Growing Up in Pornland: Girls Have Had It with Porn Conditioned Boys

Melinda Tankard Reist as published on ABC Religion and Ethics

"[I want] better education regarding sex for both boys and girls [and] information about pornography, and the way it influences harmful sexual practices."

These are the words of Lucy, aged 15, one of 600 young Australian women and girls who took part in a just-released survey commissioned by Plan Australia and Our Watch. The survey, conducted by Ipsos, gathered responses from the girls and young women aged 15-19 in all states and territories.

In the survey report, entitled Don't send me that pic, participants reported that online sexual abuse and harassment were endemic. More than 80% said it was unacceptable for boyfriends to request naked images.

Sexual bullying and harassment are part of daily life for many girls. Young people are speaking out more and more about how these practices have links with pornography - and so they should, because they have most to lose.

Pornography is moulding and conditioning the sexual behaviours and attitudes of boys, and girls are being left without the resources to deal with these porn-saturated boys.

My own engagement with young women over the last few years in schools around Australia, confirms that we are conducting a pornographic experiment on young people - an assault on their healthy sexual development.

If there are still any questions about whether porn has an impact on young people's sexual attitudes and behaviours, perhaps it's time to listen to young people themselves. Girls and young women describe boys pressuring them to provide acts inspired by the porn they consume routinely. Girls tell of being expected to put up with things they don't enjoy.

Some see sex only in terms of performance, where what counts most is the boy enjoying it. I asked a 15-year-old about her first sexual experience. She replied: "I think my body looked OK. He seemed to enjoy it". Many girls seem cut off from their own sense of pleasure or intimacy. That he enjoyed it is the main thing. Girls and young women are under a lot of pressure to give boys and men what they want, to adopt pornified roles and behaviours, with their bodies being merely sex aids. Growing up in a pornified landscape, girls learn that they are service stations for male gratification and pleasure.

Asked "How do you know a guy likes you?," a Year 8 replied: "He still wants to talk to you after you suck him off." A male high school student said to a girl: "If you suck my dick I'll give you a kiss." Girls are expected to provide sex acts for tokens of affection. A 15-year-old told me she didn't enjoy sex at all, but that getting it out of the way quickly was the only way her boyfriend would settle down and watch a movie with her.

I'm increasingly seeing Year 7 girls who seek help on what to do about requests for naked images. Being asked "send me a picture of your tits" is an almost daily occurrence for many. "How do I say 'no' without hurting his feelings"? girls ask.  

As the Plan Australia/Our Watch report found, girls are tired of being pressured for images they don't want to send, but they seem resigned to how normal the practice has become. Boys use the images as a form of currency, to swap and share and to use to humiliate girls publicly.

Year 7 girls ask me questions about bondage and S&M. Many of them had seen 50 Shades of Grey (which was released on Valentine's Day). They ask, if he wants to hit me, tie me up and stalk me, does that mean he loves me? Girls are putting up with demeaning and disrespectful behaviours, and thereby internalizing pornography's messages about their submissive role.

I meet girls who describe being groped in the school yard, girls routinely sexually harassed at school or on the school bus on the way home. They tell me boys act like they are entitled to girls' bodies. Defenders of porn often say that it provides sex education. And it does: it teaches even very young boys that women and girls are always up for it. "No" in fact means yes, or persuade me.

Girls describe being ranked at school on their bodies, and are sometimes compared to the bodies of porn stars. They know they can't compete, but that doesn't stop them thinking they have to. Requests for labiaplasty havetripled in a little over a decade among young women aged 15-24. Girls who don't undergo porn-inspired "Brazilian" waxing are often considered ugly or ungroomed (by boys as well as by other girls).

Some girls suffer physical injury from porn-inspired sexual acts, including anal sex. The director of a domestic violence centre on the Gold Coast wrote to me a couple of years ago about the increase in porn-related injuries to girls aged 14 and up, from acts including torture:

"In the past few years we have had a huge increase in intimate partner rape of women from 14 to 80+. The biggest common denominator is consumption of porn by the offender. With offenders not able to differentiate between fantasy and reality, believing women are 'up for it' 24/7, ascribing to the myth that 'no means yes and yes means anal', oblivious to injuries caused and never ever considering consent. We have seen a huge increase in deprivation of liberty, physical injuries, torture, drugging, filming and sharing footage without consent."

