Facts: Can Porn Affect Us?

Short answer, yes!

Porn can affect us in a number of ways, and the more we watch the more we might be affected. Here’s what the research shows:

PORN AND BEHAVIOUR

Studies show that watching porn can change our sexual behaviour.

Studies show that watching porn can change our sexual behaviour. Young people who watch a lot of porn are more likely to have sex earlier, have riskier sex (e.g. without a condom) or sex where their partner gets physically hurt. They’re also more likely to be coercive (put pressure on their partner to have sex even when they say no), be less concerned about consent and to try out sexual practices seen on porn sites (14, 1, 15).

“If I watch porn and, like, I see a male porn star, and sometimes, like if I’m with a female, I try and do the exact same thing as they’re doing, cause I figure that they’re stars.” – male, 17 years old (24).

PORN AND SEXUAL AGGRESSION

A lot of mainstream porn is now sexually aggressive.

There’s people being choked, hit, yelled at and most of the time the actors respond as if they like it – because that’s what they’re paid to do (2). This can be confusing to watch, especially if we’re learning about sex from porn. Aggressive porn can suggest that it’s okay for sex to be violent, it’s okay if sex hurts, and it’s okay to pressure someone – when the reality is it’s not okay. The long-term impact of this isn’t great, with lots of studies now suggesting that young people who watch a lot of porn are more likely to be sexually coercive and aggressive in their own relationships (10, 11).

“A couple of weeks ago one of my friends had a fight with his girlfriend because she wouldn’t do things with him that he’d seen in porn films. He thought it was okay to force her to do it.” – male, age 15 years (38).

PORN AND SEXUAL ATTITUDES AND BELIEFS

Most studies say porn is the biggest sex ed teacher of this generation – so it has a massive role in shaping ideas about sex (16, 19).

A lot of porn is sexist which, according to studies, can make those who watch porn regularly more likely to be sexist. In fact, one study showed that 70% of young people believe porn encourages society to view women as ‘sex objects’ (16). Porn can also make us think that male sexual pleasure is more important than female pleasure. An analysis of many porn sites showed that while most porn videos portrayed male pleasure, female pleasure was only shown 13% of the time (17). Some porn is also racist and reinforces racial stereotypes. Porn also teaches us that sex is a transaction, only about our own pleasure – which isn’t reality and doesn’t make for great sex with a partner.

“I’m always watching porn and some of it is quite aggressive. I didn’t think it was affecting me at first, but I’ve started to view girls a bit differently recently and it’s making me worried. I would like to get married in the future, but I’m scared it might never happen if I carry on thinking about girls the way I do.” – male, 13 years old (37).

PORN AND SEX

Watching lots of porn can make our sex lives worse, not better – at least that’s what the research is telling is (34).

PORN AND BODY IMAGE

Porn can make some young people feel negative about their bodies and this can lower their self-esteem.

PORN AND MENTAL HEALTH

Watching heaps of porn can affect our mental health.

PORN AND BEHAVIOUR

Studies show that watching porn can change our sexual behaviour.

Young people who watch a lot of porn are more likely to have sex earlier, have riskier sex (e.g. without a condom) or sex where their partner gets physically hurt. They’re also more likely to be coercive (put pressure on their partner to have sex even when they say no), be less concerned about consent and to try out sexual practices seen on porn sites (14, 1, 15).

“If I watch porn and, like, I see a male porn star, and sometimes, like if I’m with a female, I try and do the exact same thing as they’re doing, cause I figure that they’re stars.” – male, 17 years old (24).

PORN AND SEXUAL ATTITUDES AND BELIEFS

Most studies say porn is the biggest sex ed teacher of this generation – so it has a massive role in shaping ideas about sex (16, 19).

A lot of porn is sexist which, according to studies, can make those who watch porn regularly more likely to be sexist. In fact, one study showed that 70% of young people believe porn encourages society to view women as ‘sex objects’ (16). Porn can also make us think that male sexual pleasure is more important than female pleasure. An analysis of many porn sites showed that while most porn videos portrayed male pleasure, female pleasure was only shown 13% of the time (17). Some porn is also racist and reinforces racial stereotypes. Porn also teaches us that sex is a transaction, only about our own pleasure – which isn’t reality and doesn’t make for great sex with a partner.

