Why Pornography Should Be Introduced and Critiqued In Sex Education Programming At All School Levels

The phrase love that dare not speak it’s name was coined by Lord Alfred Douglas. It first appeared in his poem, “Two Loves,” printed (in the Chameleon) in 1896. It’s a reference to homosexual love, in Lord Alfred’s case, of Oscar Wilde, who was subsequently charged with gross indecency. Homosexuality was a criminal offense in England and just about everywhere else in the 19th century. Today, there is another sexual outlet not so much forbidden as not addressed in polite or other society – a new form of love the name of which sex educators dare not speak: pornography.

This is most unfortunate: a new study suggests that while parents may not be aware of the fact, pornography is the leading sex educator of the young. Alas, the porn industry has no interest in serving a sex education function and certainly does not do so, at least not in a positive, constructive or healthy fashion.

Porn is pervasive, particularly where it is most highly censored. China, for example, is the world’s leading consumer of porn. Jerry Ropelato, author of “Internet Pornography Statistics” at the research website Top Ten Reviews, notes that $3,075.64 is spent on pornography every second of every day. In this one-second period, 28,258 internet users are viewing pornography and 372 internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines. Two of the top twenty search terms are teen sex and teen porn. The pornography industry has larger revenues than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple and Netflix combined. Data from 2006 reported worldwide pornography revenues at $97.06 billion.

Australian researchers David Corlett and Maree Crabbe filmed 140 interviews with young people in what was called “The Reality and Risk Research Project.” They discovered that teens are increasingly turning to the net for sex education. (Source: Denise Ryan, “Teachers urged to address porn factor,” The Australian Age, February 13, 2012.) Porn sex education exerts a destructive influence in the lives of the young. One of the investigators said, “Every young person we interviewed told us that pornography is a significant part of youth culture and particularly of young men’s lives.” She added, “Pornography has become harder, rougher, more hardcore.”

Porn, as you might expect, does not commonly offer instruction in matters relevant to conventional sex education (e.g., the nature of contraception, the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, the value of intimacy, principles of effective relationships). On the contrary, what it inadvertently communicates to young men, according to “The Project” research group, is reckless, coercive and abusive treatment of women. There is an absence of realistic perspectives and a dearth of respectful treatment of sexual partners. In addition, sexual practices of an unsafe nature are commonplace. While informed adults may have the maturity to manage such depictions, teens with little or, more often, no sexual experience clearly do not.

Since parents usually cannot keep porn from being accessed one way or another or one time or other by their children, the more likely best strategy is to include porn awareness in sex ed instruction. This is the focus of efforts by “The Project” team. Several grants have provided the resources to prepare and test programs for use in training sex education teachers for varied school grade levels. While teachers need skills to address this issue, teens need exposure to effective critiques of pornography’s representations of gender and sex. Among the objectives of the Project team is to develop teaching materials that present diverse scenarios for classroom discussions that will enable young adults to distinguish between what they see depicted in porn and reality.

The overwhelming majority of parents believe their child has never seen pornography. However, a 2003 Australia Institute investigation citied in the Australian Age article cited above reported that 84 per cent of boys and 60 per cent of girls had access to sex sites on the internet. A 2006 Australian study of youths aged 13 to 16 found that 92 per cent of boys and 61 per cent of girls had been exposed to pornography online.

Of course, Republicans in this country might favor a simpler solution: Pass new laws banning pornography or otherwise make it nearly impossible for young people to gain access to it. Given the widespread availability of social media of all kinds in the wired culture of our age, a reliance on censorship does not seem promising (not to dwell on the consistency of such a Draconian tactic with that troublesome First Amendment in America). Good luck cutting off porn – shy of creating a police state. Better sex education is cheaper and quicker, more likely and better suited to personal liberties and sound education.

Everyone, including the young, needs a broad set of knowledge and critical thinking skills to reject a sexuality that eroticises degradation and violence, glorifies unrealistic body types (particularly large breasts and out-sized penises) and undermines relationship elements founded on respect, courtesy and the common decencies.

