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Archive for April, 2012

Pornogrpahy addiction: It’s bad for our children, but it’s only the icing on the cake after TV and films

April 30, 2012 1 comment
Singers can look just as sexually explicit as porn stars

Singers in tiny skirts, hot pants and stockings can be just as explicit as what porn stars wear

 

Normally it is a subject that I shy away from giving an explicit opinion on, so to speak, but the time has come.

The Daily Mail has launched an appeal to get Internet Service Providers (ISP) to clamp down of pornographic sites because a recent cross party parliamentary report suggests one in three ten-year-old children has looked at explicit images online and that four out of five 16-year-old boys regularly look at porn.

I admit that by the time I was 16 a lot of my friends at school, myself included, would regularly access internet porn. We thought it was perfectly normal, although it depends what the report means by regularly, because we had to wait for the parents to go out so we could use the desk top computer. We also had to cope with dial-up internet. Now that everyone has laptops and household broadband it must be so much easier for children and youngsters to look at porn in the comfort of their bedrooms, and judging from the recent case study it can have terrible consequences.

According to The Daily Mail last week, there are numerous young men who are now unable to normal relationships with woman. Some are even on the sex offenders list for crimes varying from looking at child pornography to sexual assault. I have admit that to someone who regards pornography as an everyday thing, it is harrowing to read how it effects some people.

Now the Mail is putting pressure on ISPs to switch the way the filter content from an opt-out to an opt-in. This would mean that the default position is that parents would have to switch on pornographic content, rather than having to switch it off as they do nowadays.

The sexualisation of our country has been a long time in the making. Gradually our attitudes towards sex have relaxed, in terms of acceptance on homosexuality it can only be a good thing. But there are a variety of ways it has had a detrimental effect on children.

Can pornography be any worse than what children see on TV?

Is pornography much worse than what children are able to see on TV?

 

I remember two 13-year-old girls at my school were told to tone-down their dance routine for our annual talents how. They had choreographed a Christina Aguilera song, using a chair as a prop, and one of the teachers put her foot down as it was far too elicit for two minors to perform in front of the entire school.

It is through music and film that our attitudes to sex have gradually eroded, although nowadays singers gyrating about in very little clothing has become so normal that we don’t really notice it. But the results have been young girls dressed up like porn stars on their way to youth nights, young girls dancing like strippers, and young boys looking for ever more raunchy and explicit material as sex gets thrown in their faces from an ever younger age.

Do we simply lay blame for this degradation at the feet of the ISPs? We could no doubt blame MTV, or the BBC as well. How about we blame the Sun for its Page 3 images, or the Sport for having naked women on almost every page? I was reading FHM from aged 13 or 14, and no shop would ask for ID. It contained not only pages and pages of women in their scanties, but also articles about sex, be it real life confessions, technique pieces or how to pull girls. Let’s blame magazines for the current state of affairs…

There’s a really sad truth in this tale. It is the same truth that lies in the tale of our country’s education sector – the majority of blame rests with the parents.

Sorry parents, but in all honesty, the main guardian of your children’s moral upbringing is you. Although it is a teacher’s job to educate your children, it is your job to support that education, making sure they go to school, that they read books and do their homework, and that they take it seriously, because if you don’t take their education seriously then they never will.

It is the same with what they watch on the Internet. You can bury your head in the sand, or you can pay £25 to get porn filter installed, or you can make your children use a desk top computer instead of allowing them to look at what they want in their bedrooms.

Although our government wants to take responsibility for both our children’s education and what they look at online, they are not responsible. Our government constantly blaming teachers and meddling with education has left it in the sorry state it is in today. Now it is ok for parents to blame the teachers too, instead of supporting them. If we do the same with what we look at online then it will be another burden of responsibility we renounce.

So let the ISPs do what they will, the Beeb and newspapers do. How about, for a bit of a novelty, we stop letting children do as they will, and take responsibility. If your child is addicted to porn, unlike drugs where they can go down the park and do them out of your site, it is because you, as a parent, have given access to it online.

I wish the Daily Mail would do a campaign to make parents take some responsibility rather than trying to play the blame game to sell a few papers.