The Australian Psychological Society estimates that adolescent boys are responsible for around 20% of rapes of adult women and between 30% and 50% of all reported sexual assaults of children. Just last week , Emeritus Professor Freda Briggs argued that online pornography is turning children into copycat sexual predators - acting out on other children what they are seeing in porn.

A 2012 review of research on "The Impact of Internet Pornography on Adolescents" found that adolescent consumption of Internet pornography was linked to attitudinal changes, including acceptance of male dominance and female submission as the primary sexual paradigm, with women viewed as "sexual playthings eager to fulfil male sexual desires." The authors found that "adolescents who are intentionally exposed to violent sexually explicit material were six times more likely to be sexually aggressive than those who were not exposed."

I have asked girls what messages they might like me to pass on to boys. So far, these messages include: "Stop telling us we are wet," "Stop commenting on our bodies," "Stop demanding pictures," "Rape jokes are never funny" and "Sex before the age of consent is illegal."

The proliferation and globalisation of hypersexualised imagery and pornographic themes makes healthy sexual exploration almost impossible. Sexual conquest and domination are untempered by the bounds of respect, intimacy and authentic human connection. Young people are not learning about intimacy, friendship and love, but about cruelty and humiliation. As a recent study found:

"online mainstream pornography overwhelmingly centered on acts of violence and degradation toward women, the sexual behaviors exemplified in pornography skew away from intimacy and tenderness and typify patriarchal constructions of masculinity and femininity."

It is intimacy and tenderness that so many girls and young women say they are looking for. A young woman told me that on dating sites she lists under "fetish" wanting to stare longingly into someone's eyes and to take sex slow. She said if she didn't put these desires in the "fetish" category, they wouldn't warrant a second glance.

But how will young women find these sensual, slow-burn experiences in men indoctrinated by pornography? Psychologist Philip Zimbardo says of young men: "They don't know the language of face to face contact ... Constant arousal, change, novelty excitement makes them out of sync with slow developing relationships - relationships which build slowly."

It is wrong to leave sexual formation in the hands of the global sex industry. We need to do more to help young people stand up against warped notions of sexuality conveyed in pornography.

Fortunately, the ill-effects of the pornographic experiment on relationships and sexuality are being named out loud. A groundbreaking Australia-first symposium on the issue was held at UNSW last month, to a standing room crowd, and a current Senate inquiry is gathering evidence of the distorting harmful impacts of porn on our young people.

Most importantly, it's young people themselves demanding change. Josie, 18, is quoted in the Plan Australia/Our Watch report:

"We need some sort of crack down on the violent pornography that is currently accessible to boys and men. This violent pornography should be illegal to make or view in Australia as we clearly have a problem with violence and boys are watching a lot of pornography which can be very violent ... This is influencing men's attitude towards women and what they think is acceptable. Violent pornography is infiltrating Australian relationships."

Girls like Lucy and Josie deserve our response.

