Just by typing the word porn into a search engine, they get 436 million results in a matter of seconds. In the 2014 BBC show Porn: What’s the Harm? presenter Jameela Jamil leads us through the biggest survey ever conducted on pornography use in the UK, with over a thousand teenagers from the ages 16 to 21 anonymously answering questions such as: How old were you when you first watched porn? How often do you watch it now? How do you think it affects what men and women expect from sex?
The answers were analyzed by leading experts in pornography Dr. Miranda Horvart and Dr. Maddy Coy. The average age for boys to watch porn for the first time is 10. Of all teenagers surveyed, only 22% saw porn for the first time on purpose; the rest was shown porn by someone else. And amid the bombarding of pornographic images in their daily lives, 24% of the teenagers said they encountered pornographic material at least once a week when they were looking for something else. Most men and women used it for sexual stimulation and masturbation.
From the entire group, 10% responded they thought that while men watch porn for sexual gratification, women watch it to learn about sex. I myself—judging by what I found in my own research—think many males also use porn to learn about sex. I remember a few mentioning they would watch girl-girl porn to that end, and they also believed porn sex was what girls liked.
In general, 30% of the boys deliberately looked for porn against 12% of the girls, and 50% of the boys looked for porn from once a day to once a week, whereas 50% of the girls never looked for porn online. Out of a thousand teenagers, 229 persons said there was nothing good about porn—75% of those were females.
How porn affects sexual expectations
Former pornstar Gemma Massey tells Jamila many girls in the industry take drugs to endure the sex scenes, and they only do such scenes because they need the money. I also heard that from countless ex-porn stars. And, like all of them, Gemma says: “Porn sex is not real. It’s not how I would have sex at home at all.” She adds that doing porn all the time mentally messes up with the person. I will discuss that in a future post.
When asked “Do you think porn affects what young people expect from sex?” 75% of the survey group said yes to males’ expectations, and 53% said yes to females’ expectations. One out of 3 top responses was that boys expected girls’ bodies to be like those of pornstars, with no pubic hair and large breasts. I would add that porn also taught boys their own penises need to be huge and deliver long, sustained erections—which naturally causes great anxiety to them. As for girls, porn has led a large number of young women to seek cosmetic surgery for vaginal lip reduction: girls as young as 12 are considering this kind of surgery.
This goes to show how porn imposes limited views of women’s bodies. A group of boys and girls participating in the survey were shown a panel with 57 molds taken from real women’s vulvas, which naturally varied in shape and size. Both boys and girls were surprised to learn those vulvas were normal: all of them thought the vulvas were abnormal or ugly. As for me, I was saddened by the fact that girls today can’t accept the very symbol of their womanhood. It’s not enough that they need to compete with photoshoped models 25% thinner than a regular woman (in old times, the rate would be only 8%), now they also learn to reject their genitals. Gynecologist Gail Busby, who conducted the experiment, discourages young girls to do the surgery: “They don’t need surgery because there’s nothing wrong with them.”
The most common answer to how porn affected teenagers’ expectations about sex was that young men expected women to behave like sex objects, and young women expected to be treated like sex objects. A 17-year old boy responded: “Guys will expect the chance for rougher sex, or for a girl to be very flexible and so on.” A 16-year old girl said: “Boys think all girls will behave like girls in porn and that a lot of quite extreme stuff is normal to do.”
In addition, the behavior of girls sexting their naked pictures has become a natural progression in a hypersexualized society that regards females as sex objects, and in which females regard themselves as sexual objects. Here, we go back to my post about the hypersexualization of children: girls send those pictures because they believe it’s what’s expected from them in order to fit in and avoid rejection.
When those sexy images leak— and they often do—it doesn’t end well. Sometimes it can even lead to suicide, like in the case of 18-year old Jessica Logan and 13-year old Hope Witsell. The lives of girls are ruined when those pictures are shared and become viral, and there are cases in which such images are downloaded and transferred to child pornography sites (on those sites, according to the UK Internet Watch Foundation, there are photos of victims as young as 3 to 6 years old, which were taken by older children). When images leak, female victims face social isolation and bullying. As much as modern society likes to deem itself progressive, double standards are stronger than ever when it comes to sexuality.
There’s more to porn
If there are clear consequences for young people when it comes to sexting and posting sexual images, the effects of childhood exposure to porn are harder to gage. In 2014, a 12-year old boy raped his 7-year old sister after watching hardcore porn online: he said he watched it with friends and gained a desire to try it out. Sociologist Gail Dines, author of the book Pornland: How Porn Hijacked Our Sexuality, interviewed a man incarcerated for child molestation: he told Dines he wasn’t a pedophile and just wanted to try something different. His is not an isolated case. For the first time, men who aren’t inherently pedophiles are initiating sex with children.
In the BBC program, Jamil interviewed a girl in her early twenties who was raped by someone she thought of as a friend. When she went to his blog afterwards, she found out it included porn images that were very similar to what had happened to her. She adds: “For certain people who do that, rape is so ingrained in their minds that for them it’s okay.”
Lynnette Smith, a sex educator working with teenagers on a daily basis for the past 20 years, is concerned about what she’s been hearing from teenage boys. In several schools, quite often, they ask her: “If I’m being intimate or trying it on with a girl and she doesn’t like it, if I keep going and keep going, she will finally like it, won’t she?” Invariably, Smith ends up tracking the boys’ question back to porn they had watched.
There you go.
So far I’ve covered what porn does physically and mentally to boys and what stems from the interaction of boys and girls with pornographic images. On my next post, I’ll focus on females and porn.
In the meantime, you can watch Porn: What’s the Harm? for additional information and also to learn more about what the surveyed teenagers said. It’s a fascinating program.
What about you? What’s your take on porn, and how do you think it affects your own behavior or the behavior of those around you?