November 19, 2013 by Nash Riggins
If there’s anything worse than watching an out-of-touch politician squirm his or her way into a debate on sex, it’s watching an entire gaggle of politicians squirm their way into a debate on our children having sex. Well, it’s turning out to be that kind of week.
Conservatives across the spectrum would have the country believe we’ve won two monumental victories in the name of morality over the past several days – first, by striking down the controversial request of Professor John Ashton to lower the legal age of consent to 15, and then by ‘convincing‘ internet giants Google and Microsoft to block images of paedophilia from appearing in the search results of over 100,000 queries.
It’d be callous to say Google’s headline foray into self-censorship isn’t some sort of step in the right direction – but it’s still a hollow victory at best.
Sure, it’s really great that perverts who google the words “child porn” will no longer be able to access images of abuse on their first, half-assed attempt – but the move won’t prevent circulation in the slightest. After all, the vast majority of illicit materials are shared on hidden websites that don’t need Google’s patronage to survive. Consequently, this latest censorship commitment takes absolutely no steps to remove a single image of abuse from the internet.
So, what has it accomplished? Not much, except to sweep child abuse under the rug, obscuring it from view. Like most legislative solutions that attempt to regulate the fickle relationship between children and sex, the government’s latest victory only showcases the innate desire amongst British adults to make believe their kids aren’t having sex. After all, the best way to protect our children from sexual abuse is to pretend it’s not happening, right?
This is where Professor Ashton’s heavily condemned request comes to play. According to the health expert, around one third of children have already had sex by age 16 – effectively rendering the government’s legislative age-line useless. That’s scary news for parents. Yet it shouldn’t surprise anyone to know the legal age of consent plays absolutely no role in the decision-making paradigms of most teens. Meanwhile, it’s virtually impossible to accurately quantify or pinpoint the various cultural influences contributing to the ever-increasing sexualisation of children.
Google should be the least of their worries – and we should be preparing kids for what lies ahead, rather than covering it up behind some sort of digital curtain.
Kids need to know what they’re up against, and evidence suggests they’re wanting to know from an increasingly younger age. Sure, somewhere along the way we’ve got to draw lines in the sand and say ‘enough is enough’. But first, politicians and the voters they serve need to stop living in the realm of make believe. We need to start being more open about sex and its abusers – because by beating around the bush, we’re only setting kids up for failure. It’s hard to say whether that means a more IT-literate sex education, or just a serious rethink on the kind of support on offer to victims of abuse. But either way, the government needs to be more proactive in its approach. Because like it or not, no amount of well-intentioned online censorship could ever hope to alter the constantly evolving relationship this nation has with sex.