Pornography is not well taught in English schools according to Ofsted (the body that inspects them). In general, 60% of schools are good or outstanding in PSHE (Personal Social Health & Economic Education), but when it comes specifically to pornography almost no schools are up to scratch.
Now you may not think it’s the job of schools to teach pornography. But pornography is something even young children have to deal with.
According to my dictionary, pornography is books, pictures, films and the like ‘designed to stimulate sexual excitement’. So we’re talking about a pretty wide range of material. In fact, it’s far too wide a term to be of much use when it comes to framing policies.
I certainly have nothing against material designed to stimulate sexual excitement. Pornography is a fact of life and has been ever since men fashioned representations of naked women and their vulvas from bits of stone and painted them on the walls of caves. Is sex wrong? No. Is it wrong to be sexually excited? No. So is it wrong for anyone to produce material with the intention of causing sexual excitement? Logically, no.
But there definitely is a worry when it comes to certain pornography being seen by children. What are nine year-olds to make of a scene, for example, where a man ties a naked woman to a cross and beats her with a whip? Or in which a girl is raped? There’s no way nine year-olds have the resources to evaluate those images. What will they make of sex? What will their own sex lives be like?
I don’t have the answer. But I’m quite certain it’s important to give children the tools they need to be able to deal with the pornography they’re inevitably going to see. I think Ofsted is right about this. I hope schools will improve.
If you have a view about the impact of pornography on children please share it with us by clicking on ‘comment’ above.
Congratulations to the European Union for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s well-deserved. To explain why I quote the following:
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
No religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
Those, of course, were the words of the late John Lennon, who was assassinated in 1980.
All of the whingeing about the EU is symptomatic of why so many people aren’t happy. The reason is this. They focus on the negative and close their minds to the positive. And the thing they focus on the most is money. But even on that they’re wrong. In the years I’ve been living in Spain I’ve seen with my own eyes the tremendous rise in living standards due to EU membership. Spain joined in 1986 when per capita GDP (a good measure of living standards) was less than 8,000 euros at 2005 prices. By 2005 it was over 23,000 euros. In other words, there was almost a threefold increase. Incomes may have fallen back recently but most people are still far better off than they would have been without the EU.
Personally, I love the EU. I don’t regard it as being ‘ruled by Brussels’ because every EU country is a member of ‘Brussels’. But, to me, the EU isn’t so much to do with either politics or economics. To me, the EU means the freedom to set up home and work almost anywhere in Europe that I choose, to be myself in the environment that suits me. To me, it’s freedom. And freedom is happiness.
I’ve just heard from my publisher that my book How To Be Happier has now sold over 50,000 copies. Okay, it’s not quite in the Dale Carnegie league, but it’s a significant number of books. And the fact that it’s the most successful of my self-help titles suggests there are a lot of people who feel they’re not as happy as they’d like to be.
I’m reminded of the board game Monopoly where you get given a certain amount of money right at the start. From then on you can sit on your money or you can make an effort to increase it. In real life, happiness is much the same. You start out with a genetic inheritance that gives you a certain level. That comes for free, as it were. If you want more you have to make an effort.
Where happiness is concerned, the first step is to make the commitment that you’re going to make happiness rather than, say, money, or power, your goal. You have to make the decision that you’re actively going to do things to make yourself happier (and avoid, as far as you possibly can, the things that will make you unhappy).
As to what those things are, well, the book is full of ideas. I don’t believe anybody could work their way through it, following all the practical suggestions, without being happier. If you’re one of the 50,000 I’d love to hear from you how you got on. Just click on ‘comments’ at the top of the blog.
A book called The New Rules: Internet Dating, Playfairs And Erotic Power by Catherine Hakim reheats the well-known argument that human beings were not ‘meant’ to be monogamous, and cites plenty of examples from other species. I’ve got news for her. Human beings were not ‘meant’ to be anything. They evolved. And the point to which they’ve evolved is one of massively more sensitivity, empathy and intelligence than any other species in the known universe. This is surely the direction in which we want to continue evolving. More sensitivity, more empathy, more intelligence, more love, not less.
