Porn, and our limitless appetite for it, is one of the trickiest issues of our time.
The online world is flooded with every conceivable kind of sexual image, and as much as 30 per cent of our online searches are for porn.
The issue seems particularly fraught around young boys from age 11 through late teens.
Anxious parents worry that right now he might be happily playing football and chatting with his grandmother but, within a few months, hormones will have kicked in and the internet will put some limitless and pretty daunting temptations in front of him.
While parents wouldn’t want to deny their offspring sexuality, they’re in protest at the way and what they see online is going to mould that sexuality.
What parents of teenage boys tend to worry about
1. Porn gives boys an unrealistic picture of female desires
2. It divorces sex from emotions, particularly those of kindness, respect and love
3. Porn degrades both parties through fantasy and amorality
But banning and blocking porn isn’t going to be the answer.
When people eat badly, we don’t try to stop them eating at all. We help to improve their diet.
The same move should apply to porn. You cant abolish the stuff and the sexual drives that feed it, so the goal has to be to try and make better porn more widely available.
Better porn isn’t stuff that’s even more thrilling or exciting – or conversely less explicit. It is better in the more general sense of being better for us, which really means less at odds with the rest of our lives.
Looking at a lot of porn generally leaves us feeling disconnected and hollow.
That’s because it doesn’t seem linked to anything else we value. It’s merely about sex rather than begin also about other things we care about, like love, self-understanding, kindness or even intelligence.
The nobility of our bodies was alive as a concept for certain periods in the Ancient Greek world, then became submerged for many centuries under Christian censorship.
Many Ancient Greek statues were deeply erotic, but at the same time they were dignified and intelligent in spirit.
Sex wasn’t, for the Greeks, some dirty thing cut off from the rest of life. It was in the middle of life: something you could discuss without shame and that could be venerated along with other good things.
The ancient Hindus felt the same way, which is why they carved so many of their temples with imagery that was at once erotic and full of maturity and humanity.
Oddly, despite an atmosphere of permissiveness today, our relationship with sex still bears a legacy of distrust, which becomes most evident in attitudes towards the porn industry.
It’s not that most societies ban porn, but they subtly relegate it to the outer limits of respectability. It comes to seem a low-grade, demeaning activity, which sullies all who come into contact with it, producers and consumers.
We have left porn largely in the hands of people interested in making a lot of money fast and whose websites treat customers and models like desperate beasts.
Overall, there’s no need to be negative about porn just because of how most of it is today.
In 1800, a great many people offering medical services were quacks. What changed the image of medicine was that serious, thoughtful and honourable people went into that field. Health became too important to be left to self-appointed peddlers of fanciful potions.
Most porn is distracting, distorting and unhelpful. It takes up too much time and it leaves most people feeling ashamed.
None of that is necessary. The solution isn’t to ban porn, but to make it better.
In an attempt to solve a major emotional problem of our time, The School of Life has begun by commissioning a porn site called.
Its creates and provides material not more or less explicit or unusual, but more aligned with intelligence, sensitivity and empathy, without shame, including tabs such as Porn as a cure for: Loneliness, Authority, Seriousness, and Responsibility.