Exposure to porn: How Kenyan children are learning about sex

cellphone era, porn

In the new dispensation of the internet and cellphone era, porn is the new sex education for many.

Photo credit: Samuel Muigai | Nation Media Group

It was the third day after their wedding. Diana called the Sexology Clinic and said she had an emergency and wanted to see me immediately. She had already booked a flight back to Nairobi with her husband, Erick, after agreeing that they abandon their two-week honeymoon programme. They walked into the Sexology Clinic visibly upset with each other.

When they sat in the consultation room neither of them wanted to be the first to talk about their problem.

“So sorry for what made you terminate the honeymoon,” I said trying to break the ice.

“He is a demon incarnate,” Diana said, “I told him I was leaving and he pleaded that before I do that we should see you.”

Diana was 25 and had just started her first job as an accountant in an NGO. Erick was 26 and had just qualified as an architect. He had yet to get a formal job but was already making money drawing houses and supervising construction sites of some residential buildings. After two years of courtship, the couple had a colourful wedding culminating in the honeymoon. On Diana’s insistence, they had avoided sex before marriage.

“Premarital sex is against my values and Erick was fine with it and so it has never been an issue,” Diana explained, “I, therefore, do not understand when he calls me a bitch and a slut.” She suddenly broke down and wept uncontrollably. There was a deafening silence in the room except for the groans from Diana as she sobbed.

“I am sorry, it is not what you think, do not take it literally,” Erick pleaded.

“And you sodomised me and insisted on putting your dirty soiled thing into my mouth,” Diana fired back, “how evil can you get? I feel sick, I feel defiled.”

What surprised me was the clash in sexual values between the two. Erick was explicit and went against the grain. Diana was conservative. What I found intriguing was the difference in sexual education between the two: Diana was very religious with the main source of sex education being her Christian teachings. Erick, on the other hand, learnt about sex by watching pornography.

In the new dispensation of the internet and cellphone era, porn is the new sex education for many like Erick. The rise in porn has coincided with the breakdown of social structures for sexual education. At the same time, the government has been unable to introduce age-appropriate sexual education in schools because stakeholders, especially those from the religious sector, would not allow it.

“From the age of 12 I have been watching porn to learn,” Erick said, “it was my way of discovering what adults do not tell their children.”

Studies show that children as young as 10 are watching porn. The moment they discover it, they do it again and again. The brain changes that come with the pleasure of watching porn make the children do it over and over as well as get deeper into it.

The behaviour of the children and young adults getting their sexual education through porn is distinct: they like being alone, sometimes locked in their rooms. They are also hooked to their phone. They stay late into the night watching. They are experts at clicking, searching and fast-forwarding. The majority watch the porn for a few seconds to five minutes before moving to another. The variety of porn acts maintains the thrill.

“So, in porn there is no harm calling your woman a bitch, slapping their behind and penetrating any of their orifices,” Erick said absent-mindedly, “everything goes and the more the better to satisfy your partner.”

“He even suggested that we get a prostitute into our hotel room and do a threesome,” Diana said, “and he kept telling me that I should scream aloud, he is so weird!”

The porn industry is growing fast and filling the gap in sexual education, especially in societies like ours where sex is not talked about loudly. It is an alternative that young people are using to fill the knowledge gap. While statistics on porn are not very clear, it is estimated that about 2.5 million people across the world click on a porn site every minute. Both men and women watch porn although over 70 per cent of fans are men.

“And so, it is very normal to watch porn and all my friends do it and I was just practising what I know as normal sex,” Erick said to which Diana shook her head, insisting that Erick changes immediately or she leaves him.

I put the couple on sex education, counselling and therapy to bring them to the same level of understanding and expectation of sex. Erick’s main concern was that sex would be boring if he went the way Diana wanted. Diana, on the other hand, was worried that she had inadvertently married a sex deviant.