Sign In
Boston Public Health Commission Home

Porn Literacy

In partnership with Emily Rothman, Ph.D. (Boston University School of Public Health) and Nicole Daley (One Love Foundation), the Boston Public Health Commission created a Porn Literacy Curriculum to be used within the Start Strong program.  The curriculum is neither anti porn nor pro porn. All of our work is based on current research literature. We NEVER show porn. We simply continue and build upon existing conversations to promote communication, consent, and critical thinking. This work was featured in the New York Times.

Why did Start Strong 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.

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.

The curriculum comprises nine lessons that can be combined into as few as five sessions or done individually over nine weeks:

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

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

  3. 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;

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

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

  6. seven types of healthy intimacy and healthy dating relationships;

  7. healthy flirting and sexual harassment;

  8. 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

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


Notable Peer-Reviewed Publichations

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.

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.

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.

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. 


OnlineNewsRoomStyles
Boston Public Health Commission
1010 Massachusetts Ave, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02118.
Phone:(617) 534-5395 Email: info@bphc.org