On the weekend, I was attending the 3rd Porn Film Festival. One of the more impressive works presented there was the documentary "Jugend und Pornographie" (youth and pornography).
I think it is a valid subject. For my generation and later generations it is normal to grow up with pornography. I was online in BBS networks starting from the age of 10, and I was on the Internet when I was 15 (which, 15 years ago was really special, at least here in Germany). And of course, especially at that time, nobody really gave much thought about how to protect youngsters from the various X-rated material that was available online.
Since data transmission rates were still pretty low, most of the porn that I had at my hands was actual erotic stories. The kind of stuff that you can today still find on ASSTR. There were plenty of message boards in all networks (FIDO, Z-Netz, T-Netz, later Usenet) in both English and German, where people were hanging out and sharing the erotic stories that they've written themselves. Over the years, I collected more and more.
The only graphics you could find at those 2400bps times was 320x240, so not particularly detailed ;) But there already was a difference between scans of porn magazines, actual digital porn productions of commercial porn BBS's and the amateur porn community.
So starting at the age of 11 or 12, I was more or less regularly reading and watching pornographic material. It's obviously hard to judge what kind of influence this had on the development of my personality and sexuality. Obviously it has lead me to at least respect (or even appreciate) the many different forms of sexuality. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes, preferences, etc. I never had the feeling that it was wrong to use porn to get turned on, to derive sexual pleasure from it. Why would I? I was brought up in no religious tradition, and my parents are not particularly conservative, either.
Still, of course, I had to keep it all secret. My parents did definitely not like the idea (as I experienced later when they came to know that I had access to 'physical' porn). They never had (and still have not) any idea at which age I started watching porn, and to what extent I was collecting piles of it. That was one of the advantages if you were a computer nerd and your parents almost computer illiterate. Whatever you had on your computer without any hard evidence on paper or other physical media was absolutely secret. It is a personal computer, after all.
In any case, I think a documentary like the one shown at the festival is a first and humble attempt to start to get a discussion going. Today, every kid is on the Internet. Everyone can click "yes I am 18" and get access to porn. Only the most computer-illiterate kids will be deterred by 'parental filtering' software. They only catch what they know, and they only know the web, which contrary to many peoples' belief is only one particular part of the Internet.
So the fact is that today, more than ever before, youngsters are watching porn. No matter how much it is against the law, and no matter how much their parents try to prevent it. So we have a legal system, combined with ethical norms that are extremely out-of-sync with how reality actually looks like.
This has been going on for something like 10 to 15 now, and still there is no major public debate about this fact. Most parents either don't know or don't care. Or if they care, they are unable to do something about it. Or they feel embarrassed and rather look away because they don't know how what to do. The Kids will do what they want, but obviously not all of them are able to cope with what they see.
I see some analogies to other debates. Like the debate about first-person shooters (action games), where despite some claims not everyone who plays them will turn into an aggressive personality. Just like not everyone who smokes a joint here and there will become a major drug addict later in his life.
However, I do acknowledge the fact that there are some fragile kids that might not do well and that have not yet developed a strategy how to deal with this. Who do not know or learn that relationships can be based on love and emotion, rather than purely on sex. But then, do we try to (and fail anyway) protect them from porn, at the expense of delaying or holding back the sexual development of everyone else?
In any case, the current system of trying to protect teenagers by futile attempts to keep porn away from them is not working. It's not working for at least a decade, and nobody is proposing any real solution or even attempting a public debate about it.
Maybe it's a reflection on how little many people care about sexuality in general. If they deny themselves from exploring their sexuality freely (by religion, society, ethics, ...) why should a younger generation not be denied, too. *sigh*