JESUSLAND—Monday's edition of the e-newsletter for the religio-conservative law group Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) linked to a story headlined, "Study: 1/3 of kids have viewed porn by the time they're 10," which touted a "pornography study" allegedly conducted for the Portman Clinic, part of Britain's National Health Service. The clinic, according to one UK city's website, "offers a psychotherapy service to children and adolescents who have problems with delinquency, criminality, violence, sexually inappropriate behaviour and sexual behaviour which causes harm to others or to the person themselves."
Trouble is, the study doesn't really exist.
Of course, it takes following a couple of links to find that out. ADF linked to a New York Daily News article which claimed, " One third of children age 10 and younger have access to online porn, and more than 8 in 10 teens regularly view hardcore pictures on their home computers, according to a British survey reported in the Daily Mail."
The Daily Mail, it will be remembered, was the sensationalistic paper that "broke the story" that climate scientists at the University of East Anglia had allegedly sent each other emails "revealing" that human-caused global climate change was a hoax—a claim that was later widely debunked by the scientific community.
In any case, the Daily Mail reported on the "shocking study" (or was it a "disturbing survey"?) allegedly conducted by "leading sociologist Michael Flood" which was reported in Psychologies magazine, which allegedly found that "[a] third of children have accessed online pornography by the time they are ten years old" and that "more than eight in ten children aged 14 to 16 say they regularly access hardcore photographs and footage on their home computers, while two-thirds watch it on their mobile phones."
Apparently oblivious to the difference between a "study" and a "survey," the Daily Mail's writer claimed that Flood had "interviewed hundreds of secondary school pupils for the survey" and found that, "There is compelling evidence that pornography has negative effects on individuals and communities."
Of course, before delving into the meat of what Flood allegedly told Psychologies, it might be helpful to know that the magazine's masthead exhorts its readers to, "Put Porn in its Place—Join Our Porn Campaign." Moreover, its editor, Louise Chunn, put the lie to the claim that any actual "study" had taken place:
"Back in the Psychologies office we started to talk about what the widescale consumption of porn was doing to people, and we focused not on the ironic adults but on teenagers and younger children," Chunn wrote. "Without a watertight study proving harm, we invited half a dozen psychologists and counsellors who specialised in sexual relationships to come to a lunch to tell us what they thought. It was their unanimous condemnation of internet porn, and belief that it posed a special danger to teenagers’ ability to form loving relationships, that formed the basis of our story (written by well-known journalist Decca Aitkenhead) asking if porn is destroying the next generation." [Emphasis added]
That noted, we turned to Aitkenhead's article, and lo and behold, not a single mention of "leading sociologist Michael Flood"!
Rather, Aitkenhead frets that whereas previous generations might have gotten their sexual jollies from "the underwear pages of a Kays catalogue" or "softcore porn magazines such as Playboy," "today’s children are just a click away from a world of 'scat babes' (women covered in excrement), 'bukkake' (women weeping in distress while several men ejaculate over their faces), or websites offering an entire menu of rape scenes, from incest to raped virgins."
"The average child sees their first porn by the age of just 11," she continues. "Between 60 and 90 per cent of under-16s have viewed hardcore online pornography, and the single largest group of internet porn consumers is reported to be children aged 12 to 17. There is nothing new, of course, about pornography. But this is the first generation to grow up seeing rape and sexual violence before even losing their virginity."
What would be nice would be any reference to a peer-reviewed scientific study that contained the above statistics, but almost needless to say, none is mentioned in Aitkenhead's story.
Rather, the reader finds, "The impact of porn on boys, according to sex therapist Dr Thaddeus Birchard, is particularly profound. 'Boys tend to create their sexual template by images—either in their mind, or on the page,' he says. 'These pictures become watermarked on to the fabric of each individual’s sexual repertory. That’s how male sexual function gets set up.'"
There is reference to a "recent Australian study" which found "'compelling evidence' of a link between boys watching pornography and regarding sexual harassment as acceptable," but surely she isn't referring to "The Porn Report" by Prof. Alan McKee, Dr. Katherine Albury and Prof. Catharine Lumby of the University of Melbourne, who found that just 2 percent of porn consumers felt that porn "causes them to objectify people."
Similarly unidentified are the "researchers in Sweden [who] have found that only limited exposure to porn changed boys' attitudes towards their girlfriends—they found 'normal' sex boring, and wanted to experiment more."
Vague claims rather than even the semblance of scientific evidence continues to be the rule in Aitkenhead's article:
"Couples therapist Val Sampson suspects the new popularity of anal sex is entirely due to its prevalence in pornography," while "[t]he Portman Clinic in London, which treats sexual disorders, has noticed a dramatic increase in referrals of young girls using the internet to become amateur porn stars." [Emphasis added]
"Once you start to expose impressionable young people to porn, they become desensitised," claimed "sex and relationship therapist" Mo Kurimbokus. "They start looking for something more in terms of excitement, and they can become sexually deviant," while, "Porn is even more addictive than alcohol or drugs," agreed John Woods, a psychotherapist at the Portman Clinic." (Ah, there's that Portman Clinic! Guess it doesn't matter whether it's Michael Flood or John Woods who's quoted ...)
"And like any addiction, the user’s tolerance threshold quickly rises," Aitkenhead adds. "It is still too early for us to have solid empirical data on how exposure to online pornography will affect the adult relationships of today's teenagers. Even if most of them won’t grow up to become addicts, experts' predictions for their adult sex lives are troubling." [Emphasis added]
In other words, "We have nothing but our own prejudices that there's something wrong with viewing porn, so we'll have to make do with predictions about what will happen to users in the future."
And sure enough, "Dr Patrick Carnes, who runs a sexual disorder treatment programme in Arizona, says there is no way of knowing who will have a problem with cybersex."
Supposedly, there are "case studies" of teenage porn users in the July issue of Psychologies where Aitkenhead's article is to be found, where the kids "feel they are perfectly capable of distinguishing between reality and fantasy, and that only those already damaged by life can be damaged by porn. It is an appealingly reassuring argument—and could they be right?"
Anyone care to hazard a guess?
"[Couples therapist Val] Sampson isn't persuaded," the next paragraph begins. "I think we are all influenced, no matter how stable we are, by what we see," she says. "Every experience to some degree scars us, for good or for bad. I would suggest that choosing to watch violent pornography will be scarring you, whether you like it or not. And it will have an impact on your behaviour. We're being naïve if we think it's the same as watching gangster movies." (Did we forget to mention? Apparently, "impressionable young people" who are "exposed to porn" become "desensitised" and "start looking for something more in terms of excitement, and they can become sexually deviant." Hence the reference to "violent pornography.")
"The only solution, every expert we’ve spoken to agrees, is regulation," Aitkenhead concludes ... but it's a far cry from any "study" showing that "'There is compelling evidence that pornography has negative effects on individuals and communities,' sociologist Michael Flood, who spoke with hundreds of young people for the survey, told Psychologies magazine," as stated in the ADF's Daily News link.
Oh, well, if one bogus "scientific" claim doesn't work, try, try again ...