Relationships and sex education (RSE) should be completely integrated into the curriculum at all levels of education, teachers said at the National Education Union’s annual conference in Bournemouth.
One teacher reported that Year 11 females at his school had been persuaded by their partners to share photographs of themselves, and this had shown flaws in how the school treated RSE.
Her students were being affected by pornography because it was “laced with sexist, heteronormative, racist and ableist tropes.”
She called it “damaging and degrading views towards women” and claimed it was perpetuated.
“We can’t ignore that many of the ideas of the types of sex children want to try after watching porn may be violent,” she said.
“We had a really horrible set of incidents in my school in last year’s Year 11,” claimed Jon Reddiford, a member of the group.
“I think it was going on for a long time before it started to emerge to staff that a number of the girls were taking explicit photos of themselves and sending it to their boyfriends, which later were being shared around.
As he said, “It later then emerged that some pressure was being put on the girls from their boyfriends to do this, and when we started unpicking it a little bit more that was definitely the case.”
According to him, the school had “frankly treated it as a behavior issue” and that, although this may have been the truth, “a bigger picture needed to be tackled”.
“The fact that these kind of images were easily available to 15 and 16-year-olds, and the fact that there wasn’t the space in school to discuss them in a way that is appropriate for teenagers… made it much harder for us to deal with it,” he said.
“We had to go back to square one, and also think about what we were doing with our Year 7s and Year 8s in terms of the RSE curriculum, so that this kind of thing, number one, hopefully wouldn’t happen again, and number two, could be dealt with in a way that didn’t involve disciplinary procedures,” he said.
Over “the prevalence of pornography which shows the harmful and humiliating treatment of women,” the NEU expressed alarm.
On average, 90 percent of girls and 50 percent of boys said they or their friends had been emailed graphic images they didn’t want to view, according to an Ofsted assessment from 2021.
On the other hand, just half (51 percent) of 11th and 13th graders have watched pornographic material, according to the British Board of Film Classification, which released a study in 2019.
The National Union of Teachers (NEU) said that high-quality RSE should be provided by qualified workers and that students should have the opportunity to examine and oppose pornography.
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) urged that incidents of sexual harassment, including online abuse and violence, be documented and reported on a regular basis to avoid abuse.
It’s critical, according to NEU general secretary Mary Bousted, that the public realizes that pornography is now “extremely freely accessible,” with a large percentage of kids accessing it through the internet or word-of-mouth.
According to her, young children may be exposed to pornographic material “by mistake” or “because of algorithms,” rather than on purpose.
“The majority of pornography projects a distorted view of sex and sexual relationships and it should be a matter of concern that mainstream sites regularly feature violent acts against women and girls, incest and racism,” she added.
There may be a lack of critical thinking or maturity in children and adolescents who are exposed to pornography.
According to Dr. Bousted, a “distorted view” of relationships among young people might put pressure on them.
“For many teenagers this is another source of intimidation, pressure and confusion.”