Date of Award

Spring 5-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Donald N. Cardinal

Second Advisor

Tara Barnhart

Third Advisor

Brian Willoughby


The relationship between sexuality education and self-reported pornography use is not well understood in the context of public policy and education. Little is known about women’s pornography use and the effects such exposure could have on female sexuality and well-being; therefore, this study sought to fill that gap. This study broadly examined the relationship between sexuality education in U.S. public schools and women’s pornography use to provide recommendations for future research and public policy. To do this, quantitative methods (i.e., Welch’s t tests for hypothesis testing and ANCOVAs for covariate elimination) were used in a sample of women who attended a U.S. public school and reported using pornography regularly. The state of sexuality education in U.S. public schools is not uniform. Although some states have incorporated comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), most state-mandated curricula in the United States still centers around abstinence-only sexuality education (AOSE) due to complicated moral frameworks deeply seeded in U.S. politics. This study sought to isolate in more detail what is known about CSE and AOSE and women’s pornography use. Findings suggested that regardless of sexuality education, women are using pornography at similar rates. In this sample, 60% of the women used pornography, and 69% of them began using pornography in childhood. Women who received AOSE reported using pornography at higher frequencies than their CSE peers, and 79% of women who reported using pornography used it as a source of sexuality learning in relation to sexual pleasure. Sexuality education does not appear to be adequately addressing topics that women need for sexual script development, as women are using pornography to learn about topics (e.g., pleasure), which is not being discussed in sexuality education—despite not wanting to use pornography or believing that it is a good source of learning about sexuality (Dawson et al., 2019a, 2019b; Rothman et al., 2021). Women require a more comprehensive curriculum that discusses pleasure and other topics necessary for the formation of sexual scripts, the discussion elaborates on how policymakers may use findings from this study to develop policies to address the needs of sexuality education in U.S. public schools.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Available for download on Wednesday, May 21, 2025