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-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Topic: Porn in the Emerald Isle 

The News Story: #PornWeek—Newstalk study reveals Ireland's porn habits

The New Research: The Victims of a “Victimless Practice”

 

The News Story: #PornWeek—Newstalk study reveals Ireland's porn habits 

An Irish talk-radio station is devoting its attentions this week to pornography. To prepare for the week’s discussion, the station commissioned a poll of 1,000 people across the nation “to investigate their attitudes towards and consumption of pornography.” 

“According to research,” Newstalk says, “67% of Irish people admit to having ever consumed porn, with 35% saying that [they] have watched hardcore videos.” In addition, 8% of those polled admitted to sending naked photographs of themselves, 45% to reading or watching erotic books or films, and 56% to looking at pictures of other people in the nude. One in ten admit to consuming porn on a weekly basis.

The poll also discovered that many parents are worried about the prospect of their teens becoming involved in porn consumption, and rightly so, as the poll discovered that most people were 17 when they began consuming porn, and a high percentage even younger. And yet, the story closes with a cheerful admonition that “Experts say that porn can be a healthy part of sex.”

Not so likely, according to research, and perhaps even less so for the adolescent viewing audience.

(Sources: James Dempsey, “#PornWeek—Newstalk study reveals Ireland's porn habits,” Newstalk.com, March 20, 2017.)

 

The New Research: The Victims of a “Victimless Practice”

When progressives resist efforts to outlaw pornography, they lecture the public on the dangers of censoring a form of free expression that—so long as those producing it are consenting adults—victimizes no one. But progressives’ defense of pornography as victimless looks less and less credible as researchers uncover ever more evidence that pornography actually does harm both those who view it and those close to them. The latest evidence that porn hurts people comes in a study recently completed by researchers at Harvard and Boston Universities, a study concluding that adolescents who view pornography are especially likely to suffer abuse from their dating partners.

The Harvard and Boston scholars launch their study acutely concerned about adolescent dating abuse (ADA). Sobering statistics indicate that “approximately 21% of girls and 10% of boys who attend high school in the U.S. experience either physical or sexual ADA each year,” especially alarming numbers given that previous studies have established that “sequelae of ADA can be severe and may include depression, anxiety, substance abuse, antisocial behavior, suicidal thoughts, injury, and death.” No wonder that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified ADA as “a public health priority.” 

To address that priority, the authors of the new study examine the relationship between ADA and pornography. This relationship certainly deserves scrutiny in light of “scientific evidence support[ing] the contention that exposure to some forms of sexually explicit material . . . may inspire copycat acts of sexualized violence or degradation, or increase sexual aggression.” To gauge the linkage between ADA and adolescent viewing of pornography, the researchers analyze data collected in 2013-2014 from 72 economically deprived youth, mostly blacks and Hispanic, living in inner-city Boston. These data reveal a strong linkage between adolescent viewing of pornography and adolescent dating abuse. The researchers calculate that—compared to study participants who had not experienced dating aggression—ADA victims viewed pornography “approximately twice as often per week (2.4 vs. 1.1 times, p = 0.06), twice as often per month (8.3 vs. 3.8 times, p = 0.05), and approximately 2.6 times [as] frequently per year (37.1 vs. 14.0 times, p < 0.05).”

The ugly copy-cat effects of pornography—anticipated by the researchers—show up clearly in this new study. The authors of the study report that about half (50%) of ADA victims had been asked to engage in a sexual act their partner first saw in pornography. Unsurprisingly, most of those receiving such requests (58%) “did not feel happy to have been asked.”

Understandably, the researchers see in their findings reason to give “clinicians, educators, parents, and other youth-serving professionals . . .  guidance about how to talk factually with youth about present-day pornography, its potential impacts, and what they can do if they are being pressured to watch or perform pornographic acts.”

(Source: Bryce Christensen and Nicole M. King, forthcoming in “New Research,” The Natural Family 31.2 [2017] Study: Emily F. Rothman and Avanti Adhia, “Adolescent Pornography Use and Dating Violence among a Sample of Primarily Black and Hispanic, Urban-Residing, Underage Youth,” Behavioral Sciences 6.1 [2016]: 1, Web, emphasis added.)