This week Channel 4 begins its Real Sex Season which, it claims, will ‘reclaim sex from pornography’. A laudable aim but, given Channel 4’s history, I am sceptical that this is what will be delivered. This is the channel which bought us Drugs Live, Dogging Tales and The Joy of Teen Sex, all of which were heavy on titillation and light on educational value. This season, which promises us the luridly titled Sex Box and Date My Porn Star, looks like it may be more of the same.
However, at the risk of becoming a hostage to fortune, one of the programmes does look very interesting:
Porn on the Teenage Brain is a documentary written and presented by Martin Daubney, who resigned his position as editor of lad’s magazine Loaded after becoming a father and realising that he wanted nothing more to do with the world of soft porn that he'd been peddling for over a decade.
In his film Mr Daubney sets out to understand the reality of the pornography today’s young people are consuming because it’s free and an unregulated click away. He also investigates what effect it has on their malleable brains and the ways in which they relate to each other.
Mr Daubney has written a moving article about his experience of making the film in the Daily Mail which we commend to you. He says:
“I was profoundly saddened by what I had witnessed. While teenage boys will always be fascinated by, and curious about, sex, what's now considered 'normal' by under-18s is an entirely distorted view of intercourse and the way relationships should be conducted. It seemed as if the children's entire expectation of sex had been defined by what they see in online porn. “
Research undertaken for the film found that the vast majority of UK teens had seen online sexual imagery or pornographic films. Brain scans carried out for the programme also found that the compulsive users of porn showed the same signs of addiction in their brain as those hooked on alcohol or drugs.
The reward centre of the brain is fully developed by the time we're teenagers, but the part of the brain that regulates our urges - the pre-frontal cortex - isn't fully developed until our mid-20s. The brains of teenagers are not wired to say ‘stop’; they are wired to want more. The implications of this study are profoundly troubling.
“If porn does have the insidious power to be addictive, then letting our children consume it freely via the internet is like leaving heroin lying around the house, or handing out vodka at the school gates” says Mr Daubney.
“Could it even have a wider impact on their lives, blighting their ability to function in the world, get good qualifications and jobs?”
The programme airs at 10pm on Channel 4 on Monday 30th. It does not promise to be an ‘easy’ watching experience but, given that legal porn now accounts for a third of global internet traffic, it is important that we are informed about what is involved and its possible consequences.
In the words of Martin Daubney: “Like many parents, I fear that my boy's childhood could be taken away by pornography. So we have to fight back.”