Cindy Gallop

Founder & CEO, IfWeRanTheWorld


This conversation is closed.

What do you think each and every one of us can do to counter the impact and influence of porn as default sex education, everywhere?

Today hardcore porn is more freely and widely available online than ever before, thus accessible by kids at earlier and earlier ages (the average age at which porn is first viewed online is 11; a friend of mine recently found her 9-year-old son watching hardcore porn on her iPhone). At the same time, we do not as a society talk about sex openly; the majority of parents are too embarrassed to teach their kids about sex, and sex education is generally not taught in schools in a realistic and directly relevant way. As a result, and I can testify to this through my direct personal experience of dating younger men, an entire generation (guys and girls alike - girls watch and are as influenced by porn as guys are) is growing up believing that what you see in hardcore porn is the way that you have sex, with some very fundamental, ingrained negative impacts. As someone working to counter this with my venture, I would love all thoughts and ideas from the TED community as to how we can collectively address what is, quite frankly, the single biggest impact technology is currently having on the most fundamental aspect of huma behavior - our sexuality, which informs everything to do with how we feel about ourselves, other people, our relationships, our lives and our happiness.

This is a global issue that is currently impacting everywhere.

We'll start this conversation at 1pm EST on Wednesday December 7. I am very much looking forward to conversing with all of you!

Closing Statement from Cindy Gallop

Everybody - I loved this conversation! Terrific free and frank exchange of views, many aligned. I found this enormously helpful, both to me personally as I take MakeLoveNotPorn forwards, but also in the context of the many friends I have who are all tackling different aspects of this whole area in different ways, and will also find a lot of this useful. Many thanks to everyone who participated - I really appreciate it. I hope to continue the conversation in due course, and certainly to add to and expand it when I and my team launch in spring 2012.

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    Dec 7 2011: The single greatest thing you can do to counter the impact of porn is to de-stigmatize sex and have free and frank conversations about it. As long as we continue to treat sex like it's in prohibition, it will continue to be a sin that is dominated by porn.

    When you can more easily discuss how to rob a bank or kill someone than how to have fulfilling and safe sex, we've become prudes in the wrong areas. "The Talk" should not be one talk, it should be an ongoing dialogue both in the home as well as in the general discourse. When healthy, consensual, fulfilling, rewarding and monogamous sex becomes the imagery, video, and general dialogue as strongly as porn does, porn will loose it's influence. As long as we continue to treat sex like it's in prohibition, it will continue to be a sin that is dominated by porn.
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      Dec 7 2011: Kevin - hear hear!
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      Dec 7 2011: Right, restrictions never brought us any good. It's all about forbidden fruit and/or unsatisfied curiosity.
    • Dec 7 2011: I find it tragic that a breast shown briefly on TV or breast feeding in a store causes upset with many people while at the same time display of weapons and violence has high tolerance esp. in media?
    • Dec 7 2011: In terms of education too, as well as being an ongoing discourse parents and their children, they need to share an ongoing positive re-enforcement through positive imagery too so that porn is not their only source that satisfies the sense of sight.

      Appreciation of art of the human form, athleticism i real life, positive and romantic storylines in movies that include a level of sex from talk to physical interaction that gradually increases to the point that full sex ed actually means watching a positive image of people enjoying sex.

      This act first and foremost without fetishes or kink or any kind and later varieties of sex can be discussed and why people enjoy them should be a little more than voyeurism or cheap eroticism. It should be a matter of some clinical education as well.

      We are wrong to ignore or deny the sexuality of our children because of our own hang-ups or feelings, they feel it and see it anyway even just in ads for perfurme or aftershave the imagery is sexual in the majority although not necessarily sex on display its implied. Our children should not be treated as either ignorant or stupid or else you may well create a person who is ignorant of sex until it is too late for them not to say no when they need to. Or how to say yes with the confidance and freedom that comes only from knowledge.
  • Dec 7 2011: About 800,000 people are trafficked as sex slaves every year, a lot of these are women, a lot of these women end up being forced into doing disgusting or humiliating stuff for porn sites. Forced live and cyber prostitution. Cracking down on human trafficking may decrease porn. Making people aware that a lot of the sex on this sites is slave, coerced sex may bring the whole thing into perspective.

    Developing alternative erotic sites that show sex but without all the humiliation so as to have some variety of points of view may also help.
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      Dec 7 2011: Melissa - as per my response to another commenter who raised this issue too, there are fortunately many great initiatives tackling the issue of sex trafficking, including this one that I donate to monthly:

      However, there is also the fact that many women - and men - work in porn by their own free choice and are professional and committed about the job they do (I have a lot of friends in the porn industry who fall into this category), but find themselves unable to take pride in their work and live open lives because society demonizes the porn industry and sees it as one evil amorphous mass.

      To your last point, I think you'll find when it launches in the spring very interesting....
  • Dec 7 2011: I think that the way to address the Porn as sex ed situation is to simply open the dialogue with the child. There's this whole undercurrent that speaking about sex with your child is an unpleasant activity more akin to water torture than communication, with parent usually saying things that are redundant to kids. That's usually played up for laughs in the media. But I'll freely admit that pornography was part of my life from a very young age and my parent knew all about it and my parents took me aside and reminded me that what I was seeing and reading was fanatsy and a biased idealization. It sunk in.

    So to me the key is to overcome the shame and to speak and teach your children about sex even earlier than you think you should and even up to a certain point teach kids about pornography and how it does not reflect real life in the same way that other forms of entertainment doesn't reflect truth. War is nothing like an action flick, romance nothing like a romantic comedy. The same is true with pornography and sex.
  • Dec 7 2011: Sheltering children does not protect them from negative influences, but arming them with real knowledge will! I think we need to be honest in education, instead of tiptoeing around the issue, we need real honest sex education. I really do believe that the more open and honest we are about sexuality the whole porn thing will take care of itself.

    Also, I don't believe porn is inherently bad or damaging, what is damaging though is our unwillingness to be open about sex and sexuality, and this is probably why pornography exists in the first place. On a side note, sex and love are two separate things that sometimes go together.
  • Dec 7 2011: What can we do? Stop lying to our children! My daughter is 8. When she was 4 and asked me about how babies were made, I was honest with her about it. I didn't freak out when she checked out a book from the library about human reproduction when she was 5. Her godmother, who is a parole officer who does a therapy group with sex offenders insisted that I read her "The Touching Book" to her to protect my daughter against predators. And what does the book teach? Honesty. Quit lying to kids about this stuff or anything for that matter, and that way when they are confronted with pornography, they will already have information that they need to process it. You can't keep your kids locked up in a closet in order to protect them from what the world offers, good and bad. Inform them, be honest with them. Let them know what your feelings are on the subject, but keep in mind that they may feel differently about it, and that's okay. And keep this in mind, if you can't be honest with your children, how can you expect them to be honest with you, when they need to be? What happens when your children are confronted with pornography at any level, will they feel comfortable asking you about it? What happens if they are confronted by a sexual predator, will they feel comfortable telling you about it?
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    Dec 7 2011: So I guess it comes down to what can we do as parents, though I am not one at the moment - but I have given a thought to what will I say to my child and how will I tackle the issue of sex and love.

    I see a solution in creating a more transparent awareness in schools, even workplaces - for parents, institutions and of course people's homes!

    Being aware of what you are actually doing and experimenting leads to better control of yourself and the ones around you if they are following the model.

    Kids are extremely easy to be influenced. We love them, we buy them iPhones and the rest is history. The kid is happy, I am happy that he is happy. End of story.

    I think this is not the end of the story but the beginning. One could restrict hardcore porn sites but creating a parental lock on the handheld device itself or the computer or any other media device. And openly, try, to discuss with their child or children what is the difference between sex and love - thus the difference between the porn world and the real world.

