Rhetorical Analysis (Post 2)

An analysis of Peggy Orenstein’s New York Times articles titled “When Did Porn Become Sex Ed?”

Source: Buzzfeed

“When Did Porn Become Sex Ed?” Summary

Peggy Orenstein’s New York Times article titled “When Did Porn Become Sex Ed?” evaluates sex education in America, what American parents choose to teach their children about sex and how these teachings affect those children’s views of sex and their bodies. Peggy Orenstein is also a New York Times bestselling author, writing “Girls & Sex” , “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” and “Schoolgirls”. Orenstein is a huge supporter of comprehensive sex education in schools.

Orenstein discusses abstinence only education and its effects on college student’s perspectives on sex with regards to porn. She further analyzes the adversity women face with sex education. She dives into Dutch sex education and the benefits a similar system could have on America. She concludes with an anecdote about a chat with her pre-teen daughter about porn and sex education.

Source: Working Moms

In order to get her point across, Orenstein uses a combination of pathos and logos. The use of logos, quotes and facts, in the article strengthens the main points and helps give the author further credibility. The use of pathos, personal stories and emotional tone, helps make the article more relatable and the witty tone helps take the edge off the piece, also making it more relatable. The uses of pathos and logos are effective in persuading the reader to agree with or understand the author’s point.

Use of Pathos

Orenstein uses pathos frequently throughout the article. Orenstein recalls “Driving home with my daughter, who is now in middle school, we passed a billboard whose giant letters on a neon-orange background read, ‘Porn kills love.’ I asked her if she knew what pornography was. She rolled her eyes and said in that jaded tone that parents of pre-teenagers know so well, ‘Yes, Mom, but I’ve never seen it.’ I could’ve let the matter drop, felt relieved that she might yet make it to her first kiss unencumbered by those images.” Orenstein uses her story to compel readers. Her story is similar to many people’s experiences with their parents and sex education, evoking an emotional response from the reader.

Source: InkPaperPen

Orenstein uses another situation with her daughter to further her point, “When my daughter was a baby, I remember reading somewhere that while labeling infants’ body parts, parents often include a boy’s gentials but not a girl’s. Leaving something unnamed, of course, makes it quite literally unspeakable.” Her short description of something we do not normally think about, but we relate to evokes feelings of interest and curiosity in the reader.

The short anecdotes use imagery and language, making the reader relive or think about a similar situation they have experienced, either as the kid, as the parent or both. This reliving or recalling of a similar situations leads the reader to make a connection with the author and her message. Orenstein effectively makes a connection with the reader through pathos.

Use of Logos

Orenstein uses logos to give herself and what she is saying credibility. Orensten asserts, “According to a survey of college students in Britain, 60 percent consult pornography, at least in part, as though an instrcution manual…” Her lack of quoting the exact survey reduces the effectiveness of her point. In order for her point to be effective, she should include a hyperlink or further information about this specific survey she is quoting. Without this specific information, the reader cannot validate what she is asserting.

Source: BBC

Orenstein uses a study comparing Dutch and American college student’s sexual experiences. Orenstein states, “A 2010 study published in The International Journal of Sexual Health comparing the early experiences of nearly 300 randomly chosen American and Dutch woman at two similar colleges.” The use of the specific study helps her gain greater credibility with the reader and further strengthen her assertions. By using a specific study conducted by a reputable sounding source, Orenstien appeals to logos, making her point more effective and believable to the reader.


The use of pathos in the article was effective. The author established common ground with the reader, making her point as effective as possible. The approach was appropriate for the audience. The author’s use pathos was directly related to experiences that a majority of people have had, appeal to many.

The use of logos in the article was both effective and not effective. The use of specific studies helped build rapport with the audience. On the flip side, the use of wide- ranging studies that were not specific had the opposite effect with the audience. Potentially, taking away from the central message of the article. The author’s use of logos was appropriate for the audience. To make the article more effective, the author should site more specific and reputable studies or surveys.


Orenstein, Peggy. “Opinion | When Did Porn Become Sex Ed?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Mar. 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/03/20/opinion/sunday/when-did-porn-become-sex-ed.html?_r=1. Accessed Sept. 2017.

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