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How do we talk to teens about sex in a world of porn? | Pornography

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Violence against women is never far from the news, but currently it is high on the agenda – and porn features again and again as a factor. From the murder of Sarah Everard to the paltry sentence handed down to Sam Pybus, the latest man to use the so-called “rough sex defence”, it seems the world is riven with misogyny.

Sarah’s killer Wayne Couzens was attracted to “brutal sexual pornography”, the court heard during his trial. Pybus – who was sentenced to four years and eight months last month for manslaughter after strangling a vulnerable woman during sex – was also known to use violent porn. Tackling porn culture is clearly a key part of tackling sexual violence towards women. I have campaigned to end the sex trade for decades, and am well aware of its role in the sexual exploitation of women.

Last weekend, the very first virtual international conference about how to teach sex education from a feminist perspective and a porn-critical lens took place. Taking On Porn: Developing Resilience and Resistance through Sex Education was organised by Culture Reframed, a US-based NGO founded by the academic and anti-porn activist Gail Dines. Part of it focused on how to help parents to have conversations with their children about what Dines calls the “public health crisis of the digital age”.

Inspired partly by demand from the UK educational world, the conference is responding to concerns from many parents about “pro-porn” programmes running in some schools since relationship and sex education became mandatory in September 2020.

Dines points to one teacher guide that puts forward the argument, “Porn is entertainment, like a film, not a ‘how to’ guide. However, that doesn’t mean people can’t learn things from porn they might not learn in other places. Just as movies can sometimes contain valuable insights, so can porn.”

In this guide, porn consumption is likened to having a sweet tooth: “Porn is a bit like a chocolate cake, it’s nice to enjoy it every now and then but if you have it for lunch every day it’s no longer a treat and becomes the norm, then you’re just in a cycle of eating chocolate cake because you’re too busy eating it to make anything else.”

But, as Dines points out, today’s online content is nothing like the now defunct Playboy magazine. In short, it has become more sadistic and extreme. One influential study found that about 90% of the most commonly viewed heterosexual porn scenes contained aggression and violence towards women and girls.

Online pornography has become the primary form of sex education for young people, and the average age for kids to start accessing it is 11. Porn sites get more visits each month than Amazon, Twitter and Netflix combined.

teen boy with phone and dad in pool
Fred Hechinger, left, as porn-addicted Quinn with his father Mark (Steve Zahn) in TV drama The White Lotus. Photograph: HBO

“Many sex ed teachers feel ill equipped to tackle the issue of porn use among their students,” says Dines, the author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. For Dines, because porn has become the leading form of sex education globally, the conference is an essential part of bringing sex education up to date. She believes that pornography acts as a kind of cultural script, which exploits women and at the same time limits their free sexual expression and pleasure. Parents have been telling Culture Reframed about how concerned they feel about their children’s viewing of porn, with one saying: “My daughter was bullied into sending a sext by her boyfriend, who then sent it to his friends. Culture Reframed’s online resources not only gave us the ability to help her, but also gave us insights into the ways our hypersexualised culture victimises girls.”

Tom Farr, a UK-based campaigner against male violence, with a particular focus on the harms caused by pornography, and spoke at the conference. His talk looked at the links between porn use and likelihood of committing acts of sexual violence, as well as health issues such as depression, PTSD, and even erectile dysfunction.

“Porn has become the de facto form of sex education for many young men and boys,” says Farr. “They have unfettered access to the most degrading, violent and abusive content imaginable at the click of a button. What are the individual and societal implications of a generation of young people groomed by exposure to hardcore porn?”

Another speaker was critical race theorist and feminist Dr Carolyn West, an expert in violence against African American women and girls, who condemned the racist sexualisation of women of colour in porn.

The UK academic Dr Fiona Vera-Gray, whose work on women’s experience of mainstream online pornography has been included in the development of the Department for Education’s relationships and sex education curriculum, discussed women and porn use. Women do use porn, but often to explore what might be expected of them sexually.

Lilith and Savannah, hosts and producers of the Female Dating Strategy podcast looked at how to build healthy relationships.

I spoke to Adam*, 17, who is writing an essay on his former porn consumption. Adam, who refers to himself as “porn-free”, says he felt pressured into porn use by friends. “It became a habit I couldn’t break,” he says, “and I started looking at girls and imagining them doing the stuff I saw in the videos. I stopped seeing them as human beings.”

Sarah*, 18, says she is looking to set up a “Girls against porn” group for 16-year-olds and over because she is “disgusted at porn-sick boys sending unwanted dick pics” to her younger sister and her school friends.

Like other feminist campaigners against the sex trade, Dines has been accused of being an anti-sex moralist who wishes to censor sexual expression, but, she says, nothing could be further from the truth. “Any progressive, humanitarian approach should focus on dismantling the porn industry,” says Dines, “and not the continuation of its insidious commercialisation of abuse and misery.”

*Some names have been changed.

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Chinese could hack data for future quantum decryption, report warns | Hacking

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Chinese hackers could target heavily encrypted datasets such as weapon designs or details of undercover intelligence officers with a view to unlocking them at a later date when quantum computing makes decryption possible, a report warns.

Analysts at Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm, say Chinese hackers could also steal pharmaceutical, chemical and material science research that can be processed by quantum computers – machines capable of crunching through numbers at unprecedented speed.

In a report titled “Chinese threats in the quantum era”, the consultancy says encrypted data could be stolen by “Chinese threat groups”. It says quantum-assisted decryption will arrive faster than quantum-assisted encryption, giving hackers an edge.

