Planned Parenthood is an institution in North America, and one of the go-to resources for teens and adults looking for information about healthy sex and sexuality. PP has a site aimed specifically at teens which provides straight-forward information on topics such as Sex and Masturbation, Relationships, Pregnancy and LGBTQ identities. The layout is superbly simple, and what is great about this website is that it doesn’t try to cover too much, as some of the other sexual health education websites do. You won’t get lost in information here — each section breaks down into Frequently Asked Questions, which really get to the core of each topic.
The sections that are particularly well done are those on “Masturbation and Sex” and “Our bodies.” While the section on bodies does not specifically address pornography, it does help teens navigate one of the issues that watching porn raises — the idea that there is an ideal male and female body, and an ideal set of genitals. Yes, just like there are beauty standards for breasts and abs, there are standards for what counts as an attractive or “normal” penis or vagina. But in reality there are as many varieties of penises and vaginas as there are people in the world, and Planned Parenthood does a great job of addressing this issue with teens.
The section on masturbation is also particularly helpful, since taking pleasure in your own body is often painted as weird or wrong or sinful. You scratch your ear when it’s itchy don’t you? So why wouldn’t you explore the sensations in the sexual parts of your body? Planned Parenthood’s site does an excellent job of helping teens understand that being sexual and having questions about sex and the body is normal.
Of course, like all the other sexual health sites aimed at teens (other than Scarleteen), Planned Parenthood’s site doesn’t address the topic of teens and porn outside of the issue sexting. They even have a Public Service Announcement urging teens to “Think Twice Before You Press Send,” which is admirable, but which doesn’t really address the issue of why teens might want to share sexual images of themselves to begin with, or how technology and sexuality go together. In fact, Planned Parenthood’s site doesn’t really address issues of sexual pleasure that in depth, beyond telling young people that sex is normal. This is probably because Planned Parenthood is a health agency and its aim is harm-reduction. It wants to encourage preventative measures to avoid infection and/or unwanted pregnancy as well as address the stigma and shame around being sexual that keep people from talking about sexual health in the first place.