Generation XXX: What will happen to kids raised on porn? (Canada)

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xxxIt's been termed a social experiment — a whole generation growing up with free and easy access to online pornography. Those behind a symposium at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights on Monday morning call it an abject failure.

Beyond Borders is presenting Generation XXX: The Pornification of our Children along with its media awards and Rosalind Prober hopes the conversation shocks people into action.

"It's really a call to alarm for the public," Prober, co-founder of the children's rights advocate, said. "Enough is enough. We have to address it."

A recent study suggested that 90% of children between the ages of eight and 16 have viewed porn online, many while doing homework. It put the average age of a child's first access to porn at 11. Some are seeking it out, while others may come across it accidentally, but the fact is it's everywhere.

"It's more accessible than it's ever been, it's free, it's anonymous and it's right there in their pocket if they have a smartphone," said Gabe Deem, a 26-year-old recovered porn addict from Texas who'll speak at the symposium.

And we're not talking about finding your father's Playboy, either. What used to be termed softcore porn has gone mainstream in movies, television, music and video games. Porn stars are now celebrities and celebrities occasionally make porn. Terms like MILF and money shot are well-known and widely used.

Today's porn is invariably hardcore, simulating any number of illegal activities while amping up the violence and degradation.

"Part of the problem is we can't show it. If we could show what kids are seeing people would be alarmed," Probed noted.

The greatest risk to youth would be through an online predator who lowers their target's inhibitions through porn before attempting to make contact. "Sexting" between youth, especially sharing pictures beyond the original partners, could also be interpreted as child pornography.

But also concerning is what the continual consumption of online porn is doing to growing minds and interpersonal relationships at a time where social media use often trumps personal contact and many kids are first learning about sex through pornography. Self-image is at risk when teens feel they have to compete with what's onscreen, in both personal appearance and sexual experience.

"Porn is clearly influencing boys' and girls' expectations of what they need to do and what they need to look like," Deem said. "Porn is morphing teens' tastes."

Cordelia Anderson, a speaker coming from Minneapolis who has nearly 38 years of experience advocating for healthy sexual development, said today's "exploitative material" presents "all kinds of barriers to individual, relational and collective health."

"The message to girls is that the way to show they're liberated is to just take it. Whether someone feels any pleasure is irrelevant in a pornified context," she said, noting porn also creates a "dominant narrative" that's unhealthy for males.

"We don't see any kind of caring, we don't see intimate conversations, there's no sense of relationships. It's almost always women being a set of orifices for men to penetrate or a group of men to penetrate," Anderson said.

"This isn't helping our sexuality; this is hijacking our sexuality."

What to do about it is less clear. Anderson suggests more comprehensive sex education as well as more positive images to counter the violent and degrading ones. Filters can be helpful, but kids and the industry tend to find their way around them should they wish. Prober suggests an opt-in system like has been proposed in Britain, which has opponents crying censorship.

Regardless, Prober said it's time for the public to pressure the industry and government to help protect our children, and also time you spoke frankly and directly with your kids about it.

"Should parents today be talking to their children about pornography? Absolutely. There's no reason not to. It's there, they're seeing it, and it's not nice."

Like an 'unlimited supply' of drugs in teenagers' hands

Gabe Deem's penis had hit rock bottom.

Raised on a steady and increasingly shocking diet of online porn, the now-26-year-old from Irvine, Texas, found himself unable to perform despite an opportunity with a woman he found quite attractive.

After eliminating many of the possible reasons why he couldn't achieve erection, Deem was left to conclude he suffered from severe porn-induced erectile dysfunction.

"My body felt like it was in an alien experience," was how Deem described it.

He swore off porn, but needed nine months to return to normal sexual function. Along with sharing his story as a public speaker, Deem now counsels youth and operates Reboot Nation, an online community which helps users overcome problems related to porn use.

Deem began masturbating to magazines at eight, moved on to softcore porn by 10 and was 12 when high-speed Internet hit the scene, providing an "unlimited supply" of material.

All that experience trained his brain to prefer the solo experience over an actual human partner to the point where he could only achieve erection by viewing porn.

"Internet porn has a never-ending novelty which keeps the dopamine soaring in the brain, which is where you're looking at brain changes," Deem said.

Deem said recent studies have shown porn users' brains lit up in a similar fashion to drug users when they're watching. For him, the side effects were comparable — a loss of motivation, an inability to concentrate and a declining interest in healthy sexual relationships.

"The good news is when you unhook from porn, some of those acquired tastes reverse themselves," Deem said.

He now works to educate youth on the potential risks involved with his former modus operandi.

"Internet porn is really screwing with a whole generation of younger users who aren't aware of its negative effects."

 

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