High School Porn Literacy Courses Could Help Promote a Healthier Outlook on Sex

At one point in our lives we were all teenagers who were oblivious to anything regarding sex — granted, some of us are still clueless about sex in our adulthood. Nevertheless, we probably awkwardly navigated the Internet in search for the answer that our high school sex education classes couldn’t teach us. While modern-day teenagers can probably Google all of their sex queries that they’re too afraid to ask their teachers or guardians, The New York Times found that the Internet might do more harm when answering a teen’s naïve, sex-related questions.

On Feb. 7, The Times sat down with the with the educators and students of a trial high school sex education course, called The Truth About Pornography: A Pornography-Literacy Curriculum for High School Students Designed to Reduce Sexual and Dating Violence (also known as Porn Literacy, because that’s a mouthful).

Taught in a Boston high school, the course started as a study in 2016. Emily Rothman, an associate professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health and co-created of Porn Lit’s curriculum, tells The Times, that the course's lectures go beyond the basic lectures of safe sex to help prevent sexual violence and promote consent as well as establishing a healthy relationship with sex itself.

However, Rothman’s Porn Lit class isn’t the only learning module designed to help young people navigate the ambiguous world of sex and sexuality.

Nora Gelperin, M.Ed., Director of Sexuality Education and Training at Advocates for Youth and partner of AMAZE, tells Her Campus, “[AMAZE] is really trying to fill the void in honest and accurate information about sexual health. We try to really get at the topics that nobody else is talking about in healthy and accurate ways.”

Although AMAZE’s videos help supplement what’s taught in sex ed, this insightful content can be lost in the gluttonous amount of misinformation created from porn and problematic sex scenes in film and television, which is why a healthy combination of porn literacy and age appropriate sex ed are vital to students’ education and wellbeing.

Dr. Wyatt Fisher, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist and founder of Apps for Couples, told Her Campus that “the majority of teens learn most about sex through pornography."

"Unfortunately, this sets up all sorts of unhealthy views and expectations sexually," Fisher said. "Therefore, human sexuality courses could help clear the dysfunctional myths porn portrays about genders and sex and combat it with truth. In turn, this could create a more balanced, respectful, and healthy view of sex which could possibly reduce sexual violence.”

Albeit revolutionary, Rothman’s Porn Literacy class isn’t the first experimental sex ed class. In a 1980 pilot human sexuality class, researchers reported that, like Rothman's students, junior high school students felt more informed about sex and their sexuality at the end of this course.

If alternate sex ed classes, like Rothman’s and the pilot class in 1980, help enlighten students about healthy sex, why aren’t human sexuality classes and resource more prevalent?

Gelperin said that parents are often afraid of giving their children too much information about sex. To combat this reluctance, Gelperin recommends "parents watch the videos first, by themselves to make sure that they’re comfortable with what the videos cover. They think if I protect them or keep them safe if I protect them from this information by shielding them from it, that’s the way I can keep them healthy and safe. When it comes to sexual health education, it’s the absolute opposite." 

According to The BBC, approximately 94 percent of young people have seen lewd images online by the time the age of 14. If the majority of young people have already come in contact with pornographic images, then they’ve likely already been influenced by the way porn portrays unhealthy sex and intimacy.

Sex is prevalent in all forms of media — from music to television and even social media. Incorporating proper education that teaches young people about can help prevent young people from incubating these unhealthy sexual habits — such as sexual violence and assuming consent — from an early age.

Aside from helping young people establish a healthy relationship with sex itself, Porn Literacy courses and human sexuality classes could be the key to coordinating a cohesive sex education lesson plan between states—seeing as, currently, different states have varying degrees of sex ed courses.