Porn and Teens’ Attitudes Towards Sex

One concern around teens engaging with pornography is that it promotes the idea that sex is casual and consequence-free. In the world of porn, everyone is doing it and it doesn’t really seem to mean anything. A 2007 study of teens and pornography conducted by Peter and Valkenburg found that the more porn a teen viewed, the more likely they were to see sex as merely instrumental — as a means to an end. In a 2005 study by Lo and Wei of Taiwanese adolescents, the researchers found that an increase in porn viewership led to a more “sexually permissive” attitude, while other studies have found a link between exposure to sexual media and an earlier first age of sexual behaviour (Collins et. al, 2004).

What these studies can’t answer is whether it is porn that causes more permissive sexual attitudes, or whether those with more liberal attitudes towards sex are more likely to look for porn. Remember kids, correlation does not equal causation.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that pornography generally doesn’t concern itself with intimacy or communication. The characters in porn rarely have a relationship outside of the sexual encounter and certainly don’t stick around to cuddle afterwards, or go for a burger. However, is sex for fun or for pleasure always a bad thing? No, not at all, and these studies often operate on the premise that teens shouldn’t be engaging in sex at all, or that monogamous sex in a long-term relationship is the only acceptable way to express your sexuality. These are somewhat old-fashioned notions that don’t reflect a sex-positive or teen-positive belief system.

What’s most important is that you and your partner(s) respect one another, communicate your needs/wants/desires openly and consent before engaging in any sexual activity.

Go to next page: Porn and Gender Roles

Works Cited

Collins, R.L., Elliott, M.N., Berry S.H., Kanouse, D.E., Kunkel, D., Hunter, S.B., et al. “Watching sex on television predicts adolescents initiation of sexual behavior. Pediatrics, 114: 280-289

Valkenburg, P. M., & Peter, J. (2007). “Preadolescents’ and adolescents’online communication and their closeness to friends.” Developmental Psychology, 43(2): 267–277.

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