Underage Porn Consumption and Sexual Violence Among Adolescents

“The problem with me is that there’s no regulation in the industry. The average age now where someone watches their first porn is eleven. … ‘porn’ it’s such a broad term. Porn can be anything from like something really softcore and mellow, to like hardcore, violent, torture porn… For somebody to learn about sex from porn, I think is really dangerous. And I think that happens a lot.” – Rashida Jones, Actress, Writer and Producer[1]

You’ve heard the phrase “monkey see, monkey do”? The phrase refers to the psychology of animals acting out the things they see, a common occurrence among primates and their close cousins, human beings. It’s an important part of being human; the ability to learn from the things we see, hear and feel. We are highly programmable creatures from the moment we enter the world.

It’s no wonder then that advertising is so effective at getting us to mimic the latest fashion and follow the latest trends. But when it comes to deviant behavior, is there a hidden force that tells us there’s a moral barrier we should not cross, or is it all ambiguous?

Pornography was once hidden in the United States behind a pay wall. Companies had their personal websites set up to only show graphic sexual content after money was paid using a credit card, for which the buyer had to be at least eighteen years of age. But in 2005 that changed. Tube sites – beginning with YouTube – became popular platforms for uploading free content. Copyright infringement became the norm, as well as homemade content and eventually websites were created for the sole purpose of offering free porn content for the advertising revenue it would ecru.

There are studies showing that adults have difficulty separating fantasy from reality.

“We, too, find that pornography is not mere fantasy or an individualized experience for men. Instead, our findings are consistent with a theory suggesting that pornography can become a preferred sexual script for men, thus influencing their real-world expectations.”[2]

The problem now, of course, is that porn is free to every human being with a connection to the internet, including children.

So what are the implications? A developing mind absorbing hours of sexual (and often extremely aggressive) content must have a consequence, right?

Dr. W. Dean Belnap, a pediatrician and child psychiatrist, noted that there is a “critical period when a child’s brain is being programmed for sexual orientation.”

“It is during this period that the mind appears to be developing a “hardwire” for what the person will be aroused by or attracted to. Exposure to healthy sexual norms and attitudes during this critical period can result in the child developing a healthy sexual orientation. In contrast, if there is exposure to pornography during this period, thoughts of sexual deviance may become imprinted on the child’s “hard drive” and become a permanent part of his or her sexual orientation.”[3]

The Third Talk’s® own interview of 11 young adults whose porn consumption began as early as age 9 have their own stories about how early porn consumption altered their perception of sex and the opposite sex.

According to one male, Elijah, it still effects him into adulthood.

“[Porn has] been a continuous struggle for most of my life. As much as I’ve seen technology – from the first parts of my life when I was looking at technology – I was looking at porn. So, that’s been a long time now in my life, and I’m sure your kids, especially with how technology has moved so much further than when I was growing up, I’m sure in your kid’s life it’s just as much prominent as it was in my life. It’s a struggle that we try to hide a lot. I feel like I’m such a professional at hiding the fact that I watch pornography. You get really good at hiding it because you know how much shame comes with the fact that if everybody saw you looking at this, you would look like a terrible person because the thoughts that comes from pornography are not okay, and I’m not proud of the thoughts I’ve had when I’ve watched pornography, and how it’s made my view of girls very unhealthy in the past couple of years and I’m trying to do a better job of changing that view of women in my life.”[4]

From “A Qualitative Study of Pornography Use Among a Sample of Urban, Low-Income, Black and Hispanic Youth”:

“The following themes emerged from interviews with 23 youth: (1) Youth primarily reported watching pornography that featured one-on-one sexual intercourse but also reported having seen extreme pornography (e.g., public humiliation, incest); (2) youth reported watching pornography on home computers or smartphones, and that pornography was frequently watched in school; (3) youth reported watching for entertainment, for sexual stimulation, instructional purposes, and to alleviate boredom; many copied what they saw in pornography during their own sexual encounters; (4) pressure to make or to imitate pornography was an element of some unhealthy dating relationships; and (5) parents were generally described as unsupportive of youth’s use of pornography but underequipped to discuss it.”[5]

underage-porn-consumption-and-sexual-violence-among-adolescents

But is this an occurrence among only a segment of the population? No. Billie Eilish is a Grammy and Academy Award Winning Singer from a wealthy family[6], and she has her own story about underage exposure to pornography and its effects.

“I used to watch a lot of porn, to be honest. I started watching porn when I was like, 11. I thought that’s how you learned how to have sex. I was watching abusive porn, to be honest. You know, when I was like 14. And I, you know, thought I was one of the guys and would talk about it and think I was really cool for not having a problem with it and not seeing why it was bad. I think it really destroyed my brain. And I feel incredibly devastated that I was exposed to so much porn. I think I had like, sleep paralysis and these, like, almost night errors / just nightmares because of it. I think that’s how they started because I would just watch abusive BDSM. I couldn’t watch anything else, like unless it was violent. I didn’t think it was attractive. And I was a virgin. I had never done anything. It led to problems, where the first few times I had sex I was not saying no to things that were not good. And it’s because I thought that that’s what I was supposed to be attracted to.”[7]

While not every child who is exposed to pornography becomes a predator, there are studies revealing a direct correlation between underage porn consumption and sexual violence among adolescents.

