We are a generation fuelled by information. I could probably find out what Kim Kardashian ate for breakfast this morning or who won the 1932 Olympics in a matter of seconds. But I could also find much more — perhaps much more damaging. A review conducted by the NSPCC showed that 93 per cent of boys had viewed online pornography before the age of 18. This in itself is shocking enough but in an education system lacking in sexual education, this can be very dangerous.


Speaking to a pupil of an all-boys grammar school, I was told consent and healthy relationships had ‘never been taught’. Instead, the pupil said the school focuses PSHE on careers and business activities. When brought to the teachers’ attention in a recent meeting, one teacher was horrified whereas another said it was ‘something we can learn about ourselves’.

In this age of information, self-learning can require an understanding of sources. The sixth most popular definition of consent on the Urban Dictionary describes it as a ‘myth created by the media’.

The pupil went on to speak about pornography. He said that pornography had provided the most comprehensive account of sex he had seen, while identifying the frequent lack of consent or the presence of violence in various videos. This is something that is likely to affect viewers subconsciously, especially where there is a lack of other education to contradict this.

A boy interviewed by the NSPCC said that pornography made him, ‘view girls differently’.

However, given the high rate of young people watching pornography, it would be almost impossible to stop this. So instead, improving sexual education to provide other perspectives on sex may be valuable.

Speaking to a teacher about the lack of sexual education, they said it was often ‘awkward and difficult to teach’ and stressed the fact that most children had some (although basic) sexual education in primary school.

This shying away from teaching may point to a larger societal malady of us not being comfortable with sex. But if it is a choice between an ‘awkward’ lesson or the indoctrination of young boys with the false ideals of porn, can we reasonably choose the former?

By contrast, I also spoke to pupils at an all-girls school, only a couple of minutes away. Although still not a comprehensive sex education, factoring in issues like female genital mutilation or directly breaking down the ideals of pornography (items that many think should have a place on the curriculum), it seemed better at the girls’ school.

As well as the infamous application of condoms to various fruits (again not present at the boys school), I was told there have been clear lessons on consent:

‘We have been quite focused on it [consent].’

Also, their lessons include talk on healthy relationships and sexuality.

The pupil expressed the damaging effects of porn saying, ‘they’re going to be disappointed when it’s not actually like that’. The pornography that boys are watching as a comprehensive sexual education is very damaging, and puts tremendous pressure on both sexes.

One entry to the Everyday Sexism Project where people are encouraged to share their experiences of sexism said:

‘The view of women through porn creates assumptions […] the man is in control’

It is these expectations that can lead to violent sex and sexual assault for young girls, through the view that men hold the ultimate power — something that is being reinforced to young boys again and again via unrealistic images of women’s submission.

Another girl wrote into the project saying ‘I am so scared to have sex it makes me cry every day’. She goes on to write that seeing pornography has taught her that sex will be a painful, horrible experience where boys will have power over her and there has been no education to prove her otherwise.

The inequality of this sexual education is also implicitly saying it is the girls’ responsibility to protect themselves against rape. A pupil told me that the focus on rape in their sexual education amounts to, ‘it [being] easier for me not to walk alone at night than it is for others to get the education about not sexually assaulting me’.

In the UK it is estimated 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. The inequality of sexual education shows that this burden falls on girls. Even though male sexual assault is also a very important issue, higher numbers of women get sexually assaulted every year. It seems the educational system has managed to link the fact that today’s female students may be tomorrow’s victims of sexual assault but cannot further reason that in these instances it will likely be one of today’s male students that is assaulting them.

This focus on protection instead of prevention of violence means that many girls already feel the weight of sexual assault on their shoulders. The pupil I spoke to often consciously didn’t wear shorter skirts or walk alone, as this might make her more likely to be sexually assaulted. While many of her male counterparts were not completely familiar with the idea of consent.

It is this victim blaming that also leads to lower levels of reporting and the damaging idea that victims are at fault for their own sexual assaults.

This is a problem that is already happening. Out of the girls I interviewed, all of them knew someone who had experienced sexual assault. One girl experienced it at party where a boy her age acted hostile and violent towards her. Obviously, this is a traumatic experience at any age, but for young people especially it can shape their lifelong views on sex.

It is probable that these attitudes of power and dominance are a direct result of the consumption of online pornography as the primary means of sexual education. This needs to stop. Various reports have shown that the age of viewing porn is getting younger and younger. For this reason, we cannot afford to endanger young people due to a lack of comprehensive sexual education and the violent tendencies its absence may foster, resulting in  horrific sexual assault.

We need schools to not shy away from this, to educate equally on all modern issues and to raise children that can express more feminist ideals that help forge a more equal society.