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Is Porn Taking Over the Role of Sex Education Amongst The Youth?

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Avni Gupta articulates the need to differentiate reel and real when it comes to sexual content in pornography.

Facts: In 2018, India emerged as the third-largest consumer of porn, according to the annual report from Pornhub. Porn is estimated to be a $57 billion per annum industry, with revenue being larger than the combined revenues of all the professions, even football, baseball, and basketball franchises put together. 12% of all internet websites are related to pornography. Viewers are estimated to spend about 3000 to 4000 dollars per second on pornographic content.

The Internet is a source of an inexhaustible and diverse supply of explicit material. For global dissemination of pornography, the internet functions via the Triple-A Engine: accessibility, affordability, and anonymity.

Pornography is powerful and far more pervasive than one can suspect. Besides voluntary access, unwanted or unintentional exposure via pop-ups, spam emails, and advertisements can help children and youth access pornographic content. Internet pornographic material can threaten adolescent development and welfare as young people are widely considered the most vulnerable group of audience.

Media holds a tremendous capacity to teach and educate youth in the age of digital media. Explicit content builds up insecurities about one’s body, appearance, and sexual performance. One may lose self-esteem and satisfaction, further leading to dysfunctional relationships, self-isolation, and depression.

Source: India

Effects On Young Adults

When other sources of information are lacking, young people tend to depend upon pornography as their source of sex education. Porn introduces adolescents to a much more permissive sexual attitude, involving activities like promiscuity, casual, unsafe, and high-risk sex.

It impacts one’s sexual risk-taking, sexual beliefs & actions, body image & surveillance, sexual objectification, and sexual aggression. Moreover, it holds the capacity to shape sexual practices of one, with acts such as anal intercourse, facial ejaculation, sex with multiple partners, and deep fellatio.

Sexual socialization theory suggests frequent exposure affects one’s behaviour. Exposure to pornographic content at a young age introduces children to explicit behaviours and acts as a medium to reinforce these behaviours. It also exposes the viewers to a much more stereotypical world – where women are typically malleable and compliant, while men dominate and control.

Derogatory name-calling is prevalent in pornographic material. Behaviours involving physical aggression such as slapping, choking, spanking, whipping, biting, gagging, and hair-pulling may be imbibed in adolescents. It can substantially influence one’s expectations about a sexual encounter.

Often, content is much exaggerated in porn, which can cause intimidation amongst viewers. Average genitalia size in porn stars is much enhanced with the aid of surgery – bringing about a state of complexity in boys as well as girls. Persistent consumption of porn amongst adolescents is a probable cause of increasing the earlier experience for first-time sexual activity.

Pornography may foster sexual harassment in young boys. Adolescents exposed to violent sexual content are recorded to be six times more aggressive sexually than those who view non-violent/no porn.

The frequency of viewing porn has been reported to differ with gender – males are more likely to have recurring exposure. Male viewers exhibit higher chances of objectifying women and instil sexual violence.

Females, on the contrary, are known to have more negative perceptions and responses than males. They perceive pornographic materials as shocking or distressing. Chasms between expectation and reality reinforce double standards and thereby develop sexual uncertainty amongst youth.

Source: Everaccountable

Addiction

Addiction is a risky situation for youth, who continue to expose themselves to pornographic content on a regular basis. Addiction refers to an activity that was once enjoyable but eventually evolved into a necessity. Characterized by the uncontrollable urge, it holds power to alter one’s thoughts and beliefs and affects their behaviour.

The behaviour of addiction to pornography is evolving across all segments of the teenage population. In response to porn, adolescents may face emotional, psychological, social, and physiological issues.

The Science Of It

The human brain is known to undergo a phase of high neuroplasticity between the ages of 12 and 20. During this, the brain is in a malleable condition, and billions of new synaptic connections are formed. Consequently, our brains get wired in accordance with the surroundings and experiences received during this sensitive time period.

Source: The Guardian

Resolving The Issue

An open conversation must be initiated by caregivers, teachers, and parents. Critical thinking must be inculcated amongst adolescents who view porn – this aids in questioning and evaluating what is displayed via media. It also helps in differentiating between the reel and the real. Children must be educated about the risks they are exposed to through digital content.

Parents should not let the pornography industry be the primary source of sex education; rather, have ‘the birds and the bees’ conversation with their children at an appropriate time.

Written by – Avni Gupta

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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