Jim Duffy: Here's the problem with online pornography

I've read with surprise that millennials and especially the young men of today are having less sex and indeed are having problems in this arena.

I was under the distinct impression that today’s society was so progressive when it came to sexual encounters that they were all at it like rabbits. But, it would appear not. A little bit more investigation reveals that in actual fact it is because of this very progressiveness, technology and open thinking that young men are having problems in the sack.

Yes, the massive availability of all sorts of pornography online is resulting, it appears, in many young men being hooked on this and therefore needing their phones open when they are with a partner.

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But, to put this in context let me share with you all a very awkward and nervous moment in the pubescent life of Jim Duffy.

I’ll never forget the moment I got caught with a pornographic magazine in my school bag! Yes, I was in 3rd year in secondary school. My mate had big brothers, something I lacked.

And big brothers often offered one access to all sorts of opportunities. On this one occasion it was a copy of the adult entertainment magazine Men Only. I recall my mate slipped the magazine to me as we entered the chemistry class.

Within a flash I had secreted it at the bottom of my Rucanor bag under the plastic base. I quickly rearranged my bag so that all my schoolbooks were stacked on top giving me that added security.

It was like a moment from Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible films as I took the package and made sure it was not out in the open. I felt like a criminal. I had a slightly dizzying feeling as if I was carrying something wholly illicit and illegal. Mind you, I was under 18 in a Roman Catholic secondary school, so the guilt was even more tangible. That was then and probably par for the course in many “healthy” young men. But, I’m flabbergasted at how times have changed.

The three best businesses across the world that always stand the test of time are religion, pornography and weapons sales. From ancient Roman times when the graffiti artwork on the walls featured lurid caricatures of members of the senate, pornography has played a part in society. Magazines gave way to video cassettes when the local video shops opened in high streets. But they both had the same place in the shops – the top shelf. I guess this was to keep them out of the way of kids and grannies. But, even today one can walk into any petrol station or newsagent and the “Top Shelf” still exists with an array of adult entertainment magazines, albeit nowadays they are in cellophane wrappers. Who buys them I have no idea, as in 2018 access to pornography is plenteous and perhaps too available.

Only this week the media is full of stories where young men are airdropping explicit pictures of themselves to females travelling on the same bus or train as them. Now, I fully understand the use of the “airdrop” feature on my iPhone. In a bus or train near you, some young men are “cyber-flashing” females on their way to work in the morning. No need for the brown trench coat anymore it seems. Simply use the tech that we have at our fingertips. It’s an unwanted intrusion and I’m not sure that they fully understand the consequences and seriousness of these actions.

But, there may be an even darker, more worrying side to this as young men have so much access to freely available pornography, unlike young Duffy, who was sure he was going to be disavowed at any moment.

Growing up and discovering sex and all that goes with it should be a steady as you go experience, in my opinion. Too much too soon can have negative consequences. So, when young people gain access via their smartphones to so much porn these days it cannot be a good thing and the consequences are already playing out.

Many young men in essence don’t just have a Top Shelf on their smartphones, but a whole hyper-market rammed fulled of Top Shelves. The barrier to entry is almost non-existent and the features on phones allow it all to be shared instantly. With screen prints, airdrops and the likes of WhatsApp, pornography is no longer the realm of the Top Shelf, but is a simple digital commodity.

And this is where I believe the problem exists.

Sex and relationships and discovery ought to go hand in hand. So, when our millennials, Gen Y and Gen Z have so much access to sex via a screen, the emotion and proper tracking gets displaced.

This is resulting in dysfunctional approaches to sex and relationships. Hence, young men think it is okay to cyber-flash women on buses. As opposed to saying hello and cranking up a healthy chat that could lead to a date.

But the fixation with the smartphone and the relationship that young men have with them in the context of porn is leading to an unhealthy crop in society who are not navigating sex and relationships in a “traditional” fashion. A recent study found that over 20 per cent of young men required the assistance of their smartphones when getting ready for sex. Another way to look at this is to consider it a drug that one needs too be able to perform in any sport. It doesn’t feel healthy.

The explosion of porn on smartphones isn’t going away anytime soon. Stopping it is not going to be easy. It makes me worry about the future. I’m just glad I grew up as a teenager in a non-digital age...