Does Pornography Harm Young People?

Australia and New Zealand Communication Association
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Journal of Communication, 2010, 37 (1), pp. 17 - 36
Issue Date:
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In recent debates about the regulation of technologies that deliver pornographic content, the greatest concerns have been about the increasing ease with which young people can access such material. Because of the ethical difficulties in researching this topic, little data has been available on the potential harm done to young people by exposure to pornography. This paper gathers a number of data sources that address this issue indirectlyincluding the results of our own survey of over 1000 consumers of pornographyto explore this issue. Research shows that healthy sexual development includes natural curiosity about sexuality. Retrospective studies show that accidental exposure to real-life scenes of sexuality does not harm children. Our survey shows that age of first exposure to pornography does not correlate with negative attitudes towards women. Studies with non-explicit representations of sexuality show that young people who seek out sexualised representations tend to be those with a pre-existing interest in sexuality. These studies also suggest that current generations of children are no more sexualised than previous generations, that they are not innocent about sexuality, and that a key negative effect of this knowledge is the requirement for them to feign ignorance in order to satisfy adults expectations of them. Research also suggests important differences between pre- and post-pubescent attitudes towards pornography, and that pornography is not addictive.
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