Written by Julia Vallois-Greenberg for Medium. Originally published October 8, 2014.
“Can We Counteract the Pornification of Sex Through Tech?
The answer to the above question is, according to my good friend and teacher/counselor of kids with behavioral issues, sadly…No. We had a long debate about what technology has done to sex and the mere mortals that live within its confines. I proposed to her that there must be a way to counteract the pornifictaion of sex and that I am going to do it through tech (big dreams over here). I explained to her that nowadays, the pornification of sex seems omnipresent and constantly at our fingertips given our recently added appendage of smart phones, tablets etc. (Starting at an alarmingly young age she reminded me). I should note that for my graduate thesis I researched the cultural constructions of femininity and female sexuality using marketing and advertising as my focus. So… my attention is always fixated on these issues.
I asked her what came to mind when I said “the intersection of sex and technology”. Her response was accompanied by a long pause “hmmmm Facebook, Instagram this Snapchat thing and… online porn”. She then went on to explain that her students (ranging from 12 to 16) send “naughty selfies,” share videos and openly discuss and text about their sex-capades. I was a bit taken back by this and asked what exactly she meant by sex-capades at age 12?! In her perfectly direct and matter of fact manner she stated “oh yes Jules, according to my 12 year old girls, if you haven’t had sex by seventh grade, you’re too slow”.
Now, I remember being a 7th grader as sending notes in class, playing truth or dare and making late night phone calls to boys while listening to Boys II Men. But sex and/or sex-capades? Sex was a topic that would make us blush. If teachers and or parents brought “it” up they were quickly met with an eye roll and the laughing ensued.
Oh, how times have changed. According to said friend almost all of the kids that have passed through her classrooms (previously she taught 4th grade for 6 years before working with children with behavioral issues) both the male and female students learned about sex mostly through online porn and through the renditions their young peers or siblings formulated and disseminated. “They will openly discuss their sexual experiences” she continued, “sex, blow jobs, positions etc.”. Essentially everything I, as an adult woman, discuss with my adult friends when we talk sex. According to her “ I would be shocked” to hear what these young minds discuss, share and partake in. The most recent shocking statement was that one of her 12 year female students told her 13 year old girl friend “I guess I have to shave my twat bald because that’s why I’m not getting any guys”…Mind blown.
Is it sad that my 30 something adult female friends have expressed a similar sentiment? Perhaps not in those exact terms, but nonetheless, the subject of bald, Brazilian waxes and “a bush” have crept into our conversations. The apparent desire for no hair has no age nor does the pressure to conform to a hairless nether region. And what does it mean that the same “issue” crosses and infiltrates the female minds of both a 12 year child and an adult woman?!? I couldn’t get this sentence out of my head…
Now one could bash the tech age and the porn industry for promoting a certain ideal, sexual acts and the “bald vagina”. Even labiaplasty, a plastic surgery that cuts a woman’s labia’s lips and “tucks” the remaining skin in, in order to appear “prettier” or “tighter”, albeit resembling a young prepubescent girl, have become an increasing trend since the porn industry stars started showcasing their ivag minis.
But is it the porn industry or the lack of counter imagery and ideas that are the problem? The response I get to this question is that porn has always been staple social expression and always will be. To whit, agreed. I can’t change that but where is the debunking-porn super woman heroine when you need her?
Enter Cindy Gallop, an impressive female entrepreneur who is using tech to precisely counter what she perceives to be the adverse, totalizing images that the web is constantly promoting of women and sex. Now this woman should have her own comic book cartoon heroine as she is currently fighting, in virtual and “real” reality for this cause daily. Dressed head to toe in black leather, silver super power accessories and her badass no bullshit, I don’t care what you think of me mentality, Gallop is fighting tooth and nail against the American pornification of sex one corporation at a time! Her most prominent idea is that porn in the United States is the default sex education in this country since real sex education is severely lacking. It is to counteract this lack that Gallop uses tech to present another, more liberated view of sexuality.”
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