PORN STUDIES

Can Porn Exposure Lead to Child Abuse?​​​​​​​

There’s this old phrase: monkey see, monkey do.  I see it in my kids all the time.  They are often shining examples of the worst of their parents.  Their angry responses mirror ours, they use the same phrases as us, they’re like us in miniature. Monkey see, monkey do.  

But what if it turns out that this ‘monkey see, monkey do’ can also be the case when children are exposed to pornography.

Some research came out earlier this year from Gemma McKibbin who works at the University of Melbourne.  

McKibbin looked at 14 cases of child abuse carried out by children.  She found that for children who commit acts of sexual abuse, pornography was a significant factor in 12 out of the 14 cases looked at in the study.  3 child abusers directly related their abuse to porn.  One of the 3 main points of prevention was to help young people manage their pornography consumption.

Porn harms kids.  In some cases, it is a factor in children becoming abusive.  It harms the abuser, who then harms the abused.  And sexually abuse does not harm in isolated ways.  For individuals and families, it’s not so much a pebble in the pond as it is an earthquake under the sea.

As people discuss and research the impact of pornography on young people, conservatives are often accused of being inflammatory.  They argue that porn is the cause of all evils and ills in the world.  So let’s be clear.  Here’s what this research isn’t saying.  It isn’t saying that everyone who watches porn will become sexually abusive: that would be an absurd and clearly unbackable claim.  Rather, it’s saying in the bulk of cases where children sexually abuse other children pornography is at the least a significant factor, and at worst a causative factor.

McKibbin isn’t alone in her research.  The late Freda Briggs also pointed out the alarming and growing rates of child sexual abuse perpetrated by children.

So what are we doing to protect our kids from pornography? 

We’re often giving them a phone, a laptop, a tablet. We’re assuming because they’re good kids that they won’t get up to mischief. We’re sticking our heads in the sand.

In the article linked above, McKibbin noted that “The access that young people are having to pornography, as well as our collective ‘turning a blind eye,’ is akin to a kind of cultural grooming of children”.

Maybe we can start by opening our eyes.  By rethinking the access to technology we give our kids.  By taking responsibility as parents and calling on our schools and government to help us raise and protect our kids from the clear harm that pornography can cause.

The Not So Innocent Tumblr

Tumblr-logo.png

Tumblr is one of the biggest social media platforms on the net.  Over half a billion users monthly.  144 billion posts.  120,000 new users each day.  53 million posts per day.  Sure, it's no Facebook (but none of the other social media platforms are), but it’s still a big deal.

I’ll be honest - I’m not a user.  But I’ve heard from students that I teach that they like it.  They can share whatever they like on it, and they essentially create their own blog and interact with others’ blogs.

An article on cnet.com recently highlighted an Italian study that looked at how much porn is on Tumblr, and how many people are seeing it, either intentionally or unintentionally.  They looked at 130 million users and 7 billion posts; a huge sample size.

Here’s what the study found:

“Adult content has become so pervasive that more than one in four people on the site will end up seeing porn without even looking for it, according to the study. Tumblr didn't respond to requests for comment.
Only 0.1 percent of accounts on the Yahoo-owned social network are producing porn content, but 22 percent of the site's users follow, like or reblog content from those accounts. Because of those shares, another 28.5 percent of people on Tumblr are unintentionally exposed to porn, according to the study.”

That’s over half of Tumblr users either following porn or being exposed unintentionally.

They also found that:

"Men and women under 25 on Tumblr are following porn at about the same rate, according to the study, but as users get older a gap appears."

So, if you’re a parent and your child is on Tumblr, chat to them about the kinds of things that pop up on their dashboard.  Don’t assume that this is simply a male problem.  With half of the users on Tumblr seeing porn, this isn’t something to be ignored.  And if you’ve got younger children, think carefully about what social media you’re going to allow them to use.

Porn & ‘I Want That One’

One of the things that most humans are good at is looking at something we don’t have and wanting it for ourselves.  We want to own what other people own.  We want to have the skills and abilities of others.  And boy, do we want to look like other people.  Like Andy in Little Britain, we look at others and say in our hearts, ‘I want that one’.

We compare ourselves to others and rate ourselves in the light of others.  And while some men have the innate ability to look at themselves in the mirror and be mightily impressed with whatever they see (I mean, shower + deodorant = looking good), for many women, the world of comparison is crippling.  On the one hand, it’s normal and we all do it.  But as my Mum once said, just because everybody is throwing deer poo at each other, doesn’t mean it is good for us or even a good idea in general.  Wise lady, my Mum. 

