Pornography (porn) is sexually explicit media that aims to arouse the viewer. It includes images or video of one or more people engaging in sexual activity. The growth of internet technology has changed the way people, including young people, encounter and consume porn. Porn is now affordable, anonymous, accessible and mostly acceptable - and research shows that while this is far from ideal, porn has become a primary form of sex education for young people.
Porn - The REAL Sex Talk
Is watching porn a problem?
While some experts suggest that watching porn to any degree will have a negative impact on an individual’s life, others believe there is such a thing as healthy types and use of porn. There is agreement, however, that porn becomes a problem when it shapes the way watchers define healthy sexual relationships and behaviours, or when they can't stop watching it.
As porn has become easily accessible, so too has the depiction of sexual violence in pornography - which has become mainstream and is increasingly portrayed in porn as normal and permissible. A UK 2021 study that looked at more than 150,000 scene titles across the four main porn sites found 1 in 8 of the titles contained acts depicting sexual violence such as coercion, non-consent and physical aggression. A 2019 NZ study of content in the top 200 videos Kiwis watched on Pornhub found 35% of the videos contain non-consensual behaviour, 10% showed physical violence, and 71% of the scenes had no affection.
Sexual attitudes and behaviours in youth
Studies show that between 80-100% of kids will have seen porn. A 2018 survey of more than 2,000 New Zealand teens aged 14-17 years old indicated 75% of boys and 58% of girls in that age group had viewed porn, and one-in-four 17-year-old boys watched regularly (NZ Youth and Porn). Many young people first discover porn by accident, often at a very young age. In the New Zealand study, one-in-four of the young people surveyed had seen porn by age 12 or under.
When porn is the primary sex educator for young people, it shapes sexual attitudes and beliefs and is redefining people’s understanding of sexual norms. These attitudes and beliefs continue into adulthood. Research has found that porn watchers - regardless of their gender - are more likely to view women as sexual objects and to hold negative gender attitudes. Watching porn has also been found to influence sexual behaviours including advancing early sexual experimentation and sexual intercourse, increasing risky sexual behaviours, promoting casual sex, and influencing people to have a greater number of sexual partners. Young people who watch a lot of porn have also been found to be less likely to enjoy intimate behaviours (such as cuddling and kissing), less likely to shift from porn to real life partners, and when they do make that shift they can find it more difficult to remain aroused during sex. Likewise, viewing porn can change the attitudes and beliefs of adults over time.
Some people experience shame around their porn use. This can be worse if they come from a cultural or religious background where porn is taboo. They can struggle with asking for help or support, because they are afraid of telling people about their porn use. In the long term, shame can lead to increased anxiety and a cycle of using porn to manage these negative feelings.
Nudes, sexy selfies & revenge porn - The real sex talk
Porn addiction is a form of sexual addiction where a person is preoccupied with sexualised imagery, and loses control of whether they engage in that behaviour - despite the negative consequences it has for them. A porn addiction can have severe consequences on a person’s overall health and wellbeing.
Signs of an addiction to porn:
- Excessive use of pornography (when watching porn begins to interfere with your daily life or responsibilities, or impact other people in your life).
- Feelings of sadness or distress when you don't use pornography.
- Sexual dysfunction (e.g. impotence, premature ejaculation).
- Not wanting to seek person-to-person (real-life) sexual contact.
- Sexual behaviour between you and your partner changes (more aggressive, violent or emotionally disconnected).
- Watching porn to alter your mood i.e. to obtain a ‘high’ or to avoid unpleasant feelings such as anxiety or depression.
Porn addiction can be treated successfully. You should look for qualified help as soon as you realise you have a problem. Speaking to your partner or someone you trust about how you feel is a good place to start. Your GP can also help you find the right supports that can aid you on the road to tackling your addiction.
Porn Addiction side effects
Escaping Porn Addiction
Let’s Talk Porn
- The Light Project - a range of resources for young people and adults with information and support for pornography.
- Fortify is an online programme to kick the porn habit, with peer forums offering encouragement from others.
- PornHelp - PornHelp’s mission is to help people who want to stop using porn take the first step. They offer a collection of information about different ways to quit porn.
- Netsafe offers practical tools, support and advice for managing online challenges.
Apps (Apple Store / Google Play)
- Fortify is designed to equip individuals struggling with compulsive porn use with tools, education and a community to help them kick the habit.
- SafeSurfer can block pornography on your iPhone or iPad.
- Brainbuddy aims to help people addicted to porn and masturbation.
- Quit addiction buddy is designed to help people quit porn through developing discipline, keeping track of mistakes so you can fix them, and kickstarting your willpower.