    Great initiative with your website. I wish you best in making it score no.1 when google-ing for the word porn :)
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    Dec 7 2011: Kids are always gonna look for sex so I'd say make sex films that aren't demeaning freely accessible, whilst at the same time, making the demeaning stuff more difficult to find. And of course, be open and candid with your children. Recently my 5 year old surprised me when, during a nature documentary, a pair of monkeys started having sex, and my son said "They're having a fight," and I said "No. they're not. They're making babies," to which he replied, "Oh, they're having a shag!"
  • Dec 7 2011: I think we need to address our society's reaction to sex before we can begin to address the issue of pornography. As stated in the initial post, people aren't talking about sex with their children; it is taboo, shameful, disgusting, what have you. But too few people ask why. Why is sex taboo? Why is it shameful? Why is it disgusting? The Victorian Era notion that sex happens in the dark, face to face, only for making babies (which, I might add, porn is helping [correctly or not is another matter] to dissolve) is a driving force in why sex education is so underfunded and ill-supported.

    However, I admit that changing this is unrealistic in a practical, pro-active way. To address the question of pornography specifically, kids need to be given a real explanation of sex. That yes, it does feel good, and yes it is for making babies. That they should wait for someone that they love before having sex, but that if they decide not to, then they shouldn't be ashamed in buying condoms or other contraceptives. As stands now, we tell kids and teenagers to do this, or don't do that. We shouldn't be telling them what to do so much as reasons why they should and should not. Telling a child "do not place your hand on stove" is far less of a deterrent than explaining to the child "if you place your hand on the stove, your hand will get burnt and it will hurt very, very bad."

    Moreover, I think that we should EMBRACE pornography rather than ban it. Pornography has opened a lot of things to our children that we may or may not wish for them to see. But, like it as we may not, it's not going anywhere. With the ever growing prevalence of technology for younger persons, it is becoming ever easier to access. So instead, let us embrace it. Push the porn industry to make porn of more realistic sex between a loving couple. As children become interested in sex, make this available for them so that their sexual urges can be fulfilled without skewing their views of what sex is supposed to be.
  • j m

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    Dec 7 2011: thought about having dynamic drawing class where models were doing it. Really doing it, not posing, but i guess some of that too. See here its almost just technical, and appreciation, not moral or mystical, or depraved or taboo. Its a field of study, whatever that form takes for each unique indivual.

    But frankly, we just dont understand attention, human attention, its motivations, intentions. We take its dynamics for granted and assume a certain righteous stance on what is good for other people. more often than not by denying what we deem bad, but rarely supplying what is good, instead imposing that the oher should seek it out.
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      Dec 7 2011: Absolutely. And unfortunately, because of the societal taboos around open discussion and acknowledgement, if you did attempt to hold that class, you would instantly be arrested :)
  • Dec 7 2011: I think media literacy and sex/health/relationship education are equally important, starting at a young age and continuing throughout the school years!

    It's absurd that there isn't time spent in school teaching kids to read and think critically about media when they spend so much of their lives consuming it.

    Just as absurd as not teaching kids the basic science of human anatomy and reproduction - just like any other science. Or teaching teenagers about consent, communication, and healthy relationships.
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    Shean F

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    Dec 7 2011: TRUTH = EDUCATION = LOVE
    Most importantly is to Educate, teach the truth, from all aspects and angles. Apreciate nudity as something beautiful, its us, its our body, dont censore it, the ancient sculptures always showed this. Its natural in the Indian culture, expressed in their arts, literature etc (kama Sutra)
    REAL HONEST SEX EDUCATION--why censore something so natural and enjoyable and without it none of us would exist, it´s part of us, our history and survival. Sex is impulsive, instinctual, and enjoyable! This meaning we can´t just focus sex ed merely on a biological facet rather as something integrated with thw WHOLE of us.
    As written by S.L O´B. on FB "we need to nurture sexuality (as many have said here), and not just as gay or straight or bisexual, but as diverse as the human behind the sex. That as long as you are with someone who consents, and you are not hurting anyone physically, emotionally, or mentally, including yourself, that it is okay to enjoy the kind of sex you want, and that includes watching other people have sex, if they are consenting to allow you to do so, as in porn and porn actors. I don't think porn is the issue here. People raped and molested before porn existed, and people degraded themselves and others before porn existed, and they will continue to do these things until we cure our ill society of sexual oppression.
    Stop making it Taboo, and as a part of our daily ilves(which it already is) but naturally accepted & spoken
    I´ve been told that in Brazil since kindergarten you´re taught about sex from books made by sxeologist (not sure its a fact).
    To end a Quote by John Lennon "We live in a world where we hide to make love, but violence is practiced in full light of day".
  • Dec 7 2011: throw some humans into the national geographic specials with other mating animals. call us out on our sex culture the same way we examine the bird of paradise.
  • Dec 7 2011: I think we need to NORMALIZE Sexuality. It is one of the most innate drives we posses, and appropriate sexuality needs to be LEARNED, not through pornography that is easily accessible on the Internet. I think we need LAWS that target the inappropriate publication of porn on the Internet. We also need to shift sex education from schools to organizations that can teach our youth about health boundaries and what is not just safe sex, but healthy relationships and healthy intimacy which may then progress to healthy sexuality.
  • Dec 7 2011: Thanks for the links. And while they may be having trouble now, I think it's probably one of the best routes. If Facebook can pick up 700 million users or so, imagine how many lives a couple great sex education websites could impact. They say the pioneers have to clear the trails so that the people coming afterward have a path to go down, and this might be one of those situations. Guess you guys just have to work on finding the right rich friends for the funding ( :P) and then work more on publicity. You know, if you guys could get some ads out on tv stations that are more trashy or less family friendly to begin with, ones that teens and etc often watch (MTV and others), it might be easier to get the ads on those stations to begin with, and it would target some of the very people who need your knowledge the most. Maybe even try to put ur ads on a few porn stations as well. It is sad that the ideas that sometimes matter the most are the ones that people are the least likely to fund. Maybe even make some sex-related Flash games on your website or that can be used as downloadable apps, maybe that could get people talking. You could even make a sex fact app.
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      Dec 7 2011: Actually, Adrian,, which will launch in spring of next year, is my initiative with MakeLoveNotPorn to try and address at scale exactly what you are talking about. I am setting out to take every dynamic that exists in social media currently that makes it so appealing, and apply them to real-world sex, to make real-world sex socially acceptable and socially shareable, in a way that no one to date has managed to achieve. (Nothing like a big goal, eh? :) Do check it out when it launches - I think you'll find it very interesting..
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        Dec 7 2011: I'm really curious as to what you mean by this...
        So is it a social media site?
        Is it a real world sex porn site?

        What exactly is it?
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    Dec 7 2011: The problem is that we're usually having the wrong conversation. It isn't so much that sexually explicit media is damaging, it's the current state of the porn industry that's so damaging.

    Thousands of years of repression have given way to the explosion of the porn industry as we know it today. What we see is a reflection and reaction to the sexual shame, guilt, and fear that we collectively hold.

    It is time for the industry to evolve.

    If only this conversation were happening a week from now.

    This Monday, we are launching the website for the upcoming film, "Endless Seduction: An Initiation into Ecstatic Pleasure..."

    This film is to be a catalyst sparking a new paradigm of Conscious Erotic Media, crafted to help us reconnect to our bodies, our spirit, our hearts, and our passion...

