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Kids turning to porn for sex education: study

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Children still not in their teens are turning to pornography to learn about sex because education in schools rarely includes any positive aspects of the experience, a new study reveals.

Australian researchers Maree Crabbe and David Corlett interviewed dozens of students and teachers, the London Telegraph reports. They discovered, among other things, that the average age at which a child first watches porn is 11.

And consider some of the chilling things kids told the researchers. "A lot of what I know about sex is because of porn," one teenage boy told them. Another said: "Growing up, watching porn – that's sort of where you get your grasp of what's normal and what's not."

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One explanation is that children turn to pornography because the education they receive in school often avoids explicit explanations and discussions of pleasure, the kinds of things kids are probably most curious about to begin with.

"Discussion of sex and intimacy is too often avoided in schools," the researchers told a conference at London University's Institute of Education. "Porn has become a cultural mediator in how young people are understanding and experiencing sex. Porn is our most prominent sex educator."

The chair of the British Association of Sexual Educators acknowledged that the bulk of sex education in that country is founded on promoting abstinence.

"A lot of our sex education is based on a don't-do model," she told the Telegraph.

It's hardly a phenomenon limited to Britain.

In a recent New York Times Magazine story on sex education, the vice-president of education for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America said, "There is abstinence-only sex education, and there's abstinence-based sex ed. There's almost nothing else left in public schools."

Providing kids with the full picture of sex – its biology, potential dangers and pleasures – is obviously tricky territory, but one could make a pretty solid argument that there's much more cause for concern in a teenage kid thinking anything that happens in porn is "normal."

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Should schools teach children the positive aspects of sex?

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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