THE BLOG
02/20/2018 13:39 EST | Updated 02/21/2018 22:08 EST

An Honest Talk About Porn Is Needed At Home And School

It's not easy, but pornography is not going to suddenly disappear from the internet. If anything, access will become easier.

gWe are tasked today as parents and educators with what can sometimes seem like an insurmountable challenge to reverse the effects of sexual harassment and exploitation. The youth of today receive a bevvy of mixed messages about sex from a variety of sources. There is one area giving our children a skewed version of sexual reality. It lurks on the dark side of the internet and is still spoken of in hushed tones. It is internet pornography.

ljubaphoto via Getty Images

Dr. Justin Coulson, one of Australia's leading parenting/relationship experts notes that "some data suggests nine out of 10 young people between eight and 16 have been exposed to pornography." Much of that porn message is that women are to be violently and sexually disrespected. Coulson makes the point that these images are not real and do not reflective a healthy, functional relationship.

Is it naïve to assume that a young boy will turn off the imagery in his mind when he has his next date? With the availability of online porn, protecting our youth from it is not even possible. I know from teaching 12-year-old boys in sex education classes that they are aware of every way to circumvent parental controls on a computer.

This violence and degradation of girls is being processed by the adolescent mind — a mind that is still developing. Judgments and control impulses in the brain are not fully developed until the mid-20s.

As parents and educators, we need to be proactive in counteracting this imagery and messaging to young boys and girls. If we don't stand up and educate, our silence condones it. If we don't teach them about respect and consent, then boys see it as one way to view girls and women.

If anything, access will become easier and will probably continue to become more violent.

These are difficult conversations to have in a classroom or in a home. It's not easy, but pornography is not going to suddenly disappear from the internet. If anything, access will become easier and will probably continue to become more violent.

There are parents and politicians that object to classroom sex education. Sex education is a hot-button political topic.

Parents that object to in-class instruction must be prepared to have difficult conversations with their children about the violent imagery they view online. There is no sugar coating it — pornography is graphic and chances are your child has viewed it. This is a complex and challenging issue. A much more proactive approach is for home and school to work in tandem.

In a recent must-read for any parent, Maggie Jones' New York Times Magazine article suggests the viewing of online porn by teens is "shaping their idea about pleasure, power and intimacy." Jones states in the article that "porn is the de facto sex education for... youth." Is it a stretch to wonder how it will shape their view of sexual harassment and exploitation as adults?

Getty Images

If, as the boys in Jones article say, there's nowhere else to learn about sex, then parents and educators need to step up if they want to influence their teens positively in this regard. We are failing our children if we do not address this issue.

The Boston school system has taken the brave approach of offering a Porn Literacy curriculum that is designed to reduce sexual and dating violence. The aim is to teach the adolescents to be more analytical of what they view. The programme bridges the information divide between reality and theatrics in pornographic imagery.

For parents interested in information regarding healthy sex education with their children, there are two recent books worth noting. Both Alfred Vernacchio, in For Goodness Sex: Changing The Way We talk To Teens About Sexuality, Values and Health, and Kris Gowen, in Sexual Decisions: The Ultimate Teen Guide, agree that school systems are lacking in sex education. Neither home nor school can turn away from this issue.

More blogs from HuffPost Canada:


"Pornography is a social and physical toxin that destroys relationships, steals innocence, erodes compassion, breed violence and kills love." So says the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. It considers pornography as often overlooked by society. Impact Ethics, a Canadian bioethics forum, sees pornography as a national public health issue. The alarm bells are there, yet this is still a subject spoken of in those hushed tones.

In my many years of facilitating SEL (Social Emotional Learning) programming, I found the students were thoughtful and interested in sex education. There was very little giggling. The takeaway was the students wanted to be informed and have their questions answered, and were very comfortable in a classroom setting. It is not an easy topic, but from my experience they would rather be informed than not informed. Better they receive accurate sex education than form their opinions of sex huddled in front of a computer screen full of women being degraded. Home and school need to work together.

A national sexual health education strategy is needed, and with that should go available programming.

Also on HuffPost: