Pornography: It’s Not Just for Boys
Last fall, I was speaking in the mountains of Virginia to a group of women about our work at Enough Is Enough to protect children and families from Internet dangers. One of the issues we focused on was kids’ and adults’ free and easy access to Internet pornography. Many of the women present wanted advice about how to protect their children; another large group wanted to know how to better support and protect their husbands from addiction; still another, smaller group wanted to talk about their personal struggles with Internet pornography.
This week, an article in the Washington Times highlighted that more women are being lured into pornography addiction than ever before. The study Generation XXX: Pornography Acceptance and Use Among Emerging Adults (18-26) found that roughly two-thirds (67%) of young men and one half (49%) of young women agree that viewing pornography is acceptable; nearly nine out of ten (87%) of young men and nearly one-third (31%) of young women reported using pornography. This is the first generation to grow up with a steady diet of Internet pornography; what will the numbers be like for the next generation?
Pre-adolescents and adolescents have always taken risks and experimented with new identities—it’s something that’s natural to our growing and learning process. As they try on new social identities, they are especially susceptible to the messages that society conveys to them about what is normal and appropriate. In our culture today, female sexuality has become a spectacle, a performance for mass voyeurism, as Dr. Gigi Durham writes in her book The Lolita Effect. As a report out by Dr. Linda Papadopoulos highlights that there is strong evidence to show that children learn from what they see and internalize those messages to create their own set of rules and codes of behavior.
As author and licensed marriage and family therapist Marnie Feree highlights, advances in neuroscience indicate that our media-driven culture is literally altering the human brain—and not just men’s. Today’s young women seem equally visually oriented, and it should be no surprise that females are drawn to pornography. Our adolescents and pre-adolescents are immersed in a hyper-sexualized culture where pornography is ambient. Is it any wonder that teens are experimenting in ways influenced by pornography? A study out of Australia found that one out of five girls deliberately accessed pornography online and then engaged in oral, anal or group sex.
Author of “Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality”, Gail Dines, wrote in this week’s New York Post about how pornography is warping a generation of men. But to mention only men is to stop short of the reality that pornography is warping a new, young generation of women as well. When I first talked with college-aged women struggling with pornography use and addiction, they told me that the content they most often used was more sensual; today, younger and younger women that I meet have found themselves using pornography that includes graphic sex, sexual violence, group sex and the like (much of which could be prosecuted as obscenity). Whereas boys may directly seek out Internet pornography, some of the girls I have spoken with gained their first experience via Instant Messaging, video chat, chat rooms, or through sex-themed online social networking sites and communities, and from there, they fall into a pattern of addiction into hardcore content.
If you just watch pop-superstar Lady GaGa’s latest video, Alejandro, (which contains scenes that look like they could be stills taken from a pornography video featuring group sex), or consider the content in an average episode of Gossip Girl or new MTV hit, Hard Times of R.J. Berger (about a high-schooler with especially large male genitalia), it’s not hard to see our kids are steeped in images, videos and shows that would have once been considered soft-core pornography. I should also mention that your child doesn’t need access to a TV to watch these shows or videos—they can stream directly to your child’s laptop, iPod touch, mobile phone, etc.
When we filmed our Internet Safety 101 video series, girls shared that they watched pornography in groups, and that they were so desensitized that they found themselves actually laughing at pornographic videos laced with extreme sexual violence and voyeuristic sex. The point is that this issue should not be dismissed as moral panic–this is a hidden public health hazard exploding, as Dr. Jill Manning highlighted in her report before Congress.
At Enough Is Enough, we say that no child is immune to Internet dangers. With Internet pornography, that includes your young daughter, your sister and your wife.
Information about protecting your children from Internet pornography is available on our site. We also have a comprehensive list of filtering and monitoring software that we strongly recommend using to prevent access to pornography and other objectionable content. For more resources about what to do if you or your child encounters pornography, along with resources for those struggling with addiction, see our resources section.