Autistic Young People and Pornography
Last week, I attended an amazingly insightful presentation regarding Autism, Young People and the impact of pornography hosted by eSafeKids founder Kaylene Kerr and presented by Maree Crabbe and Dr Wen Lawson.
This presentation was hugely interesting and gave me so much insight into autistic young people and the diversity and challenges they navigate in their daily lives.
Dr Wen Lawson offered a true and candid look into life as an autistic person, sharing his own personal stories, sensitivities and challenges as an autistic person, parent of autistic children and married to his wife of nearly 50 years who also has autism.
WHAT IS AUTISM
Wen explained that Autism is a developmental difference impacting the way individuals process, connect with and experience the world we all share. He also explained that an autistic person is like a train running on railway tracks, that it's often stuck travelling forward in one direction (sometimes back), unable to turn unless the track takes them that way and that autistic people often struggle to get off the tracks ie. change tasks, topics or directions. This can make an autistic person really passionate and focused on certain subjects and topics, having them be experts in their interests, but can also lead to them having no passion or interest in other topics, causing them to be solely focused and resistant to change.
Wen also shared that Allistic (non-autistic persons) are like cars on roads. They can turn in what ever direction they choose, change lanes, start and stop easily and have a lot more flexibility in their daily lives and interactions. Meaning an allistic person is able to split their focus and show interest or be interested in more than one subject or topic and work on things that don't necessary interest them but are necessary.
Autism is a spectrum of varying degree and diversity. What one autistic person experiences will be different to that of another autistic person and it's not a linear experience either. Some autistic people struggle with sensory, language, perception but have a range of abilities that impact on them as individuals. Source: Porn is NOT the norm - What is Autism?
AUTISM & TECHNOLOGY
Further to that, both Wen and Maree identified that autistic young people often deal with varying struggles in their every day lives, especially since autism can lead to challenges and barriers in reading faces and body language and interpreting the meaning behind some peoples words and language. This often leads to becoming reliant on technology for interacting with others since a lot of these barriers and challenges are lessened. Not all autistic people find technology easy but a lot do.
It is much easier to interact with people without having to interpret and guess what is meant by the tone or body language displayed. This makes using technology somewhat easier and makes their lives simpler.
AUTISM & SEXUALITY
An autistic young person are also experiencing their bodies, changes to their bodies, gender and sexuality in different ways. Some autistic young people might find puberty, the changes and what is happening to their body exciting, others will struggle and not want for their bodies to change. Because of these difference, autistic young people may need a different kind of support than other young people to navigate puberty, sexuality and relationships. Source: Porn is NOT the norm - Autism, Young People and Sexuality.
Wen explained that a few years ago a supposed expert told a room full of educators and academics that autistic people are not sexual and do not have the same types of feelings and interests in sex as allistic people do. Wen cleared up saying that autistic people also have hormones, urges, desires and the need to be in a relationship and intimate with another person as well as some not being interested at all.
AUTISM & PORNOGRAPHY
Due it sometimes being difficult in dealing with and maintaining relationships for autistic people, pornography can often be a safe and easier way for autistic young people to meet their sexual needs without the social challenges. This can be an issue when we consider the nature of autism and the one-tracked challenges that exist for them when becoming passionate or interested in a subject.
Maree gave some scary statistics and information about Pornography, not only in relation to autistic young people but also young people in general.
56% of young men aged 15-20 years are using pornography weekly and 17% using pornography daily as opposed to 15% of young women aged 15-20 years using it weekly and only 1% of young women using it daily.
PornHub's own review in 2019 showed over 42 million visits in the single year with it being number 3 of the top 10 most viewed websites.
Incest themes are rife when looking through the menus of pornography sites, normalising sex between mother/son, brother/sister, non-consensual sex either by unconscious, drugged or drunk females and most pornography is targeted at the male heterosexual consumer.
Today's pornography is not what it used to be. As Maree shared, it has become rougher and harder with Gonzo style (first person POV) filming being the preferred method for pornography and aggression selling with degradation and humiliation being a key theme.
Some of the signature sex acts in today's pornography include gagging, choking, deep throating, ejaculating on someone's face/body, heterosexual anal sex which is normalising and changing how our young people are having sex today.
Maree shared a UK study in which coercive heterosexual anal sex had increased between 16 - 18 year old where it was expected to be pleasurable for men and painful for women.
Further to that, 1/3 of women in another UK study had experienced unwanted choking, gagging or spitting during sex. Survey subjects were aged 18-39 years old.
I could go on and on about the impacts of pornography on our young people, however, what I will say is that young people, especially autistic young people need us to be having this conversation with them and to protect them from the potential harmful impacts of learning about sex from pornography. Regardless if a young person is autistic or allistic, our young people are vulnerable and open to a very misleading points of view by viewing pornography and it is our duty to ensure we let them know that real sex and sex in respectful relationships is not like pornography.
Some of the hints that I have shared in my own book, Operation KidSafe for dealing with and talking about pornography are:
1. Block inappropriate and adult websites via the modem, their device/s or by using a third party app.
2. Supervise and monitor device usage including which apps/websites are being accessed.
3. Ensure devices are kept in common areas and not in bedrooms or bathrooms.
4. Monitor screen time and enable device screen time restrictions to manage healthy device usage and use.
5. Have an age appropriate, developmental stage appropriate discussion around pornography, inappropriate images/videos and how they can manage or deal with the situation should they come across it including letting you know.
I highly recommend following Maree Crabbe - It's time we talked and eSafekids for more information on these subjects, as well as checking out my book, Operation KidSafe - a detectives guide to child abuse prevention.