    In Service,
    Destin Gerek
  • Dec 7 2011: I'm not a mother or anything, but I am a woman. I find pornography completely degrading and I think it teaches a completely skewed view of what sex really is (be it lovemaking, one night stand, etc.). However, my OPINION is not going to change the fact that pornography will never go away. In this case, we need to teach children about sex immediately. We cannot PROTECT them from porn, all we can do is TEACH them about real sex......that it happens even when man and woman, man and man, woman and woman do and don't love each other...that sex is wonderful and is to be ENJOYED. The reason porn has gotten so out of control is because we (in particular WOMEN) are taught that sex is to happen between a man and a woman who love each other and are married. Then the reality hits, we get turned on....we want to kiss and touch.....but wait! We aren't married or in love! Children need to be taught that sex is enjoyable and can be enjoyed....and that being true and real to one's self is the best way to experience that.
  • Dec 7 2011: Fair enough. So what are you defining the issue as, then? Yes, pornography builds a fantasy world. Whether one realizes that or not from the beginning, eventually reality would kick in, wouldn't it? I think that any reasonable person would, after enough sexual encounters, figure out that the pornographic universe isn't the realistic universe. And perhaps some wouldn't, but such a person would probably be thinking irrationally in the first place.

    Its for that reason that I don't really see it as a "global issue." I think you're missing the real issue, and its more basic than the specific example of sex, though certainly applies: We are an enlightened species, why are we still ashamed of anything at all? I think that it is weak and cowardly to dance around any subject because it is socially taboo. That attitude, in my opinion, does far more harm than good.
    • Dec 7 2011: Young people, girls especially, can be really hurt -- physically, emotionally and practically -- before reaching that point of "after enough sexual encounters." Teens do tend to "be thinking irrationally in the first place."

      It's not a question of socially taboo or shame; it's a practical and safety issue: for example, do teens think condoms are necessary? Porn "teaches" that they're not. Do they understand that abuse is never acceptable? Do they understand consent and that it's ok to say no?

      The concern is not that porn might teach kids new moves. It misleads them into thinking dangerous or hurtful behavior is normal.
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        Dec 7 2011: Agreed, Kit. The ways in which porn as default sex education impacts can be much more fundamental, insidious and ingrained than simply to do with 'sex acts'.

        For example, the bulk of mainstream porn is made by men for men. When female pornstars produce and manage their own content, they are still targeting men and so operating by the industry conventions: the sole raison d’etre of porn is male pleasure, and therefore the be-all and end-all of every scene is to get the man off. Which has led to a generation of guys and girls alike growing up believing that the be-all and end-all of sex itself, is to get the man off.

        I’m old enough to remember, back in the day, when it was important to the men I slept with that I came, that I came first, that I came more than once. These days, if I don’t come, it’s regularly not even remarked upon. (And I only date utterly lovely younger men.) This isn’t deliberate selfishness, it’s unconscious ingrained imprinting – reinforced for men by sex with women equally imprinted, who are focused on getting the guy off without expecting, asking for or claiming their own pleasure, because they believe from porn that that’s what makes them ‘good in bed’
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      Dec 7 2011: Eric - you and I are very much on the same page. :)

      Unfortunately, reality doesn't always 'eventually kick in'. I can personally testify to that based on, ahem, quite a lot of personal experience (I freely admit I date younger men casually and recreationally, and I date a lot of them :) and based also on the hundreds of conversations and exchanges I've had about this since I launched MakeLoveNotPorn nearly three years ago now.

      It is indeed a global issue - you can find more detail on all of the feedback I've received from people in countries all around the world in my short TED book: - and I totally concur that the issue is that we should be open and not ashamed at all about anything to do with sex.
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      Dec 7 2011: I think you've got a point there Eric. Porn is a fantasy world. Maybe if it were "sold" like that - in a sense of: if we built a culture around sex as a form of fiction - the positive effects of porn would get to overshadow the negative ones
      • Dec 7 2011: But then again when you watch an action movie or a police drama, you don't really think life works like that. Fiction is fiction. So why is there assumption that porn is any different?
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          Dec 7 2011: Philippe - because the lives we live openly don't involve Tom Cruise running down our street or getting caught up in car chases. The sex we have behind closed doors and never talk about in public is never openly displayed in the same way as the real world option vs the fantasy world of porn.
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    Dec 7 2011: How about to give children proper sex education before they start watching porn? The more common the topic will be within a family the less will be the impact of improper education from outside. And we should start educating children about sex as soon as possible. How hard is it to tell a child: "me and mum make love and that's how you were born"
    Our ancestors lived in communities where children watched adults having sex from their birth-day. I don't say it's necessary to do it exactly the same way, but we should definitely stop trying to pretend there's nothing like sex just until they start getting interested and try to find out by themselves.
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      Dec 7 2011: Ondrej - I couldn't agree more. Plus, I always tell parents, it doesn't matter so much what you say when your kids start asking questions related to sex and their bodies, what's much more important is how you say it - ie not reacting with shock or embarrassment, hastily shutting them up or in some way making them feel there is something bad or guilt-ridden about what they are asking. Being relaxed and matter of fact helps ensure they keep talking to you about sex, even if you keep actual information relatively minimal for the time being till they get older.
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        Dec 7 2011: You are right, the answers don't have to be absolutely detailed or precise, but the child must have it's curiosity satisfied and it shouldn't feel like doing something wrong. I think there should be a list of forbidden answers like: "you're too young, who told you about this and so on" :-)
    • Dec 7 2011: i'm not sure it is as important to help our kids before they see porn, it probably has a lot more to do with how we react to their seeing it.
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        Dec 7 2011: It's too late. If a child watches porn (not accidentally, but on purpose), it's already too late to start the education. In my opinion the right time to start is many years before this happens.
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          Dec 7 2011: Kelly - the average age at which kids see porn online today is 11, and as I mention above, a friend of mine found her 9-year-old son had accessed porn on her iPhone. Sadly, early sex ed and addressing kids viewing porn are coinciding at very much the same stage of kids' lives these days....
        • Dec 7 2011: I think it is never too late but I agree it is easier to start sooner than later. =)
      • Dec 7 2011: I agree with Kelly, My parent never freaked out when they saw that I had found the porn stash. They simply were not judgmental and kept tabs on my state of mind making sure that I understood that porn is fiction.
  • Dec 7 2011: How about this- If government has no sanctions on the internet, for the most part, why don't we just get a group of people to run an awesome sex education website (free classes) online? You could have a chat/video chat room to have live discussion; you could advertise it a lot so the word gets out; you could have links to scientific and reliable resources and books. And best of all, kids would be able to access it even if the parents don't want to teach them about sex. You could even have a section that shows horrible and improper sex acts that are shown in porn and could explain why they are not safe to do, or why they are degrading to women or etc.
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      Dec 7 2011: Adrian - there are a number of terrific sites online already trying their best to do this - unfortunately they have trouble reaching a scale where they make enough of a difference to enough of a mass audience, partly through lack of resources but also because there are many social and societal barriers to a willingness to have sex education be widespread (now that I am working with my team on taking MakeLoveNotPorn forwards as, launching spring 2012, I can tell you that I personally am encountering all of those obstacles..) Do check out sites like,,
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    Dec 7 2011: I would say that we truly need to go back to the basics. I'm 24 and I was introduced to sex through porn and conversations with peers and family members in my age group. This is not the best way for a child to learn about sex. Fortunately, I did not find anything appealing about porn and applying it to my sex life (in the future). I wish my parents would've sat down and talked to me about it though. No one did that and I don't know many friends who've had "the talk".

