American Children Are Becoming Hooked On Pornography At Earlier Ages
Pornography today is baked into most Americans’ lives. Americans visited pornography sites more often than eBay and Instagram in recent years, and porn’s ubiquity has made parents especially concerned for their children, who are becoming exposed to it at younger and younger ages.
Last week, VICE’S Motherboard published an investigation that found that PornHub, one of the world’s most visited sites, was pushing viewers to watch videos of nonconsensual porn. In October, a man was arrested in Florida for human sex trafficking with a 15-year-old girl. There were 58 videos of her being raped that circulated PornHub.
No porn viewer can distinguish whether the video they are watching features nonconsenual sex, and there are thousands of cases like these that children are being exposed to on their computer screens. Even when the pornography was created with the consent of the woman, children who watch are likely to come across popular genres of pornography like “fauxcest” — faux incest pornography, or “family role play porn,” a genre that has experienced a 178 percent average increase, according to GameLink.com. (RELATED: Investigation Finds PornHub Continues To Proliferate Non-consensual Porn)
We spent months researching and testing the process Pornhub uses to moderate and remove non-consensual porn from its platform.
The results: Pornhub is either woefully ill-equipped to take on the task, or it does not care. https://t.co/fnkcQ1hZUp
— Samantha Cole (@samleecole) February 6, 2020
The average age a child is first exposed to porn is 13, according to one study, and 94 percent of kids will have viewed pornography by age 14, according to a different one. Children are being exposed to violent, nonconsensual sex in enormous quantities before reaching puberty. What’s the effect?
A parent doesn’t need research to affirm that the media has a sizable impact on children and has the capacity to teach them. But research shows that excessive media use, especially when the content is violent or sexually explicit, skews a child’s worldview, increases high risk behaviors and affects their capacity for successful human relationships.
The often violent imagery of pornography can also warp the mind’s of young boys to view women in demeaning ways. Dr. Sharon Cooper, a forensic pediatrician and faculty member at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, says pornography normalizes sexual harm, portraying a lack of emotional relationship between consensual partners, and in some cases, violence and rape.
Pornography can also encourage girls to see themselves primarily on sexual terms, equating their worth with narrow standards of physical attractiveness, and seeing themselves as sexual objects. When children and youth view porn, they are being exposed to media that sexualizes girls and women, and studies show that porn consumption is associated with greater acceptance of stereotypes and sexist notions about women, especially the sexist notion that women are sexual objects. The sexist notions boys learn from porn, subsequently, can contribute to sexually objectifying behaviors toward women. (RELATED: Pornography And Sex Trafficking Are Completely Interwoven, Activists Warn)
Pornography is also sexist, with women often suffering the consequences. Not only can pornography influence a girl’s self-image from a young age, but it contributes to male sexual aggression against women. Studies show that exposure to pornography is related to such abusive behaviors, with stronger associations found between violent pornography consumption and sexual aggression against women. Male and female adolescents exposed to sexualized or objectifying content are also found to be more accepting of rape myths.
Children are particularly vulnerable if their pornography use begins at a young age. Not only can pornography shape their attitudes and behaviors, but adult perpetrators can wield pornography as a deliberate strategy to sexually abuse children, undermining children’s abilities to avoid or resist abuse.
There is also potential for pornography addiction when children begin viewing from a young age. Olivia, a 22-year old college student in Ohio today, isn’t sure when she began watching porn. She told the Daily Caller that she thinks it was in late middle school or early high school, and she can’t pin the age that she discovered it because she didn’t know what she was looking at. Most children often encounter pornography for the first time when they’re not even looking for it.
➡ Porn addiction is real.
➡ Kids shouldn’t use porn.
➡ And digital porn use CAN lead to negative effects.
Ignoring these realities won’t make them go away, nor will attacking people who openly discuss them.
— NoFap (@NoFap) February 8, 2020
“In the beginning, [pornography] was a great comfort,” she said. “When life wasn’t going my way or people weren’t there for me, pornography always was. It was a stress relief, something that always calmed me down and brought me peace.”
Olivia battled what she calls a pornography and masturbation addiction for a decade — one that began in childhood.
“As time went on, I knew [pornography] was not fulfilling the void that was in my heart,” she said. “I knew that the people in these videos were stuck in destructive behaviors, likely with no way out. I realized that I was supporting an industry of abuse and that made me feel even more shame. Even so, I felt trapped. I felt as if I would never stop watching pornography. I would never stop masturbating. I felt as if I would never find a way out.”
Olivia isn’t alone — in fact, Alexander Rhodes, the tech entrepreneur who founded the pornography recovery site NoFap, also said his pornography addiction began by the time he was 12 years old and it changed how he perceived relationships for the following decade of his life.
Olivia says she knew she was addicted during her freshman or sophomore year of high school, when she gave up her “addictions” for lent. She recognized it was an issue when she felt her day wasn’t complete without pornography.
“I knew I had a problem when the thought crossed my mind and I couldn’t shake it until I watched something,” she said. “It was like a kid begging their parent for candy, the thought just would not go away until I finally gave into the desire. This happened a lot more when I was alone or stressed. I still feel the urge when I’m alone. I get back to my apartment after a long day and lay down in my bed and that’s almost always the first thing that would come to mind, and on occasion, it still does.”
Pornography can create a powerful biochemical “rush” in those who watch it. When a teenager views an arousing image, the adrenal gland secretes epinephrine into the bloodstream, where it proceeds to the brain and locks the image in. After this happens, the simple thought of the image can trigger a feeling of arousal. Adolescents who watch porn face the very real risk of developing an addiction to it.
“When I would watch it, I finally felt relief. But just while I was watching. The second it was over, the relief was gone and I was back to feeling shame and guilt for what I had just taken part in,” Olivia said.
Olivia still feels the urge to watch pornography occasionally, but says she found healing once she began sharing her struggle. She also says her discovery of the Catholic faith during her junior year of college was a source of strength and comfort during her recovery.
“To someone who does not see [pornography] as an issue or an addiction, I would tell them to simply look around,” she says. “If pornography weren’t an addiction, it would be easy to quit watching. Giving up pornography is the hardest thing I have ever done.”