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Porn shapes boys' views about sex and love

NINE-year-old boys often learn about relationships from "adult" videos while girls turn to soap operas, researchers have found.

Academics from Plymouth university interviewed 51 primary children aged nine and 10 to find out their views about sex and love.

Mark Halstead, associate dean of the university's education department, said the boys tended to view sex purely as entertainment and were not interested in emotions.

"Many boys in our research spoke of playing wih condoms, experimenting with sex lines, watching boys expose themselves, looking at 'girlie' magazines and watching adult and pornographic videos," he said.

"The 'adult' videos which the boys watched seemed to be the source of some of their confused emotions of sexual desire and violence.

"Girls on the other hand showed much more interest in discussing the emotions, relationships and moral dilemmas illustrated in soap operas and teenage magazines."

Professor Halstead told The TES that children often watched adult videos which belonged to their parents when their families were out and swapped them with friends.

Pupils who took part in the research were shown scenes from popular series such as EastEnders before the discussions because researchers felt that soaps were one of the few sources for children's understanding of love.

The team concluded that sex education should include more opportunities for children to reflect on aspects of love, including intimacy and sexual desire.

They also argued that it was unhelpful that children believed teachers disapproved of them talking about sex or bringing books about sex into school.

But Robert Whelan of the group Family and Youth Concern dismissed the research as "utter rubbish" and said he could not believe that primary-age boys had access to porn films.

"I think this says more about adults who like talking to children about sex than it does about anything else. These people are weird."

"Love and Trust: Making Space for Feelings in Sex Education" by Mark Halstead and Sue Waite is in Education and Health, vol 21, number 2.

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