    I did find that a lot of guys I knew (not friends) were very much into porn sex, as I like to call it. They had no idea about making love and no interest in it. They also didn't understand how deeply the issue was affecting their lives. To them, it was just the norm and most young males are criticized for going against the norm, especially when it comes to sex.
  • Dec 7 2011: having sex is sexy. sexy thoughts are nice, not dirty. i've been making porn of my very authentic, messy, fuzzy, happy lovemaking for about a year now and there is a bigger audience for it than i'd initially imagined. nudity is ok in my household and exploring & understanding your body is encouraged. get sex out of dark shadows and scandalous whispers; it belongs with us always, as part of who we are. take away the taboo.
  • Dec 7 2011: We desperately need age appropriate sex and relationship education for all ages in schools. Sex, sexual relationships, and platonic relationships are fundamental part of life. How can we expect people to just have sex "let it work itself out" and end up with healthy adults? It is ludicrous. Yes parents are uncomfortable talking about it, that is why we need trained professionals who can and do teach it. Knowing that sexual abuse occurs so often and with such young kids, we can not wait until the teenage years to start cherry pickings topics to teach children. At that point we are already losing the battle to help foster healthy individuals.
  • Dec 7 2011: You stated the only real problem here in the initial post... "At the same time, we do not as a society talk about sex openly." There's no good reason for this attitude at all. I think that continuing carrying on the delusion that sex is some taboo thing that shouldn't be talked about openly is harmful to society overall.

    That said, I learned about sex through porn and personal experience, and I turned out just fine.

    Sébastien Cloutier is absolutely right with his comment. "Porn is damaging" isn't the default position. You have to prove that assertation first.
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      Dec 7 2011: Eric - I should just reemphasize again that I am not anti-porn - I'm entirely pro-porn, and have many friends in the porn industry.

      Please do check out the 'About' page of now for some of the emails I get that do demonstrate that in the absence of that open conversation that you, Sebastien and I all want, the impacts are not great. You can also read many more responses that go into the effects in a lot more detail in my short TED e-book:
    • Dec 7 2011: I think porn has many positive aspects but one also very negative.

      Some women shown in porn are forced to be part of it. My understanding is many women, esp. in developing countries, are abused, forced and even kidnapped to serve as prostitute and be recorded for porn industry?

      There needs to be effort to prevent this from happening and viewers should be aware of this issue.
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        Dec 7 2011: Zdenek - there are many great organizations fortunately dedicated to tackling sex trafficking and its victims, including one I donate to monthly:

        However, you raise inadvertently a perception that is often used to generalize about the porn industry as a whole. There are many women - and men - in porn who have actively chosen tht as a career and are very professional and committed to what they do, and would like to be able to take more open pride in their work - but because society demonizes the entire industry, they have to live lives significantly affected by that.
        • Dec 7 2011: Cindy yes I agree. Many women choose to do so and should be treated by society and government the same way other professions are treated with protection, rights and benefits. cheers
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    Dec 7 2011: Hi. However interresting this topic may be, I think the whole approach is biased from the beggining. Much more honnest would be to ask WHY and HOW porn is damagable, instead of just assuming it is.
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      Dec 7 2011: Sebastien - do check out the 'About' page on for just some of the emails I receive daily from young and old, male and female, all around the world, that demonstrate that this is indeed an issue. One that would never have crossed my mind if I had not encountered it personally. (I am not 'assuming' anything. :)
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      Dec 7 2011: I freely admit I do have a specific personal bias: the issue I personally am tackling with MakeLoveNotPorn is not porn. The issue I am tackling is the lack in our society, as I mention above, of an open healthy dialogue around sex and porn, which would then enable people to bring a real-world mindset to the viewing of artificial entertainment.
      • Dec 7 2011: I think it's about taking more responsibility for our children's education all around. If you don't teach them about sex, someone else will be more than happy to do so and make money doing it. My concern with porn is how phallocentric it is. The woman is the center of attention but yet the pleasure is very male centric. Of course it's catered to males because of market demands and I think that biased view might be the most dangerous part. In pornography female pleasure comes second (if at all) and girls who receive a pornography education might see this as the norm thinking her pleasure as secondary.
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        Dec 7 2011: A lot of what I see on your webpage and talks is about the normative, what is considered "normal" by people. Now this of course has an impact on what they think is right or wrong. So this issue IS about morality after all. I personally believe that "dialogue" and "testimony" don't make science. They are not sufficient to point out there IS an issue, more that just behaviors shocking to our moral judgment. If we want to have an honnest debate about porn, it has to be grounded in psychology and medecine...
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          Dec 7 2011: Sebastien - I put up on no money nearly three years ago now as a very basic, clunky, minimal website, and I have to admit I had no idea at the time of the extraordinary response it would engender. I'm happy to say that its next iteration as - launching spring 2012 - will correct what you are concerned about, and I hope you'll find it more relevant (I actually managed to find some funding for this after failing to for a very long time - people go all funny around anything to do with 'sex' and 'porn', as you can probably imagine :)
        • Dec 7 2011: Sébastien, I think you are totally correct that truly founded-opinions can only be based on scientific and psychological study. I think however that you have not researched the topic as fully as you should. Gail Dines is a sociologist who, unlike Cindy, is against porn culture entirely. She has studied and performed decades of research on the subject. This is a link to her website that might give you some more insight into just how damaging porn can be:

        • Dec 7 2011: Color me unconvinced. Your link seems more like a knee jerk reaction to social conditioning that sex is supposed to be something. Sex is always and has always been what you make of it. trying to put reins and blinders on it only drives it underground which is what got us in this mess with the kids in the first place. Drag it out into daylight and talk about it with an open mind. The answer is non-judgmental dialogue.
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    Dec 7 2011: The impact and influence of porn as default sex education, everywhere can be easily understandable when you think about the psychology and effect of porn to individual level from father to daughter, Mother to son, and think collectively to the solution of implementing a policy for school level or community level sex education.
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      Dec 7 2011: Munish - thanks for this - where are you based and what is the approach to school/community level sex education in your area?
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    • Dec 7 2011: Sometime the answer to a nail is a hammer. You are welcome to try and come up with something better.
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    Dec 7 2011: I just tried to access your site, Cindy, but it has been blocked by my server on the grounds that it is porn. Go figure.
  • Dec 7 2011: It is important to make sure our children understand that porn is the depiction of people having sex, but it is not real, nor does it depict actual "love" making. Essentially, they are actors, being paid to perform as actors. We need to accept that our children will be exposed to this sort of obscenity, and give them the tools to appreciate it for it's intended purpose, but not to confuse it with what sex is actually like. We need to help them understand that sexuality is nothing to be ashamed of, but that love making is something special to be shared when you trust and love someone.
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    Dec 7 2011: A very good question and, for me, points to the fact that we, as adults, have an amazingly poor ability to allow kids to be kids until it's time to move on. IMO we allow children to be babysat by screens, rather than show a full and active interest in their progression, and life, sex and religious education becomes a mish mash of what teachers pass on and what the vogue culture of the day delivers. I'm as guilty of this as anyone.

    I'm a youthworker and further ed teacher, my wife is a primary school teacher, my sister in law a secondary school special needs co-ordinator. The tales we could tell. Terrifying because we only deal with a few hundred kids a week and every teacher in every school in most countries can tell the same stories. Today I was told of a 12 year old we're aware of, already on facebook for three years, who's dressed up as a movie star for her 12th birthday. Which involved wearing a dress which was in no way suitable for her age and posing in a manner which kissed goodbye to a childhood already lost. All posted on a social networking site with the privacy filter turned off. Not a daily discussion for us but not rare either.

    And porn, as free and available as it is, becomes the understood norm for something which should be sweet, joyful, wonderful, clumsy, new, fresh and beautiful. Milf becomes a standard description for one of the teachers I work with, as if it's not a clumsy and unpleasant and awful way for a student to mention a colleague while I'm in earshot. In fact they've asked me who the milf is, and then they're amazed when I blast them out for it.

