Talking sex ed & porn with Congress & the APA

This week I’m in Washington, DC giving very different presentations to two very different groups. I’ll be giving Congressional briefings on science-based sex education. And I’ll be giving a half-day webinar for the American Psychological Association on couples counseling & psychotherapy around pornography. These two subjects might seem unrelated, but they aren’t. Consider:

If young people were taught media literacy and porn literacy, they’d understand that porn relies on editing, lighting, makeup, and modern digital techniques. And they’d understand that porn isn’t a documentary, it’s more like a highlight reel.

If young people were encouraged to communicate with their partners about sex, they’d notice how much it’s missing in porn—especially the part about “Wait, I’d prefer it this way,” or “Y’know, I’d rather not do that.”

If young people were taught that contraception is a normal part of intercourse, they’d understand that its lack in porn is just part of the fantasy.

If young people were taught empathy and respect for others in sex ed class, they’d notice when it’s missing in porn—and not expect that selfishness or disrespect would work in real sex.

If young people were taught about male and female anatomy, they’d understand that the porn version of women climaxing from intercourse (in about 2 seconds) is inaccurate. And they’d understand that lube is almost always a good thing to add to sex, although it’s typically missing on-screen.

If young people were taught decision-making skills, they wouldn’t assume that the “spontaneous” sex shown in porn is a good idea.

If young people were taught about the reality of sexual fantasy, and told that fantasy does not necessarily reflect desire, they wouldn’t feel so guilty about their sexual curiosity and fantasies, which drives a lot of porn-viewing.

I’m always trying to teach adults that “Sex is not about what the bodies are doing, it’s about how the people are feeling.” If we successfully taught that to young people, we wouldn’t have to teach it to adults.

Happily, everyone at the Congressional briefing will be getting a copy of my current book, Sexual Intelligence. I hope they see the summary: “Sex is more than an activity—it’s an idea.”


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