It is hard enough in the current climate of Right Wing evangelical Republican culture war wedge politics to gain acceptance for sex ed of any kind, let alone adding porn assessment to the mix. If a school board or individual educator in this country tried to address pornography, he or she would be cited by Santorum, Romney or Gingrich as an example of what’s wrong with Obamacare. Try dealing with this crisis only if willing to deal with a firestorm of controversy from the Right.

Yet, all evidence and the lessons from Prohibition and the Comstock era suggest that ignoring or trying to repress the pervasiveness of pornography as it affects youthful sexual expectations and behavior is pernicious and irresponsible.

In my view, we need to make clear as part of sex ed that porn has nothing to do with love. We dare not NOT speak its name – and dare NOT ignore the reality of pornography’s dreadful influence on the sexual miseducation of the young. If this upsets Republicans, well, that’s just too bad. If they had enjoyed better sex education, they might be more sensible about such things – and probably less interested in porn, as well.

Be weller than well, give ’em hell and try always to look on the bright side of life.

Stop Lying to Our Kids About Sex!

I believe there are irrefutable laws that govern our universe. These laws keep the planets in their proper orbits, govern the lifespan of stars, and continue expanding endless galaxies. I also believe there are universal laws that govern this planet and the people on it. Whether one chooses to obey these laws or not is irrelevant to the fact that these laws exist. And while one may exercise his right to defy these laws, he cannot alter the natural consequences of that choice.

For example, there is a universal law of gravity on this planet. I may insist that this law does not apply to me-that I am not bound by it. I may even demonstrate my defiance by climbing to the top of a 20 story building, standing at the edge, and leaping off. As I fly through the air, the exhilaration of complete freedom, the incredible “rush” fills me to overflowing and I shout, “See, I told you. The law of gravity doesn’t apply to me!” Some observers on the ground may even buy into the charade-“Look, he’s flying, he was right!” And then, with the predictability of the sun rising in the east and the waves crashing on the shore, the inevitable happens-choice meets consequence; universal law claims her own.

We see this blatant and arrogant disregard for natural laws all around us. We are immersed in a global economic crisis because governments and some citizens violated the law of the harvest, the laws of productivity, frugality, integrity and simplicity. Yet nowhere do I see natural laws more arrogantly and irresponsibly defied than when it comes to mainstream sex education and our children. When I say “sex education,” I refer not only to the curriculum in our public schools, but to the greater influences of sexualized TV, movies and Internet pornography. Research shows that a majority of teens consider the media their main source of information regarding sexual issues.

When it comes to “sex,” what does mainstream-prime-time-celebrity-ized media teach our young people? To put it simply, “Sexual intimacy is a normal, natural urge that should be readily and fully expressed between consenting individuals-if it feels good, then just do it.” And then they quickly add, “But do it safely.” In other words, there are no set universal laws governing human sexuality. It’s simply freedom of expression, personal preference and individual choice. But what is the truth? Are there natural, irrefutable laws that govern sexual intimacy? Is there a factual “science” behind sex that Hollywood, pornographers and other profiteers don’t want our young people to know about?

The Science of Sex

There is not room in this blog to discuss all of the spiritual and emotional/psychological aspects of human sexuality. For example, you cannot place a condom on the human heart. There are myriad consequences both spiritually, emotionally and physically when one chooses to ignite the power of sexuality. In this blog I want to focus on brain science. For more than a decade, I have devoted much of my professional life to the study of human sexuality and the effects of sexualized media and pornography on the human brain. Remarkable neuroscientists and psychologists have been gracious enough to place me under their tutelage and guidance. After years of study and professional interaction with these renowned individuals, I wrote my first book on this topic titled, The Drug of the New Millennium-The Brain Science Behind Internet Pornography Use (available at amazon.com).

While the brain science of sexual intimacy could fill hundreds of blogs, allow me to share just a few of the facts.

Our Creator intended sexual intimacy to be extremely powerful. The programming is built into our very DNA structure. Like other forces in nature, there are natural laws that govern human sexuality. Like the law of gravity, the use of sexuality brings consequences-both positive and negative, constructive and destructive-the results of individual choice. To understand how the natural laws governing sexuality work, let’s consider what happens in the brain when an individual becomes sexual.

