If porn is 'mainstream,' safe sex should be, too | Amy Johnson

Recently, Oprah Winfrey featured Jenna Jameson, a former pornography star, and Violet Blue, a sexuality educator and San Francisco Chronicle columnist, on her television show.

The topic? Women and porn. I’ve never been a big porn fan myself, but I figure if Oprah can take it on as a topic for discussion, why not bring it to Sex in the Suburbs?

The term “pornography” is subjective. Even a quick search on resulted in several definitions, ranging from “obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, esp. those having little or no artistic merit” to “American courts have not yet settled on a satisfactory definition of what constitutes pornographic material.”

See what I mean? If American courts can’t even agree on a definition, what hope does the general public have?

Certainly, as a public, we seem to be confused. Victoria’s Secret currently runs a “Hello, Bombshell!” ad during primetime, flaunting model-thin women in underwear strutting in high heels and lounging on satin sheets. Kate Moss is intimately, audibly and unmistakably sexual in the new Yves Saint Laurent’s “Parisienne” ad. But here in Federal Way, we are worried about our kids finding sex on the Internet, and at least one local reader is defending bikini barista businesses as “adult-themed coffee shops. For entertainment purposes.” Sounds like “adult entertainment” to me, but again, it’s easy to get confused with all the mixed messages out there.

We live in a sex-saturated culture. Many young people have a different frame of reference around sexually explicit materials than previous generations. The younger crowd seems comfortable with sexuality-flooded airwaves, as evidenced by the high rates of teen "sexting" and shows like "Girls Gone Wild." Even though modern-day media is inundated with sexuality, one thing that is less prevalent on screen is education about sexual safety. The prevailing message for girls seems to be that it’s better for their reputations to be swept away in the moment, have unprotected sex, and end up pregnant or sick, than it is to carry around a condom and be thought of as a slut. Here’s where the porn industry can make a difference.

If, like Oprah’s show indicated, this industry is becoming more mainstream (the statistic quoted on Oprah: One in three women access porn on the Internet), then the rules around it need to become more mainstream as well. Adult entertainment businesses may deal in the product of fantasy, but the realities of the risk of disease need to be dealt with as they would in any other high-risk trade. Mandating condom usage would not only protect performers, but also has the potential to normalize safer sex practices for viewers. California, where the majority of the adult entertainment manufacturing resides, is working to bring the industry up to the health standards required for all employers in their state.

Meanwhile, back in Federal Way, you can help raise standards by talking to your kids about the perfume and underwear ads on television and how blatantly sexual they are. Bring in your values by discussing whether you identify them as porn (which the television industry obviously doesn’t or they wouldn’t be on the air). Review the issue of sexting — and the trouble it can cause if found to violate child pornography laws.

As you go about your holiday shopping, talk about how much companies use sex to sell things, and how you decide what to buy. Discuss the messages these advertisements give about what body types are OK, then go watch the “Onslaught” video at to understand more about how the industry works to create low self-esteem so that we’ll buy stuff we think will make us like the models. Remember to include boys in these conversations as well as girls. Pressure is up for them and their body image, too.

Then gather your family around, pop a big bowl of popcorn, and watch something wholesome and educational on television. How about Oprah?

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