Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Viewing pornography now the norm for young Australians

Based on a media release by Angus Morgan

A landmark study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health has shown extremely high use of pornography among young Australians. 

The study surveyed 941 young people aged 15-29 and is the first of its kind in Australia since smartphones simplified access to pornography.  The researchers, from the Burnet Institute and Monash Public Health, found associations between pornography use and outcomes such as mental health problems and sexual activity at a younger age.

Lead author Dr Megan Lim was surprised at how commonly pornography was viewed by Australians aged 15-29 who took part in the study. She says,

"All the young men in our study said they'd seen pornography, and so did the majority of women. Around 80 percent of young men said they watched weekly, and among the women who watched pornography, nearly two-thirds viewed at least monthly.”

The study authors recommend that age-appropriate educational programs be implemented from the formative years of high school, if not sooner, and should address issues such as the prevalence and practice of heterosexual anal sex in the real world as opposed to pornography. 

The study also showed: 

  • Frequent users of pornography are more likely to be male and well-educated
  • The average age of first exposure to pornography is declining
  • The median age of first viewing is 13 years for boys and 16 years for girls
  • Young people identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (GLBTIQ) watch pornography more frequently and from a younger age
  • Interventions such as age verification and internet filtering software are not likely to be effective in preventing a motivated young person’s access to pornography
  • There’s a correlation between the use of pornography and poor mental health. 

“It is unclear whether viewing pornography is a causal factor in poor mental health or an indicator of underlying problems,” Dr Lim said. 

Dr Lim said increased viewing of pornography among GLBTIQ young people may reflect a lack of information in mainstream culture around non-heteronormative sexual behaviour.

"People who don't identify as heterosexual are often excluded from sexual education at school which is often very focused on hetero-normative sexual behaviour,” she said. 

“That's anecdotally one of the reasons they seek out pornography, so they can see more diverse representations of sexuality to help them find out what they're interested in, and attracted to.”

The research was supported by The AMP Tomorrow Makers Fund.

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