitate discussion groups afterwards along with Soulscape staff.

“I hadn’t realised that what you see isn’t always reality… It opened my eyes and made me reflect.”

“We learnt that peer pressure is given to boys as well as girls to sometimes do things they don’t want to do.”

– students after ‘Object’ 2019

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