    I was reading a semi-related article which said that the power of swear words is diminished with overuse. A non-swearer who stubs their toe and says the first word which comes to mind will have the pain exascerpated by the thrill of saying a taboo word. Whereas someone who uses a swear word as a comma will not. As it is with language so it is with sex.

    And all to the OST of BEP: Ma Humps.
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      Dec 7 2011: Paul - absolutely.
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        Dec 7 2011: Black Eyed Peas have a lot to answer for :)
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      Dec 7 2011: I would try to offer various possible steps in the right direction which might not be mutually exclusive

      - More acceptance of love-making in the media. Perhaps we should be aiming to get to the point where a TV show shows some awkward, funny, loving sex between two characters. The knee-jerk response is "No way, what about the 11 year olds?" But that no longer seems to apply - they've likely seen adults having sex already. At least if they are hell-bent on putting themselves in situations they aren't ready for, they might emulate some more realistic adults rather than porn. At the same time we perhaps need...

      - More acceptance of love-making in our philosophies. Here is not the place for me to lament what sexuality has become to some worldviews. But sex is indeed too fundamental a part of humanity to be suppressed to anywhere near the extent of something like waiting for marriage. I mean, wait if you would like, but that is no longer the norm, and it never should have been the "ideal". It's simply not necessary, and I think we should be glad that way of thinking is on the decline. What actually matters to sex and love-making is emotional maturity and good knowledge about risks.

      -Fearless sex education. And I would add, throughout their school years. Teenagers can either have sex while the adults keep themselves idealistic, or we can all make sure these kids have better survival and safe sex training (i.e. condom use). That takes ongoing reminders, not one class. When the world demands that kids face adult decisions (e.g. in times of war, how to use the internet, and so on) we must equip our kids more quickly and effectively. What is the alternative?

      Also, that site "make love not porn" is pretty cool. Except, one you go through all the interesting panels comparing sex and porn, it just says "see, they're different!" What about finishing off with some small request to commit to the idea - "like this on you facebook"

      Just some thoughts
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    Dec 7 2011: So, we're thinking about sex courses with criticism... something like the walls of Pompéï?
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    Dec 7 2011: In the context of a school employee being arrested on child pornography charges ( not involving any children of our school) we as a community of concerned parents and citizens were briefed by the arresting officer who gave us a very eye opening look at how difficult it is to crack down on online porn, how diifuclt it is for parents to effectively monitor or protect their children.

    Others with ongoing state programs spoke persuasively for parents encouraging direct and early open, straight forward and fcatual communications with their children on human sexuality..correct names for body parts, clear guidance not only with strangers but with peers etc

    .There is no way around it. Parents are hey key. Schools can't do the job of filling in gaps in parent child communications. But many, perhaps most parents needs help and support and guidance in how to do this. Very important.
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    Dec 7 2011: Well... things that'll never happen (esp in the U.S.)

    A serious sex education curricula....

    The best thing would be to stop/never have children. :) I'm doing my part.
    Just think how many other bigger problems would be solved too.
    Just sayin.

    -------a very unpopular and uncool thing to say......probably'll go unmentioned
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      Dec 7 2011: :)
    • Dec 7 2011: Oh, the answer starts here with us, don't sell the whole system short. Soon the baby boomers will have died out and their outdated morality with them (hopefully) then our generation will have more of a voice and lead the world to a more open curious and accepting future. Voluntary extinction is not the answer. :P
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    • Dec 7 2011: What if the men and women who are objectified enjoy being objectified?
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        Dec 7 2011: Then that's fantastic :) Totally concur - I am regularly critiqued for's message essentially being 'some people like this, some people don't' - to which I have to point out that even a message that simple needs to be conveyed. That's why essentially what I am trying to say with MakeLoveNotPorn boils down simply to 'Talk about it' - because a lot of people don't. (The emails on the 'About' page of the site will give you a sense of what can happen when they don't.)
      • Dec 7 2011: Objectification definitely come with a form of power and adulation. The same can be said with living up to societal expectations: we also glorify the 3.5 kid nuclear family with white picket fences. But it's not the only way to live. It's important that we showcase that.
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      Dec 7 2011: Karen, yes - MakeLoveNotPorn is absolutely a gender-equal proposition - it cuts both ways.
  • Dec 7 2011: For some reason I can't reply to your comment, so I'll have to start a new conversation here. :D

    And well, I don't think technology is as much the impact as the people and societies behind them.

    None the less, I think this is one of these never ending issues of balance and what people perceive as being the norm. I believe that the easiest and most effective way to come your issue to life, is teaching in the image of strong women and men.

    And a strong person is one that talks and debates preferences. You talk about confidence as an experienced women and I think confidence in the idea that talking about sex and gaining confidence is key.

    I believe that we are going into sexual expanding times, these will undoubtedly be forced into contracting times but since that is probably far off into the future as we are in a fairly relaxed period in human history, I think that getting your message integrated into education as well as the fabric of the internet is key.

    You got a cute website but it is porn killer. I am working on a project and I might be able to help you in the future but for now, I think your best shot is some kind of Facebook integrated debate.

    On the education of the internet this what I think you should have in mind to be relevant. Khan is making a education website and having the sexuality debate there seems very natural.

    REMEMBER! Do not give people points for being creative, it only kills creativity.

    So a mix of those two and you will be going. I got no funding but if are ever interested, I might have the vision.

    Best regards,

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    Dec 7 2011: as for porn,

    theres all sorts,

    soft and hard,

    where we draw the line is based on experience

    everyone has a different experience

    respect each others experience

    if you reach your "line", either walk away, or endure growing pains...
  • Dec 7 2011: One thing I find that is harmful to sexuality is the all or nothing approach when dealing with sex. The reason why so much pornography deals with more violence and degradation seems to be: "you stepped into this pond, you might as well get in over your head." If porn was more "mainstream" I think we would see a lot less of sexual violence in pornography. As it is because of the hard 18+ years or older boundary, which if you'll forgive me is a pipe dream now, sexuality in the media comes in two flavors: kissing and hand holding with chaste side view lovemaking set to flute music or full on semen drenched porn with some generic hard rock in the back ground. There is NOTHING out there that looks even remotely like the sex normal people are having. Children are watching porn, we need to take our heads out of the sand and deal with it in a responsible manner by showing what real sex is like as opposed to awkward leg positioning.
    • Dec 7 2011: "There is NOTHING out there that looks even remotely like the sex normal people are having."

      How do you define 'normal people'?
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        Dec 7 2011: ME!

        I'm a normal person and porn doesn't come close to the sex I have. That's why it's called porn and not just sex.
        • Dec 7 2011: Corvida, I believe Burton's question in defining "normal people" is that people are varried and so too are their sexual preferences. If you were to group together 100 men, all of whom you believed are normal, chances are that at least some of them were homosexual, engaged in bondage, heterosexual anal sex, or a myriad of other sexual acts that you may not engage in, but are still very much normal. Sex, like people, is continually evolving, and changes from relationship to relationship, even when only looking at 1 person.

          Defining normal action is difficult to begin with, but when we're concerned with something that people talk so little about, it becomes even harder, and worse still, biased. While I might not engage in choking, hair pulling, or some of the other things that people have mentioned in this very thread, they are still very much normal. But the negative stigma of not being normal is often attached to them because of very similar mentalities of it not meeting the same sexual criteria as what you, or any other readers, might engage in.
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    Dec 7 2011: in terms of the connection between love and sex,

    love is union, unity, unification

    sex is caress, massage, pleasureable touch, relieving

    sexual union is when man and woman resut in child, a union of man woman to create another human
    • Dec 7 2011: All I'm going to answer to that is "perhaps to you." There is no cut and dried definition of what sex is. Maybe my girl likes to have her hair pulled and likes a little bit of extra thrill to give her goosebumps. It's not always about sweet wet and silky, sometimes a rougher edge that takes your breath away is also good. Limiting your definition narrows possibilities.
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    Dec 7 2011: Schools need proper Sex-Ed. For me personally, the Sex-Ed class had two points. 1) If you have sex, you will get an STD. 2) The only way to not get an STD, is to abstain from sex until marriage. The class fell on deaf ears, as the majority of students were already sexually active at that time.

