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The Straits Times

Beyond The Exposure To Pornography

Experts say the findings are worrying as such content affects young people’s attitudes and behaviour towards love and sex, and may lead to sexual crimes” (Half of Teens Here Exposed to Pornography: Survey, Miss Janice Tai).

The drawing of conclusions from these anecdotes is hardly convincing, and does little to shape cyber wellness or sexual education programmes.

The drawing of conclusions from these anecdotes is hardly convincing, and does little to shape cyber wellness or sexual education programmes.

It is tempting to read our children’s exposure to pornography – based on findings gathered by Touch Cyber Wellness in Singapore (ST, Sept. 6) – with alarm, since the consumption of pornography is often perceived to be deleterious. A host of ramifications are associated with it. In the ST report, “[e]xperts say the findings are worrying as such content affects young people’s attitudes and behaviour towards love and sex, and may lead to sexual crimes”.

Woah. These are convenient leaps of logic, no? Besides, the aforementioned findings do not definitively contribute to these “expert” conclusions.

At the same time the survey conducted by Touch Cyber Wellness, the key agency providing counselling services for youths on cyber wellness issues such as addiction and other hazards on the Internet, did not throw up surprising results too. Of the 836 students aged between 13 and 15 polled, 50 per cent has watched or read sexually explicit materials. Five per cent of them first watched or read pornography when they were in lower primary school, 41 per cent when they were in upper primary school, and 54 per cent when they were in secondary school. In fact with the advent of smartphones the numbers could actually be higher.

For reasonable inferences to be drawn more details about the survey – on the methodology adopted, the questions asked, the assumptions made – should be provided. Otherwise the “experts” seem to be grasping at straws. 24 students from the three secondary schools were interviewed to supplement the survey qualitatively. Assistant manager of Touch Cyber Wellness Mr. Chong Ee Jay explains that based on these interviews, “many boys started viewing sexual content out of boredom or curiosity”. With a touch of hyperbole, ST reported how a nine-year-old boy had asked a woman to sleep with him, and how a 14-year-old girl searched online for breast enhancement supplements after watching pornography regularly.

Yet the drawing of conclusions from these anecdotes is hardly convincing, and does little to shape cyber wellness or sexual education programmes. It is easy to conclude that the viewing of pornography is necessarily negative, to advocate for youths to avoid it (an unrealistic proposition, nevertheless), when frank discourse on sex is instead needed.

That is not to say that an addiction to pornography is healthy either. The stories of individual struggles should also not be dismissed. But we short-change ourselves when we generalise conditions and motivations of these young Singaporeans, without going into much greater detail. Beyond the exposure to pornography, or perhaps extending a modified version of the survey to more students, it would be worthwhile to encourage the sharing of experiences, to understand how different individuals process the images or content. Only then can we – or should we – say more about the supposed “attitudes and behaviour towards love and sex”.

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About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.

Discussion

8 thoughts on “Beyond The Exposure To Pornography

  1. I think it’s quite a strong statement to say that “the aforementioned findings do not definitively contribute to these “expert” conclusions.” . Could you elaborate a little on this?

    And yes it would be good to include the methods in order to facilitate interpretation of the results.. But, I’m guessing that the lay audience who reads the newspapers won’t be interested in that

    And for qualitative surveys 24 participants is usually a good enough sample size. I’m not sure what conclusions ST drew from the study. But unlike quantitative studies, the goal of qualitative studies isn’t so much to ‘generalize’, but to explore and develop a preliminary theory or hypothesis and then test it subsequently with quantitative paradigms.

    Posted by Gerard | September 8, 2014, 11:07 am
    • Nothing in TOUCH’s survey findings has shown that the consumption of pornography in Singapore “affects young people’s attitudes and behaviour towards love and sex, and may lead to sexual crimes”. Of course there might have been more quantitative results unreported, and supposed insights from the interviews, which leads me to the next point.

      ST might have shaped its piece for the lay audience, but perhaps TOUCH should publish its research findings for interested members to peruse? Nothing thus far: http://www.touch.org.sg/press_releases. My point is on the lack of information, without which we’ll be grasping at straws.

      Jin Yao

      Posted by guanyinmiao | September 8, 2014, 11:32 am
  2. TOUCH sounds like a Christian affiliated organisation. The religious slant is obvious. Porn is nothing but sex. We are all born sexual creatures and naturally should be interested in sex. But sex varies with individuals and drives varies too. How much sex consumption depends on individual. Each should be responsible for their indulgences because only they know what’s unhealthy level.

    If porn, as suggested, contributed to crimes, then the world will be made up of criminals. There is no correlation between crime and pornography. I am sure your parents are “addicted” to sex when they have you. Addicted to sex is the same as addicted to hobbies. No one can tell you what’s unhealthy level except yourself. Let’s not interfere with people’s right to live their life with hypocritical moral standards only people on the verge of death are able to comply.

    Posted by Priesty | September 8, 2014, 1:59 pm
    • Notwithstanding the background or affiliations of TOUCH, the survey will only have value when we know more about it. And as you pointed out drawing causation between variables in such surveys is – in itself – hard, and even harder when we know little about its methodology or questions.

      Jin Yao

      Posted by guanyinmiao | September 8, 2014, 2:37 pm
      • Without knowing the methodology, it is truly useless to accept the findings at face value.
        The religious affiliation bit is quite important because we must consider the biases of the surveytakers involved. Those would influence the assumptions made in the survey, a point you are already aware of.
        The motives of survey-makers, etc, matter too. A reknown research university or nonpartisan think tank would be more interested in useful rigorous research data. On the other hand, TOUCH, like many government agencies, grassroots organisations and “experts” themselves, promotes a conservative, sex-negative culture. This must be considered; everything is political.

        Posted by guoshe | September 9, 2014, 4:25 pm
  3. /// “[e]xperts say the findings are worrying as such content affects young people’s attitudes and behaviour towards love and sex, and may lead to sexual crimes”.

    Woah. These are convenient leaps of logic, no? Besides, the aforementioned findings do not definitively contribute to these “expert” conclusions. ///

    Just like Minister V who said that allowing bar-top dancing would lead to fights and bloodshed.

    Posted by The Wrath Grapes | September 8, 2014, 2:20 pm
  4. Anything that attacks sexuality is mostly women. Why? Let’s not ask for the profile of the matron writer. We are kind not to mock her marriage.

    Posted by babyjane | September 8, 2014, 2:46 pm

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