Watching porn won’t turn teens into horndogs…

Posted by: on Oct 25, 2013 | No Comments

Viewing sexually explicit material through media such as the Internet, videos, and magazines can influence the sexual behavior of adolescents and young adults, but only to a very small extent. That is the conclusion of a new study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. The findings suggest that the practice is just one of many factors that may influence the sexual behaviors of young people.

Concerns have been raised that viewing sexually explicit material may negatively affect sexual behaviors, particularly in young people. Because previous studies on the topic have been narrowly focused or limited in other ways, Gert Martin Hald, PhD, of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, and his colleagues conducted an online survey of 4,600 young people aged 15 to 25 years who lived in The Netherlands.

The participants were asked about their use of pornography and about various aspects of their sexuality, including the number of sexual partners they have had, whether they had one-night stands, whether they had ever exchanged money for sex, and whether they participated in “adventurous sex,” such as threesomes.

Gert Martin Hald  says previous studies have tended to focus on the link between pornography consumption and young people’s rates or risks of contracting sexually transmitted infections, often failing to control for other factors. “This means that previous studies could have overestimated the association between pornography and sexual behaviours,” he says.

So for their study, he and his fellow researchers also considered a variety of other factors, such as participants’ sexual self-esteem, their sexual assertiveness and “sexual sensation seeking,” or the extent to which they sought out sexual excitement and physical pleasure.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the team found that more than 88 per cent of young men and nearly 45 per cent of young women had used pornography in the past 12 months. The male participants were more interested in hard-core pornography, while the female participants more frequently watched soft-core material, and both genders preferred to consume it via the Internet than on television and DVDs or in magazines.

There was a direct association between watching sexually explicit media and a variety of sexual behaviors—in particular adventurous sex and sex that involves the exchange of money—even when a number of other factors were taken into account. However, the association was modest, accounting for between 0.3 percent and four percent of differences in sexual behaviors. This indicates that watching sexually explicit media is one of a number of factors that may shape the sexual behaviors of young individuals, but it may not be as directly linked as previously thought.

“Our data suggest that other factors such as personal dispositions—specifically sexual sensation seeking—rather than consumption of sexually explicit material may play a more important role in a range of sexual behaviors of adolescents and young adults, and that the effects of sexually explicit media on sexual behaviors in reality need to be considered in conjunction with such factors,” Dr. Hald said.

The findings downplay warnings from the likes of Donna Frietas, author of The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused about Intimacy, that young people are learning how to act and talk about sex from porn stars.

Hald says his study suggests that more attention and research should be directed to other influences beyond just pornography.

“There has been a sort of moral panic – sometimes in Britain and in the U.S. especially – about the influence of pornography on sexual behaviours,” he says. “And although this study can’t claim to investigate cause and effect, it can still say that there are a lot of other factors that determine sexual behaviours, so maybe we should put the debate into a larger perspective instead of being just one-sided.”

Even though pornography may not have a big impact on what young people do, Hald acknowledges that previous studies have shown it could affect how they think about sex, depending on the individual.

“Pornography for the general user might not add to, for example, attitudes of violence against women,” Hald says. “But for a small group of people, pornography seemed to increase the likelihood that these attitudes are formed or developed and also of increased sexual aggression.”

He suggests the best advice for parents is to discuss sex with their children and to address pornography as part of those conversations.

“But,” he adds, “they shouldn’t worry as much … if their child uses pornography, at least from a scientific point of view. It’s not the Third World War, so to speak.”

“It has been 65 years since Kinsey first published on sexual behaviors, yet researchers continue to avoid this area of science. It is important to have factual information in order to make educated decisions,” explained Dr. Irwin Goldstein, Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine.

The study’s findings may be particularly informative for policy makers and educators concerning the effects of sexually explicit media consumption on young people’s sexual behaviors.

 

So what do young people think about porn?   I interviewed some teenagers to try and find out.

 

Sami (13). “I first started looking at online porn when I was eleven, not for the enjoying, but because I wanted to discover about sex and women’s bodies because I never saw a nude woman in real life.  I cannot discus this with my family, cuz we are Muslims and we don’t talk about this sort of stuff. I think many older people don’t realise just how easy it is to get to. It is as simple as opening google videos, turning off the filter and searching like you would for anything else.  Combine that with how tech savy teens are anyway. People say it is wrong, and I try to stop, but I just cant stop looking. I couldn’t pay for magazines because I don’t have any money but everything is free on the internet and because there is nothing else to do I can’t stop.”

 

Rachel (17) “It’s a useful way for boys to let off sexual steam. My younger brother who is 15 uses porn all the time even though my parents put blocks on the computer in the living room kids will find a way—through any Internet filter, past any padlock, through any key code—to get at the things that fascinate them. I think if a young person is going out for it, they’re going to find it one way or another, if it’s really hard or really easy. I’m not shocked by it and I feel it is probably a good thing because it is delaying him having sex and there is no risk that he can get a sexually transmitted disease or get a girl pregnant. My brother is smart enough to know the difference between what he sees onscreen and what might happen when he has a relationship with a girl. Myself, I find it boring because it is just the same kind of images over and over again. I have been going out with my boyfriend since I was 16 and as soon as we began to have a proper relationship we both realised that porn was rubbish. You have to go through the phases of finding out who you are and defining who your romantic partner should be. It’s not going to take away from that.”

