Pornography being used for teens' sex education
Pornography has become the most common form of "sex education" for teenagers - to the point where it is now dictating the way they behave in relationships, new research has found.
Acceptance of violence and extreme sex acts are also on the rise among youth, as more aggression seeps into the increasingly competitive porn market.
Figures from the research, based on academic papers and interviews with young people in Australia, showed that by age 16, 90 per cent of boys and 60 per cent of girls interviewed had encountered porn.
A content analysis showed nearly 90 per cent of scenes included acts of physical aggression - such as hitting, choking or gagging - and that in 94 per cent of cases, the aggression was directed towards women who were often shown enjoying it.
"The young people we spoke to continually described the way porn's signature sex acts are finding their way into their own sexual activity," said researcher Maree Crabbe.
"The young women mentioned again and again about feeling pressure from their partners . . . and feeling used and dirty and degraded."
A documentary based on the research, which experts say would probably be mirrored if a similar study was done in New Zealand, will be screened this week as part of an $800,000 government-funded project into porn by Auckland University. Called Love and Sex in an age of Pornography, it features interviews with more than 70 young people, as well as actors, agents and directors in the porn industry, talking about the increasing aggression in sex movies and the effect it has on our view of "normal" sexual behaviour.
An 18-year-old boy tells how, during his first sexual experience, aged 15, he had "watched so much porn I thought ‘all chicks dig this, all chicks want this done to them', so I tried all this stuff and, yeah, it turned out bad".
A 20-year-old woman says: "Boys definitely, I think, watch porn and then expect something like that to be done in real life."
Crabbe said there were many risks in learning from porn - and they had nothing to do with morals.
For example, porn didn't use condoms, portrayed scenes with multiple partners and risky hygiene practices, focused on one body type and gave "problematic" messages about consent.
"But the most concerning is the message it gives about gender, power and aggression," she said. "It eroticises women being hurt or degraded."
"Porn not only routinely portrays this, it says that it's sexy."
She called for better education for youth - a plea also made by The Office of the Children's Commissioner for England after a report it commissioned into the same issues earlier this year.
The commissioner said "urgent action" was needed to develop children's resilience to porn and its correlations to risky behaviour.
University of Auckland associate professor of psychology, Nicola Gavey, said the issues in Australia and the UK - especially the increasingly nasty misogyny - could be found here.
Gavey, part of a team leading the Pornography in the Public Eye project which is bringing the documentary here, said although research had not been conducted among teenagers in New Zealand, local figures usually ran in parallel.
She believed a conversation was needed about education - part of the reason for their project - which aimed to get people to talk seriously about porn.
"It's so widespread, and yet you find when you try to talk about it, it's really hard."
The documentary will show on Thursday at the University of Auckland.
Further information: sexualpoliticsnow.org.nz
- © Fairfax NZ News
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