An argument I strongly disagree with, whatever the subject, is that human beings should behave as they were ‘meant’ to. If we followed that line we wouldn’t dive under the sea, fly in planes, wear clothes or cut our hair. When it comes to sex we’ve already subverted Nature in various cunning ways so we can enjoy lengthy, euphoric sex sessions day after day without producing offspring. But it would be a pity to use that ability to take the human race backwards into callousness and selfishness rather than forwards into enlightenment. If you’re single, fine. But if you’re married I can assure you an affair will not make you happy. It won’t make your partner happy. It won’t make your children happy.
Researchers at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute have just completed a project in which they followed 1,810 men and women aged 75 for up to 18 years. They found that exercise such as swimming, walking and gymnastics could extend life by two years, that maintaining a rich social life added 18 months, and that giving up smoking, even in middle age, made a significant difference. Add it all together and it’s six more years on planet Earth. I’m not surprised. I revealed all this in my book Help Yourself To Live Longer. In fact, I described a combination of ways in which an average person could add 10 years.
There are plenty of books giving advice on how to be happy. I’ve written one myself (Teach Yourself How To Be Happier). But there’s a tendency to ignore the corollary, how not to be unhappy. I’ve been reflecting on the importance of this following a big fire near my home in Spain.
How did that fire start? The authorities are sure it was a cigarette end, tossed from a car window. That simple, thoughtless act destroyed something like 13,000 hectares of forest along with wildlife, farm animals and homes. Some people were seriously burned. In another nearby fire on the same day two people died as they tried to escape down a cliff that proved too steep. That second fire was started in the same way by a discarded cigar butt.
I don’t know if the people responsible are aware of what they’ve done. If so, they must be feeling terrible. But it’s certain their actions have caused a lot of misery to others.
Those cigarette and cigar ends are symbols. So much of life is like this. People literally hurl tobacco into their own lives and set them on fire. It’s a fact that around half of smokers will lose two decades of the lives they would have had. And yet there’s no evidence at all that smokers are happier than non-smokers. Smoking is a huge risk with no upside.
Alcohol is similar. There’s zero evidence that drinkers are happier than teetotalers. Okay, a small quantity can make you feel good for a short while, but serious drinking is a threat to long-term physical and mental health.
What about driving too fast? What about the quick, unprotected bonk with someone you hardly know? What about getting sunburned on holiday then going out the next day and getting even more burned? What about fooling around with drugs?
These are all examples of happiness being sacrificed for a transitory thrill, or less. If you want to be happy, don’t make yourself unhappy. Think through the consequences of your actions.
What I would always have liked is a passport that said ‘Europe’. To have been a citizen of a fabulous country that stretched from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, and from inside the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean. A country that included Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Vienna and many other great cities. A country that included the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Sierra Nevada, the Pindus, and the Carpathians.
Why would I swap that dream for citizenship of a tiny, wet, little country that has no good snowboarding, where you can only swim in the sea a few weeks a year, and where you need to wear oilskins to go sailing?
Far from seeing the European Union as a co-operation for mutual benefit, the British have viewed the whole thing more like a war. The talk has always been of ‘fighting’ for British interests, rather than working together to promote everyone’s interests. That’s not an attitude that promotes happiness, nor one that will make the world a better place.
Unfortunately, following the events of Friday 9th December 2011, the dream seems further away. If Britain leaves the EU I’d like to emigrate, not to Spain where I now live, nor to France where I once lived, but to Europe.
How many others out there would like to be Europeans? Leave your comments, please.
I’ve just delivered the manuscript of my latest book, Be Your Own Personality Coach. Well, that’s an old-fashioned way of putting it. I just clicked here in Spain and a few minutes later my editor in London was reading it. The internet has certainly changed the writer’s life.
It’s been a fascinating book to research and write but also a tremendous struggle because I’ve been working inside day after day, including weekends, while everyone else has been on the beach. What I need is a truly rugged sandproof and waterproof laptop with a screen that can be read in bright sunlight. Until that comes I’m stuck indoors. So I celebrated immediately by going for a swim and that set me thinking once again about the possible connection between the pleasure of swimming naked and unconscious memories of the womb.
Having waded through quite a lot of research I’m convinced the first nine months before birth must make a significant contribution to personality differences, especially as it’s proven that foetuses have a memory of sorts at 22 weeks. Wombs aren’t all the same nor are births. I’d love to hear from anybody who thinks they can remember life in the womb, or who has been through some sort of rebirthing experience. Click on the Comments button or send me an email.