Can watching porn affect your sex life?
Jaimie Duplass

Can watching porn affect your sex life?

By Sarah Moses Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 16:06
Watching porn can affect teens’ sexual behaviour and attitudes, but just how much is still up to debate. That’s because the effects of porn are different for everyone. Research shows personality and culture are also at play a part.

With studies on the effects of porn, it seems like the findings might partly depend on the culture of the researchers. The Dutch, for example, have a reputation for being open minded when it comes to sex. And a recent study from the Netherlands, titled Does viewing explain doing?, is pretty laid back about the whole thing. Yes, porn can affect how teens have sex, say the researchers – but probably only a little.

Adventurous sex

The researchers asked 4600 young adults aged 15 to 25 to fill out a survey on everything from watching porn to their experiences with sex to their personality types.

Eighty-eight percent of guys and 45 percent of girls had watched or looked at porn at least once in the past year, and most did so online, the research showed. Other European studies report similarly high numbers, so the majority of teens are no strangers to porn.

As for its effect on Dutch teens, those experienced in the world of porn were more likely to have adventurous sex – things like threesomes, or going to bed in real life with someone they’d met online – and to pay or be paid for sex.

But the difference was small compared to teens who weren’t all that into porn. And overall, the Dutch study concluded that porn is “just one factor among many that may influence youth sexual behaviours”, and others factors, like personality, probably make more of a difference to the decisions teens make and their attitudes towards sex.

Unrealistic attitudes

Meanwhile, the British tend to have a reputation for being rather more uptight about sex. And sure enough, a report from the UK called “Basically… porn is everywhere” came to more negative conclusions than the Dutch study.

British teens who use porn are more likely to have risky sex, the researchers concluded, for example by having unprotected anal or oral sex or using drugs or alcohol, though they weren’t able to say whether porn was the reason for risky sexual behaviour or if it just went along with it.

Porn can also change teens’ beliefs about sex, say the British researchers – it can lead to unrealistic attitudes towards sex and cause guys to see girls as sex objects.

“Exposure to sexualised and violent imagery affects children and young people,” say the Brits, and “there are links between violent attitudes and violent media”.

Younger sex

A German study Love Matters reported on previously also found that porn can change teens’ ideas about sex. Both guys and girls who watch lots of porn tend to think that people lose their virginity at a younger age and that in real life people have sex in as many different ways as they do in porn, the study showed.

Surprisingly, it found that young people who felt more tightly controlled by their parents were more likely to watch porn. In short, teens who feel free watch less porn.

What teens say

Researchers have a lot to say about the effects of porn, but has anyone actually stopped to ask teens what they think? That’s just what one Swedish study did. Over 50 teens aged 14 to 20 were interviewed for their thoughts on the subject. Both guys and girls knew there was a major difference between the male fantasy world of most porn and real-life sex and relationships, the interviews showed.

So is porn guilty of harming young people’s sex lives? Well, it depends on who you ask, and who’s asking. The jury is still out.

Do you think watching porn can affect your sex life? Tell us here or on Facebook.

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