Researchers find porn exposure has unexpected results

Friday, August 4, 2017

Does the age at which boys first see pornography affect the way they look at women?

Definitely, say researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, but not the way you might think.

Surveying 330 undergraduate men ages 17-54, the psychological research team found that the younger a boy is when first exposed to porn, the more likely he was to believe that men should dominate women.

That’s no surprise.

When it comes to being a playboy, however, having “heightened sexuality and interest in multiple sexual partners,” the opposite is true; those traits increase with the older the boy is when exposed.

Researchers had assumed earlier exposure would increase both traits.

“We expected that the younger the boys were when first exposed to pornography, the more likely they were to adopt playboy norms, as well as norms of masculine power over women,” said Layssa Bischmann, a researcher who is pursuing a doctorate.

Exposure to pornography is almost a given in today’s electronic age, as close as the cell phone in a boy’s pocket.

Even nine years ago, 87 percent of young adult men admitted viewing pornography and half looking at it weekly.

Those surveyed averaged a little older than 13 when they were first exposed to pornography, more than 43 percent saying they first saw it by accident, 33 percent said they sought it out and 17 percent said someone else forced them to view pornography.

Participants also were asked a series of 46 questions designed to measure masculine norms.

Another researcher, Chrissy Richardson, said she had seen sexual difficulties among clients who struggle with pornography use, and speculated that might be why those who begin viewing porn at younger ages don’t develop into playboys.

More research is needed, they said into other factors such as negative sexual experiences, performance anxiety, religiosity and frequency of use.

The university study focuses on only a tiny aspect of the whole porn question, of course.

Psychologists can provide countless examples of the harm it can cause through addiction, unrealistic expectations, inappropriate attitudes and damaged relationships.

The study does add evidence to the idea that parents need to think twice — or three or four times — before allowing boys unfettered access to online content and should even delay that access as long as possible.

Meanwhile, parents should spend the time instilling and reinforcing healthy values that will serve their child well when parents no longer have control.

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