One of the effects of porn upon young women in our society is seen in the rise of requests for cosmetic surgery of the inner labia, which is part of the female genitals.  An article in the Huffington Post recently noted that 35% of GP’s surveyed (443 were surveyed) had had requests from young women for this kind of surgery.

Another recent article also noted that between 2000 & 2011 Medicare claims for vulvoplasty and labiaplasty nearly tripled.  To be fair, some of these procedures were medically necessary, but many of them were simply cosmetic.

These doctors noted the increased practice of women getting a Brazilian wax has played a part in this, along with pornography.  Young girls see images of naked women and compare themselves.  They then begin to believe that their own genitals aren’t normal, not realising that there is variation in how people look.

Combined with this is the reality that young men also have the belief that a woman’s genitals should look like the women in pornography, and they expect all women to look the same.  

So now we’ve just added another thing that young women are worrying about when it comes to their appearance...as if there weren’t enough reasons already.  In fact, one of the articles mentioned a young woman whose boyfriend refused to have sex with her until she got surgery.  

So what do we do?  I write a lot about the educative power of pornography.  And I think that it is this aspect of pornography that needs to be powerfully countered.  

Young women need to be educated about their bodies in ways that are healthy and honest.  Maybe it’s older women talking to younger women.  Maybe mums need to have more awkward chats with their daughters.  Maybe sexual education needs to include single-sex classes that show young women that ‘normal’ doesn’t mean ‘porn actor’ and in fact, has a broad range.  Maybe we need to get graphic in a clinical kind of way.  

Maybe young men need something similar to help them understand how pornography isn’t a real depiction of real women.

For any women reading this, please know that any man who expects your genitals to look like what he sees in pornography is not worth your time.  He will likely remain a very lonely man-boy.

At the end of the day, we all want intimacy.  And intimacy is not so much about the specific look of genitals.  It’s about two people seeking the good of each other.  It’s about being vulnerable with another human and finding acceptance.  It’s born out of sacrificial love.  These things are at the heart of healthy and rich intimacy, not designer genitals (it seems so ridiculous even typing these words, but alas, this is the world we live in).

My hope is that young people look at the healthy romantic relationships around them and think ‘I want that one’ rather than airbrushed images of people and think that that is the surefire path to happiness and intimacy.  

Is Your Peep On The Fritz?

There’s this episode of the TV show Scrubs, where the main character JD is having some problems downstairs.  Lil’ JD is not performing like he should and its causing him grief.  In the episode, when he finally shares the problem with Turk and Dr Cox, it puts their problems into clear perspective.  At least they don’t have that problem.

A few years back, I was watching the FIFA world cup, and was struck by this ad that kept being played.  Now, to be fair, it was SBS I was watching and it wasn’t prime time.  But this ad, for medicine that treats ED (erectile dysfunction - or a peep on the fritz…) featured a young man in his twenties with a beautiful woman.  The confusion for me was that I thought these pills were for older men.  But here was a young man, supposedly struggling to get it up.  Surely this company had got its target market wrong.

Here’s what’s going on.  Over the last decade, the number of young men suffering from erectile dysfunction has skyrocketed.  What was once a small percentage of the male population with sexual dysfunction issues has become increasingly common.

For example, a report recently came out that surveyed men in the US Navy, and found a large percentage of these men could not adequately stand to attention (sorry - I know this is a serious issue, but I feel at least one piece of wordplay is warranted).  The article reporting on the study pointed out that whereas 15 years ago only 2-5% of men experienced ED, the number has now risen to 30%.  These scientists reported an increase of 1000% in the number of reported cases.  

So is there something in the water?  Are men simply increasingly lacking in libido?  Are the men in the US Navy so stressed by their jobs that its impacting upon their sexual health?

One prominent theory that is backed up by this particular study, and others, is that porn is the major contributing factor.  It’s even got a name - porn-induced erectile dysfunction, or PIED for short. 

Here’s how it works: a man who frequently masturbates while watching porn slowly trains his brain to be aroused by porn, and not a real woman.  Over time, he needs increasing levels of more hardcore porn to get aroused, which is a result of porn’s effect on the reward systems of the brain.  This man eventually finds that he can’t gain and maintain an erection without pornography.  Often, upon realising the downtown issue, the man will go back to porn as that is the only time he can get an erection, and so he becomes stuck in a vicious cycle.