“Violent pornography exposure was associated with all types of TDV [Teen Dating Violence], though patterns differed by gender. Boys exposed to violent pornography were 2–3 times more likely to report sexual TDV perpetration and victimization and physical TDV victimization, while girls exposed to violent pornography were over 1.5 times more likely to be perpetrate threatening TDV compared to their non-exposed counterparts.”[8]

And according to a Daily Mail article from 2009:

“Children as young as 5 are imitating sex acts at school because they are being allowed to stay up late and watch pornography.”[9]

Why are parents “underequipped” to discuss pornography with their children?

John Van Arnam, founder of The Third Talk®, travels the country talking to parents about the dangers of early exposure and confronts this issue during the Q & A’s where parents are either wholly unaware that their kids are watching, or are afraid that a prevention conversation will expose them to pornography.

“A lot of parents worry that talking to their children about this content is going to introduce them to the concept. Let me assure you of something. They’re already watching it.”[10]

John has already talked to several youth from his own Family Consultations where children reveal they first watched pornography on the family computer with simple, curious searches regarding anatomy[11], to being shown porn at sleepovers and at school. And his 11 Youth Testimonial interviews also include accidental exposure through an iPod Touch and ads through Gaming Consoles.[12] John goes on to say:

“Wouldn’t you rather be the one to introduce them to this and tell them that it is not okay for them, and that you do not agree with it, and that they are not allowed to see it, as opposed to having their cousins, or their friends, or their older brother’s or sister’s friends introduce them to this without your knowledge? This is the world our kids are growing up in. We have to accept that. And we have to get out in front of this, Parents, for prevention.”[10]

The Third Talk® is a porn-prevention resource for parents to have this conversation with their kids. We make a difficult conversation easy with the Parent’s Guide, and John is also available for Family Consultations when a parent feels they cannot tackle this conversation without help. He provides consultations to parents or parents and their children.

Let us help. Buy the Parent’s Guide or schedule a Consultation. If you are a Teacher, Principal, Peace Officer or Community Leader, reach out and Request an Appearance so John can speak to members of your community in your school, churches and preferred community venues. We also encourage you to Donate. We can’t do this alone. This is a movement that is going to take all of our effort and we appreciate your help!

Parent’s Guide: https://www.thethirdtalk.org/the-third-talk-parents-guide/
Consultations: https://www.thethirdtalk.org/coaching-sessions/
Request an Appearance: https://www.thethirdtalk.org/book-the-third-talk/
Donate: https://www.thethirdtalk.org/donate/


1. Rashida Jones Interview Touches on the Harms of Pornography on Today’s Youth: https://www.thethirdtalk.org/rashida-jones-interview-touches-on-the-harms-of-pornography-on-todays-youth/
2. Pornography and the Male Sexual Script: An Analysis of Consumption and Sexual Relations, Chyng Sun • Ana Bridges • Jennifer Johnason • Matt Ezzell
3. “Internet Safety 101” Workbook, 42–43; “Internet Safety 101” DVD Pornography101 Section
4. Young man named Elijah speaking to camera during an interview conducted by The Third Talk® regarding underage exposure to pornography and pornography addiction, October 2021: https://www.thethirdtalk.org/young-person-testimonials/
5. Rothman, E. F., Kaczmarsky, C., Burke, N., Jansen, E., & Baughman, A. (2015). ‘Without Porn… I Wouldn’t Know Half the Things I Know Now’: A Qualitative Study of Pornography Use Among a Sample of Urban, Low-Income, Black and Hispanic Youth. Journal of sex research, 52(7), 736–746
6. “Is Billie Eilish from a Rich Family?”: https://musicnerdshq.com/is-billie-eilish-from-a-rich-family/
7. Billie Eilish, The Howard Stern Show, December 2021
8. Rostad, W. L., Gittins-Stone, D., Huntington, C., Rizzo, C. J., Pearlman, D., & Orchowski, L. (2019). The association between exposure to violent pornography and teen dating violence in grade 10 high school students. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 48(7), 2137-2147. doi:10.1007/s10508-019-1435-4
9. Staff reporter, “Five–Year Olds ‘Are Imitating Net Porn,’” Daily Mail (UK), November 20, 2009.
10. The Third Talk® TikTok Q&A “Is a porn-prevention conversation exposing my child to pornography?”: https://www.tiktok.com/@thethirdtalk
11. The Third Talk™ Founder Talks to a Local Boy: https://www.thethirdtalk.org/the-third-talk-talks-to-local-boy/
12.Youth speaking to camera during an interview conducted by The Third Talk® regarding underage exposure to pornography and pornography addiction, October 2021: https://www.thethirdtalk.org/young-person-testimonials/

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