The Serious Effects of Internet Porn

When I was about 10, finding porn (yes, like most boys my age, I spent a great deal of time trying to score some) wasn’t very easy. Or cheap. But today, anyone with an internet connection can find whatever he (or she) is looking for, for free, in .062 seconds. And kids of all ages are taking advantage. 30% of boys and girls have seen porn by the time they’re 11. And by age 17, 93% of boys and 80% of girls say they occasionally watch porn, according to a study by Iconkids & Youth.

The big question is, “So what?” Anti-porn activists say that the easy availability of sexual images has changed boys’ and girls’ behavior and has led to an increase in sexually violent behavior among teens. But others point to the fact that teen pregnancy rates have been slowly but steadily declining for decades and the age at which kids have sex for the first time hasn’t changed since the 1970s.

So how has porn affected teens’ behavior? Well, according to a 2011 study of 160 boys and girls between 16 and 19 attending high schools in Germany. Most of the kids were familiar with porn sites and sex DVDs. The boys tended to watch alone and masturbate; the girls tended to watch in a group, laughing and giggling.

That said, what about people who are addicted to porn—something that affects a lot of people? According to sex therapist Andreas Hill, those strongly addicted to porn tended to drink a lot of alcohol and engage in risky sex. They’re also generally less than satisfied with their bodies and sex lives, in part because they can’t help comparing themselves to what they saw in porn movies.

A somewhat bigger problem may be that because porn is so widespread, both boys and girls can’t help but be influenced by the completely unrealistic images they see. According to teachers in England interviewed for a Times Educational Supplement article, children are being “warped by hardcore porn” and are being severely damaged.

36.7 percent of the teachers surveyed say that the majority of their students have regular contact with porn. Several of the teachers spoke of boys who couldn’t get to sleep without watching porn and of girls—sometimes as young as 11—who dress like inflatable plastic dolls (okay, that one is really bizarre). Given that, it’s no small wonder that 67.3 percent of the teachers in the Times survey feel that sex education hasn’t kept up with technological advances.

In an interview with the Times, Lisa Handy, co-ordinator of the Sex Education Forum said: “If pupils don’t have access to good-quality sex education, they go to other sources to get answers to their questions. If they access things that aren’t designed to educate, it won’t give them realistic information about what a healthy relationship looks like.”

Whatcha think?