Report warns one-in-five young people use pornography for sex education

90% of young people view the internet as their most trusted source of information on sex

Report warns one-in-five young people use pornography for sex education

File photo. Image: Yui Mok/PA Archive/PA Images

A new report is warning that one-in-five young people think pornography is a “useful” source of information about healthy sexual relationships

The Positive Sexual Relations Report examines the attitudes of young people to healthy sexual relationships, consent and inappropriate sexual behaviour.

It found that young people are turning away from their parents and teachers when it comes to sexual advice – with 90% viewing the internet as their most trusted source of information on sex.

Commissioned by Youth Work Ireland (YWI), the report took in the opinions of people aged between 14 and 24-years-old.

YWI spokesperson Michael McLoughlin said young people still find talking about sex with parents and teachers awkward.

“Young people are turning to the internet a lot for sex education, relationship education; talking to each other and a good number of people using pornography which is probably something that would worry people,” he said.

“The education system probably needs to do a huge amount more in this area to provide better relationship and sex education.

“Some of that has started but a lot more needs to be done.”

Let's talk about sex

Despite over 70% saying they feel more comfortable talking about sex than their parent’s generation, many still find talking about sex with parents and teachers awkward.

Boys tended to more comfortable than girls when it comes to talking to parents or teachers – while girls are more comfortable talking to their friends.

74% of all respondents are comfortable talking about sex on social media and the internet.

Mr McLoughlin said it is time to change the “change the kind of space where we have the conversations” about sex.

“Classroom setting; chalk and talk, ‘open your books and let’s talk about sex’ probably isn’t the way to do this and I think teachers realise that,” he said.

“So we have got to have a more equal conversation.

“In youth work for example, we sit down more equally with people; we have conversations around other activities – it might be sport, it might be music – and you will be talking to young people all the time about what is going on in their lives.”

MeToo

The report found that 47% of young people feel their generation experiences more inappropriate sexual behaviour than their parents – however 45% feel more empowered to say no.

Half of respondents said they fell more empowered as a result of global movements like #MeToo.

Some 42% said they do not feel confident that good help and supports are available in their locality for someone who experienced inappropriate sexual behaviour.

Body image

Child psychologist Joanna Fortune said the reliance on porn as a “training aid” can warp a young person’s body image.

“Girls perceive that they are expected by the boys, or the people they are in relationships with, to have the body types of porn stars,” she said.

“So we have got very young girls going for body waxing from the age of 13 onwards.”

The Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said we have reached a “watershed moment” in terms of combating sexual abuse and harassment.

She said the concerns, fears and experiences of children and teenagers are “crucial if we are to find solutions.”

The child and family agency TUSLA is currently working with Rape Crisis Centres to pilot healthy relationship and sexual health education in transition year.

You can listen back to Joanna Fortune's comments on Newstalk Breakfast here: