Economy

The Real Reason College Students Watch Porn

A new study from the National Union of Students in the United Kingdom reveals that over half of college students watch porn. Duh. (It also reveals that the other half of college students are liars. We didn't really need a study to tell us that.)

But, the study did include something interesting about the reasons why college students watch porn: 60 percent of students surveyed said that they watch porn in order to learn more about sex and to fill in gaps in their sexual education.

Oh no! This is, um, bad. Because if you're learning about sex from porn you might think that women consent to sex by opening the door to the pizza guy, or that men should initiate sex by taking off their pants in front of a stranger, or that adult human mammals don't grow body hair and bleaching your butthole is a good idea! I mean, I guess porn can teach you the basic mechanics of what goes where...nope. Shut it down. Porn is not meant to be educational.

These results are pretty sad. The NUS is using this study to advise on new sex ed curriculum in the U.K. And we should learn from this study in the U.S., too. Because sexual education in the states is scarily inconsistent.

How are students supposed to navigate consent when the only message they've been taught about sex is "don't do it"? And porn is no help here. Most mainstream porn is terrible about consent. Guy shows up to fix a woman's radiator, takes off his pants, music starts, sex ensues. The actors probably signed consent forms before they started filming, but the movie doesn't show that part. The movie makes it seem like sexy glances and a 70s bass line will let you know when someone has consented to sex and...real life doesn't have music cues to let you know when someone wants to hook up.

President Obama's 2016 budget does not include further federal funding of the Abstinence Education Program that has existed since 2010. But since these decisions are made on a state and district level, its difficult to know if more comprehensive sex education will be coming to more grade schools any time soon.

In the meantime, some teachers have found more creative ways to bring sex into the curriculum. One teacher in Mississippi, where he is prohibited from discussing contraception with his students, made this video on how to put "socks" on. Some English teachers bring works of literature into the classroom that explore sex, relationships, and consent and give students the opportunity to discuss these issues in safety. This is a great way to address sex organically in the curriculum, but in some districts these books are banned and the teachers punished. Which is a particular shame because literature has been found, in some studies, to promote empathy in students. A little empathy might go a long way towards helping students navigate consent. And I don't know if anyone's done a study on this, but from my extensive personal research, porn does not promote empathy... It does, however, promote computer viruses so, take precautions and always use protection software.