Kids are naturally curious about how sex works, what a naked body looks like, and what goes where. By the time we become teenagers, our raging hormones kick in and we don’t just want to know, we need to know, and we need to know now!

Unfortunately, the level of sex education in most schools and the “birds and bees talk” provided at home almost never satisfy our need for very specific knowledge about how real live people have sex and how they enjoy sex. It’s not enough to learn solely about abstinence, preg­nancy prevention, and all the potentially harmful sexually transmitted infections that exist. As kids, we may be curious about things such as what people look like having sex, what different sexual positions are pos­sible, and what kinds of sexual expressions and sounds occur.

Kevin, a thirty-four-year-old investment banker who attended semi­nary at age fourteen in order to train to become a priest, found that whenever sexual information was withheld, it just made him more deter­mined to get it. “During movie night, the priest in charge would hold a handkerchief over the parts of the film where there was kissing or sexual interest between partners. His making such a big deal about it only fueled my drive to want to look at porn. I developed a strong craving to see what it was we weren’t supposed to see.”

Because porn can be so easy to obtain—and displays so much more graphic sexual behavior with real life descriptions, sights, and sounds than traditional sex education materials—many of the people we inter­viewed turned to porn when they were young as their primary source of information about sex. Hector, a doctoral student, explains,“I first started looking at porn when I was about ten. I went with my older brother to his friend’s house to look at magazines and videos. It was mostly an informa­tional kind of thing. I was looking at porn to try and figure out what sex was all about—how things are done, different positions—to learn about things that I might like to implement one day.”

Zane, another college student, had a unique approach to “home­work.” “Early on in high school I discovered that there were naked chicks on the Internet. I became endlessly fascinated with them. Part of the fascination was being a horny teenager and just being insanely curi­ous about sex, but I was also drawn to the porn because of the endless amount of new things I could see. Following that first exposure, I would look at porn for several hours a day, mostly when I should have been doing my homework.”

Patty, now fifty-five years old, told us how porn provided her in­formation about sex she wasn’t getting anywhere else. “One night after putting the children I was babysitting to bed, I saw a stack of Playboy magazines in a cupboard behind the sofa in their television room. I was twelve. No one in my family would have ever dared to subscribe to this kind of magazine. The sex stories made me realize there was a whole world of sexual possibilities. Unlike with the other families on the block, I was always available to babysit for those neighbors whenever they needed me.”

Without us realizing it, the information porn provides us about sex when we’re young is often misleading, and in some cases, ludicrously wrong. While it can teach us what certain body parts look like, things are often, well, let’s just say, out of proportion. What guy hasn’t looked at a male porn star and wondered if he has somehow been shortchanged? Or looked at his wife and wondered why her breasts weren’t huge and perky?