With the prevalence of mobile devices, lack of censorship and massive archives of online porn, unfiltered sexualised content has never been more accessible. Due to the majority of online pornography being free of cost and readily available, there has been a massive increase in the consumption of pornographic material in recent years. Data from the General Social Survey suggests that there was a 16% increase in the viewership of pornographic material in males and an 8% increase in females from the year 1970 to the year 2000, with statistics rising even further in recent years. With this increase in demand for ‘X-rated’ material, it is unsurprising that the pornography industry is extremely lucrative. According to a recent article in the Telegraph, the industry itself is worth an estimated 12 billion dollars. Statistics published by the Barna Group point to the fact that the increase in viewership of online porn is mainly attributed to young males who fall in the age bracket of 18-30. However, the figures decrease significantly as you move through the generations, with a 30% drop in monthly porn viewership for males in the 50-69 age bracket. However, there exists contention as to whether people are less prone to consuming pornographic material as they grow older due to a tendency to gravitate towards long-term relationships, due to an inhibited sexual appetite or due to older generations not having been raised in the same climate of easily accessible internet pornography.
According to a HuffPost article, 90% of males and 60% of females under the age of 18 have been exposed to some form of pornography. A problem often closely associated with the increase of young viewership of porn is the unrealistic expectations it provides them. Due to age restrictions no longer preventing adolescents from accessing sexual content via the internet and because of the lack of a thorough sexual education system, young people are being subjected to unrealistic depictions of sex and body image whilst lacking the tools to interpret and evaluate what they are seeing. Much of online pornography offers a warped and exaggerated view of what the human body is supposed to look like. For example, the average erect male penis measures 5.16 inches, whereas the average male porn star’s erect penis measures 8 inches. In addition, many female porn stars have also undergone breast implant surgery. Young people who are continually subjected to an unrealistic depiction of the human body can subconsciously set unattainable standards for themselves and their partners. Such unachievable standards of the ideological form can result in body dysmorphia, eating disorders and other such mental health issues. In conjunction with warped body image, young people can also form an unrealistic view of sex and sexual relations. An article from Childnet International conducted a survey as to whether the young participants believed that pornography was a realistic depiction of sexual relations. The results stated that 53% of boys and 33% of girls advocated for porn as being an accurate and realistic representation of sex. This could be considered problematic due to the fact that the majority of porn is focussed purely on the sexual pleasure of males. Stemming from the belief that porn is a realistic depiction of sex, young people can become unsatisfied with their own sexual relations with a partner or can have unrealistic expectations of how and what their partner should perform during sex.
Another prevalent problem associated with the increase in the consumption and accessibility of online pornography is its facilitation of sexual addiction. According to a Cambridge Study conducted in 2014, ‘pornography triggers brain activity in sex addicts in the same way drugs trigger drug addicts.’ This means that online pornography can provide a medium through which people can exacerbate their addictions and can also pose a threat to those who are predisposed to addictive tendencies. Furthermore, an article published in the Daily Mail suggested that ‘sex addicts became desensitised when repeatedly shown the same sexual images.’ This could be considered problematic as it then becomes the tendency of the addict to continually seek out new pornographic material to achieve the same sense of arousal experienced with new sexualised content, thus fuelling the addiction. Sex and porn addictions can have adverse effects on one’s emotional and psychological health with the American Addictions Centre noting the most prevalent to be a decline in personal relationships, decreased productivity, anxiety and depression.
The perceived positive and negative implications of the rising consumption of online pornography are in constant contest with each other and as such, one must account for the many allleged benefits that surround the use of pornographic material. One of the most cited positive effects of online pornography to to according to a study carried out by Professor Alan McKee is that it ‘makes consumers less repressed about sex’. This claim advocates for the recreational use of pornography to express and focus sexual desires, rather than stifle them. The normalisation of pornography can also reduce the ‘taboo’ surrounding sex and sexual material, prefacing a more open and accepting society with regards to sex and sexuality. Furthermorre, accessible online pornography provides adolescents who are anxious about sex or who do not feel ready for sexual intimacy with a convenient outlet through which they can focus their desires in a safe environment. McKee also talked about how viewers who watched online porn were more attentive to a partner’s sexual desires. Despite studies showing that excessive consumption of pornography appears harmful, with a lack of clarity surrounding statistics and the multiple alleged benefits of viewing porn, it is difficult to condemmn it entirely.
By Aisling Mac Aree – Features Writer