Distorting reality

Night after night, Rory* settles down into his routine porn session. Laptop in hand, he precedes into another world, a world of fantasy and lust. Rory has been watching porn everyday since Grade 8, and finds his ritual-like experience to be an escape from the stress of the day.

Rory’s experiences are not uncommon as online pornography has gripped the teenage population. With the rise of the internet, a perfect environment for a new kind of porn was born. Anonymous, free, accessible and online: pornography has altered the adult film industry.

With porn’s rise, however, there have been major societal repercussions, chiefly the availability of porn to minors. An astonishing 93 percent of boys and 62 percent of girls have seen online porn before the age of 18 according to a study by CyberPsychology and Behavior. Teenagers now are exposed to much more graphic material than those of the past.

“There is a plethora of [porn] on the internet, basically a never ending supply,” Lily Badian (’16) said. She believes that it is healthy for people to be curious about porn, but she said, “it is important to recognize that it is not a real sexual experience.”

Badian believes that as long as you can separate porn from reality, there is no problem.

For Rory, watching porn is just a harmless norm. “All of my friends have seen porn, I don’t really know anyone that hasn’t,” Timothy said.

Badian agrees that porn may be the norm, but she sees this as misleading. “Porn normalizes things. [Porn] makes it seem like it’s not a choice whether you want to perform something,” she said.

High School Counselor Stephanie Oliver believes that because porn is now an important aspect of many teens’ lives, it needs to be addressed. “We need to be talking about pornography and sexting,” she said. “[The curriculum] needs to catch up.”

Students agree that more should be done in school to facilitate conversation about porn. An anonymous survey respondent said, “If we had more efficient sex [education], then we wouldn’t need porn to the same extent.”

Without the right understanding, today’s pornography can be harmful and misinforming to teens. “The pornography that’s available today promotes the objectification of women, racial stereotypes and the history of white male sexual exploitation toward women of color and people of color in general,” Oliver said.

She believes that these negative messages are creating a new norm for teenagers in particular, who often are sexually inexperienced and have trouble differentiating between porn and the real characteristics of sex. Porn, she feels, only gives the physical perspective of intimacy, but leaves out all the real emotional connection of relationships.

In Grade 10 Health classes, Health Teacher Joy Marchese tries to educate her students on pornography and its effects. “We talked about what young boys and girls are seeing in porn and how that affects them when they are in intimate relationships,” she said. “We talk a lot about what is the perception, what do people think is the norm [for sex].”

Middle School Guidance Counselor Kelley Reid also believes that porn can cloud people’s vision of sex and relationships. “Technology has moved us into a realm that separates us from intimacy and from human reality,” he said.

Rory has become accustomed to “porn life,” and recognizes the gap is widening. “At this point, I am in a perpetuating cycle where I need to find more and more extreme videos in order to become aroused. I am always looking for something new, and sometimes I am even disgusted by what I find attractive,” Rory said.

Reid believes that lack of emotional connection and the unrealistic physical characteristics of porn are exacerbating this separation. “[Porn actors] seem to be able to have intercourse for hours at a time. It’s just not real,” he said.

The widening gap between reality and online porn has caused some teens to feel self-conscious, Reid believes. “[Students] judge their own worth in a negative way because they are not ‘performing’ as the people they are watching are performing,” he said.

These interpretations are harmful to teens in particular who are “finding out who they are [sexually],” Reid said. He believes porn should be explained and deconstructed at school, as well as at home. “Because it’s there, because it’s so accessible, I think we need to be talking about it,” he said.

Although sometimes it can be a taboo subject, Reid thinks it has become increasingly important to bring up porn in conversation. He feels that the more porn is “kept in the dark,” the more power it has as a negative force. In order to significantly change the way society confronts difficult topics, Reid believes that starting from a very young age more should be done to encourage people to speak up.

Reid believes that just bringing porn into the light can reduce the “addictive potential” of explicit material, and start to break down its misleading messages.