Learning from pornography: results of a mixed methods systematic review

Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Sex Education: sexuality, society and learning, 2020, online first, pp. 1-17
Issue Date:
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Researchers and media commentators often claim that young people are increasingly learning about sex through pornography, but evidence about this is unclear. This article reports on a mixed methods systematic review of research on pornography use for sexual learning. Ten articles were included that explicitly addressed how porn users describe the educational aspects of pornography. Thematic analysis located five key themes about ‘porn education’ in these articles: learning the mechanics of sex; learning concerning sexual identities and sexualities; inadequate information through pornography; wrong lessons from pornography; and a need for more relevant sex education. No articles attempted to measure or discuss whether people who access pornography have better (or worse) skills and knowledge about sex and sexual health than those who do not. Sex education is only discussed in relation to young people, neglecting attention to lifelong learning about sex and sexuality. According to this dataset, pornography use can offer useful information about the mechanics of sex, and this is particularly pertinent for young gay men. Many articles reveal that young people are often aware of the shortcomings of pornography as a source of information and guidance, and that improvements to sex and relationships education are necessary.
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