Al Vernacchio is a high school sex ed teacher. He takes the interesting approach of frankly discussing pornography in the classroom…not in a prudish, condemning way, either, but honestly discussing how it’s unrealistic and that real sex is not the predictable mechanical process that you’ll find in internet videos.
…studies have shown that kids are often first exposed to porn — some of it depicting violent or criminal behavior — in their early teens. And analysis has correlated pornography usage with sexual aggression, increased casual sex, and stronger gender-stereotypical sexual beliefs. When I ask Vernacchio what he thinks kids are taking away from porn, he doesn’t miss a beat.
“They learn that men are supposed to be sexually aggressive,” says Vernacchio, who’s known for his TED Talks on sex education and has become a go-to source for the New York Times. “They learn that women are objects. They learn that in the absence of consent, you don’t need a clear ‘yes.’ They learn that sex doesn’t require communication. They learn that you’re supposed to know what to do — like this knowledge gets preloaded into you, and if you don’t know, there’s something wrong with you.”
But that’s not what’s strange and exotic about this guy — he’s just speaking common sense (or what ought to be common sense). This is the bit that convinced me he’s living on an alien planet:
In 20 years at Friends’ Central, Vernacchio has become well known and highly regarded at the progressive, creative-minded private school. Laurie Novo, who’s worked at Friends’ Central (including as co-principal) for 25 years, says she’s never heard a single parent complain about Vernacchio’s classes. In fact, they’re so wildly popular — especially the 11th- and 12th-grade “Sexuality and Society” curriculum — that the school once had to hold a lottery for seats. Casey Cipriani, a 2001 graduate who took the course’s first iteration, says she recalls other students — and even her own mother — asking to read her homework.
Not a single complaint…unbelievable.
Meanwhile, here in Stevens County, Minnesota, United States of America, Planet Earth, our students once elected a gay man to be prom queen, and the community rose up in indignant outrage. Our theater department put on a children’s play that was all about tolerance and diversity, and most of the local schools boycotted it. I’m pretty sure if one of our high school teachers had a talk about the conventions of porn videos and mentioned a few porn sites (that the students already know about, but the parents like to pretend they’re ignorant), I’d be able to witness a lynching.