This Soft Core Director Wants Porn Put on a School’s Curriculum

from www.timesonline.co.uk – If you bumped into Justin Ribeiro dos Santos at a drinks party you would probably assume that, like most of his friends, he worked for an investment bank or at the top end of the wine trade. You might be more interested in his name (English mother, Brazilian father), than his profession.

But what he does for a living could make you choke on your martini. The 32-year-old former pupil at £8,730-a-term Canford school in Dorset directs porn films — and as far as he is concerned, it’s all perfectly respectable. He’s simply peddling a commodity, and an upmarket one at that.

“I like my films to look beautiful. If I was selling cheese, I would put it in a beautiful wrapper,” he says.

He is a living example of how porn has moved into the mainstream. Making raunchy films hasn’t lost dos Santos any friends — indeed, his presence probably livens up a dull dinner party. His rich friends lend him their swanky apartments to film in — after a recent appearance in Esquire magazine he was contacted by several chic shops offering themselves for location shots.

Yet something that does make him queasy is the idea of children happening upon his films — or more hardcore pornography. He was shocked to read Natasha Walter’s account in these pages last week of how teenagers’ lives are being skewed by the tidal wave of porn on the internet.

Walter argues that porn is having a profound impact on young people’s ability and willingness to enter into intimate relationships. Children as young as 13 are routinely looking at porn on the web, and “before they have touched another person sexually or entered into any kind of sexual relationship, many children have seen hundreds of adult strangers having sex”.

There is increasing evidence of the damage this does to both sexes. A new Australian study says that “exposure to pornography helps to sustain young people’s adherence to sexist and unhealthy notions of sex and relationships”.

Boys who watch porn tend to be more aggressive towards the opposite sex: among adults, men who are high-frequency users of porn, especially hardcore violent rape porn, are more likely than others to report that they would rape or sexually harass a woman if they knew they could get away with it.

Walter was struck by one “apparently trivial” fact when talking to young women about their attitudes to sexuality: all agreed they would never want to have sex if they hadn’t depilated their pubic hair, an aesthetic that comes from porn movies. There has also been a rise in interest in cosmetic surgery to “neaten” the shape of the genitals.

Boys, used to seeing waxed pubes and pneumatic breasts, are apparently shocked when they see real women’s bodies. Girls who grow up seeing women such as Jordan achieving success through being overtly sexual think nothing of trying to emulate her. In a postfeminist world, pole dancing is just another career choice.

What gets lost in all this is love. The Australian study, by Michael Flood at La Trobe University in Melbourne, says that most porn “shows sex in unrealistic ways and neglects intimacy and romance”. The thought was echoed by one of our readers, who lamented online that there was no old-style romance any more and that he did not think his son “would know what to do with a box of chocolates and a bunch of flowers”.

The porn industry is not going to sell any more films by being responsible, so there is little will to restrict access on the net or elsewhere.

Suggestions that porn sites be identified by a .xxx instead of a .com address have got nowhere and even dos Santos, purveyor of so-called “vanilla porn” (the soft end of the market: conventional positions; no violence or degradation), blenches at the thought of customers having to create an account to enter his website and look around, rather than — as they do now — just confirm they are over 18.

“You have to be realistic. If you were asked for your credit card details as you walked into a coffee shop, you wouldn’t order; you’d just go elsewhere,” he says.

The Walter article prompted a lively debate on our website, with some passionately arguing that porn had been around since Greek and Roman times and had its place as “a pressure-release valve”. Others echoed Walter’s concerns.

“Two options in my eyes, either ban free pornography on the net or introduce an ID system,” wrote one father. “Let’s face it, none of us would be happy to see our kids in the newsagent’s or a sex shop flicking through porn, would we?”

Dos Santos believes the only way to tackle the problem is to acknowledge porn’s existence and put it on the school curriculum, next to drugs and alcohol.

“Kids know a lot about the dangers of drug abuse. We should say to kids, ‘Porn is a vice and, like drugs or alcohol or overeating, it can get out of control.’ Parents need to join forces with schools because all this needs to be talked about openly.”

Before you throw your hands up in horror at the thought of various gradations of porn being taught in the classroom, consider dos Santos’s rationale. The internet is the problem, he says.

“Other than that, the market is self-regulating. Kids can’t just walk into sex shops, which is where most porn films are sold. It’s not easy to access porn on cable TV.

“But on the internet, kids can find porn easily, even if they’re not looking for it. If you search for ‘honey bees’ you could get a porn site — so watch out if they’re doing a project on beekeeping. It’s out there and the reality is, we can’t stop that. French and Italian kids are allowed to drink at the dinner table and they don’t have our problems with binge drinking. Maybe it’s the same with porn. We need to stop being so prudish.”

He believes in tackling the problem openly, rather than driving it underground.

Research by Forensic Software, the company behind CyberSentinel, a program that allows parents to block children’s access to certain websites, has found that the average teenager spends an hour and 40 minutes a week on the web surfing for porn. “Three clicks can get a child somewhere you would not want them to go,” says Ellie Puddle, Forensic Software’s marketing manager.

“If you’ve seen something horrible, it’s very hard to get it out of your mind. There’s no research to show what the long-term effects will be but common sense says that if I have my eight-year-old son’s friends round for tea I shouldn’t have porn magazines lying around on the table. An unsupervised laptop is the cyber equivalent.”

Dos Santos says he makes his films in the belief that porn can enhance a sexual relationship, but he accepts that youngsters, in an oversexualised society, need help to negotiate their way through the fantasy and into real adult sexuality. We know that, but we don’t know how to go about it: could it be that the pornographer has the answer?

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