Exposure to porn can lead to sex crimes

2012-05-02 00:00

PORNOGRAPHY leads to abusive behaviour. That’s the opinion of Pietermaritzburg psychologist Clive Willows, who said that those children he has interviewed, referred to him due to some act of sexual molestation and abuse, have all independently spoken of being exposed to pornography prior to their abusive behaviour and this has usually been provided by an older boy.

“Their chilling accounts of the distress of their victims is a stark reminder that the development of empathy is not an automatic process, as is the development of sexual capacity,” he said. “If these developmental processes are not aligned we are likely to see an increase in these crimes and there seems little doubt that such actions will be encouraged by the exposure to pornography.”

Willows said growing up in a society in which the value and worth of human life are not upheld, results in a “callous disregard for the feelings of others in the pursuit of selfish desires”.

He said such disregard enables violent attacks, such as rape, to be committed without the restraint of moral beliefs.

“If coupled with entrenched gender stereotypes of the dominant, entitled male and the submissive, dependent female, the probability of sexual assault is enhanced. Pornography does nothing to alter this mind-set and probably does much to reinforce it.

Willows added that pornography could be a child’s first experience of something sexual and it is not the best way to be introduced to sex.

Willows said in considering the effect of pornography on children and the act of rape by children, it is important to place this in the broader context of (1) pornography generally and (2) access to information.

“There are those who claim that the use of pornography is a right to freedom of expression. Proponents suggest that such use is a sign of liberal and mature acceptance of the reality of sexuality and tend not to perceive it as exploitation or dehumanising.”

Willows said pornography, which makes no pretence of compassion, empathy or relationship, becomes a compelling attraction when viewed by youngsters with emerging drives and a poorly developed, immature, capacity for empathy.

“When images are in no way balanced by teaching, guidance and role modelling, the child is faced with a single repetitive message without exposure to any contrary opinions to provide restraint or control or a rejection of this form of entertainment.

Willows said that there has been enormous advancement in the field of technology which allows for relatively easy access to a vast field of information. This advancement has far outstripped the capacity for developing the wisdom of how to respond to and make discerning judgments regarding the content of the information. The ease of access and the sheer quantity of pornographic material, presented without the benefit of mature insight or understanding, provides children with “appealing” information with no manner of reflection or analysis. The fact that pornography is so accessible, and seemingly commonly used, creates the perception that it is legitimate and normal.

Willows said much has been written and spoken about the rights of children, and correctly so, but perhaps it has been presented in an unbalanced manner where the right to “demand” has outweighed the consideration of the child’s ability to manage the rights they are given. This attitude of entitlement is a further dangerous component in the mind of the rapist.

Thus, South African legislation has provided the right for children to assume responsibilities for deciding on such issues as termination of pregnancy, the use of contraception and engaging in sexual activity at a younger age, yet, simultaneously has raised the age at which a child is considered incapable of deciding on what behaviour is right or wrong allowing for immunity from legal consequence.

Kobus van Wyk, of e4Africa, an initiative which aims to get technology into schools, said that sexting and cyberbullying are two new vices which technology has made possible. He said while it was important to get computers into schools, there is a responsibility to create a safe environment for children to use them there.

“Pornography has been there all along, but technology makes it more accessible to children.”

He said that with sexting the “sky’s the limit in terms of what children can see on their phones.

‘Almost every child has a cellphone nowadays.”

He said some principals are better than others at controlling what happens in their schools. He said parents and teachers also need to be educated, most importantly about cyberbullying and sexting.

“It’s happening under their noses. They themselves are hesitant to use technology, but the children are using it all the time. They need to know what technology can do so they can prepare and protect the children using it.”

 

 

 

 

 

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