In sexual process, the brain releases powerful neuro-chemicals. Depending on the circumstances and how the individual chooses to use these chemicals, the results can be glorious or disastrous.

1. Dopamine: During sexual process, the brain releases a tidal wave of dopamine-our own natural “pleasure drug.” This “drug” creates a very powerful dependency. This can be a healthy dependency between two life-long committed individuals, or it can be an addiction dependency on pornography, illicit affairs, one-night-stands, etc. In addition, when dopamine is present, the “limbic system” or pleasure/reward center of the brain takes over and pushes the frontal lobes or logic center of the brain out of the way. If the individual is not in a safe, responsible situation, he or she can make some really stupid or even devastating choices. With “right-use” dopamine brings wise choices, healthy pleasure, connection, joy and fulfillment. With “wrong-use” it triggers foolish decisions, powerful addiction, loss of freedom, and “drug highs” followed by depressing, hopeless lows.

2. Oxytocin: Known as the “bonding chemical,” oxytocin floods the brain of new mothers and fathers bonding them to their newborn children. When couples hold hands, embrace and kiss, oxytocin releases and begins forging a powerful bond. During sexual intimacy, oxytocin bonds individuals together with the same kind of chemical power that bonds a mother to her newborn child. This bonding process is a wonderful gift in a committed, life-long marriage. But imagine what happens when this bonding chemical is released during illicit sex or pornography viewing. Who or what are the individuals being bonded to, and how difficult will it be to sever that bond after the “rush” is over?

These are just two examples of the many neuro-chemicals released during sexual process. These chemicals were divinely designed to create marvelous “natural” consequences that are an unmatched gift and blessing. But, used outside natural limits and boundaries, they wreak havoc on societies, families and individuals. If you doubt it, just look around at the tidal wave of consequences. Blatantly obvious examples are the celebrities of sexualized Hollywood and pornography who portray themselves as role models for the “do whatever feels good” approach to life-“There are no universal laws” they scream as they fly flippantly through the air. But inevitably, each in turn break themselves against the solid rock of irrefutable natural laws. And as we witness their chaotic and disastrous lives, we wonder, “Do they really have the answers about sex?”

If we’re going to be truly effective in the sex education of our young people, then we need to have the maturity, integrity and intelligence to “tell the whole truth.” Yes, they need to make their own choices. But along with all of the glamour, glitz and “brain rush” of sexualized media, let’s teach our young people the true “science of sex” so they can make an “informed” decision. So they can know in advance what to expect should they choose to “leap defiantly off the edge,” or harness the power and joy that come as a natural consequence of “right-use.”

Sex Answers: Where Do You Find Them?

In my work as a sexuality educator I can report one thing for certain: everybody has questions about sex. They can come in the form of intimacy questions, relationship questions or just plain questions about sex. Sometimes when I am giving an educational program no one will ask a question but I will get stopped in the parking lot on the way to my car by someone who needs an answer to something they were too shy to ask in front of the group. Few things surprise me anymore.

What concerns me is where people get their information about sex. There is so much inaccurate information about sexuality floating around. People have told me they still believe you can get HIV from a toilet seat or you can’t get pregnant the first time you have sex. People who are very sex negative and want to push their value system off on others seem to stretch the truth more than a little to discourage sexual activity.

People are relying more and more on the internet for their sex education. Given the fact that many don’t receive it at home or in school they are not left with a lot of choices. If you Google any topic about sexuality millions of websites come up. How do you sort out the fact from fiction? It can be very difficult for someone who doesn’t know what they are looking for.

That is why is it is important to look for reputable websites that have people with good credentials working for them. People who have expertise in sexuality are the best resources. You can always Google them as well and check them out and make sure they are the real deal. Look at the “About” section of the website and see who is running the show. How are they funded? It is from a non-biased fact based organization or a place that has its own agenda? Do they have resources for you to find more information or go for help with a problem? If they don’t that may be a sign that they are not the best place for accurate information.

It can be hard to ask questions about what for many is a very personal topic. One benefit of the internet is it allows people to remain anonymous. And I have to give props to those that realize they need to learn or have an issue and know they need to deal with it for even taking that first step and starting to look for answers. They should just be sure they are looking in the right place.