Porn Is A Bad Teacher

I had some bad teachers in my school days. 

There was the maths teacher who showed up really late to school, and then yelled at our class for not beginning our work.  At the end of his long speech about how bad we were, one student stood and clapped and cheered sarcastically, creating one of my favourite high school memories.  This teacher was only slightly worse than the French teacher who wore tight leather pants and bent over at the front of the room, speaking to the class while looking through her own legs.  For real.  It’s amazing I even finished school. 

But when it comes to sex education these days, porn has to be the worst teacher.

In his submission to the Senate Inquiry on the harms of pornography, Dr. Michael Flood from the University of Wollongong stated that there is a wealth of research that documents how porn functions as a sex educator for young people.  This education shapes both attitudes and practice.

For attitudes, he states that exposure to pornography is associated with*:

  • Increased sexual knowledge, including about bodies and practices
  • Liberalised sexual attitudes (from both correlational and longitudinal studies)
  • Greater acceptance of pre-, extra- and non-marital sexual relations
  • More positive attitudes towards casual and recreational sex, and premarital and
    extramarital sex
  • Acceptance of one’s own same-sex or other sexualities
  • Greater acceptance of pornography itself

And when it comes to actual practice, Dr Flood writes that*:

  • Pornography is prompting shifts particularly in heterosexual boys’ and young
    men’s sexual expectations, practices, and repertoires.
  • There is clear evidence that pornography is shaping young men’s and women’s
    sexual practices.
    • This has been most well documented with regard to anal intercourse.
    • Pornography also may be shaping interest and participation in other sexual
      practices such as extra-vaginal ejaculation, deep fellatio, sex with multiple
      partners, etc.
    • Pornography use also may increase young people’s practices of unsafe
      vaginal and anal intercourse.
  • Associations between pornography exposure and involvement in particular sexual practices such as anal intercourse or multi-partner sex can involve sexual coercion.

You may think that some of these things aren’t so bad.  But some of them are undeniably bad teaching.  Unsafe sex, sexual coercion and ‘extra-vaginal ejaculation’ (read: ejaculating on a woman’s body or face) are not going to lead to greater sexual intimacy between people.

The major problem here is that most porn being produced and consumed these days does not accurately depict real sex in the real world.  And while there are many areas of life where we learn by watching others, porn is not interested in educating anyone.  It’s an industry that is interested in making money, and doing so by showing more novel and more extreme sex acts, whereby users watch more and more porn. 

Good teaching leads to learning; learning that equips people for life in the real world.  At least that’s what every good teacher I know is trying to do.

So who should we learn from?  Parents have a clear role to play, though as a teenager I know I didn’t want my Dad telling me about what he got up to with Mum in any detail or even really at all.  But for younger kids, parents have a huge role in shaping how their children understand sex.

Schools need to do sex education that goes beyond plumbing and condom use.  No doubt this is difficult, and needs to be done in consultation with parents, but to do nothing is to allow porn to do the teaching.  Young people need healthy relationships with trustworthy adults who they can ask frank questions of.  This means communities wider than the immediate family unit.

At the end of the day, if no one shows up to teach, kids will do pretty much anything.  My dodgy maths teacher knew that.  Students will happily accept the substitute teacher who seems fun but clearly doesn't care about the well-being of the students or their education. He's just in it for the money.  

So when it comes to sex, parents and schools need to ensure their children don't get stuck with a really bad teacher.  Because in the absence of a teacher, porn will happily become the default teacher.

 

*The bullet-point sections are direct quotes from Dr. Flood’s submission.  You can download it from his website, www.xyonline.net, here.  There you can find both his full submission as well as a summary.