As published here on ABC Religion and Ethics 

Showing 62 reactions

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  • commented 2016-09-21 09:43:49 +1000
    Hi Tim, you are right. Pornography perpetuates unrealistic ideals for both men and women and can have harmful negative impacts on boys and mens identity as well.
  • commented 2016-09-20 11:26:55 +1000
    There is another category of impact porn has on boys who see it before they have any actual physical experiences, I know because I was one of them. What I got from porn was that I didn’t look exactly like the guys in the videos, so I assumed girls would never be interested in me. Consequently I didn’t have any physical relationships at all, because at the same time I got the message that sexual harassment meant unwanted advances, and I assumed all my advances would be unwanted. So I was a virgin until I was 25. I think there are other guys out there who just give up on the real thing, like I did for a long time.
  • commented 2016-09-19 08:58:16 +1000
    Hi Aaron, whilst Collective Shout is concerned about porn’s influence on young people there are other organisations that are better placed to offer support for those wishing to no longer be consumers. One in particular is Guilty Pleasure. Their support page is here:
  • commented 2016-09-16 10:52:20 +1000
    Aaron, I think the simplest and best answer is to spend more time with real women. Not staring at them them, but talking with them and most of all, listening to them, learning and sharing their everyday concerns. When boys and men teach themselves to respect the actual women around them, porn loses its appeal. I’m not saying an addiction is easily curable in this way or any other, but an inability to relate to real women is not only the worst single symptom of a porn addiction, but also one of its principal causes, so working on that aspect of one’s humanity can only help!
  • commented 2016-09-16 08:41:44 +1000
    I read your article:
    and I am interested in finding out whether you have more assistance to offer on the matter in the following regard:
    How do we help young boys and men to get off porn. So lets say they are keen to stop watching porn but are struggling to stop how does one go about helping them get off porn?
  • commented 2016-06-20 19:56:03 +1000
    Thanks. This a great article. I’m interested to know whether the government will look at policing online porn or modifying state sex education content to balance the “education” young women and men are discovering online. Surely such changes should be integral to the Australian government’s initiative to counter violence against women. Prevention is better than cur. Dare we consider the prevalence of sexual violence in the future if we don’t act on this issue?
  • @CollectiveShout tweeted this page. 2016-06-20 13:00:13 +1000
  • commented 2016-05-20 07:10:15 +1000
    Josh, can you define what you mean by feminism please…?
  • commented 2016-05-19 21:28:56 +1000
    Rob ward, Do you think feminism is Evil?
  • commented 2016-05-19 19:53:43 +1000
    I would like people reading this to condemn porn as evil. Problem is, our culture no longer believes much in evil, especially sexual evil. Adultery, homosexuality, transgender bathrooms….. we all see the western world going down the drain, but I bet most people reading this are shocked that I would call the above evil. And therein lies the problem. Unless we are prepared to call evil “evil”, we cannot do anything much about it.
  • commented 2016-05-19 11:19:25 +1000
    We’re not gonna get boys off porn. They’re gone and sick. However, we can get the girls to safety by introducing feminist analysis early on so that girls are prepared for the pornsick males, so they can totally ignore them and only date guys who don’t watch porn. We’ve got to stop teaching girls ‘femininity’, teaching them they have to be ‘nice’ about rejecting males.
  • commented 2016-05-05 15:37:19 +1000
    Haha Cute kathy. Maybe one day you will become one of these so called Women you talk about.
  • commented 2016-05-05 14:45:22 +1000
    Josh Thomas, your comment reveals a lack of commitment towards your own growth. “Girls” are under aged minors, women on the other hand are adults. Women cannot be grouped together any more than my saying that “all men” are a like. Your comment shows a lack of intimacy in your sex life. I hope one day you will challenge your shallow belief system and risk growing into the man you could be. Because, until you grow and mature you will continue to attract the type of women with attitudes and actions that you find offensive – like attracts like.
  • commented 2016-05-05 12:12:16 +1000
    Josh Thomas…. Wow…. Touche
  • commented 2016-05-05 01:52:18 +1000
    Girls, you told us you didnt need a man anymore. So porn is where we headed to for satisfaction.
    And regardless of your own belief, it out performs anything a woman today can offer. And it doesn’t argue back :)

    Thanks for the great advice and motivation, It has made us much happier.

    Men are now going MGTOW.
  • commented 2016-05-01 10:11:04 +1000
    Katherine Garden….. AMEN…. Well said.
  • commented 2016-04-30 10:51:49 +1000
    Some of these issues would not exist IF parents parented their children before, during and after adolescence. We don’t need more laws to tell us how to behave. We need more love in the home. Turn off your computers, cell phones and TV’s mom and dad. Talk to one another, go for walks, go to the park and play basketball, kick ball, etc. You have to be involved with your own family in order to help avoid the issues in this article.
  • commented 2016-04-24 23:12:33 +1000
    It’s time for real change. Guys, how about asking her to send you an interesting scripture verse? Then respond back in kind by something that relates to that verse? But don’t do this to lure her into anything beyond what is appropriate. Girls will be attracted to a spiritual guy. But use this as an opportunity to get closer to God, and be serious about that. It’s better than sex. It really is. Sex is for marriage. Save it for that.
  • commented 2016-04-11 22:57:55 +1000
    “I’m not comfortable with that” is a fair enough answer for anyone at any age. You won’t fix porn or fantasy any-time soon. It’s too big a business online. Looking after your own self esteem is the quickest option. A bit like emotional self defence perhaps. Like any other defence, it needs practice. Rise from anywhere & start any-time.
  • commented 2016-04-10 10:35:34 +1000
    I wouldn’t want to take away from the point, but there should be something added to it. Most problems can be solved using clear communication and understanding from all parties so lets communicate with the boys on this as well.

    I consistently read articles that seem like rally cries for the public to support a cause. We’re pointing fingers, researching and funding problems, while offering solutions that urge people to stand together only for the sake of standing against an opposition. This is a negative response to a negative situation.