“Encrypted data with intelligence longevity, like biometric markers, covert intelligence officer and source identities, social security numbers, and weapons’ designs, may be increasingly stolen under the expectation that they can eventually be decrypted,” the report says. It says “state-aligned cyber threat actors” will start to steal or intercept previously unusable encrypted data.

However, it adds there is a “very small” likelihood that quantum computing could break the latest encryption methods before 2030. The analysts say quantum computing’s advantages over classical computing – the computing used in everything from laptops to mobile phones – are at least a decade away.

“Although quantum computers’ current abilities are more demonstrative than immediately useful, their trajectory suggests that in the coming decades quantum computers will likely revolutionize numerous industries – from pharmaceuticals to materials science – and eventually undermine all popular current public-key encryption methods,” the report says.

Quantum computing is viewed as an exciting development. For example, experts say it could predict accurately what a complex molecule might do and thus pave the way for new drugs and materials.

China is already a strong player in the field, and Booz Allen Hamilton says it expected the country to surpass Europe and the US – where IBM recently made the most powerful quantum processor – in quantum-related research and development.

“Chinese threat groups will likely soon collect encrypted data with long-term utility, expecting to eventually decrypt it with quantum computers,” the report says. “By the end of the 2020s, Chinese threat groups will likely collect data that enables quantum simulators to discover new economically valuable materials, pharmaceuticals and chemicals.”

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UK Space Agency asks kids to make a logo for first launches • The Register

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Good news for those in the UK with primary school-aged kids and wondering what to do when the next bout of home-schooling hits: design a logo for the first UK satellite launches.

2022 could be a big year for launching satellites from Blighty’s shores as the first launchers gear up for a historic blast-off. Assuming the facilities have been built and all the necessary consents given and boxes ticked.

There are currently seven possible spaceport sites across the UK, from Cornwall in England through Llanbedr in Wales and up to the Western Isles in Scotland. Cash has been lobbed Cornwall’s way to support a horizontal launch by Virgin Orbit from Spaceport Cornwall and more toward Scotland for Orbex’s ambitions to launch vertically from Sutherland.

Should all the approvals happen and construction be completed, there is every chance the UK might host its first launch at some point in 2022.

Hence the need for a logo and thus a competition aimed at inspiring kids to consider a career in the space industry. And, of course, it is all worthy stuff: “Logo designs,” intoned the UK Space Agency, “should reflect how data from small satellites can help inform solutions to climate change as well as generate a source of pride in the UK’s space ambitions.”

What, we wondered, could possibly go wrong?

We put this question to Rob Manuel, one of those behind web stalwart b3ta.com. B3ta has a long history of (among other things) image challenges, the results of which tend to pop up, often unattributed, in timelines around the world. Now heading into its third decade, the site continues to push out a weekly Friday newsletter to email subscribers.

In terms of how to engage participants, Manuel said: “If anyone asks me, and they rarely do, I encourage competitions to be as open as possible – publish the results as they’re coming in. Try and create a buzz that something is happening rather than everything going in the bin.”

“As for things going wrong,” he went on, “well, there’s always an element who’ll want to subvert it.”

The competition is open to children aged 4-11 and will run until 11 March 2022. There are two age categories (4-7 and 7-11) over 12 regions in the UK. Designs can be drawn, painted, or created on a computer and either submitted on the logoliftoff.org.uk site or via post. Some basic questions also need to be answered, and children can work on their own or in a team of up to four.

We asked the UK Space Agency if it would take Manuel’s advice and post entries ahead of the competition close. We will update should it respond. ®

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Video analytics platform RugbySmarts named ‘most investable’ at SportX

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The Galway tech start-up was one of two winners at the sport-focused pre-accelerator programme.

A start-up developing real-time video analytics for sports has been named ‘most investable’ at SportX, a new pre-accelerator in Ireland for founders with sports and wellness business ideas.

RugbySmarts took the title at the inaugural SportX showcase last week, securing a cash prize.

The Galway-based start-up aims to automate and simplify sports analytics using AI,  machine learning and computer vision, helping coaches to improve player and team performance with a platform that could also be transferred to other sports.

RugbySmarts was founded last year by CTO William Johnstone, who has previously worked with Connacht Rugby, and CEO Yvonne Comer, who is a former Ireland international rugby player.

Meanwhile, the award of ‘best impact on sport’ was given to TrojanTrack. This start-up, founded in 2021 by Dublin-based Stephen O’Dwyer, is looking to combine quantitative biomechanical analysis with deep neural network tech in the equine industry.

The aim is to gain feedback on a horse’s injury or gait imbalance without using invasive technology, such as motion-tracking software that requires markers to be attached to the animal’s skin.

‘Next-gen sports-tech entrepreneurs’

SportX was launched earlier this year by advisory firm Resolve Partners, Sport Ireland and ArcLabs – the research and innovation centre at Waterford Institute of Technology.

The aim of the pre-accelerator programme was to build on tech and business ideas for the sport and wellness industries, giving founders access to academic, clinical and commercial resources.

The six-week programme involved workshops and engagement with advisers, entrepreneurs, subject experts and investors. Participants also had the opportunity to pitch to the US-based Techstars Sports Accelerator.

At the SportX showcase last week, nine teams had five minutes each to pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges.

The two winners were selected by the panel, which featured Gary Leyden of the ArcLabs Fund 1 GP, Sport Ireland’s Benny Cullen and Niall McEvoy of Enterprise Ireland.

At the launch of SportX earlier this year, Leyden said the goal of the programme was to find “the next generation of sports-tech entrepreneurs who can leverage the amazing enterprise and sports-related supports within the south-east of Ireland”.

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