“Parents’ Porn Fears Exaggerated, Experts Say” – Spiegel Online:
Rückert, a 46-year-old from the northwestern German city of Lüneburg, holds a PhD in cultural studies. She has done research on pornography herself and now writes erotic novels. One of her works is called Lustschreie (“Screams of Passion”). When she read a magazine article about teenagers’ experiences with pornography, she simply raised the topic with her son.
“I watch some,” Carl admitted. Having that particular conversation with his mother was certainly a little uncomfortable, but then he learned some interesting things. “My mother told me that the positions they do are all just for show,” he says. Rückert explained to her son that he shouldn’t worry if his first girlfriend didn’t moan loudly during sex and that the actors in porn movies use lots of lubrication.
“It’s important to make clear to kids that porn is fiction and real-life sex is completely different,” Rückert says. She sees this as part of the media literacy all parents should teach their children. “Of course, a lot of people find it difficult to talk about sex,” she says. But she believes it essential to teach children, at the very least, to think critically about what they see in the media, and that this should be done before they reach puberty. “This is a responsibility you shouldn’t shirk,” she adds.
The greatest challenge, Rückert says, is not to lose contact with children as they go through puberty. “Maybe I annoy Carl sometimes with my discussions,” she says. “When he says, Mom, I’ve talked enough, then I leave him alone.” She knows that defining an identity separate from one’s parents is an important part of healthy development and that Carl has a right to privacy.
Be sure to read the rest of the article by Nicola Abé and check out the accompanying photo gallery. I am not sure specifically how widespread this attitude held by Rückert is, but considering Germany has more restrictions on violence in entertainment than sex in entertainment, and also has legalised prostitution (albeit limited), I’m sure this mother is not alone in this opinion. One of the organisations mentioned in the article, ProFamilia, teaches sex education in German classrooms– the article doesn’t clarify whether they only teach in public schools or if private schools are included. The school is a college-prep (university track) school.
Sex education is mandatory in Germany and students can’t opt out of it anymore than they can opt out of math, science, or writing courses or any other forms of necessary education. This is probably why Germany has a low teen birth rate (11.7 out of 1000) compared to the UK and US, where students and their parents can opt-out of sex education, boasting 27.8 and 42 births per 1000 respectively (according to WHO and CDC reports). US teens also have one of the highest STI rates in the industrialized world. WHO study via Spiegel Online; CDC 2007 report.
If Rückert was in America, her open, positive approach to discussions of sex and pornography would be grounds for accusations of improper mothering. Some people hold the opinion that sex education for American children and young adults should be completely left up to parents. I disagree; this subject should be discussed by schools, parents, and any other institutions that individual families put stock in. Leaving sex education up to parents puts far too much pre-supposition on parents actually knowing what they hell they are talking about…if they choose to talk about it at all. Even parents that do talk about it may merely pass on inaccurate information to their child they genuine believe is true (because their own parents were even less likely to provide accurate information) and how does that help at all? This leaves children and young adults believing all sorts of silliness like “jumping up and down after sex/drinking Mountain Dew/using a baster full of vinegar and water prevents pregnancy/first time or only time doesn’t count” or “Pulling out right before you come is 100% effective” or “Anal/oral sex isn’t real sex so you can’t be harmed by it”, etc.
Due to the time period my parents lived in, they had no idea how to use condoms because only “certain people” used those: basically sailors and prostitutes. How did I learn about condom usage? Through comprehensive sex education at my high school as well as my participation in the school’s AIDS Awareness club. It is also how I learned about STDs/STIs, including how to visually identify them (granted, it was a major gross-out for a fifteen year old but, lesson learned). Thank the gods for that.
This also means that abstinence-only “education” needs to be dismissed from curricula. That’s no better than ignorant/fearful parents being at the helm of sex education; in fact, these are the same parents who approve of and (some of them) create via various moral panic organizations, the curricula for abstinence-only education. One of the organisations mentioned in the article, ProFamilia, teaches sex education in German classrooms – the article doesn’t clarify whether they only teach in public schools or if private schools are included. The school is a college-prep (university track) school. I can’t help but to think that a similarly named organisation in the United States would mean that it doesn’t discuss sexual issues outside of “Don’t do it” or “That’s wrong” or “God doesn’t approve”.
Of course, these pronouncements will work for some kids who have been so inculcated with a fear of authority that they will not seek to rebel whenever an adult says “No”. But most teens, just as adults, do enjoy taking bites out of the forbidden fruit and purposely set out to turn that “No” into “Yes”. But without the complete knowledge of what they’re doing, instead of that “Yes” it becomes “Uh-oh”. That “uh-oh” does just affect them, as teenagers don’t always just have sex with other teenagers and eventually they all become adults, bringing their stinging, oozing, rashy “uh-ohs” into the adult population. Thanks for that, we were running low.