    I do no believe that the proper education needs to done prior to a child encountering pornography or other graphic images, as children view violence on television but are taught that it is separate from reality. That what they are viewing on television is "fake". For pornography, no one sits down with the child to explain the differences between what they have viewed, and what should occur in reality.

    Why not teach children what sex IS, as opposed to only teaching what the possible results are? The most progressive Sex-Ed class that I have encountered, as one that actually showed what a condom was. The focus still remained on avoiding unwanted pregnancies or contracting STDs. Everything taught was focused on the negative, while porn gives the appearance of showing the positives. It's understandable that people get confused.

    Edit: In my opinion, children should be taught about sex at whatever age they start to ask questions about it. When they ask "Where do babies come from?", is when the education should start.
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      Dec 7 2011: Absolutely Mike!
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      Dec 7 2011: I'd have to disagree. As someone that took a sex-ed class in the past 10 years, I'd have to say that none of my friends (myself included) wanted to talk or learn about something so personal from a teacher or peer group of strangers. It takes away the balance of intimacy and openness that should come from a healthy sex relationship.

      While the content of Sex-ED should definitely change (I agree with you completely on that Mike), it's just not the environment for such conversation, in my humble opinion.
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        Dec 7 2011: Corvida/Mike - agreed. The principle of sex education is great, but then it becomes about HOW you do it. The right kind of class - and the one featured in the NYTimes piece that others have quoted here is one example: - works well; the wrong (where a purely biological stance is taken, everything is negative - STDs, pregnancy threats - the teacher can't wait for it to be over and neither can the kids) doesn't.

        And yes, this open dialogue needs to happen EVERYWHERE.
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        Dec 7 2011: I'm with you Corvida. Schools can't do the job effectively. As I posted above, its a job for parents but not so easy to tackle without more guidance, support, suggestions, practical help in that tricky role.,,
  • Dec 7 2011: I haven't but I have read many books that talk about the science of it. Yes sex is a wonderful thing. But it is much like a horse if bridled and trained, it can take us to great places and great heights. but if left wild and in control it can take us many places but probably none we really want to go to. It may be fun at first to ride that untrained horse until we want more control over our destination, speed, path etc. Suddenly we find ourselves unable to obtain the most precious things in life.
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    Dec 7 2011: I know there's only a few minutes left but I read this article a few weeks ago. There seems to be more of a propaganda battle going on. Abstain from knowing what to do or go about having sex in an educational setting where you should be able to ask these kind of questions. OR... Truly discussing what's involved, how it works, and most importantly the relationship between the people involved. Sex is more than the act it self. Sexuality is sexual activity of any kind. Young minds and bodies are curious and will explore sex even if they were in room by them self alone. As a teacher, educator, and concerned citizen I'm aware that knowledge is power. When knowledge is removed, taken away, or transformed into a fabrication this grants power to those wishing to benefit. Manipulation of people through ignorance only sets them up to fall, be trapped, and destine for poverty/disease/child-parenthood. I question how this is helping in any way, because it is not, it's hurting. The political stigma developed through out time but especially the eighties during the AIDS epidemic has held the strength of abstinence education for to long. Fear tends to vanish when folks investigate what is going on around them. Educating students out of intelligence is a crime against humanity. We need each other and are dependent upon one another. It takes true strength to stand up and fight for what is right. There is no spine in being paid off to have no opinion. Porn is common culture on television, lunch room conversations, and through out the internet. Fantasy is now reality weather it is at the kitten ranch in nevada or on an ipad. Distinguishing between what is meaningful and what is entertainment, and what really works between two consenting partners is in question. I would love to know what Dan Savage has to say about all of this. Please ask him please
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      Dec 7 2011: Actually, a lot of people have said to me that Dan Savage and I should have a conversation....:)
  • Dec 7 2011: We need to EMBRACE the body, not as something to be feared, but something to be honored that has innate WISDOM and wholeness that INCLUDES a healthy expression of sexuality. Sexuality is one of the pleasures of life, yet in America we have created great polarities around its expression. Sexuality is not something to be abused, it is something to be celebrated, yet porn and its easy accessibility on the Internet creates a false sense of intimacy. We need to teach our youth to connect not just with the MIND when it comes to viewing sexuality currently on the Internet or or TV, but to allow the connection from the HEART to drive ones passions. Sex without heart is a hollow act that creates hurt and may harm another. Sexuality that is sacred, that allows for two people to get to know one another and they choose to deepen this sacred connection because they want to deepen their experience of one another. We need to satisfy our children and our youth's curiosity about sexuality, long before they begin watching porn. Families and healthy adult relationships teach children about intimacy, how parents touch each other and their children is where sex education really begins. We are sexual beings and sex education begins in the home long before a child is even of an age appropriate stage of curiosity.
  • Dec 7 2011: Ugg. Porn as sex tutorial-- complete disaster. Lets see, where to begin.....nobody has any hair on their bodies, nobody ever uses condoms, the only physical contact is genital (so the camera can get a good shot), almost zero touching, very little skin to skin contact, lots of fake groans, mechanical thrusting and position changing.....gah. And that's before you get into the "girls like it every which way and no never means no" crap. Unfortunately, we live in an age of increasing pornigraphication, so kids don't even have to watch porn to get the message. Thong underwear for pre-teens, aerobic pole dancing at fitness clubs, barely dressed teens routinely performing oral sex in primetime dramas. It's bad out there. Now we have the whole "slut" movement which is supposed to be empowering, but is just girls choosing to be treated as sex objects. What happened to dignity, respect, trust, mutual affection, giving pleasure? In addition to solid and comprehensive sex ed, we need positive images of sexuality-- human, intimate, personal, emotional, caring-- in movies, on TV and in young adult literature. Also, while we have to give our kids positive messages about sex being healthy and pleasurable, we also have to be honest that sex can be dangerous, unpleasant, and bad. Girls need to be taught to treasure their sexuality and boys need to be taught to treat girls with respect.
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    Dec 7 2011: talk about it
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  • Dec 7 2011: As I can't seem to reply to the conversation between Joe McCabe and Cindy Gallop, I'm posting this here.

    I am a little concerned that we're underestimating kids if you think that they honestly are going to believe that everything that happens in porn is how it should be. Recent findings in Pediatrics suggest that most kids aren't nearly as involved in sexting. New findings regarding "sexting" discovered that most kids aren't showing graphic images of themselves.

    I am also concerned that we are ostracizing many 'deviant' sexual acts that are a part of a normal and healthy sexual experience. Sexuality is a continuum and things like tickling can go from playful fun and a slight stimulation to the point that someone feels so overcome and out of control that it's a rape like experience. Other activities such as bondage fall along a similar spectrum.

