Thursday, 19 January 2012

Teaching 14-15 year olds about porn

76% of teenagers have not thought about how porn distorts what real sex is.
Figures come from my research in this trial run of lessons

Over the last few weeks and months I have been researching and writing a lesson looking at how the media distorts sex and relationships. Pornography has been a big issue to tackle and this week I have tested my lesson and I wanted to share my early results. I've posted the lesson plan, print out resources and powerpoint on my website, just scroll down to the Distortions of media section. The Lesson progresses through a foundation of media distorting what is beautiful, moving on to how films/TV distorts relationships and finishing with an exercise that shows how porn distorts sex and what the consequences of believing porn could be. At the end of the lesson i hand out a feedback sheet. one of the questions asks them to write down what words they associate with porn. I've made their results into a wordle for you. (the bigger the word the more people wrote it down)



I did put some suggested words on the feedback sheet and many young people choose just from these but some of the unique additions above are pretty interesting. The general trend at the end of the lesson was that they teenagers recognised porn as being an unreliable source of information about sex. I am very happy with this result. The lesson did not go into the ethics of porn or explore in any detail the idea it could be addictive (yet they did choose that word as associated with porn). Those issues are for another lesson, my aim was imply for the students to recognise that porn distorts what is normal sex and to remember in the future that it is a terrible place to learn about sex. 

Here is some of the feedback from the students 

"was a good lesson was worth listening to"
"It was helpful for my future sex life"
"It was awkward :$ But useful"
"the lesson was alright, I know more stuff"

At the start and the end of the lesson I always do some simple class polls to try and track if my lesson has had any impact. One of the questions I ask in this lesson is "Is porn a bad way to learn about sex" so far in each lesson we have seen an increase in people agreeing with this statement. From 42% at the start to 88% after I have finished teaching. 


From the small trial this week so far I think I can class this lesson as successful. Now I need to look at how I can improve both the content and the delivery. It has been interesting to note that compared to other topics like HIV and contraceptives the group was a lot more embarrassed by this topic. I think this may be because their is a lot more secrecy around porn then some other sexual topics and possibly some of the group were nervous I was going to find out if they did watch porn. Culturally porn is strongly linked to masturbation, it was one of the most common words associated with porn by students that did not originate from my starting list. So maybe feelings around porn influenced their attitude. It was great to see the class loosen up each time by about mid-way. The groups always got animated when discussing what lessons from porn are true information or false. This exercise really tapped into what young people want to talk about, "what sex is like". 

Out of all the lessons that porn teaches the ones that prompted the most discussion were:

  • It is normal for women to have hairless pubic regions
  • Sex is better when it is fast, forceful and rough 
  • All women enjoy threesomes 
  • Anal sex is clean and simple

Something about these topics really got the groups talking. This allowed me to bring in all sorts of facts and ideas. Such as how porn might put pressure on women to accept violent or degrading sexual acts, How they should look into anal sex carefully before trying it and to think carefully before attempting self bikini wax or shaving. 

I am looking forward to trying this lesson again and seeing how it can be improved. Hopefully more schools, sexual health workers and sex and relationship educators will start tackling porn in the future.