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  • Sophie Manning

What I wish I’d known at 13… about porn, love & six-packs – by Billy, age 18

Updated: Jan 7

We asked Billy: “What do you wish you’d known about sex and relationships when you were 13?” The answers opened our eyes!



That’s such a tough question, dude… The important thing, I think, is to get the kids thinking about these problems and being honest with themselves. If they’re honest with themselves, they’re likely to find someone they trust enough to be honest with them. Adults shouldn’t tell kids what is right or wrong (even if it is related to things such as porn), or try to spell out how to deal with these issues. Kids must think about them themselves, and find their own answer. Of course, support systems should be in place to help kids cogitate the complex issues at hand. 



ON SEXTING


With things such as sexting and porn I always found it a bit odd. Why would you sext when you could just have a sexual encounter in real life with another person? Shying behind a camera is really strange. 



ON PORN


I think it is unhelpful when teachers deem porn “bad”. It isn’t intrinsically bad, and teenagers can for sure find a sort of joy or escape in watching porn, although it sounds strange.

However, the thing which has deferred many of my friends away from porn is the consequences it has on their own sexual encounters, eg not being able to get an erection. Also due to the fact that it does not resemble real sexual experiences.

I would’ve liked to also have been notified about the problems within the industry, although at 13 this might have been a bit heavy.



ON LOVE


With love and relationships, the thing I would’ve wanted to understand is that life is…

longer than you think, and you’ll meet SO many people. Don’t lock yourself in a relationship, especially if the reason for continuing it is for fear of being alone. Loads of people date a single person from, like, 15 to 18 years old before realising that they dislike the person. Perhaps it can be a maturing experience, although so many regrettably date people for such a long time, it’s really strange.



ON LGBT ISSUES


I think the main obstacle young LGBT people face is the stigma surrounding the issue as opposed to the lack of education, thus in my opinion it is a cultural issue, which will hopefully change. Maybe something that helped me feel pretty cool about the topic was seeing other people who I admired be very cool about it? It is almost trendy now to be very relaxed about your sexuality from where I’m from, and seeing figures which inspired me being super-chilled about the subject maybe had an impact on me.



ON BODY IMAGE


For the subject of body image, self-esteem etc, I don’t think it’s something that can be taught. Although of course I’m not fully comfortable with myself even now, after thinking about it for a long time I’ve kind of come to terms with the topic. I think everyone has an image of a type of person that they want to be. Whether it’s to have a certain body type or be viewed by their friends in a certain way.

I find comfort in the idea that if someone doesn’t like me for the fact that I don’t have a certain physical characteristic, I’m probably not meant to be friends with them, and they’re probably not the type of person I’d like to hang out with anyway.

All one can do is either work towards being that person who they want themselves to be, or accept that they are a certain way and there is literally no point in being upset about it the whole time – either try and change or own being yourself. Having meaning in one’s life, eg going to the gym to get a six-pack, can be very beneficial, I reckon, for a self-conscious, lost adolescent. However of course it can be dangerous if one’s happiness/fulfilment is dependent on another’s reaction to them, eg Child A wants to get a six-pack so Child B will like them. Can lead to frustration, sadness and all sorts of unhealthy emotions.



ON SELF-ESTEEM


My self-esteem issues stemmed from wanting others’ approval. Little did I realise that they have the same issues as I do as human beings, however they either ignore those feelings or hide it well. There’s something very enjoyable about assessing my own emotions at difficult periods. Perhaps it distracts me from the emotions themselves ironically, however I’ve found comfort in it. Various philosophical teachings also triggered my brain to consider WHY I feel these anxious feelings and rationalise them, eg the Buddhism idea that happiness should come from the inside. Maybe learning about this stuff at 13 is a little too early. HOWEVER I think there could be benefit in getting kids to consider why they have these feelings, not just in the classroom but outside of it too. 


ON WHAT ADULTS CAN DO


About all these topics I feel like kids kind of have to figure this stuff out themselves. The role that adults can play is by somehow planting ideas/food for thought in kids’ minds, as opposed to deeming certain things “BAD” (eg porn) or saying “It’s OK to be LGBT” – OF COURSE it’s OK to be LGBT, however I don’t reckon that’s particularly helpful to someone in such a situation. It’s the other kids’ approval they want, not the reassurance that the adults won’t judge you, or the fact that the adults say that “society won’t judge you”. Perhaps the main issue is that each individual is assumed to be straight until they declare that they’re LGBT; thus it is a problem with the general culture and attitude. For the issue of kids being afraid to declare their true sexual identity, the problem lies in the general attitude. They don’t want someone to say “No it’s fine, it’s fine” (although that helps to an extent), but they don’t want there to be a big discussion about the topic in the first place.


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