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Porn as Erototoxic | Posted: May 14, 2011

How Children Are Conditioned By Hardcore Pornography

A click or two - and children are on porn: an interview with the German sexologist Prof. Dr. Klaus M. Beier about the consequences.

Interview by Claudia Becker
Translated from German original

WELT ONLINE: Piano lessons, tennis club, homework - education experts have been maintaining that children and young people in our society are rather over-supervised. How many children are there at all who have the time to see pornographic sites on the internet?

Beier: Quite a lot. 30 percent of the 8-13-year olds have already viewed pornographic movies on the Internet. By the time they reach the age of 18, most of them have long been in contact with those image and movie materials, thousands of which can be found on New Porn or Youporn. And my prognosis is that among the consumers the proportion of children and adolescents will increase, because technologies are more and more perfected, for example through the delivery of videos via mobile phone.

WELT ONLINE: For the internet movies you must be of legal age...

Beier: ...yes, but a click on the button "I'm 18" is enough to get free access to the wide range of films. Even a ten-year-old can do that. There is no control on the internet.

WELT ONLINE: Have young people not always been secretly looking at pornographic pictures?

Beier: That's true. But there has never been such a huge amount of images available as today. Formerly, boys saw a naked bosom sometimes. But watching couples performing sexual acts, was very exceptional for children and adolescents. In cultural history, up to these days, sexuality had been an area of experience that was usually not learned by watching. Experience was gained by real practice, and there was a careful and gradual approach to the desired partners. Learning by doing. Now we have the reverse order: first seeing, and then doing. In cultural history, this paradigm shift has not been properly investigated yet; moreover, available pornographic materials almost exclusively present an unrealistic image of sexuality. Women become objects of sexual interaction, yearning for each next penetration and eager to swallow as much sperm as possible - preferably from several men at the same time. This is not exactly the main feature of satisfactory sexual relationship, which would be a desirable perspective for the adolescents. Besides, there is an easy access to a wide range of sexually deviant, in part punishable, image content, such as depictions of sex with animals, the infliction of pain or injury, or even abuse images where children and young people are involved.

WELT ONLINE: What is the effect on young people, when they look at such things?

Beier: When a child watches adults, this is like learning from models. The neurobiological basis for this are the so-called mirror neurons in the brain. They cause that only the viewing of a process will activate the same neurons in the brain of the viewer, as if he had carried out the act himself. We must assume that through the mirror neurons sexual acts are also reflected in the brain, and thus, what is seen in the pornographic films by the children and young people.

WELT ONLINE: What impact does this have on the idea of one's own personality?

Beier: It would be naive to believe that those images do not affect the sexual self-image of young people. During puberty, when sex hormones kick in, young people are particularly susceptible to sexual signals. At that time, while their brains are still in development, the girls' and boys' sexual preference structures are formed. These are irreversible processes; and as long as we have no proof of the contrary, we must assume that in this sensitive phase, the image content which has been watched on the Internet and has been linked to sexual arousal, can creep into the preference structure.

WELT ONLINE: Could this also be confirmed in your therapeutic work?

Beier: Yes. If, for example a young man comes into our clinic because of masochistic tendencies, we can find that his masturbation fantasies already included masochistic images at an early stage of his life. These remain engraved in his mind until the end of his days. 13- or 14-year old boys come to me with sexual behavioral problems that are manifested in feeling attracted to young children or in harassing girls of the same age. When you ask them what kinds of pictures arouse them sexually, they often tell me of images that they have seen on the internet.

WELT ONLINE: Does this also apply to girls?

Beier: Well, there are clear gender differences in the consumption of internet pornography. Boys think they can learn something and use it for sexual arousal. Girls rather feel disgusted. But under the pressure and the wish to be part of the community, there is an increasing risk that many of them will take on the role that is presented to them [in porn] and will regard this as a normal sexual practice. It is quite amazing that they join in those absolutely misogynist rap lyrics.

WELT ONLINE: But what is the reason for that?

Beier: In our society, relationship and bonding do not have the importance that they should have. Self-realization is the motto: I am just extracting from the others, what is useful to me. This lack of commitment is also reflected in the families. If the feeling of being accepted has not been created in their early childhood, young people will search all the more for acceptance in their group, and they will also submit themselves to the conformity pressure of supposedly "trendy" sexual encounter ways. Possibly, they will then join in, although they do not like it - just for fear of rejection. By the way, frequently these are also the tragic dynamics of sexual abuse: often these children or young people did not grow up in the security of a healthy family bond. They then join company with criminals who give them the feeling of being important.

WELT ONLINE: But what can the parents do?

Beier: Cultivate ties. Give their children love. Genuine interpersonal relationships must be given a higher priority than a trip to Mallorca, or any other consumer good. A child must realize that he can turn with any of his problems to his mother or his father. And the parents must not just ignore the existence of the pornographic offers. They should adopt a firm position, their own view of things, which makes clear: these are images that have nothing to do with reality. This will have its effect on the children.

WELT ONLINE: Do we need new sex morals?

Beier: First of all, we need a public discussion, an awareness of the extent of pornography on the internet and its impact on adolescent sexual development. And we need to find technical solutions to reduce the accessibility of pornographic sites. I also count on the help of computer scientists, with the aim of a closer cooperation between IT and the sexual medicine.

WELT ONLINE: What could help in this rethinking process?

Beier: The wheel of history cannot be turned back. But we can make use of the already existing knowledge. And here I can point to Wilhelm von Humboldt as an important mastermind. The Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine at the Charité feels particularly committed to his legacy. In cooperation with our Institute and the Mendelssohn Society, the Wilhelm-von-Humboldt Society has just awarded its Foundation Award. For this Prussian statesman and co-founder of the Berlin University, human nature is based on Eros, that is, on the love of others, which overcomes the tension of difference between the sexes in a dialogue of equality. In this sense, Eros means not only physical, but also spiritual attraction. Humboldt's basic concept says that we grow in relationships, especially, when we are striving for the other's free development, when we are interested in the other's growing with us, and therefore in protecting him from harm. This has much more to do with satisfactory sexual relationship, and this is also accessible in the internet age.


WITH APOLOGIES: As the webpage with the original German text currently (May 14, 2011) displays several images Dr. Reisman considers to be Erototoxins wholly unnecessary for an understanding of the text, she will not provide the original url on her website.