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Porn… maybe you’ve heard of it. Or seen it. Or maybe your kids have.

At Planned Parenthood, we’re sometimes called upon by friends or family to weigh in on sex-related topics. One of these topics is porn.

If someone wants to talk about porn — and particularly if that person is young, impressionable, and/or rapidly acquiring information (or misinformation) about sex — here are some important points to discuss:

It’s normal to want to watch porn, and to have fantasies. It’s ok, there’s nothing wrong with us. Adults are curious, young people  are curious. Fantasies and sexual feelings are normal.

Porn isn’t real sex. Just as a person doesn’t learn how to drive from watching the ‘Fast & Furious’ movies, they don’t learn how to have sex from porn. During real sex, a lot of unscripted things happen: funny, klutzy things. And that’s definitely okay.

Most real people don’t look like porn actors. The people in porn are paid actors. As such, their bodies don’t always look like non-actor bodies. Penis and breast size, for example, are often exaggerated in porn. 

Porn often doesn’t show protected sex — or the actors having a discussion of protected sex. Because you can get STDs from sex — from oral sex too, by the way! — it’s important to emphasize this point: Use condoms. And birth control.

The issue of consent is often missing from porn. Porn can blur a lot of lines about consent. There can be depictions of sexual assault or rape where an actor seemingly enjoys it. But if an actor behind the scenes says no and doesn’t want to participate, we don’t see that part. All sexual activity should include enthusiastic consent from both parties.

When real sex does happen: It should be consenting, and protection and birth control should be used. This is maybe the clearest and most important message of all. When young people (all people!) do have sex, they need to understand what constitutes healthy sex: Consent, protection, and…communication.

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