As someone who is supposed to be a leader in sex education, I’ve finally found clarity, as distrubing as it might be.

I finally understand that we will never, ever be allowed to do realistic sex education in public schools. It’s not just the uber-conservative Evangelical parents who won’t allow it; it’s the moms and dads who should know better.

If you think I'm exaggerating, earlier this month, a militia of parents in northern Califorina forced the school board to refuse a book for sex education that included sexual pleasure. So the average nine- to twelve-year-old boy is watching the most explicit hardcore porn in the history of mankind, and we can’t talk about sexual pleasure in public schools.

This leaves me with two questions: How do we deliver sex education to today’s teens and young adults on their turf and in ways they consume information, and how do we make sex education effective for people whose main source of sex education is porn?

In porn, women are instantly pleased the moment a man whips out a gigantic penis; forget conversation, consent, foreplay, trust, desire, respect and concern. And forget that the average porn actor is taking enough Viagra to give every man in assisted living an erection for a week.

Sex education today needs to help with the distortions of porn. Yet sex ed today remains stuck in the '80s, when it became absorbed with using condoms to prevent the spread of HIV. Sex ed continues to focus on the horrible things that can go wrong when people have sex, from getting diseases and experiencing unwanted pregnancies to bullying and date rape.

While these are an incredibly important part of sex education, they should never have become what defines sex education. Because when the only message we teach about sex involves catastrophe, legitimate sex education becomes no different from abstinence-only sex education--it's all about fear and shame.

Unfortunately, there is no money available today for teaching about pleasure, women's orgasms, and the importance of learning to tell a partner what feels good and what doesn't. If you want to teach sex ed in the schools, the only place you can go is to the dark side of sex, talking about all of the terrible things that can happen when people have sex. Bring up pleasure, orgasms and masturbation, and you'll be fired faster than you can say Tea Party. 

Yet if we don't make pleausure the cornerstone of sex eduction, nobody is going to listen. Teens and young adults will turn to porn for sex education, which is what they've been doing and will continue to do until we learn to do sex education differently.  

About the Author

Paul Joannides

Paul Joannides, Psy.D., is a research psychoanalyst, the author of Guide To Getting It On, and a speaker on college campuses.

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