What will it take to stop sexual assault at school?

Isabelle Kennedy Grimes

In March this year, the UK government introduced the Safe Online Bill, which attempts to make online pornography inaccessible to under-18s. If fully enforced, it will ensure that all commercial porn sites have a duty to prevent children from accessing this content. Isabelle Kennedy-Grimes asks if this bill will help young people in the UK.

Research estimates that about half of children between the ages of 11 and 13 have been exposed to pornographic content. Considering that early exposure to pornography has been found to impact child development and behaviors, the bill aims to be beneficial by ensuring that this figure is lowered. However, mainstream concerns about the impact of pornography on children should be addressed through education, rather than assumed to have been addressed through online restrictions.

The misogynistic and violent nature of pornography distorts the sexual perception of young people

Digital Minister Chris Philip has claimed that online pornography “fuels sexual assault at school”. It is true that the misogynistic and violent character of pornography distorts the perception that young people have of sex. However, sex education in the UK does not always recognize this and does not do enough to address the issue of consent. If the main concerns of our government are to prevent sexual assault, violence and rape, then something needs to be changed in the way schools teach sex education.

Currentlythe education young people on sexual consent in this country too often relies on a video that compares violation of sexual consent to force-feeding a cup of tea. Those of you who are in or have recently attended high school are familiar with the video I am referring to. The video demonstrates the analogy that just as you wouldn’t force someone to drink a cup of tea, you shouldn’t force them to engage in sexual activity.

Although technically true, this analogy only elicited laughter in my high school class, due to the condescending and painful obviousness of the message. But the requirements for consensual sex are clearly not that obvious, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many cases of sexual assault and rape in schools and universities.

The focus must now be on overhauling sex education in the UK

What our government should be Do is educate young people with a suit checklist on what is considered consensual sex, so they can (1) make sure they respect their sexual partner 100% and (2) know the grounds on which they can legitimately report a sexual assault. Children and young people also need to be made aware of the long-term consequences the impact that sexual assault has on the Mental Health the victims.

It is important to restrict the audience for online pornography to those over 18, but efforts to prevent sexual assault in schools must be applied within the education system. A measure like this should have been applied a long time ago since pornography is already 18+ rated content. The focus must now be on overhauling sex education in the UK to prevent the misogynistic and violent attitudes that lead to sexual assault.

Isabelle Kennedy Grimes


Image courtesy of Annie Spratt via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes have been made to this image.

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