Sex. We like watching it, we like talking about it, we especially like doing it. What we don’t like to think of is children doing it. However, whether we like it or not, they are. Earlier this month thenews.pl reported police figures which show that half of all rape cases tried in Poland in 2014 were committed by minors, some as young as 13 years old. It is worth noting that the number of rapes committed by minors has apparently decreased from previous years, but this by no means indicates it isn’t still an issue in Polish society.
The reason given for these statistics? Sexologist Dr Andrzej Depko believes easy access to pornography is to blame, with minors ‘not grasping that the consent of two parties is necessary for sex.’
I’m not disputing that easy access to pornography, especially in the age of smartphones and tablets, can and does have an effect on childrens’ ideas of sex and what it entails. What isn’t being considered is the fact that it isn’t the only reason why children are committing these crimes. So why is pornography being made a scapegoat? Because the other factors mean taking a long, hard look at society—and we might not like what we see.
About a year ago I wrote an article about a judge who gave a four-month suspended sentence to a man who had beaten and hospitalised his wife, stating she had ‘provoked’ him. The way in which she had provoked him? She’d received a text message from a work colleague saying ‘hello… how are you?’ He had also been accused of rape, which he denied, saying, ‘… she came to my bed.’ As I stated at the time, whether the rape took place or not isn’t the issue. That man seemed to believe he was entitled to his wife’s body, regardless of her feelings, just because they slept in the same bed. This viewpoint, although limited to a minority of the population, is not uncommon. Speaking about the case with students afterwards, many of them (and sorry, but it does have to be said, all male) believe that rape can’t take place within a marriage. This warped sense of entitlement, coupled with what can be viewed online, surely skews with what children think about sex.
There is also the matter of sex education in Poland. Having requested information on what actually is taught in schools here, a friend sent me a document which details what should be covered from primary school up to high school under a topic called ‘Life in the Family’, taught as part of religious education. It covers the usual things: reproduction; puberty; interpersonal relationships. At secondary school students are offered optional sex ed courses covering contraception and medical testing, but most opt out as the lessons are scheduled for after normal school lessons. Like in many countries, people feel that this level of sex ed is sufficient. But with Poland’s rate of teenage pregnancy increasing and the continuing high rate of sexual offences committed by minors, it’s obviously not working.
Clearly, the fault doesn’t lie just with pornography itself: the fault lies with society’s inability to discuss the topic without referring to people who view porn as sexual deviants; it lies with society’s general attitude towards gender and sex; it lies with an education system which refuses to acknowledge that porn is an essential part of sex education, if children are to understand the differences between what happens on screen and what happens in real life.