There’s a big article in this week’s Sunday Telegraph about Professor Sherry Turkle and her fears over the potentially harmful effects of new technology and especially about the hazards of sexting. The article reports that:
‘An estimated 40 per cent of people under 18, some as young as 11, have sent or received sexually explicit photos, with the same proportion believing there is “nothing wrong” with sending or receiving a topless photograph.’
Could it be the reason they think there’s ‘nothing wrong’ with it is that, indeed, there is nothing wrong with it?
There are reasons it may not be a good idea to sext a picture of your breasts, your vulva or your penis to a boyfriend or girlfriend. But that’s not because there’s anything ‘wrong’ with breasts, vulvas or penises.
I always feel very disturbed when words such as ‘lewd’, ‘obscene’ and ‘pornography’ enter this discussion. They make people feel bad about themselves and bad about sex. Some youngsters have felt suicidal over private photos finding their way onto public websites and that kind of language, and the attitude behind it, makes the situation even harder for them. To be told that your photos are ‘obscene’ or ‘lewd’ is only going to make you feel worse.
I would counsel any young person not to sext unless they’re perfectly happy for their classmates, their colleagues, their friends and acquaintances, their relatives and their parents to see the pictures. But if a youngster does sext, and if the pictures are subsequently distributed on the internet, that youngster needs to know that she or he has done nothing wrong. There’s nothing to get upset about, apart from the breach of trust. There’s no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed. Every female has a vulva, every male has a penis. It’s not a big deal.
On the Today programme last week, Sarah Montague was asking what parents should say when children see images of women ‘not wearing many clothes’. This issue of the sexualisation of children has been in the media quite a bit recently. We don’t yet know what impact online pornography will have on the adult sexuality of today’s youngsters, but we do know the impact of negative attitudes to the body and sex. That’s what I want to talk about in this blog.
Either there’s something ‘wrong’ about the body or there’s not. Either there’s something ‘wrong’ about a penis or a vulva or there’s not. Either there’s something ‘wrong’ about sex or there’s not. If there’s not, why do so many parents convey disapproval to their children? This is real damage and it takes years to undo. Some adults never ever manage to throw off their inhibitions.
I blogged a little while ago about labiaplasty (or labioplasty) – that’s to say, reduction of a woman’s labia. Through Nicci Talbot’s website (see the blog below) I’ve now discovered The Great Wall Of Vagina project. The Brighton-based artist Jamie McCartney has spent five years making life casts of 400 vulvas. Women who fear they’re not normal can see what other women look like and how varied vulvas actually are. It’s well worth having a look at http://brightonbodycasting.com/press.php
My point, as a man, is that the labia are part of a woman’s sexual apparatus. When engorged they effectively extend the vagina, caressing the penis as it moves in and out. Reduction, except in an extreme case, seems to me a very bad idea.
Returning to Jamie, you can have any part of your own body cast, if you want. I wish I’d known about him when my partner and I were renovating the mill in which we live. I wanted to have casts of our bodies on our respective walk-in wardrobes but couldn’t find a local artist who knew how to do it. Jamie is an expert. But if you can’t afford professional body casting, Jamie has a DIY vulva kit at a very reasonable price – presumably you could also use the materials on other body parts if you prefer.