Pornography has experienced some pretty serious evolution in the past two decades. From limited content that one had to seek out, it has become easily accessible, free, more varied, and far more dangerous. In the past, pornography had to be stealthily purchased in magazine or video format, then carefully hid or disposed. Today pornographic material is only a click away, in a variety of different formats, accessible by basically everyone and widely socially acceptable. This evolution can be particularly disheartening and confusing if you are the parents of young children or teens. The landscape of sexuality and pornography has almost completely changed. Do you realize just how easily your kids can access pornographic content? Do you know how often they stumble across it, even when they may not be searching directly for it? Do you know if your children have already been exposed to pornographic content? Most contemporary studies show that children (especially boys) have their first encounter with pornography before the age of twelve. So what does this mean for your children?
The harmful effects of pornography have always concerned psychologists, behaviorists, and social scientists alike. But the world of pornography today has become something entirely different than the one in decades past. Modern pornography is more varied, more accessible, more dangerous, and more concerning. There is simply much more of it than there’s ever been before, and this means there’s more subcategories of pornography that explore dangerous and violent sexual themes.
Women & Pornography
For decades the issues of pornography seemed tied directly to the male sex. Males were more frequently viewing pornography, and the pornography was almost always made for men exclusively. This is still largely the case – men are more likely to view pornography, and most pornography is made for men. However, women are becoming involved with pornography at an increasingly alarming rate, which creates a multitude of problems – for both the women viewing pornography and those who love them.
Teens are the most susceptible demographic when it comes to exploring pornographic material and developing sexual addictions. Teen girls involvement with pornography is happening much more frequently than in past decades; and the mental, emotional, and physical effects are so harmful and even catastrophic for their long term well-being. This is particularly true of girls with mental or emotional health issues, unstable family relationships, or budding sexual promiscuity. Psychologists and social scientists have broken down four ways that modern pornography is affecting teenage girls, in an effort to help troubled teen girls avoid the evils of pornography and to help parents understand the severity of pornography in teen years.
Four Modern Issues of Pornography for Teen Girls
1. Body Image Issues
It’s not new information that teen girls struggle with body image and body positivity. It’s an issue that teen girls will likely struggle with universally until the end of time. Read more about body image issues here. Their bodies are changing, somehow both rapidly and slowly, causing a lot of questions and feelings about how they look and how others view them. Even well-adjusted, healthy teen girls will have moments of doubt about their appearance and bodies. Then how much more doubt and concern will troubled teen girls have about their bodies? Enter pornography. Many troubled teen girls turn to pornography for their curiosity about their bodies and the way they should look. It doesn’t take a scientist to realize that this is going to exacerbate body image problems, rather than solve them.
The first thing that happens when girls turn to pornography in the throes of body image issues is that they instantly begin to compare their body to the bodies of women in pornography. The bodies they see there, for the most part, are simply not realistic. Many women in pornography are surgically enhanced, retouched, or subject to impressive special effects. Not to mention they tend to be very fit and fortunately proportioned women to begin with – not necessarily representative of the average female population. This will communicate to teen girls that they must look like that to be sexually desirable or successful in a sexual relationship. One heartbreaking study found that teen girls compared themselves to women in pornography and felt “very unattractive” and that “[girls] do want to have these ideal bodies” (Lofgren-Martenson & Mansson 2010).
The other effects of pornography on body image are the issues of objectification and appearance. Pornography doesn’t usually portray women as deeply developed characters – or even people at all. When troubled teen girls view pornography, the objectification of women can teach them that men will only see them as that – an object. In turn, girls can begin dressing in more promiscuous and revealing fashions, flaunting their bodies and even objectifying themselves (interviews with teen girls about their bodies & modesty here).
2. Relationship Perception Issues
Another major effect of pornography on teen girls is the distortion of relationships in their minds. Rarely, if ever, are the “relationships” shown in pornography very realistic. The vast majority of pornographic content is created for males, and is therefore focused on sex acts and not any type of emotional relationship or connection. Teen girls may inaccurately assume that men do not connect emotionally with women in an intimate way, or that unattached, one-sided, or even violent sexual encounters are the norm for intimate relationships (from Psychology Today). A 2008 study found that adolescents are more likely to pursue non-committed or risky sexual encounters when they’ve been regularly exposed to pornography (Peter & Valkenburg). teen girls view pornography they may think fleeting, detached sexual encounters are completely normal and safe, which is definitely not the message troubled teen girls need to hear.
3. Sexuality Issues
The teen years are vital and formative for sexuality development. During these years teens experience changes, urges, and curiosity that helps them create a sexual identity and hopefully a healthy sexuality that will continue into their adult years. Unfortunately this can be completely derailed by the intrusion of pornography. When teen girls experience pornography they may not have a barometer or baseline of what is normal. In today’s varied and limitless world of pornography this is incredibly dangerous, because there is no boundary between “normal” and “abnormal,” that is if there even exists a “normal” pornographic portrayal. When girls view pornography they may see things that are completely abnormal and even on the fringes of reality, but because they know nothing else it may be perceived as normal sexuality. (Read more from Gail Dines, an activist fighting against pornography.)
Pornography can tutor young girls in the ways of sexuality that are not healthy or normal. Especially as girls continue to view pornography they may become desensitized to milder forms of sexual interaction and pursue more extreme and even violent types of sex to satiate their curiosity. This can translate in real life to promiscuity, sexual adventurousness inappropriate to their age and experience level, graphic sexting, and recklessness. A 2008 study found that teens who regularly view pornography are experiencing their first encounters with intercourse and other forms of sex at a younger age than their peers.
4. Addiction Issues
In recent years the severity of pornography addiction has been recognized and validated by everyone from psychologists to doctors to family therapists. Pornography addiction is real, and wields the potential to derail lives and families. It may begin with dysfunction in relationships, emotional distress, or failing to perform regular functions and responsibilities with work or school (from Psych Guides). More serious addiction will begin to mirror drug addiction – doing anything to achieve that “high.” A 2015 study has shown that problematic pornography viewing mirrors the decreased satisfaction and increased irritability of other addictive behaviors.
Pornography addiction can and does affect teen girls, even though it is usually assumed of teenage boys. The scary truth is that pornography addiction can be encouraged by or exacerbate mental and emotional health problems that are more common in troubled teen girls, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and other personality disorders. If untreated pornography addiction can lead to more dangerous sexual addiction and the consequences that may come with sexual addiction.
Helping Your Teen Daughter Avoid The Issues of Pornography
Pornography is not just the issue of teenage boys and deceptive husbands. Teen girls are a growing population targeted by the pornography industry and the effects are so completely devastating. It’s not a problem parents can afford to ignore. It’s important for parents to open a dialogue with their teen daughters and be aware of what they are doing online. If your teen daughter is already involved in the dangers of pornography – there is help. There are counselors that can work with your troubled teen girl to bring her back to a healthy sexual development and to treat her potential addiction. If the issue is already at a concerning level for your family, consider the benefits of enrolling your troubled teen girl in a residential treatment school that can help her mentally, emotionally, and physically. There are plenty of resources to help you protect and assist your teen daughter in the permissive world of pornography:
- Fight the New Drug and Porn Kills Love
- How to Talk to Your Teen About Pornography
- Havenwood Academy
- Help Your Teen Now
- Top 5 Warning Signs of Internet Pornography Addiction
Anything is worth your daughter developing appropriate and healthy sexuality so that she may grow into a happy, successful adult.