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.

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.

Pros and Cons of Sex Education – Is Prevention of Teen Pregnancy Possible?

The U.S. Educational system suffered in the last U.S. administration, especially in regards to the pros cons of sex education. When then president George Bush was still campaigning for more funding for abstinence-only education programs in November 2007, it was immediately following a national study found that sex education programs – which included contraception information as an integral feature – were most effective at preventing teen pregnancies. This focus on abstinence-only sex education flew in the face of the findings by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

Today, we are hoping to see a positive increase in the awareness and habits of young people regarding abstinence and safe responsible sex. Unfortunately it remains the poor who lack the opportunity to get the help they need or have a voice as to what their opinions are on these issues that impact their communities. Polls show that most teen pregnancies continue to be amongst blacks and hispanics living in lower income regions of the U.S. The sex education curriculum must consider these findings in better reaching its audience.

Cons – Without Sex Education many young people will be left to the media and hear say to find answers to important questions. Questions – if left unanswered – can lead to unplanned pregnancy and the repetition of a continuing cycle of ignorance. It seems impossible to get an exact match on every parents core values when it comes to sex education, and so it is an ongoing debate more than a con or conflict.

Pros – With Sex Education, young people have the opportunity to learn a basic understanding of their bodies, human reproduction facts and pregnancy prevention techniques. There is no replacing parental, guardian and peer influences upon the behavior of young people. The sexual attitudes and low teen pregnancy statistics of many European cultures is a great example of progressive education. It is hopeful that the current U.S. policy toward sex education will be encouraged by the study of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

When I counsel families and couples, I try to encourage a proactive approach to learning about sex. There are two extremely good resources that I recommend to my clients for their knowledge of intercourse and hopefully have an impact on lesson plans in their families and communities. Having knowledge and wisdom about sex is an invaluable gift to share as a parent or peer of a young person who may not find the greatest sex advice elsewhere.