    I personally feel blessed that I'm from a faith that took the reins and gave all its youth a course on human sexuality via its Sunday school function. Courses such as "About Your sexuality" and "Our whole lives" should be more widely offered to give kids an understanding of such continuums as above and healthy ways to talk about sex, sexuality, sexual health and what is normal behavior.
  • Dec 7 2011: I think that when the time is appropriate, well-made porn could actually be used in sex education with kids. Stuff like what X-art is doing, and a lot of french porn is also really nice to look at and does not implies any violence or even domination or such.
    I do look at pron every so often and have no shame of it but I take no pleasure looking at most of the american type of stuff they do that implies degrading womens and violence and disgusting scenes... I think kids should be told about these in advance since they are going to see them sooner or later anyways...
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      Dec 7 2011: Ted is so concerned with crowdsourcing and its immense advantages. Maybe one could create a user tagged / rated system where porn consumers would label and rate the quality and atmosphere of the content. So instead of being randomly exposed to unfiltered content one could "navigate" intelligently.
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        Dec 7 2011: Mihai - check out when it launches. You most certainly will be able to tag and rate content there in VERY interesting ways - that add up to enabling socially acceptable and socially shareable sexual self=expression and creativity....:)
        • Dec 7 2011: To disrupt porn? Not sure what this mean your site is giving awesome informations though... But I think some porn directors are doing a great job in showing attractive and realistic sex scenes that also does have some audience (like me) but that is still not where the masses goes at...
      • Dec 7 2011: I also know of some porn sites that categorize some videos as "Women friendly"; wideos where you don't see violence or degrading scenes. That is somehow helpful but not quite close to a user-based rating as you mentionned... But it still shows that the need of counteracting the immense attention drawing toward the usual disgusting stuff seen so often.
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          Dec 7 2011: Actually, porn is like any other industry sector that I study as a business consultant - it's gotten so big it's gotten conventional; the industry is tanking because its business model has been destroyed by the advent of free porn online; the entire industry is engaging in 'collaborative competition', ie competing with everyone else by doing the same thing everyone else is doing. Sound like music/broadcasting/publishing/advertising/any other industry you can name? So creativity and innovation becomes how many holes can you stick how many things into simultaneously in more and more extreme circumstances, vs true visionary creativity and innovation. That's why I'm setting out to disrupt porn with I would like to be the Steve Jobs/Apple of porn :)
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    Dec 7 2011: Very glad you started this discussion. I think you get a lot of things right in this and I have some questions.
    For one, what are the real alternatives to porn in the sexual education of the youngsters?
    I think that to really make a discussion out of this, we have to try to see the positive sides of porn rather than demonizing or just criticising it from the start.
    Porn is a successful discourse nowadays and it didn't become that on account of "just being garbage".
    As I see it, porn nowadays still has the upper hand not only as a stimulating but as an informative medium. Oh, it overgeneralizes a lot of particularities. It is a sort of caricature of human sexuality. This is nicely shown on your make love not porn site. But then again, caricature itself is a medium of communication. One can overexagerate one point just to make that point. What other vehicle of sex education is able to say so clearly: sex is a thing of passion. Sex is more ancient than civilization and when it surfaces it creates a space out of everyday life by its sheer hardwiredness.
    Porn was one of the ways that a lot of people really got the gut feeling that they weren't alone out there with their kink, with their preferences, with their hidden unspoken desires.

    Porn is not what it should be, I give you that. The emotions envolved aren't there. The beauty of two partners who know each other for a while and do what they know the other one likes can't be shown. The rather binding aspect is defavoured for the possibly athletic one.
    But just to make the discussion more balanced I invite you all to also talk openly about the good and useful side of porn, the way you see it. It would really help in getting nearer an image to the complex thing porn plays in our societies.

    PS: I just remembered an article a few years ago by Salman Rushdie. He said that the terrorism readiness goes down in regions where porn is available.
  • Dec 7 2011: For starters, I think you have to remember that sexuality have been way more crazy elsewhere with enlightenment. Two big examples comes to mind, the first is Ancient Greece where swinging and bisexuality was way more common. Also the Indian sexual revolution of sexual tantra was way more outspoken. I personally see these things as going hand in hand, knowledge and curiosity.

    From here, I believe you have to talk with your kids and I am very interested in hearing about what you found so destroying as I find it necessarily to tell you if I agree with you that the problem is porn.

    I hope to hear from you soon, best regards,

  • Dec 7 2011:

    Seeing as how my comment was deleted, maybe it would be more worthy of TED if the same sentiment comes from an actual expert on the subject?
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      Dec 7 2011: Jason - I asked why your comment was deleted - I don't know if you had time to see my response saying I agreed with your last point. The TED moderator deleted it because your first point might have sparked some non-relevant responses.

      I should say btw that I make it clear that I totally do not consider myself an expert on all of this. I am not an academic, I don't make a living studying this. I am someone who would never have considered this issue if I had not encountered it personally through dating younger men, and I decided to do something about it just to help everyone else encountering the same issue. That's all. :)
      • Dec 7 2011: I certainly am not an expert either. I strongly recommend the following book: Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality. It is quite eye opening.

        I was not able to see your original response.

        This subject in general "Sparks" responses...whether they are relevant or not, I feel my comment was. I applaud your efforts at finding answers and making a change for the better. I hope that your efforts will be met with more mature reactions than deleting or silencing differing perspectives and "unpopular" information which happens to be valid.
      • Dec 7 2011: Cindy, your topic is relevant and on point. People need to be discussing this because our children are being educated by this whether we like it or not. I don't think you need to be an expert to recognize the harmful effects of pornography. And, I actually know from personal experience. My father had hardcore porn and I found it and watched it when I was 12 years old. I had a lifetime of education in that hour of pornography. And, it had profound effects on how I viewed myself and my role as a woman in sexual relationships.

        I have been dismayed by the seemingly naive comments from other posts (mostly from men) who don't seem to see that the effects are harmful. The effects are primarily subconscious so, actually, people wouldn't really be aware of them. There is also the addictive aspect to it. And, I read something recently that said that many death row inmates had an acute addiction to pornography. Women are objectified and, no, not everyone has the mental capacity to separate fantasy from reality. It is dangerous and as a mother of 2 young girls and I'm very interested in having this discussion because it affects just about everyone, but especially girls.

        I also want to add that the human trafficking market has exploded in recent years. Girls and young women are being bought and forced into sexual slavery and prostitution. Now, I'm no 'expert' but I can't help but see the correlation between the explosion of porn and the explosion and 'need' for girls and young women to fulfill fantasies.
  • Dec 7 2011: I think that your prompt brings up two separate but equally engaging points.

    1) The state of safe(r) sex education in the United States is deplorable. Basic funding for schools and non-profits to provide these messages has been drastically reduced or cut all together. Further, parents own reluctance to discuss or assumption that schools are addressing the topic evenly and with their own values is misguided.

    2) The measures to keep children from pornography online are mostly security theater and do not actually stop children from viewing these materials. However, early attempts and some current attempts to block such content is also overdone. In many public places (libraries, schools, etc) materials on safe(r) sex, LGBT issues, and women's issues are often blocked content along with the pornography.

    On a separate note entirely, this topic is very close to my own research interests in the way that relationships and trust develop in online settings versus "in real life."
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  • Dec 7 2011: and looked at your website - very nicely done.
  • Dec 7 2011: I think that definately we need to develop technology platforms that are good enough for filtering content for children and, at the same time, encourage parents and educators to reinforce the ways by which children access this type of info. Unfortunately, I have met many parents who absolutely don´t care about the way their children are using the Internet or any other media.
  • Dec 7 2011: That is a really hard question. Because of the varying values and morals out there, can you really make one that fits all. I think you have to create things that fit what you believe. Here is what I believe:

    1. Porn is a drug.

    It has been found to be just as addictive as crack cocaine but be much cheaper and more accessible.

    2. Porn is just one form of sex addiction

    There are many sexual addictions. Others may include but not limited to sleeping around, strip clubs, prostitution, one night stands. Each are addictive.

    3. Porn destroys lives and relationships.

    Your brain easily forms pathways when pleasure is felt in an easy way. Though relationships can provide longer lasting forms of pleasure that also reach deeper and make people better, porn and other sexual addictions provide easy access to pleasure. Indulging in these outlets prevent people from building strong relationships because the high of temporary pleasure must be increased over time. This prevents healthy relationships from forming because the high is unachievable because the brain has been trained to be numb to such interaction.

