Porn in Schools?

Denmark is pretty darn liberal when it comes to sex and sex education. But apparently even for them, there's a line that can't be crossed. That line is porn. Danish professor Christian Graugaard caused a furor when he suggested, during an appearance on public television, that children in grade eight and nine should be taught about pornography. It seems porn is just too much.

I've seen several articles about this (it got a lot of play because some pretty salacious titles could be applied to it) and the comments on all of them include a lot of panicked posts about how completely inappropriate, ridiculous, unfeasible, and even illegal it is to show porn to children in schools. What on Earth would they show them? How would the choose what to show? How would this affect the children? They'll be traumatized! That's sexual abuse!

We just really cannot handle this idea.

But here's the thing. I don't think Prof. Graugaard is really proposing that children spend hours in the classroom watching porn. I don't think he's actually talking about showing porn in classrooms at all. What he said to the guardian website is this "“My proposal is to critically discuss pornography with 8th and 9th graders [age 15 – the legal age of consent in Denmark – and 16 respectively] as part of a sensible didactic strategy, carried out by trained teachers.” You don't have to show pornography, or you can show only small bits that are not particularly explicit, or examples of the principles you are taking about, in non sexual films. The idea is to give kids some tools they can use to critically examine the stuff they are watching. You can teach them to ask questions about it such as:
Do I know where and how this was filmed and under what circumstances? Is there anything that shows me that the sex I'm looking at is consensual? Why might they be choosing to portray these particular sex acts or to be in these positions? Do the performers look comfortable and happy doing what they're doing? What are the difference between what's happening here and what sex with a person in real life might be like? How many other people are probably in the room that I cannot see (how many cameras etc.)? Might these people be getting direction on what to do? What types of bodies do you see represented most? What might be the reason for that?

All of those things can be discussed without ever showing any porn at all. There's also some great documentaries about porn that show some scenes of setup before filming begins. That could be used to help students think critically about what kind of instruction and prep is given to people that you don't actually see when you watch it.

Most of this is basic media literacy stuff. These are important skills for kids to have so that they think about the things that they see and don't believe things are real when they're not. It's the same idea for any kind of tv or film as it is for porn. This is just applying it to something a little different. It makes a heck of a lot of sense if you slow down and think about it. But as soon as you mention the word 'porn' people lose their ability to think rationally.

I hope they do this so that they can provide a model for Canadian schools to do it too. If we can get past the teachers and parents who will freak out when we say the word 'porn'.

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