THREE THINGS THIS WEEK
1. Bird Brigade
What it is: “Birds Aren’t Real” is the slogan of a conspiracy theory that has racked up hundreds of thousands of followers. Now, the group of young people behind the “Birds Aren’t Real” movement decided to talk to the New York Times about what it’s really about.
Why it’s a psy-op: Since 2017, “Birds Aren’t Real” proponents have claimed that birds (yes, birds: eagles, cardinals, and the like) are actually flying surveillance drones dispatched by world governments to spy on the populace. But now the meme’s founding father, a twenty-three-year-old man named Peter McIndoe who was raised in a deeply conservative, firmly evangelical household, says that the whole thing was a sort of long con. McIndoe told the Times that the movement serves as a way to process what it’s like to grow up in an age of conspiracies and misinformation. “Birds Aren’t Real” invites teens inside of a crazy conspiracy theory, serving as an elaborate cosplay as participants seize hold of a set of increasingly ridiculous beliefs. The fact that it has been so popular speaks to a desire deep within the American teen psyche to let go of reason and see how far a meme can go.
2. A Grim Challenge
What it is: A TikTok trend threatening gun violence on December 17 appears to have affected school districts nationwide.
What you need to know: At first, the TikTok challenge simply advocated for a national day of hooky, but it seems to have morphed into a gruesome dare to bring guns to school. This year saw plenty of mischief (and low grade misdemeanors) committed as part of the #deviouslicks trend, but this latest threat seems to be quite an escalation, especially after the Oxford High School shooting on November 30. As of this writing, no credible threats have been identified by law enforcement in any districts where concerning posts have been made. However, school safety officers, teachers, and students themselves may have a lot of anxiety around campus today.
3. Billie Eilish is #Antiporn
What it is: In a radio interview with Howard Stern, pop star Billie Eilish revealed that watching pornography from an early age damaged her view of sexuality, gave her nightmares and left her traumatized.
Why it’s worth knowing about: Eilish called pornography “a disgrace,” saying that she feels “incredibly devastated” about the amount of porn that she willingly exposed herself to beginning at the age of 11. The homeschooled singer, who is now turning 20, also said that when she did become intimate with a partner for the first time, her previous porn exposure made the experience confusing and unsettling. As the first digital natives continue to reach an age where they can reflect on their childhood years, many feel similar to Eilish and regret that they watched pornography at such a young age. These young people may not realize what, exactly, they find so unsettling about having their innocence corrupted by porn, but they do recognize its negative impact because it has affected them personally.
Slang of the Week:
Yassification: Applying several layers of something that should be good to glam up or make something sound/appear better, even though the result ends up being something cringey or contrived. (Ex: That selfie she thought looked good got completely yassified with all the FaceTune she used.)
Translation: Billie Eilish is #Antiporn
Billie Eilish speaking out against pornography presents a massive opportunity for parents, teachers, and caring adults. This is the kind of pop culture development we pray about at Axis: someone Gen Z adores speaking out boldly in agreement with the sort of point we want to help teens understand.
Since Axis started, one of our goals has been to help teens recognize the impact media can have on them. As George Lucas put it, “I’ve always tried to be aware of what I say in my films, because all of us who make motion pictures are teachers, teachers with very loud voices.” Pornographic videos are certainly no exception to this rule, especially when the majority of kids are first exposed between ages 7 and 13.
Eilish tells a familiar story of desensitization, of getting to the point where “abusive BDSM” was all she wanted to watch. According to a 2016 study, 46.9% of porn viewers reported that, over time, they began watching kinds of pornography that had previously disinterested or even disgusted them. And all the while, viewers—especially young viewers—are learning “what sex is like” from what they’re viewing. As Eilish herself puts it, “The first few times I, you know, had sex, I was not saying no to things that were not good, and it’s because I thought that that’s what I was supposed to be attracted to.”
The conversation about porn should be nested in a much larger conversation about who God is, how he designed us, and what sexuality is for. Even without the sort of progressive desensitization, Eilish was talking about, pornography is a cheap commodification of what God created to be a beautiful, intimate, and unifying act between a husband and wife. Over the years we’ve created many resources to equip parents and caring adults to talk about these issues, and we hope you can make use of some of them:
- Sex Talk 2.0, a free 3-part video series
- A Parent’s Guide to Purity, free for this audience
- Video Conversation Kit on Porn (requires Axis membership)
- Video Conversation Kit on Sexuality (requires Axis membership)
These resources are full of conversation starters, so we won’t end with our normal three questions here. If you’ve never talked about this with your teen, the conversation may feel awkward. But as Dr. Howard Hendricks once put it, “We should not be ashamed to discuss what God was not ashamed to create.”
Keep the Faith!
- The Axis Team
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