There's now a body of research suggesting porn can shape some young people’s sexual expectations, attitudes and experiences of sexual relationships. Early and/or frequent exposure to sexually violent porn can impact on the following areas:
Gender attitudes and sexual expectations
- Increase the likelihood of developing negative gender attitudes and viewing women and non-binary people as sex objects.
- Shape sexual expectations, particularly when porn is viewed as a ‘realistic’ template for sex, gender, and bodies.
- Be associated with casual attitudes towards consent, acceptance of rape myths, and/or an acceptance of sexual aggression in relationships.
Sexual attitudes and behaviours
- Increase the likelihood of risky sexual behaviours such as choking, rough sex, condomless sex, group sex and rapid penetration.
- Increase an acceptance of sexual violence towards women.
- Increase the likelihood of aggressive, coercive or controlling behaviours, or forced sex.
- Be associated with casual, confusing or blurred attitudes towards consent and aggression.
Porn use can be associated with some negative mental health experiences, including:
- Feeling uncomfortable with something seen in porn.
- Feelings of shame, distress, and anxiety related to usage, especially when porn is viewed as taboo.
- Feeling triggered by porn, experiencing intrusive images, or being preoccupied with porn.
- Negative body image, feelings of physical and sexual inferiority.
- Struggling to cut down on viewing porn or Problematic Porn Usage (PPU) presenting as impaired control, real life impacts, narrowing of interests and risky use (despite harm to self or others).
Note: Mental health issues are complex and can be related to multiple factors, and in some cases, be exacerbated by the way a young person engages with porn and the beliefs they hold around porn.
Sexual health and wellbeing issues
- Lower sexual health outcomes, such as decreased real-life sexual satisfaction or preference for porn over real-life sex.
- Porn-associated sexual dysfunction, reliance on porn to become or remain aroused, and decreased intimate behaviours (such as kissing).
- Relationship issues related to a partner’s porn usage, pressure to watch or re-enact porn, and/or struggling with porn-related expectations and performance.
Note: There are multiple other factors contributing to a young person’s sexual attitudes and behaviours and the likelihood of impact varies on factors such as usage patterns, content type, age, sexual experience, and if porn is viewed as a ‘realistic’ template for sex.