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porn literacy curriculum

In 2016, in response to concern about the impact of pornography on adolescents, Jess Alder and Nicole Daley at the Boston Public Health Commission’s Start Strong program partnered with a researcher, Dr. Emily Rothman, to develop a media literacy curriculum on pornography for adolescents. The curriculum was created based on qualitative and quantitative research with youth about their use of pornography and dating experiences, and expertise in youth-developed and trauma-informed frameworks. The curriculum is nine-sessions and titled: The Truth About Pornography. It is intended to engender conversations about critical consumption of media, increasing healthy communication, and emphasizing the value of consent. The curriculum steers clear of promoting either an “anti-pornography” or “pro-pornography” agenda. 

For sample curriculum evaluation or more information about why the curriculum was built:

Sexually Explicit Media Literacy Curriculum for Youth: Rationale and Overview
Developed and Piloted Spring 2016 - Present
Curriculum Authors: Emily F. Rothman, ScD; Nicole Daley, MPH; Jess Alder, MPA
Contributor: Jamelia Willock, BA


Why did you start a pornography literacy program?
Whether the use of pornography by adults, or youth, constitutes a “public health crisis” is presently being debated. However, virtually no one believes that the primary source of information about sexuality, sex, health and relationships for youth should be internet pornography—and yet there are research studies that suggest that some youth are receiving part of their education about sex from sexually explicit internet media.1,2 Just as “media literacy” programs have been helping youth understand how a steady flow of advertising, entertainment and social media influences their perceptions, a “pornography literacy” curriculum might help youth interpret and make sense of the sexually explicit media to which they are exposed.


What is the focus of the curriculum?
This curriculum does not presume that youth have viewed pornography and no pornography is shown during the class. Instead, the topic of pornography—which so many youth find funny, new, and interesting to talk about—is used as a vehicle for raising related topics including: sexual consent, healthy dating and respectful relationships, expectations about male/female roles in sex and relationships (i.e, “gender norms”), the unacceptability of violence in relationships, unhealthy attitudes that encourage body dissatisfaction, the potential for commercial sexual exploitation, and that choosing to work in pornography is not typically a quick or easy way to become rich or a celebrity.. Rather than focus exclusively on telling youth what not to do, the curriculum highlights the importance of healthy, respectful dating and sexual relationships.


Curriculum Overview
The curriculum comprises nine lessons that can be combined into as few as five sessions or done individually over nine weeks. The topics covered include:

 

  • helping teens understand their own values and pre-existing beliefs about sexually explicit media;

  • the history of pornography and regulation of obscenity, including using obscenity charges to persecute sexual minorities;

  • occupational conditions of some pornography performers that include lack of employee benefits, required sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing, and potential coercion on set in amateur or illegal filming settings;

  • defining sexual consent and understanding basics about STIs; the risks of compulsive behavior related to pornography;

  • risk factors for some youth for commercial sexual exploitation that may be connected to the production of illegally-produced pornography;

  • seven types of healthy intimacy and healthy dating relationships;

  • healthy flirting and sexual harassment;

  • legal matters including our state laws about the possession and distribution of sexually explicit images of minors and of adults, with discussion of so-called “revenge porn”; and

  • talking with peers about pornography and teaching them new information.


References
1. Rothman EF, Kaczmarsky C, Burke N, Jansen E, Baughman A. (2015). "Without Porn...I Wouldn't Know Half the Things I Know Now": A Qualitative Study of Pornography Use Among a Sample of Urban, Low-Income, Black and Hispanic Youth. Journal of Sex Research. 52(7):736-746.


2. Martellozzo E, Monaghan A, Adler J, Davidson J, Leyva R, Horvath M. (2016). "I wasn’t sure it was normal to watch it…” A quantitative and qualitative examination of the impact of online pornography on the values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of children and young people. Accessed 2016, July 10.


3. van Oosten JMF. (2016). Sexually Explicit Internet Material and Adolescents' Sexual Uncertainty: The Role of Disposition-Content Congruency. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 45(4):1011-1022.


4. Sun C, Bridges A, Johnson JA, Ezzell MB. (2016). Pornography and the Male Sexual Script: An Analysis of Consumption and Sexual Relations. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 45(4):983-994.