“I’m always watching porn and some of it is quite aggressive. I didn’t think it was affecting me at first, but I’ve started to view girls a bit differently recently and it’s making me worried. I would like to get married in the future, but I’m scared it might never happen if I carry on thinking about girls the way I do.” – male, 13 years old (37).

PORN AND SEX

Watching lots of porn can make our sex lives worse, not better – at least that’s what the research is telling is (34).

Those who watch a lot of porn can end up with unrealistic expectations and feel pressured to look a certain way or ‘perform’ for hours, limiting their chances for great real-life sex. Some high porn users find it hard to get turned on without porn, they can struggle to get an erection with a real-life partner and end up preferring porn to actual partners (34). They can find that over time that the more porn they watch, they more they need increasingly violent and extreme porn to get aroused. Watching lots of porn can also result in real sex not seeming as good as online sex, leaving everyone disappointed. In fact, 82% of young people in one study agreed that porn leads to unrealistic attitudes to sex (16). You don’t even have to watch a lot of porn to be affected – a 2018 study recently reported that young adults who watch porn monthly experienced reduced sexual satisfaction (40).

“I watched porn because it was fun, and it was normal really. The more porn I watched, the more I needed it. I had no idea it was having a negative effect – I had no clue. With each year I needed more hard-hitting stuff because the normal stuff didn’t work anymore. I didn’t realise it was a problem until I met someone I really loved and was attracted to – and well yeah nothing worked in real life anymore. Just porn.”- male, 25 years old (31).

PORN AND BODY IMAGE

Porn can make some young people feel negative about their bodies and this can lower their self-esteem.

Lots of porn actors have had surgery on their bodies to make themselves more appealing for porn work, so if we compare ourselves to those types of bodies, it’s easy to feel pretty disappointed.

“It affected the way I felt about myself, and I began to feel insecure. I used to want so much to look like a porn star. I am slowly learning that that is not how all girls look.” – female, 14 years old (14).

PORN AND SEXUAL AGGRESSION

A lot of mainstream porn is now sexually aggressive.

There’s people being choked, hit, yelled at and most of the time the actors respond as if they like it – because that’s what they’re paid to do (2). This can be confusing to watch, especially if we’re learning about sex from porn. Aggressive porn can suggest that it’s okay for sex to be violent, it’s okay if sex hurts, and it’s okay to pressure someone – when the reality is it’s not okay. The long-term impact of this isn’t great, with lots of studies now suggesting that young people who watch a lot of porn are more likely to be sexually coercive and aggressive in their own relationships (10, 11).

“A couple of weeks ago one of my friends had a fight with his girlfriend because she wouldn’t do things with him that he’d seen in porn films. He thought it was okay to force her to do it.” – male, age 15 years (38).

PORN AND MENTAL HEALTH

Watching heaps of porn can affect our mental health.

Young people who watch a lot of porn are more likely to feel isolated, distracted, become antisocial and get worse grades because they can’t stay focused (4). Some young people are also now saying they feel ‘addicted’ to porn. They feel they can’t go without it or they try to stop watching it, but can’t. In a recent study with young people, one-third of the frequent porn users admitted they watch porn ‘more than they want to’ and 53% of them ‘think about sex almost all the time’ (19).

“I thought that porn was harmless. It’s not like pornography could kill me or hurt anyone around me, right? What I came to find out the hard way is that porn became a very real addiction with very real effects in my life” – male (33).

So, watching porn can feel good in the moment because, as humans, our hormones kick in and we feel sexual pleasure when we see nudity and watch sexBut the reality is the consequence of long-term porn viewing on our sex lives isn’t looking great. If any of the above issues are a problem for you, or you just have more questions, then have a chat to someone you can trust, check out I NEED HELP or have a read through some more RESOURCES.

Porn appears to be thought of as innocent fun and normal for young men – but we see the issues it causes around body issues and self-esteem and young men searching out increasingly violent themes.

— Sexual health Provider, NZ Youth Stakeholder Survey (25)

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