    First people have to understand this before they can accept that porn is not good.
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      Dec 7 2011: Jeremy - have you seen the movie 'Shame' (about sex addiction)? I found it interesting that the censors gave it an NC-17 rating. As the New York Times review observed, 'Younger viewers will have to go elsewhere to learn that sex is enjoyable.' ....
  • Dec 7 2011: And frankly, you have to get sex education in the schools in the first place before you can even make it worthwhile. Good luck on showing two people having sex for real in a classroom and not having an uproar by parents. Imo, might be better just to go around them.
  • Dec 7 2011: Though many people go straight to blaming the schools for failing here, the question arises as to why it would be easier for one teacher to inform thirty students about a topic that is taboo, than it is for two parents to teach one child about something that is natural.
  • Dec 7 2011: and just caught up with the comments.
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    Dec 7 2011: Good question. I am 23 years old and yet I feel that today talking about sex and STDs is a taboo as it used to be in the early 80's. As most of us I had followed courses related to sex during secondary school and high school. Most of the people laugh during those course, especially when the "banana moment" comes along.

    Though I have started my sex life quite early, 14 - and yes I am not afraid or ashamed to discuss this, I have been "lucky enough" to grasp hold of it. Not to get into undesired and uncomfortable situations such as having children or contacting STDs.

    The issue revolves around a great number of factors which make it exist in the first place. From lack of parenting skills when comes down to talk about sex to porn sites which have also mobile versions. In my case my dad never actually discussed openly about sex with me and somewhere deep inside of me I always wished he did.

    From my point of view this issue has to be addressed to parents as they have "control" over their offspring's, not porn producers. Leaving aside religious beliefs all of us, 7 billion, live in a world filled with guns, wars, violence and of course hardcore porn. You can still be a good Christian even if you discuss the downsides of violent porn with your kids. In fact one of God commandments is to love your neighbor. In this case the neighbor is your child. If you, as a parent, fail to do so and love some other neighbor by respecting and NOT killing him (as it happens frequently nowadays) that means you have covered partially the commandment. I am not a religious person at all but I do believe in a greater power, in something which rules us all in biological harmony - The Universe, God, Allah, Buddha and so on.

    I am mentioning this as most people of this planet are religious. Therefore it is a way in the inner sphere of this "parallel world".

    Sex is everywhere. It is being sold better than bagels or hot dogs. And people like that. In fact they don't even realize that they do it.
  • Dec 7 2011: i must first confess i did not as yet watch your talk. i did read the above statement.
  • Dec 7 2011: I've often thought about how accessible porn is today. My children have iPod Touches. Using the WiFi in the house, they can see things of all sorts going on. Back when I was young, a friend used to have to dive in a dumpster at a nearby apartment complex and find Penthouse magazines for everyone to look at. But not today. Today, EVERY sexual activity can be watched in all it's glory at the click of a button.
    But, then I think..."We all saw it when we were young, and no one went on to rape anyone."
    So...I'm torn. Ultimately, I don't know how much of an adverse effect this will have on our kids. I think all it's doing at the end of the day, is making them aware of things at a younger age.
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      Dec 7 2011: Actually, Joe, the difference is - back when we were young, the conversation parents needed to have was purely logistical - the birds and the bees, this goes into this, when a man loves a woman..The conversation that needs to happen today is (forgive me, Joe, I am going to get graphic), 'Darling, we know you're online and we know you're looking at online pornsites, and we just need to make you aware that not every woman enjoys being bound, spat on, gagged with a cock, come on and gang-banged, and not every man is expected to enjoy doing that either...' No parent is ever going to have THAT conversation.
      • Dec 7 2011: Fair enough. But I think there's something to be said for a sexual evolution of sorts.
        As society's outlook on sex becomes more permissive, and things that were frowned upon once are now commonplace, I think sex can possibly evolve as far as what both males and females expect to happen.
        That's not to say individuals don't have the right to refuse to engage in such behavior, but more to the point that it may not seem as outlandish to the coming generations, as it does, or once did to a lot of us.
        Not so long ago, women would never have openly admitted to owning vibrators, but now, women throw sex toy parties like it were Tupperware.
        Not so long ago, women would never have admitted to experimenting with other women....but now, no one thinks twice about it really.
        That's what I mean by a sexual evolution...I think it applies to other areas too.
        But your assessment of things on your site is accurate....not everyone enjoys, or wants to engage in these things. But some do, and I think it's important to point that out.
        You know, in some of my earliest sexual relationships, my partners would tell me that women "didn't like" stuff like we see in porn. But what they really meant was THEY didn't like it.
        I went on to have partners that not only loved that kind of activity...but demanded it.
        So, I think the message you're sending is important in that you admit that some DO enjoy these things, instead of making a blanket statement that "women don't really like that stuff".
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          Dec 7 2011: Absolutely, Joe.
        • Dec 7 2011: In terms of sexual evolution Joe it has happened in many societies before as they have reached their zenith.

          Romans, greeks, us, as soon as sociaties basic needs are fulfilled the next greatest driver becomes the desire to mate.

          The more affluent we become the less that becomes about probreation as we don't need extra members in society to create more wealth by more resources. Its just a "natural" cycle that we evolve as you say to this state of sexuality.

          Now we have never before in Earths history been this resource wealthy we also have never before except in the case of overlord tyranny become so sexually permissive. It is a period of time for people to watch explore and monitor the outcomes of this permissiveness and experimentation to see how far it will go. Just to extrapolate on your point of evolution.

          Previously I have commented on what positive influences to try and have with your children such that porn is not the main source of their education in sexuality.
      • Dec 7 2011: While I agree that things are different today because of the availability of media/info, I believe that what you are saying is more about media here and not pornography specifically. Yes, we need to tell our children that all people don't act like that, but lets also be honest in that some do. But we also need to tell our children that all people don't act like the characters on tv shows or look like models in magazines. That goes for all media, not just pornography.
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          Dec 7 2011: Bill - couldn't agree more. That is what initiatives like 'Miss Representation' and Jenn Pozner's 'Reality Bites Back' are looking to address.
        • Dec 7 2011: Isn't it funny to see how many of the young audience movies like dysney cartoons and such were all about telling you to be yourself and listen to your heart, your dreams and be yourself, that the look and fortune are nothing... And later on in life it just shifts toward the opposite somehow!
          Guess statements like "go get a life and enjoy it instead of watching celebrities, reading gossip and dreaming of being somewhere else" just doesn't sells much goods nor attract people toward their TV...
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          Dec 7 2011: Bill- while i do agree with this point completely. However, I think pornogragarphy is a form of media that contains such a higher level of intensity that appeals to sexual fantasies and desires. If kids are growing up watching this before they even have sex, what do they assume sex is actually like? Just like porn? As I agree that all forms of media are through the gaze of men, objectifying women more than ever, I would argue that pornography internalizes its fantasies deeper into kids, teens, adults, or whoever at such a more intense level than the average media shown on T.V. or cinema. I think the intensity of porn is what allows its fantasies to manifest themselves into whoever watches it to thinking that is what the reality is. I think we can find one problem by how it has become so easily accessible.
      • Dec 7 2011: But they really kinda should. We never went into specifics but there was always an understanding with my parents that all choices were there and it was ultimately up to the individual. There were some taboos of course as everyone is biased for or against things especially back in the early 80's. There was always a feeling that experimenting was okay as long as it was consentual but as in every other human endeavor not everyone likes everything. The important part is to be informed and respectful when trying out some more elaborate kinks, be it bondage or oxygen play. In the hands of a novice these games can turn dangerous or even deadly.