Discussion of news topics with a point of view, including narratives by individuals regarding their own experiences

It’s not news that porn can influence sexual behavior.

But evidence shows that porn is stepping in where sex education is failing, in some cases. Specifically, when it comes to condom use. A study published in 2016 suggests that, among a small sample group, viewing sexually explicit material in which participants wore condoms led to an increase in condom use.

This says a lot about the state of sex education today.

There is no federally mandated sex ed program. Only 24 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education, and only 34 states mandate HIV education. Of those states, only 18 and D.C. require that information on contraception be taught.

Given all of this information, there seems to be a logical question that follows — should porn adapt to be more educational? Should there be a push to show safer sex in porn? And can porn actually work as positive sex education?

It might seem like an obvious yes. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll see that there are issues when you try to conflate porn with sex education.

“Since porn is entertainment, it only has responsibility to entertain consenting, educated adults who are interested in that kind of entertainment,” says Liara Roux, a sex worker, indie porn director and producer, and online organizer. “Our government is responsible for following the recommendations of scientists and educators for implementation of comprehensive sex ed that will allow people to healthily consume entertainment media.”

There’s also the fact that, even though plenty of young kids are watching porn, the industry isn’t necessarily set up for them.

“The porn industry is made for adults. It’s not made for kids,” says Laurie Betito, a sex therapist who has partnered with PornHub to create the site’s Sexual Wellness Center. The initiative, which is in its second year, was created as a place for people who view videos on PornHub to receive some kind of sexual education in the context of the porn they were viewing. Sex workers and performers write the posts, detailing everything from BDSM to anatomy.

“It’s amazing how little education there is out there, and how often people turn to pornography to get any kind of education,” Betito says.

But she and sex workers advocates like Roux are quick to remind folks that the porn industry isn’t about education. It’s about fantasy — and anyone watching should be able to put what they’re seeing in context.

A ballot proposition in California attempted to require condom use on all porn sets by implementing a fine for scenes that didn’t show condoms. It was voted down in 2016.

Roux says that movements like this are only set up to derail the porn industry. “There is fair criticism to be made of any media, but any cultural criticism of porn is filtered through a vast, extremely well-funded, faith-based, nonprofit complex that calls all pornography ‘sexual exploitation,’” she says.

And while the porn industry already has regulations in place for regular STI testing, Roux and other outspoken opponents of ballot initiatives like Proposition 60 argue that government involvement in the industry can only lead to lawsuits and harassment, which aim to restrict porn overall. Since most porn performers are also producers, they have financial stake in the porn they create. If they’re more susceptible to lawsuits, their capital is at risk, which means it could be harder to actually produce porn.

There are also the logistics of it. Condoms aren’t made for the long days of shooting.

“Condoms don’t work for porn sets because porn sets aren’t sex between couples,” she says. “They are sets with equipment, hot lights, and intensive time and energy demands.”

In fact, a 15-minute scene can easily take an entire eight-hour day to film.

“Skin to skin contact is more easily lubricated and maintained,” Roux says. “Pain from the friction and additional stop-and-start time to continuously check, relube, and replace condoms make already exhausting work even harder.”

So while seeing condoms in porn can influence condom use in the real world, it’s important to remember that it isn’t the porn industry’s job to be teaching our kids about sex education. Instead of pointing a judgemental finger at porn for its influence on our sex lives, we should instead be more critical about the abysmal state of sex education in this country.

Folks should be learning safe sex in schools or from their parents — not from porn performers.

Benito puts it best: “You don’t look to the Fast and Furious movies to teach proper driving techniques,” she says. “So it’s a little strange to ask the porn industry, which promotes fantasy, to be responsible for teaching healthy sex practices.”

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