PORNLAND—It may not be good news for the Cindy Gallops and Gail Dineses of the world—people who build a business/crusade on the theory that porn wields a universally negative influence on the teen brain—but a recent study strongly suggests that previous claims of damage are highly exaggerated.
At first blush, the study's findings, which were just published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, have a typically ominous ring in terms of indicating correlations between access to the internet and first exposure to porn and the propensity to engage in risky sexual behavior.
According to Time, “University of Copenhagen’s Gert Martin Hald and colleagues conducted an online survey of 4,600 young people asking about a broad range of sex acts, from threesomes to experience with one-night stands to prostitution.” Among the participants, who ranged in age from 15 to 25, “almost 90% of males and nearly half of females reported that they had used porn sometime in the previous year, the vast majority of which was online. And there is some evidence that widespread access to the internet, with its triple-x domains, may be pushing exposure up.”
Also not surprisingly, Hald’s research “tied porn usage to ‘adventurous’ behaviors, such as having ‘real-life sex’ with someone they met online, which some experts believe may lead to increased rates of sexually transmitted diseases.”
But thereafter, according to the researchers, the “porn caused it” connection weakened and other factors in an individual’s life began to exert a greater influence on personal decision-making than simple exposure to porn. Indeed, reported the Globe&Mail, “While the researchers found there was a statistically significant relationship between the subjects’ pornography use and their sexual behavior, that link turned out to be a modest one. The subjects’ own personal dispositions, particularly whether they were sexual sensation seeking, were likely to be a greater influence.”
The issue is hardly negligible in terms of public and social policy, implies Hald, who warns of the heightened emotions often generated by the subject. “There has been a sort of moral panic—sometimes in Britain and in the U.S. especially—about the influence of pornography on sexual behaviors,” he said. “And although this study can’t claim to investigate cause and effect, it can still say that there are a lot of other factors that determine sexual behaviors, so maybe we should put the debate into a larger perspective instead of being just one-sided.”
But he also acknowledged findings from previous studies that indicate that some individuals can be negatively influenced by excessive exposure to porn. “Pornography for the general user might not add to, for example, attitudes of violence against women,” he said, “but for a small group of people, pornography seemed to increase the likelihood that these attitudes are formed or developed and also of increased sexual aggression.”
Still, for the majority of young people, and despite earlier exposure to sexual depictions than their elders may have experienced, this study's results indicate no cause for alarm or avoidance. Hald’s advice to parents is in fact to engage the topic of pornography with their kids when discussions of sex arise, and to certainly not freak out if they discover them watching it.
“It’s not the Third World War, so to speak,” he said.
Indeed. As AVN has reported, previous research has found not only no harm, but benefits from watching porn. And yet another study from 2009 also found negligible harm from porn. Guess you can't have enough studies.