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Cory Silverberg

Parsing Porn's Influence

By May 1, 2013

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A study, to be published this month in the Journal of Sexual Medicine has been getting surprisingly little coverage in the US. The paper, titled "Does Viewing Explain Doing? Assessing the Association Between Sexually Explicit Materials Use and Sexual Behaviors in a Large Sample of Dutch Adolescents and Young Adults", tries to examine the influence of watching pornography (which is currently being called sexually explicit material or SEM by researchers) on sexual behaviors among teens. The researchers surveyed 4,600 young people aged 15 to 25 who live in the Netherlands.

What they found was that there are statistical associations between watching pornography and some behaviors, like having what they call "adventurous sex", but that the associations are, statistically speaking, weak, and that there are other factors that may just as well account for, or at least mediate, the relationship between watching sexually explicit material and doing sexually explicit things. From an NBCNews.com blog post:

For example, Hald [the lead author] explained, "only 2-3 percent of our sample engaged in transactional behaviors, and the proportion of these behaviors explained by porn viewing was only 1 percent for men and 2 percent for women." Other factors, he said, such as poverty and culture, were more important.

That was true across the board. The frequency of looking at porn explained only about .3 to 4 percent of behavior.

"This suggests that frequency of [porn] consumption is just one factor among many that may influence the sexual behaviors of young people," the study concluded.

It's much easier, of course, to blame porn than to blame poverty when adults go looking for something to blame for the high rates of teen STIs and unintended pregnancies in the US. Although I'd suggest we spend a little more time paying attention to what we as grown ups are doing when we produce sexual panics and then deny our hand in their production. Like poverty, bad things rarely "just happen" and even when they do, its our responses to them that can change the world. I'm not sure complaining counts (if I were right about this, and we all stopped it, online comment fields would be blissfully empty and Facebook would be a much nicer place to visit).

Read More - Globe and Mail: Porn's negative effect on teen sexuality exaggerated, study says

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May 7, 2013 at 10:52 pm
(1) Joseph Thomas says:

I think porn industry has increased the influence among teenagers these days. Easy access to any content can turn into addiction. In some cases porn is the only sex knowledge people have.

Education is the key to know and enjoy a healthier and satisfactory sex life.

June 5, 2013 at 9:36 am
(2) milly says:

Interesting stuff! At last something beyond a simple ’cause and effect’ analysis of the influence of porn.
I’d like to read the article itself – I’m curious to know whether it looked at influence on body image and body confidence, perceptions of ‘performance’ and what constituted ‘adventurous sex’.
In the Netherlands, it may be more true to say that young people are more likely to have had other balancing information through comprehensive relationships and sex education to enable them to make more mature decisions about their sexual behaviour and be less influenced by porn.

I’d like to see the study replicated in other countries and results compared. For those young people in other countries (like the US and UK) who may be more likely to use porn as a key resource for learning about sex in the virtual absence of other sources, perhaps the influence is stronger?

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