In the past decades of feminist activism, the greatest winner of its efforts has been men. Women were told that sex could be fulfilling without a commitment of any kind. The skirts got shorter and access to pornography became ubiquitous (and the internet helped with that). Those selling their bodies were no longer demeaned with labels like “prostitute” or worse; no, now they’re “sex workers.”

Who gained from all of this ready access to women’s bodies? Men. Now a new generation of young women is catching onto the raw deal that “feminism” has negotiated for them. 

A piece for BuzzFeed News explores the conflicted feelings many teens and young people in their 20s feel toward the so-called “sex positivity” movement. Sex positivity is often perceived as a total lack of inhibitions around sex, except for the concept of consent, which opponents view as murky at best. Can a woman in the heat of the moment truly consent to some of the violent, physical interactions they are subjected to on a regular basis thanks to the influence of violent or aggressive pornography on young men? 

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For BuzzFeed, Madeline Holden interviewed several members of Generatioin Z, who explained their view.

Katie, (a) 23-year-old in Virginia, described sex positivity as a kind of long con. “It feels like we were tricked into exploiting ourselves [and] tricked into thinking it was our idea,” she said. “I would say I gathered this mostly from media, Sex and the City, Girls — HBO somehow did a number on me — books, social media… You read a lot about (sex positivity) on Tumblr, you read a lot about it on Twitter when you were in high school, (and) it gets really ingrained in your brain that you need to be comfortable having sex with someone you’re not committed to. I think in my feeble 18-year-old mind, it was probably not what I needed to hear.”

Elsewhere in the piece, Holden explains:

Katie and her friends are cynical about some of the progressive messages they had received about sex when they were younger. “We all really embraced third-wave feminism and sex positivity, and it impacted us so negatively,” she explained. “Being told that you should be having sex with people you don’t have any relationship with really put it in our minds that sex doesn’t matter.”

While young women are certainly bearing the brunt of the damage wrought by our sex-positive, pornography-saturated culture, another group seems to be not far behind: children. 

With alarming frequency, our progressive moral betters have decided that children and teens are basically smaller adults. The science behind their developing brains is ignored and, instead, children and teens are given agency far beyond what their brains are capable of being tasked with. The result of this line of thinking is that if children are like small people, then they, too, can be consumers of pornography, but perhaps a more “kid friendly” version.

Restaurants have kids menus, and some think internet pornography could have the same. Inexplicably, the goal isn’t to wean kids and teens off of the pornography that’s corrupting their souls and eroding their decency, but instead to make watered-down versions more suitable for them. 

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Apparently society has given up on the idea that kids shouldn’t see pornography or ever be exploited by it. Last year New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof penned a chilling piece about what happened to kids when they found their images and videos had been uploaded to the website Pornhub. In his story, which chronicled the lives destroyed — and those taken by suicide — as a result of appearing on the site, he made a strange assertion about the real problem with kids and pornography.

“The issue is not pornography but rape,” he wrote. “Let’s agree that promoting assaults on children or on anyone without consent is unconscionable. The problem with Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein or Jeffrey Epstein was not the sex but the lack of consent — and so it is with Pornhub.” 

I’m going to go ahead and say the problem with kids and pornography is pornography. Kids and young teens, the subject of his piece, aren’t capable of granting consent to either the sexual encounter or the subsequent dissemination of digital content stemming from it. 

It’s tempting to attribute this erosion of our care for the innocence of children to our broken modern times. Unfortunately, it’s nothing new. Late last month, The New Yorker published a jarring long-form account of a German “sexologist” who placed vulnerable foster children in homes with pedophiles. Of the man, Helmut Kentler, who ran the experiments for decades we learn, “In 1988, he explained that there was no need to worry that children would be harmed by sexual contact with caretakers, as long as the interaction was not ‘forced.’ The consequences can be ‘very positive, especially when the sexual relationship can be characterized as mutual love,’ he wrote.” The New Yorker chronicles the emotional devastation created by these experiments in excruciating detail. 

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Kentler wasn’t alone in his sex-positive perspective on relationships between adults and kids at the time (the mid-1970s). We learn, “Germany’s newly established Green Party, which brought together antiwar protesters, environmental activists, and veterans of the student movement, tried to address the ‘oppression of children’s sexuality.’ Members of the Party advocated abolishing the age of consent for sex between children and adults.” 

Young women, thankfully, appear to be catching onto the lies the sex-positivity movement have sold them. They were taught that the only thing standing between them and a fulfilling sexual encounter was their consent. They’re learning there’s much more to it than that, and their victimization came on the heels of the shedding of all sexual taboos.

While once those taboos were deemed repressive, young adults are now realizing they were more often prudent social guardrails established for the health and safety of all parties. Just as children are unable to grant consent, so, too, are they unable to come to this sex positive epiphany until it’s too late. We need not pretend that children have any place near pornography — not as consumers and certainly not as creators. And we need to once again channel children toward healthy, committed relationships that are most likely to bring about stability and long-term sexual fulfillment.