How pornography harms kids

I keep encountering sites that talk about the effect of pornography on teenagers and kids. There’s a great article on this subject from the “ProtectKids.com” website. Let me give you a couple of the main points.

1. Porn changes kids’ attitudes toward women and sex

I’ve already talked about this at some length in an earlier post, but here it is again, with more research. I’ll quote at length, and bold some statements that are particularly important. The article includes footnotes with research reference, that I also include.

Just as thirty-second commercials can influence whether or not we choose one popular soft drink over another, exposure to pornography shapes our attitudes and values and, often, our behavior.

Photographs, videos, magazines, virtual games, and Internet pornography that depict rape and the dehumanization of females in sexual scenes constitute powerful but deforming tools of sex education. The danger to children stems at least partly from the disturbing changes in attitude that are facilitated by pornography. Replicated studies have demonstrated that exposure to significant amounts of increasingly graphic forms of pornography has a dramatic effect on how adult consumers view women, sexual abuse, sexual relationships, and sex in general. These studies are virtually unanimous in their conclusions: When male subjects were exposed to as little as six weeks’ worth of standard hard-core pornography, they:

  • developed an increased sexual callousness toward women
  • began to trivialize rape as a criminal offense or no longer considered it a crime at all
  • developed distorted perceptions about sexuality
  • developed an appetite for more deviant, bizarre, or violent types of pornography (normal sex no longer seemed to do the job)
  • devalued the importance of monogamy and lacked confidence in marriage as either a viable or lasting institution
  • viewed nonmonogamous relationships as normal and natural behavior

Victor B. Cline, Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children (New York: Morality in Media, 1990), 11.

2. Porn changes kids’ sexual behavior

I suppose this comes as no surprise to anyone, but research bears it out: porn viewing increases the likelihood that its teen viewers will act out what they see.

Research has shown that “males who are exposed to a great deal of erotica before the age of 14 are more sexually active and engage in more varied sexual behaviors as adults than is true for males not so exposed.” (K.E. Davis and G.N. Braucht, Exposure to Pornography, Character and Sexual Deviance, Technical Reports of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography (1970), 7.)

Experts in the field of childhood sexual abuse report that any premature sexual activity in children always suggests two possible stimulants: experience and exposure. This means that the sexually deviant child may have been molested or simply exposed to sexuality through pornography. (Stephen J. Kavanagh, Protecting Children in Cyberspace (Springfield, VA: Behavioral Psychotherapy Center, 1997), 58-59.)

In a study of six hundred American males and females of junior high school age and above, researcher Dr. Jennings Bryant found that 91 percent of the males and 82 percent of the females admitted having been exposed to X-rated, hard-core pornography. Over 66 percent of the males and 40 percent of the females reported wanting to try out some of the sexual behaviors they had witnessed. And among high schoolers, 31 percent of the males and 18 percent of the females admitted actually doing some of the things they had seen in the pornography within a few days after exposure. (Victor B. Cline, Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children (New York: Morality in Media, 1990), 11.)

3. Porn disrupts kids’ development and identity

This is especially true when kids encounter porn early in life. I will quote this next part at length from the article:

During certain critical periods of childhood, a child’s brain is being programmed for sexual orientation. During this period, the mind appears to be developing a “hardwire” for what the person will be aroused by or attracted to. Exposure to healthy sexual norms and attitudes during this critical period can result in the child developing a healthy sexual orientation. In contrast, if there is exposure to pornography during this period, sexual deviance may become imprinted on the child’s “hard drive” and become a permanent part of his or her sexual orientation. (Victor B. Cline, Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children (New York: Morality in Media, 1990), 11.)

Psychologist Dr. Victor Cline’s findings suggest that memories of experiences that occurred at times of emotional arousal (which could include sexual arousal) are imprinted on the brain by epinephrine, an adrenal gland hormone, and are difficult to erase. (This may partly explain pornography’s addicting effect.) Viewing pornography can potentially condition some viewers to have recurring sexual fantasies during which they masturbate. Later they may be tempted to act out the fantasies as sexual advances.

Sexual identity develops gradually through childhood and adolescence. In fact, children generally do not have a natural sexual capacity until between the ages of ten and twelve. As they grow up, children are especially susceptible to influences affecting their development. Information about sex in most homes and schools, comes, presumably, in age-appropriate incremental stages based on what parents, educators, physicians, and social scientists have learned about child development. But pornography short-circuits and/or distorts the normal personality development process and supplies misinformation about a child’s sexuality, sense of self, and body that leaves the child confused, changed, and damaged. (Interview with Ann Burgess, professor of nursing, University of Pennsylvania, 15 January 1997. “Pornography – Victims and Perpetrators,” Symposium on Media Violence & Pornography, Proceedings Resource Book and Research Guide, ed. D. Scott (1984).)

Pornography often introduces children prematurely to sexual sensations that they are developmentally unprepared to contend with. This awareness of sexual sensation can be confusing and overstimulating for children.

The sexual excitement and eventual release obtained through pornography are mood altering. For example, if a young boy’s early stimulus was pornographic photographs, he can be conditioned to become aroused through photographs. Once this pairing is rewarded a number of times, it is likely to become permanent. The result is that it becomes difficult for the individual to experience sexual satisfaction apart from pornographic images. (Jerry Bergman, Ph.D. , “The Influence of Pornography on Sexual Development: Three Case Histories,” Family Therapy IX, no. 3 (1982): 265.)

One again, this last part is the problem that I see with men who are struggling with sex addiction. Their own sex life is impaired because they have become accustomed to sexual arousal and release around fantasy and images of women that don’t match with reality. If nothing else, porn sets up men to struggle with sexual satisfaction with their partner.

4 thoughts on “How pornography harms kids”

  1. This blog seems to get a good ammount of visitors. How do you promote it? It offers a nice individual spin on things. I guess having something real or substantial to talk about is the most important thing.

  2. Parents need to protect and educate their children on the dangers of pornography. Internet control software is a good idea. Using a channel blocker on the television is also an under-utilized but important step in protecting children.

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