Philosophy matters, that’s why it’s important

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My first moral philosophy tutorial was one of the most humbling experiences of my young life. I knew, or at least thought, that I had some well thought out liberal opinions and was ready to fight for moderation and understanding against bigotry and hatred. But it only took about ten minutes (if that) for my tutor to demonstrate that my views on everything from abortion to euthanasia were simply the echoes of my mother’s. As I said, humbling.

We all do it I imagine, echo the opinions of our elders and betters. Whether you’re a vociferous Guardian reader, or a Daily Mail sensationalist, whether it is mum or dad’s opinion or your older sibling’s. Philosophy taught me my first lesson: question the basis of your own opinions before you parade them out as doctrine.

That was why I was so pleased to see Russ Thorne’s piece defending philosophy degrees in the Independent. Finally some appreciation for the discipline that I love and respect so highly, after years of getting a hard time.

When admitting they study philosophy, the first question asked is usually: so what are you going to do with that then? An innocent enough question that hides undertones of condescension. It implies that studying philosophy can lead to nothing useful in or of itself.

I had idea what I wanted to do with philosophy, I just enjoyed it. The reading was (usually) very engaging, the debates in class went from heated to mind boggling, and the essays were a challenge. But the question continued bugged me.

Those lucky enough to study vocational disciplines, or with a career mind already, seem to think they have the right to give the humble philosophy student a hard time. They accuse you of just spending your time thinking, or of doing nothing useful. They are just as happy to parade their opinions out over a pint or a coffee.

However, the majority of opinions that are spouted about everything from the environment to politics haven’t been explored in any detail and are therefore mostly platitudes, rehashing what has been told to them by parents, lecturers or the newspapers.

This is why one of the most important lessons of philosophy is not to take those platitudes as fact. That is why philosophy is important.

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig describes philosophising as walking in the hills. Anyone can leave the village in the valley and take a little sojourn through the hills of thought. There are a lot of well walked paths up there, that philosophers of bygone days have tread, and their students and acolytes have traversed after them, winding into the mountains of thought.

The valley is an analogy for our family, our culture and our society. It represents the preconceived opinions of the day, the platitudes. One who lives in the valley will take red as blue and blue as red if everyone tells them so. It is easy to live within the valley and not stray outside because everyone agrees with you.

Discussions over coffee or a glass of wine represent the walks in the foothills. You can follow Plato’s path, or Marx’s, arguing over the merits of their journeys and what the discovered. This is as far as many of us go.

But day-trippers should stop and look up. For above the well worn paths in the foothills, there are the mountains, which have only a few paths through them, for not many have ventured beyond the foothills.

This was why philosophy was so humbling as both a subject and a discipline. To further Pirsig’s analogy, the foothills that have been so well trampled can be understood as other subjects, chemistry, physics, psychology. Before these subjects existed there was only the questions: what is the world made of? How does the universe work? What makes human-beings tic? The ancient philosophers would have seen the foothills as mountains, there were no paths there, and it would have been both scary and novel to escape the valley of society and tread new paths. But after years of people following the routes, the questions have been replaced by answers, which are claimed by other disciplines. What matter is made of is answered by chemistry, what forces control the universe is the domain of physics, and explaining what makes humans do what they do is psychology.

It is testament to the wanderings of the greatest minds in history that we have these answers, but the cost has been the question. I think every question is philosophical, and from this it would imply that philosophy is the art of questioning. While the answers are now left to the various disciplines spawned from philosophical enquiry, the soul of the questioner is the soul of the philosopher, and this is why philosophy remains important.

To not ask questions because you assume you know the answer is at best ignorant and at worst arrogant. A lot of people in the valley take their opinions for granted, because they like them. If I had an unwanted pregnancy I’d want to abort it, so I am pro-abortion. But the philosopher explores their own opinions, and those of others, like Socrates, to find the justification that doesn’t rest on the comfort those opinions provide.

We are lucky to live in a culture where we have so many answers, but we should not let this make us complacent. If we do, like in the US, we get creationists, who take comfort in their opinions, yet make no effort to delve into the absurdity that the world was created only 9,000 years ago. We need questioners, to keep ideas fresh and stop them stagnating, and that means we continue to need philosophy.

And, as I learned long ago, philosophy teaches you to be humble before both your own and the opinions of others.