Pornography Isn't As Bad For Teens As Previously Thought [Study]

Dusten Carlson

The negative effect of pornography on a teenager's sexuality has been greatly exaggerated, according to a new study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Parents have long had (and still have, some might argue) reasons to intervene when they catch their teens looking at pornography. There are arguments to be made against pornography on almost every level: Most films, especially from the mainstream, at best give very unrealistic depictions of men, women, and various sex acts, and it has long been thought that exposure to pornography has a negative effect on a teen's sexual development.

But at least one new study argues the contrary: That pornography might not have as big an effect on teen sexual behavior as we've long thought.

For the new study, 4,600 young people between the ages of 15 and 25 in The Netherlands were surveyed about their sex lives and their use of pornography. The survey asked whether they used pornography, how many sexual partners they have had, and whether or not they've had one-night stands or exchanged money for sex.

Gert Martin Hald, the lead author of the study and associate professor in the department of public health at the University of Copenhagen, said that previous studies on the subject focused too much on the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases and the consumption of pornography. This means that previous studies had already overestimated the link between porn and sexual behavior without laying any proper groundwork.

Their study, therefore, focused on sexual self-esteem, sexual assertiveness, "sensation seeking," and the extent to which young people sought out sexual excitement and physical pleasure.

The study found that ultimately, there does exist a "statistically significant relationship between the subjects' pornography use and their sexual behavior, [but] that link turned out to be a modest one."

Hald also argues that more attention should be paid to other influences outside of pornography.

"There has been a sort of moral panic – sometimes in Britain and in the U.S. especially – about the influence of pornography on sexual behaviours," he says. "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 behaviours, so maybe we should put the debate into a larger perspective instead of being just one-sided."

Do you think that pornography is harmful to teen sexual development? Sound off!

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