Pornography should be part of sex education, says sex therapist Jason Winters

Sex therapist Jason Winters says sex education needs to address the pornography children are watching to help prevent sexual problems later in life.

By the time they've reached Grade 6, the majority of children in B.C. will have seen some form of pornography

Sex therapist Jason Winters says sex education needs to address the pornography children are watching to help prevent sexual problems later in life. (drjasonwinters.com)

By the time they've reached Grade 6, the majority of children in B.C. will have seen some form of pornography. 

But according to sex therapist Jason Winters, it's not the pornography that's doing the damage — it's the lack of conversation about what they're seeing that's setting kids back.

"If you have kids who have had no real education about what a relationship looks like … once they start watching pornography ... they're going to make assumptions about what sex is going to look like later," said Winters.

"If pornography becomes your blueprint, because you know nothing else, then ... when you do encounter a real partner, there's going to be frustration and disappointment."

'Access to porn is easy'

Winters teaches a course on human sexuality at the University of British Columbia and treats patients privately for a range of sex-related issues, including pornography addiction.

He says he acknowledges many parents don't want pornography discussed as part of sex education, but calls that a head-in-the-sand approach.

"Parents think if it doesn't get talked about at school, their kids won't be interested in it, or won't find it," he said.

"Access to porn is easy, it's absolutely everywhere ... All young men watch porn and now many young women do as well."

But as Winters points out, porn distills sex down to the absolute and most intense part of the fantasy — there's rarely even a conversation before sex happens.

So if kids watch porn without context, they have no idea that this isn't a relationship, he says.

'What is intimacy? What is love?'

Winters says sex education needs to discuss more than just the anatomy and risks of sex — and put pornography in context, by discussing exactly what it is missing.

"What is intimacy? What is love? What are the emotions that you feel? ... What are the impacts of relationships on you? How can you stand up for what you want and what you don't want?"

"These key components of intimacy are all missing from the sex ed curriculum, much like they're also missing from pornography."

Winters advises starting sex education early, to establish a way of talking about sex that doesn't involve embarrassment and shame.

It may be awkward for parents or teachers now, but it may pay off in the long run. Winters says a lot of clients' sexual problems were made much worse by the messages they received growing up.

"It's made it impossible to seek help, or talk about these things — until it gets to the point where it's a crisis," he said.

"Those who oppose this discussion are doing a huge disservice to their kids ... The stage gets set at a young age."