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McGill graduate spearheads PornHub’s new sex ed initiative

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Pornhub, the largest online provider of pornography, launched a new initiative website on Feb. 1. Called the Sexual Wellness Center, it is the first sexual education website undertaken by a pornographic website.

“At the Pornhub Sexual Wellness Center, we are fully dedicated to your health and education, and to create a place where information pertaining to the physical, psychological, and even the most intimate aspects of sex is available to all,” Dr. Laurie Betito, 1988 McGill University graduate in psychology and Montreal-based clinical psychologist, explained.

Betito is the creator of Pornhub’s new initiative and the author of the majority of its content. The Sexual Wellness Center also brings in experts to contribute articles about reproductive health, anatomy, and sexually-transmitted infections, including Dr. Zhana Vranglova, an associate professor of psychology at New York University.

Pornhub had an estimated 21.2 billion visits in 2015, which, according to Betito, is an enormous population who the Sexual Wellness Center would be able to reach.

“Pornography, is […] all just fantasy,” Betito said. “But, unfortunately, it is sometimes the only sort of sexual education people receive and if it’s possible that this website could potentially reach millions of people, it would be a step in the right direction.”

The Sexual Wellness Center also encourages visitors to send in questions regarding any aspect of sex. Betito’s latest responses answer questions regarding the female orgasm and male virginity.

“In just a few weeks, we have received hundreds of questions, telling us that the site has already gained some traction,” Betito said.

According to statistics published by the Guttmacher Institute, a U.S. sexual and reproductive health think tank, 76 per cent of public and private U.S. schools taught abstinence as the best method of avoiding pregnancy. Furthermore, 88 per cent of all U.S. schools allowed parents to remove their children from sexual education classes. Instead, the extensive accessibility of pornography influences children’s and young adults’ views on sex, in particular with respect to its physical aspects.

Not everyone agrees that Pornhub’s sex education initiative is decidedly beneficial. Quartz had a more skeptical outlook on the website.

“The ironies of Pornhub’s endeavor, of course, are clear,” Leah Fessler wrote in Quartz. “If any industry has negatively impacted young people’s understanding of healthy sexual behavior, it’s mainstream porn. And if any company epitomizes mainstream porn, it’s Pornhub. [Pornhub’s Sexual Wellness Center’s] site collectively feels like a wash of disconnected, elementary, and at times, even inaccurate information which, without proper context, serves limited educative power.”

It is too early to determine the efficacy of the Sexual Wellness Center as the site only launched a few weeks ago. However, according to Betito, Pornhub releases an annual report on the viewership of its content and this new initiative is very likely to also be included in the statistics.

There are still some technical issues to address as the Sexual Wellness Center is set in motion. From Pornhub’s main site, it is currently impossible to navigate to the Sexual Wellness Center. Betito responded that she is working on resolving the issue and increasing the visibility of the site.

“Pornhub has told me they are working on it,” Betito explained. “We just got started a couple of weeks ago. They will also post some banners to advertise in between the videos.”

Betito also responded to accusations that Pornhub is pursuing sex ed just to get more clicks.

“I want to make it clear that this is not some sort of publicity stunt by Pornhub to attract more people to their site,” Betito said. “They already have enough traffic as it is.”

Aesthetically, the Sexual Wellness Center has distinguished itself from its mainstream partner. The website’s pale blue background is in stark contrast to the black and orange theme featuring Pornhub’s more explicit materials.

With Pornhub’s bold new initiative, other pornographic websites may follow suit. Just this month, the adult website xHamster protested Utah’s refusal to adopt a comprehensive sexual education program by redirecting traffic from the state to websites hosting sexual education videos. Utah currently provides abstinence education only.

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