    The only solution offered here is an anti porn t-shirt, and why waste our energy battling a $92 billion a year industry before looking at the problem from all angles. These hormone riddled boys may be confused about their newly discovered sexuality and are likely more experienced showing their aggressive side than their tender side. In today’s society that’s no surprise. Fear, violence and sexual glamorization are practically everywhere, and don’t forget the fact that mommy and daddy probably have a box full of toys under their bed and are likely also porn consumers, if they’re still together that is.

    People have been fighting for sexual acceptance and liberation of all kinds for a long time so lets embrace the fact that society no longer falls inline with the classical view of ‘normal’.
    Instead of offering fear and outrage as a solution while making the subject out to be a problem, lets find, fund, and research ways of teaching people how to, not only act with, but truly feel respect and love for one another.
  • commented 2016-04-10 01:18:40 +1000
    Rob Ward…. You are spot on, dude, with both your comments. And I can romise you that if that box of chocolate was dangling there in front of a woman, she would go to any lengths to get at that box.

    And no, ladies…. Provacative dress does NOT justify rape because rape is not a product of lust – it is a product of hatred.
  • posted about this on Facebook 2016-04-09 15:22:34 +1000
    Growing Up in Pornland: Girls Have Had It with Porn Conditioned Boys
  • commented 2016-04-09 02:06:59 +1000
    The sexualization of children is a massive blight on modern day society. Humans are essentially sexual beings and curiosity about sex in children is perfectly natural.
    Pornography is not evil, if it was we would equally have to say that alcohol, gambling etc is too.
    The issue is that the technology (smart phones, iPads etc) that we often blindly put into the hands of children provides instant access to information on a vast scale………pornography happens to be one such source that all the research says creates a distorted perspective of sexuality that in the main objectifies women, and separates sex from love.
    Dr Sue Johnson, clinical psychologist and Professor at Alliant International University in San Diego, in her book “Love Sense” (2013), eloquently describes three different attachment styles that we bring to relationships……Secure, Anxious and Avoidant.
    Her research describes “those of us who are avoidant, that is, uncomfortable with emotional closeness and dependence on others, are more likely to have what I term ‘sealed-off’ sex. Sex is self centred and self affirming, a performance aimed at climax and confirming one’s own sexual skill. Technique is prized; openness and vulnerability shunned. Because pleasure without emotional engagement is shallow and fleeting, this kind of sex needs continual boosting to be thrilling”.
    “Sealed-off sex is most common among heterosexual men (The quintessential practitioner is James Bond)…….”
    “Disturbingly, this type of sex may be increasing because of the wide spread of Internet porn. Youngsters who troll websites are learning about performance and sensation, but not about emotional connection”.
    Dr Johnson goes on to comment “Sealed-ff sex is one-dimensional and leaves both partners dissociated. It undermines emotional bonds”.
    As a relationship counsellor in private practice, I believe the ultimate responsibility rests with both men and women as responsible parents to be mindful of modelling to children what healthy, loving relationships actually look like. Men in particular need to step up and represent a healthy model of masculinity that portrays creativity, tenderness, protectiveness, nurturing, vulnerability and assertiveness that engenders respect, trust and security in their partners, sons and daughters.
    It is widely known that children from the age of 8YO are exposed to porn, and from this age, the seeds of creating a distorted perception of sexual relationships is planted. Just imagine the flow-on effect for generations to come on the core values that form the foundations of relationships and family life.
    The question remains what steps are we as responsible adults willing to take to protect and preserve the innocence of children until they have the maturity to exercise discernment in how they choose to relate and express their sexuality in healthy, sustainable ways that fosters the deepening of their emotional bonds and connection in their intimate relationships throughout their lives.
  • commented 2016-04-09 00:35:43 +1000
    Jamie Raisback….. So you are saying that “because it happened, it was blessed by God”? That doesn’t fly, Jamie. In the NEW COVENANT (Mark 10:5, Mark 10:10-12), Jesus very explicitly states that the only reason divorce was ‘allowed’ is because of the sinful heard hearts of man. Pretty clear that divorce is still considered adultery.

    Your comment to the effect of, “THROW OUT all that was in the OLD COVENANT (all bar the 10 Commandments because THOSE words were direct from god and were NOT to do with Judeo-Christian Law)”… