3 Ways Porn Is Impacting Young Boys That Every Teacher Should Know About

One of the most noticeable shifts that we have seen over the last decade in our work with young people, particularly with the rise of the digital age, social media usage and our sexualised culture, has been the number of young men who are being exposed to and impacted by pornography.

When we hear stories from young men who are trying to navigate this challenge, we can’t help but empathise with them. The reality is that for most young guys who have been exposed to pornography, they had no idea about the impact that it could have on young, impressionable minds.

So, how is pornography impacting young boys? 

What are some of the negative consequences of habitual or compulsive porn use that teachers should be aware of? 

What can young men do to reverse and overcome these impacts, so they can build and maintain healthier relationships?

We believe that in order to empower young people to thrive in their relationships, it is important for them to be educated about this challenging and often taboo topic. We also believe that it is important for parents and teachers alike to be equipped to have these important conversations, so that the young men of today have the support they need to understand and navigate this issue.

So, how can teachers be better equipped to help young boys understand the impact of pornography? 

We believe that the first step is being aware of the message that pornography is sending to young male viewers, and incorporating this into the values-based sex education provided in the classroom.

Here are three things that we believe every teacher should know.

1) Porn Fails To Teach Boys About The Value Of The Human Person.

One of the most important lessons that we as educators can teach young people is about the value of the human person. Every individual deserves to be treated with dignity, honour and respect – their bodies, their minds and their hearts. The problem with pornography is that it often sends a counter-message to young viewers. Pornography tends to promote sexual objectification by conditioning men to view women as bodies to be used to gratify their sexual desires, rather than as real people to pursue real, meaningful connections with.

Young men deserve the opportunity to learn about the role that human connection plays in a relationship. Pornography does not prioritise this message. In many cases, porn glorifies the physical act of sex while overlooking and reducing the role that human connection has in a relationship. Not only does this distort the viewer’s impression of relationships and intimacy, but it has the potential to cloud the way they view others. For example, they may start to consciously or unconsciously calibrate a woman’s value with the extent to which they can derive sexual satisfaction from them.

The thought of a teenager living their lives believing they are an object to be used and consumed breaks our hearts. This is why we encourage teachers to remind young men and women both not only of their inherent value as a person, but the value of those around them. To celebrate another’s individuality, personality and humanity, instead of just their sexuality.

2) Porn Fails To Teach Young Men About The Importance Of Healthy Self-Esteem

Another important lesson that we seek to empower young people with is a strong sense of self and self-worth. Unfortunately, what we have found in our discussions with young men around this topic is that pornography is presenting an unrealistic and unattainable archetype of sex, sexuality and masculinity, which is contributing to feelings of inadequacy in young guys.

One study by the CSIRO found a significant association between porn consumption and body-image issues in survey participants. The words of one participant were that porn “distorts your body perception,” and that they felt that they “have to look a certain way to be attractive to the opposite sex.” Evidently, habitual or addictive porn use can trigger negative and disempowering beliefs.

For example, young men who engage with porn risk adopting the belief that their masculine value is contingent upon their ability to meet the criteria that the porn industry values, such as having a superior physical stature and being well-endowed. Anecdotally, in my presentations, I have found that when I ask about body image issues that guys can be facing, typically the first answer is in relation to penis size. This can breed feelings of insecurity and inadequacy if they feel they can’t meet and live up to the unrealistic standards that porn can set. This idea that porn may be causing young men to measure their worth solely on their ability to fulfil an unfulfillable template is a huge problem for young guys.

This is why we encourage parents and teachers to remind young men that their value as a person is innate and inherent, not contingent on their ability to meet a certain condition or criteria, especially the superficial ones set out by the porn industry.

3) Porn Lacks Value-Based Sex Education

As educators, our focus is, and always has been, on giving young people a values-based education around the issues that not only affect them, but will be instrumental in shaping the way they understand themselves, others and relationships.

We hear from many young men that they turn to pornography to try and understand what sex is; how does it work? What happens during sex? The issue with young guys turning to pornography for their sex education is that porn will never provide them with a sufficient understanding of some of the primary values necessary for them to have healthy relationships and a well-rounded understanding of sex. 

Porn tends to neglect (and in many cases, directly oppose) the values of respect, trust, loyalty and consent… essential values for young people to learn. Instead, it magnifies and glorifies merely the physical components of sex. This deficiency of a values-based perspective of sex education poses a threat of leaving young male viewers ill-equipped to understand authentic relationships.

Fellow educators, we have an incredible opportunity to intercept here; we have a wonderful opportunity to remind young men of the place that respect, trust, loyalty, consent and other values play in relationships and intimacy.

For young men to create healthy and lasting relationships, they need to be aware of, and educated on, the impact of pornography. Equally, when parents and teachers also understand the message that porn is sending their kids, they are better equipped to help young men and women both become better schooled in values-based sex and relationship education.

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