Journal Entry 2.11.2011

Girls. Sex and the Internet.

In following up on my latest Podcast on ‘What’s Wrong with Porn?’ I would like to further talk about how porn has a trickle-down effect. Not is it just a business, but it’s an exploiter of women, girls, men and boys who engage in it – both working in front of the camera, and behind the camera but also for those who buy, watch and share media in the Internet.

What I want to specifically address – is teenagers, sex and the Internet. There’s a great New York Magazine article which addresses this issue specifically about teens and teen sex. It’s amazing to me that these 14-year-old girls have more access to images of sex, information about sex, promiscuity, and engaging in sexual acts – but not in ‘real life’. “Samantha, 16, flashes her dimples. “You can learn a lot of things about sex. You don’t have to use, like, your parents sitting down with you and telling you. The Internet’s where kids learn it from, most of the time.” (Morris article) Yes, the internet has provided a space for which teen girls can upload sexy pictures of themselves – not necessarily for money, or are they doing porn specifically, but rather to proliferate an image of themselves that only exists in the virtual space. This is becoming more proliferated as technology infiltrates their daily lives – and they are using it for an outlet to their sexual curiosity and confirmation of perhaps a positive peer review and ultimately acceptence and popularity.

Girls and boys who see these uploaded images of their peers, engage in ‘sexting’ with their friends and promote their general promiscuity online are hiding behind a thin veil of both secrecy and public exposure that I don’t think they understand the implications of their behaviors.

“…the average age of first exposure to Internet pornography is widely cited as 11. “It’s pretty much intensely available,” one 13-year-old told me, before adding that he’s actually not as into online porn now as he used to be.” (Morris article).  11 years old! I was just getting my period at 11 years old, Facebook didn’t exist and I didn’t even have a cell phone with a camera!

So who is to blame? Is anybody? Is it a natural progression of teenager’s curiosity of sex but through the increased exposure to free media resources, online knowledge and social media distribution? Are our kids exposed to more and more media and inappropriate material because it’s more prevalent? Or because they are merely using the tools to speak out for being silenced or oppressed by parents, society, teachers, social pressure etc.? Which can now be achieved conveniently from the privacy of their bedrooms?

But what about come Monday morning, when they have to go back to school and face their entire student body in person – who has seen ‘their body’? Pictures posted on their Facebook and MySpace accounts? Who else is seeing these pictures besides their friends or boyfriends, for which probably most of the pictures were ideally taken/posted for? What are the social, personal, future professional and legal repercussions of this behavior? How can it be stopped? Can it be?

Porn is here to stay, sad to say – but what we need in our society, in our schools, and our homes is to teach children (and yes, teens are still children) what the implications of their actions are in the present and their futures? Do they fully comprehend their actions? Are they capable of fending for themselves, when creepy pedophiles find their photos on their Facebook and MySpace pages?

I don’t want to paint a picture that the teenage girls and boys who are actively engaging in these acts are innocent bystanders, because they do have some sense of right vs. wrong at this age. But I wonder if they are merely caught up in a system that has no consequences?

So, how do we educate our children on this issue? How do we help them understand their actions? How do we help them understand the responsibilities of their behaviors? Is sex education in schools outdated? Is it even taught anymore? Young girls in particular need to understand that proliferation of their sexuality in this way sends the wrong message.

If teenagers are getting their sex education on the internet – then perhaps they are getting the wrong message. How do we get ‘right’ message through to them?

I want to hear your thoughts? Comments?

About Jodi Nelson

I am a filmmaker launching a new film project entitled 'Single Girl in a Feminist World: What Does A 21st Century Feminist Look Like?' By engaging a global audience of online participants, I will be asking virtual strangers to join in my quest to answer the question, “What does a 21st Century Feminist Look Like?” Utilizing social networks, crowd funding initiatives, web blogs, viral video, second life, flash mobs, virtual chat interaction and traditional modes of documentary practice, I will create a documentary film that exemplifies feminism in its profoundly new image.
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