I got involved in a Facebook debate about porn today. One of the main topics of contention was the effect that porn has on young folks who view and take their sexual cues from it. The trouble with porn is that although it doesn't resemble real world sex particularly each individual porn film isn't a problem - similar to the Bechdel test (In a movie are there two women with names who talk to each other about something that isn't a man). It is fine if a single movie fails the Bechdel test but it is terrible that so many fail it. It is fine if a random porn film is a guy pumping away at a surgically enhanced woman and then coming on her face but it is terrible that the majority of them end that way. We can't regulate the porn industry to fix this because we *really* don't want to make rules about what sort of sex is okay and what is not. We also can't ban porn because that would be impossible and would violate our freedom of expression. So what can we do to try to get realistic images of sex into the minds of teenagers to give them the impressions we want?
I think the answer is that we deliberately show teenagers the porn we want them to see. They are viewing porn on their own on average between the ages of eleven and thirteen anyway so it isn't as if this will be the first time for the great majority of them. If we want them to see images of normal looking people who aren't surgically enhanced, who have body hair intact, and who have sex in a way that isn't designed to appeal to straight male fantasies then we need to show it in sex ed class. This should come along with a standard lecture about the reasons that people have sex. This is conspicuously absent from the standard curriculum which talks about all the reasons not to have sex, how STIs happen, and how babies are made. That is great and all but until we acknowledge the elephant in the room (that sex is fun and that sexual desire is normal) they aren't going to listen to us. Nothing gets a kid's attention quite so quickly as admitting something they know is true but which everybody pretends not to notice.
This could even provide a really useful springboard into other topics. Including a film depicting gay and/or lesbian sex in the curriculum is a good way to talk about how sex really isn't about heterosexual babymaking and about how relationships are not confined to a man and a woman. Sex is for entertainment primarily and emphasizing that both sex and relationships are mostly about pleasure, security, support, bonding, and fun would be a good thing I think as it would get us away from the escalator model of relationships that doesn't work for so many people. Heck, since I am already far beyond what is currently possible we could use this as an opportunity to talk about nonmonogamy as an option too. Being open and honest about all the possibilities that exist for relationships, sex, and love seems likely to get them to be open about their confusions and questions too and that can only be helpful.
Now I really want to be a sex ed teacher for a highschool class. I would blow their minds. Also, I would get lynched by mobs of angry parents. (How dare you tell my kid the truth! My omissions and deceptions are designed to push them along the life path I approve of! Rabble rabble!)