At this stage, some guys start taking viagra.  But viagra treats a lack of blood flow often found in older men and it does nothing for the guy whose issue is not the plumbing, but the brain.  

Add to this the complexity of a relationship, and a man will become increasingly frustrated and distanced from his partner.  He'll start to wonder whether he is the problem, or whether she is.  And this is only going to decrease intimacy within a relationship.  And as a man gets increasingly worried, and sexual intimacy becomes increasingly difficult, he will likely go back to porn because it makes him feel good for a fleeting moment and doesn't have the complexity and difficulty of a real-life relationship.  And so things just get worse.

How do you know if this is your problem?  Well, the Navy doctors suggested a simple test.  Men were asked to see if they could masturbate without porn and maintain an erection and orgasm.  It may seem ironic that continued and habitual use of pornography leads to ED, but the scientific and anecdotal evidence is clear.  

But here’s the good news.  When men stop watching porn and masturbating, their normal sexual function improves.  Just as the brain is conditioned to porn, so too can it be conditioned back to a real person.  

Porn by its very nature becomes used compulsively, and when the user is a young male, who already has a hard time exercising self-control on a good day, porn can grab hold of his mind and body and refuse to let go.  No longer can we maintain the idea that porn is harmless fun.  While the thrill for a short time might be real, the effects can be shocking.

So if you’re reading this, and can see some of the symptoms in your own life, maybe it’s time to stop.  And if the symptoms aren’t there just yet, it might be worth asking if your usage has escalated since you started viewing porn.  Because if you’re on a trajectory to watching more porn, more frequently and more compulsively, then you may be headed towards to the same problems as those men in the US Navy. 

If you want to read more why try this article from Robert Weiss, or check out Your Brain On Porn's page on ED and sexual dysfunction.  

 

Til Porn Do Us Part

I think most people these days would agree that young kids shouldn’t be looking at porn.  There’d be a whole range of views when it comes to teenagers, though, despite the fact that it’s illegal for minors to watch x rated content.

But for adults, most people would say it’s ok.  For many, porn can even be a part of a healthy relationship.  The idea here is that porn can spice up a couple’s sex life by giving a few tips and hints.  The thinking here is that a bit of porn can get a stalling engine running again.  Or for others, porn use by an individual within a relationship is no big deal, as long as it’s not replacing, but simply supplementing intimacy within the relationship.

A new study came out in the last week, called ‘Til Porn Do Us Part, Longitudinal Effects of Pornography Use on Divorcethat may have called some of these ideas into question.  After an extensive study of 2000 couples, researchers found that when married people began to use porn individually it increased the chances of divorce by 200%.  The rate of divorce was even higher when the individual using porn was female.

The study showed that the younger a married person was when they took up porn, the greater the chance of divorce was later on.  Pornography use was most detrimental to marriages where participants considered the marriage healthy.

Porn certainly spices things up, but not in the way that people think.  It seems it less like the good kind of spice in a curry, and more like the time my dad accidentally loaded a spaghetti bolognese with a tonne of cinnamon.

So why might this be the case, particularly when it goes against a dominant line of thought in our culture?

Here are a few suggestions.  Firstly, getting aroused from other people while being intimate with someone else isn’t so intimate.  Porn could have the effect of training people to look elsewhere for sexual fulfillment.

Secondly, porn doesn’t really depict lovemaking.  It’s highly stylised and choreographed.  Porn stars don’t look like most people will ever look, and in general, they are perpetually young, unlike most married people who are slowly getting older.  Porn sets up an unattainable standard that will only leave people dissatisfied.  

Thirdly, most porn is centred on the pleasure of one or more dominant males. But marriage at its best is about the mutual giving between two lovers.  Sex is about two people seeking the pleasure of the other.  Imitating much of the porn produced today would not lead to a healthy sexual relationship.

Lastly, porn is easy and marriage is not.  With porn, a person can get aroused on their own; they don’t need to think or consider anyone else.  But marriages take hard work, sacrifice, and the setting aside of your own preferences.  It’s one of many reasons as to why marriage is worthwhile.  Humans are naturally selfish, and marriage and parenting help people to set aside the self and serve others.

Without porn, ‘til death do us part’ may have a better shot at being a reality.