Our Perspective: Where do young people go to find sexual health education?

When you think of porn, education probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, with laws in place that prohibit schools from teaching comprehensive sex education, adolescents are forced to take matters into their own hands and ask their trusty friend Google. Given the fact that almost every teenager has access to the internet, and that roughly 30% of the internet is made up from pornography, it is not surprising that a recent study found that around 60% of adolescents look to porn to answer their sex-related questions. This can lead to some pretty messed up misconceptions about sex, considering that very little porn shows the use of contraception, and very much of it shows a male-centric view of what sex should be like.

Pornhub, one of the largest porn distributers on the Internet, is stepping up and taking some responsibility for the role that it plays in sex ed. Just last week, Pornhub launched their Sexual Wellness Center, a subsite aimed at providing visitors with information and advice regarding sexuality, sexual health, and relationships. The website is broken down into different sections, each containing detailed articles on all things related to sex. In addition to covering basic topics like STIs, contraception, and consent, the Sexual Wellness Center has articles that answer the questions every fifteen year old is too afraid to ask, from how lesbians have sex to whether or not you can have sex on your period.

In the age of the Internet, it is honestly shocking that comprehensive sexual education is still up for debate. Adolescents have access to a wealth of information and if they have questions, they’re going to find an answer. However, the answers they might find on the Internet or through their friends might not be medically accurate. Wouldn’t parents and educators prefer to know exactly what information their children are receiving about sexual health?

After relocating to New Orleans from Los Angeles, one of the areas in which I experienced the most culture shock was in attitudes towards sex and reproductive health. Even my Episcopal elementary school made time to teach us about the birds and the bees, starting at the ripe age of 11. At that point it was mostly anatomical—this is what happens to girls and boys during puberty, etc. But we also started talking about healthy relationships, and that we may start experiencing new feelings towards the opposite (or same!) gender. When I started at a new school in seventh grade, we had the most comprehensive sex ed I can imagine: contraception, STIs, consent, sexuality, anatomy… the whole shebang. We had sex ed again in tenth grade, and a little refreshed in twelfth grade as we prepared to go off to college.

I know I was very fortunate in the comprehensiveness of my sex ed. Even for California, I think my schools went above and beyond to make sure that we were well informed. This made the realization that many of my friends from other parts of the country had received little to no sexual education all the more shocking. College students should not have to learn facts about contraception for the fist time from their dorm’s Resident Advisors (RA's) or the student health center, especially students who have already been having sex. We deserve better than abstinence only sex ed.

By Madeline Case

Madeline Case is currently a senior at Tulane University ​studying English and Public Policy​.

Our Perspective contributions are written by the interns from Tulane University working with Lift Louisiana to advance reproductive health, rights and justice.

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