 

Lawrence (17). I have been looking at porn online since I was 13. I use it a few times a week.  Whereas, a couple of generations prior to me, looking at Page 3-cwas fairly risqué and naughty school boy etc, for my generation I think the mass availability and ease of access to porn has ensured that it has become a largely widespread and normal occurrence. In fact it has got to the point that nowadays that if a boy is known not to watch porn at a certain age, then he will deemed an outcast and not normal. Amongst the wrong minds online porn can be a case for concern. There are the obvious harms of widely available and encouraged paedophilia which is greatly discussed, but also the more it is used the more future generations won’t be content with just your regular ‘run of the mill’ online porn. There is very little to stop even the youngest person accessing online porn, and within this, some frankly disgusting stuff. Online porn essentially has the potential to instil a single concept of what a woman is to a boy. Undoubtedly there’s some sort of Suffragettes themed online porn out there, but for the most part there is little else but the message of ‘this woman is my sexual tool, I’ll do with her what I like and she’ll do as I say’. If this sort of thing is seen from a defining age, where a young person’s true personality is being formed, I believe that it will not only affect a young person’s ability to relate in teenage years but this concept will still be embedded as they enter adulthood.”

 

Kendra (16).   “Some boys I know treat girls differently from other girls. They talk to them in a jokey way, talking about their breasts in a dirty way and I would ask why and they have said that girls have to be treated like to be turned on, they then narrow it down to porn. So they say that they should like it, and it would get them “turned on” and then I would ask how do they know that that would work? And they say it works all the time on porn, and I tend to leave the conversation there. On a larger scale I think porn is fairly detrimental in what it can make someone of my age feel about sex. I feel that as online porn is so widespread, it gives people a supposed justification in reality, as they’re watching it happen in ‘reality’. From my perspective, I’ve spoken to people my age who would regard some of the more minor (in terms of what else could be seen of course) demeaning acts towards women in porn (slapping, hitting etc) as something of the norm that their girlfriends should be accepting of. Whereas porn is an active subject of conversation (depending on a person’s friends of course) amongst boys, thus indicating how normative and widespread and activity it is, amongst girls I’ve never been witness to the subject being broached. Perhaps this is as I said purely due a male’s greater brash nature most of the time and for girl’s it’s a subject/topic of greater privacy and rarely spoken about to the other sex.”

 

Matt (17). “I think, dependent on the individual, porn can have a damning effect on a younger person’s concept of a relationship and intimacy with another person. Personally for whatever reason (decent upbringing, overpriced private education, friendly bacteria, who knows?), I regard whatever porn related activities I have as a completely separate realm to any relationship or intimacy with another person. They are simply two separate spheres. However I think for a less stable person; then I think online porn can ingrain a kind of delusion in regards to sex, relationships and intimacy. I think in a most extreme case it can be almost numbing in terms of distancing any sort of love-based intimacy in a relationship and a focus purely on self-satisfaction. I think it definitely has the potential to form a misogynistic type view for some boy’s perspectives; seeing a girl only as potential sex object. I do think it has sped up the process of sexual activities within my generation. Early age sexual curiosities can be pursued with far greater ease, meaning that young age relationships can result in a boy demanding/expecting more than perhaps the girl expects.”

 

Millie (18) “Everyone has seen Internet pornography. It probably takes a year or two once you’ve been given access to a computer but whether it is by accident or on purpose all teenagers eventually find the porn sites. I think it is probably a normal part of growing up. Teenagers are obsessed with sex and so they seek it out wherever they can find it. And most teenagers are not damaged by it. Thirteen year old boys might go crazy for the stuff but once they get into a relationship with a girl they calm down and get a bit less hysterical about it all. Normal people can take it or leave it – that’s my guess. And the guys who take it on board and believe that real sex is like that are not the kind of guys that I’d want to be around anyway. Only the real creeps get into it in a big way and they definitely would be more hostile to women but they would probably be like that anyway.  I think that porn is more dangerous for women than than it for boys because the women all have these fake bodies and it has been problem that this has influenced the way girls think about their bodies. Jordan for example or Alicia Duval are a really bad role model and they are ex porn stars and lots of the women are so thin that I think that it encourages eating disorders. In school, girls are always comparing themselves to each other and checking out who has better boobs or a nicer bum and the social networking sites are full of very young girls pouting and trying to look super sexy.  Everybody’s comparing themselves to images that they see in magazines and trying to look like popstars.  Parent are always blocked so they don’t really know what kids get up to and I think that actually chatrooms and social networking sites are much more dangerous because they are real contacts in real time whereas porn is just fantasy images.”

 

 

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