Pornography Taking Over Sex Education’s Role Amongst Youth
Avni Gupta articulates the need to differentiate reel and real when it comes to sexual content in pornography.
Facts: In 2018, India emerged as the third-largest consumer of porn, according to the annual report from Pornhub. Porn is estimated to be a $57 billion per annum industry, with revenue being larger than the combined revenues of all the professions, even football, baseball, and basketball franchises put together. 12% of all internet websites are related to pornography. Viewers are estimated to spend about 3000 to 4000 dollars per second on pornographic content.
The Internet is the source of an inexhaustible and diverse supply of explicit material. For global dissemination of pornography, the internet functions via the Triple-A Engine: accessibility, affordability, and anonymity.
Pornography is powerful and far more pervasive than one can suspect. Besides voluntary access, unwanted or unintentional exposure via pop-ups, spam emails, and advertisements can help children and youth access pornographic content. Internet pornographic material is capable of threatening adolescent development and welfare as young people are widely considered the most vulnerable group of audience.
Media holds a tremendous capacity to teach and educate youth in the age of digital media. Explicit content builds up insecurities about one’s body, appearance, and sexual performance. One may lose self-esteem and satisfaction, further leading to dysfunctional relationships, self-isolation, and depression.
Effects on Young Adults
When other sources of information are lacking, young people tend to depend upon pornography as their source of sex education.
Porn introduces adolescents to a much more permissive sexual attitude, involving activities like promiscuity, casual, unsafe, and high-risk sex. It impacts one’s sexual risk-taking, sexual beliefs & actions, body image & surveillance, sexual objectification, and sexual aggression. Moreover, it holds the capacity to shape sexual practices of one, with acts such as anal intercourse, facial ejaculation, sex with multiple partners, and deep fellatio.
Sexual socialization theory suggests frequent exposure affects one’s behavior. Exposure to pornographic content at a young age not only introduces children to explicit behaviors but acts as a medium to reinforce these behaviors. It also exposes the viewers to a much more stereotypical world – where women are typically malleable and compliant, while men are dominating and controlling. Derogatory name-calling is prevalent in pornographic material. Behaviors involving physical aggression such as slapping, choking, spanking, whipping, biting, gagging, and hair-pulling may be imbibed in adolescents. It can substantially influence one’s expectations about a sexual encounter.
Exaggeration In Porn
Often, content is much exaggerated in porn, which can cause intimidation amongst viewers. Average genitalia size in porn stars is much enhanced with the aid of surgery – bringing about a state of complexity in boys as well as girls.
Persistent consumption of porn amongst adolescents is a probable cause of increasing the earlier experience for first-time sexual activity. Pornography may foster sexual harassment in young boys. Adolescents who have been exposed to violent sexual content are recorded to be six times more aggressive, sexually, in comparison to those who view non-violent/no porn.
The frequency of viewing porn has been reported to differ with gender – males are more likely to have recurring exposure. Male viewers exhibit higher chances of objectifying women and instill sexual violence. Females, on the contrary, are known to have more negative perceptions and responses than males. They perceive pornographic materials as shocking or distressing. Chasms between expectation and reality reinforce double standards and thereby develop sexual uncertainty amongst youth.
Porn addiction is a risky situation for youth, who continue to expose themselves to pornographic content on a regular basis. Addiction refers to an activity that was once enjoyable but eventually evolves into a necessity. Characterized by the uncontrollable urge, it holds the power to alter one’s thoughts and beliefs and affects their behavior.
The behavior of addiction to pornography is evolving across all segments of the teenage population. In response to porn, adolescents may face issues related to emotional, psychological, social, and physiological aspects.
The Science of it
The human brain is known to undergo a phase of high neuroplasticity between the ages of 12 and 20. During this, the brain is in a malleable condition and billions of new synaptic connections are formed. Consequently, our brains get wired in accordance to the surroundings and experiences received during this sensitive time period.
Source: The Guardian
Resolving the Issue
An open conversation must be initiated by caregivers, teachers, and parents. Critical thinking must be inculcated amongst adolescents who view porn – this aids in questioning and evaluating what is displayed via media. It also helps in differentiating between the reel and real. Children must be educated about the risks they are exposed to, through digital content.
Parents should not let the pornography industry be the primary source of sex education, rather have “the birds and the bees” conversation with their children at an appropriate time.