BBC Asks If There Should Be ‘Age-Appropriate Porn’ for Kids. The Answer Is ‘No.’

It’s a pretty good indicator the moral compass is broken when one of the world’s leading news agencies is asking its viewers if there should exist within the pornography industry an “age-appropriate” category to teach teenagers about “consent and what’s respectful and what’s not.”

BBC Woman’s Hour asked its viewers for the “best way to inform teenagers about porn” and whether there should “be age-appropriate porn, as has been suggested, so they can learn about consent and what’s respectful and what’s not.”

The query came just days after GQ journalist Flora Gill suggested in a since-deleted tweet that “someone needs to create porn for children,” because “young teens are already watching porn, but they’re finding hardcore, aggressive videos that give a terrible view of sex” and need “entry level porn” instead.

Much of this is in response to a very real problem: pornography is incredibly prolific these days and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone under the age of 13 years old who hasn’t been exposed to it, intentionally or by mistake.

It’s entirely reasonable — and even encouraging — to see society at least acknowledging the pervasiveness of pornography in our society. The problem, though, is we’re addressing it in the completely wrong way.

Flora, the BBC, and the numerous “porn literacy” courses cropping up around the country are operating from the flawed premise that there’s a way to “consume responsibly,” and that’s just not the case.

It should be noted the “porn literacy” curriculum in Boston, created by Emily Rothman, an associate professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health, wielded some good results. A year after the first students completed the course in 2016, only 18% said in a follow-up survey they believed pornography was a good way to learn about sex. That was down from 45% at the beginning of the class.

Even still, such curricula don’t tell the whole story.

Pornography isn’t only deeply problematic because it distorts God’s perfect design for sexuality, which He created to be enjoyed within the context of a marriage between one man and one woman. It also does a great deal of psychological and even physical harm to those who consume it.

Setting aside the fact that mainstream pornography sites have been overrun with illegal content, such as child sexual abuse material and footage of abusive and coercive sex, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest its consumption creates neural pathways that cause cravings not unlike those addicted to drugs such as alcohol, nicotine, or even cocaine.

Just as is the case with addictive substances, when a user consumes pornography, the so-called reward center in her brain is flooded with dopamine and, over time, she’s conditioned to expect dopamine highs at ever-increasing intensities. As the pathways in her brain become worn down, she’ll need more extreme content to satisfy her cravings.

We should pause here to acknowledge we don’t enroll students in classes to teach them how to consume cocaine “responsibly.”

In addition to the problems pornography fosters within its consumers, it also wreaks havoc on relationships. Not only does it erode trustdamage self esteem, and negatively impact sexual function, it can also increase within its users a propensity for domineering and abusive behavior.

Pornography — yes, even the supposedly legal stuff — fuels sex trafficking, too. The creator of the nefarious “Girls Do Porn” enterprise, which once had its videos prominently featured on Pornhub, is a wanted fugitive for luring and coercing unwitting young women into performing explicit acts and uploading the footage online without their consent.

Then, in the fall of 2019, a man from Fort Lauderdale was arrested when investigators discovered nearly 60 explicit videos of a missing, underage teenage girl on the pornography site. 

In yet another instance, Serena Fleites, 19, testified before Canadian lawmakers earlier this year to tell her own story of abuse. Fleites gained international attention in the winter of 2020, when she shared details of her experience with The New York Times. She told politicians this February about the trauma she endured when Pornhub repeatedly failed to remove illegal footage of her from its website.

Fleites recalled sending ill-advised pictures and videos to her then-boyfriend when she was just 13 years old. Eventually, the content ended up on Pornhub with one video reportedly titled, “13-year-old brunette shows off for the camera.”

The once-straight-“A” student — who struggled to get the pornography site to remove the videos — said she experienced a “huge buildup of anxiety and depression” that caused her “to turn to drugs to try to forget about it” and eventually “to suicide to try to end it.”

The truth of the matter is there’s no way to verify with any level of certainty that the pornography one is consuming is either consensual or, in many cases, even legal. 

So while “porn literacy” classes might acknowledge there’s a problem, all it does is rearrange deck chairs on a sinking Titanic. 

The real solution is to expose people to the facts — the inescapable damage pornography does — and to present them with the real solution, which is a sexual ethic based on God’s perfect design for us.

The Apostle Paul tells us over and over again to run from the temptation toward sexual sin, because of its grave consequences.

“Run from sexual sin,” he wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:18. “No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does, for sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.”

We should heed his warning to us.