Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Talking to teens about sex:

Comedian Russell Brand posted a video lamenting the challenges that films like 'Fifty Shades of Grey' present to healthy romantic relationships.
By Anne Collier
Date: April 01 2015
Editor Rating:

The other day the actor, comedian, and commentator, Russell Brand, posted a thoughtful - if expletive-laced - very personal video about the film Fifty Shades of Grey pornography, and sexualised culture. The video has already received half a million views.

“This cloud of pornographic information and even soft cultural smog like '50 Shades of Grey' … is making it impossible for us to relate to our sexuality and our own psychology and our own spirituality,” Brand said.

“Whether or not this is porn from a female perspective, it is still the commodification and mainstreaming of soft-core porn. What does soft-core porn do to us? And what does porn in general do to both men and women and the way we relate to each other?”

He quotes an unnamed priest as saying that porn doesn’t reveal too much, it reveals too little, “extracting sex from its biological, emotional and psychological context,” he said, not to mention its ethical context. From the Journal of Adolescent Health, he cites these effects of prolonged exposure to porn, effects he says he himself is trying to address in his own life:

  • An exaggerated perception of sex in society
  • Diminished trust between intimate couples
  • Abandoned hope of sexual monogamy
  • The belief that promiscuity is a natural state.

Other effects he cited from a Texas-based psychologist Gary Brooks included:

  • voyeurism (looking at not interacting with someone)
  • objectification of women (“Guilty,” Brand said. “I’ve been acculturated; this is something I work on, to see everybody as equal human beings”)
  • “the need to validate masculinity through beautiful women”
  • “trophyism, women as collectibles”
  • “fear of true intimacy – inability to relate to women in a real and intimate way despite deep loneliness.”

Therapist, sex educator and author Marty Klein advises not to have big-deal, once-in-a-blue-moon talks with our kids about online pornography, but rather occasional low-key ones tuned to what our kids and their peers may be encountering online, if that’s at all possible.

But the bigger questions Russell Brand raises about our culture are just as important. Children benefit from and respond to honest, respectful questions like Brand’s that appeal to their intelligence and genuinely seek their perspective. Children’s perspectives are valuable, and they appreciate collaborating on problem solving. In any case, they shouldn’t be left on their own to find accurate information. They need to know about healthy, loving relationships and sexuality .

“It’s jarring and distracting. I think what’s happening,” Brand concludes in his video, “is that the circuit in the mind which is connected to sexuality moves very, very quickly, the circuit connected to love and compassion is a little bit slower. So if you’re constantly bombarded with great waves of filth, it’s really difficult to remain connected to truth.”

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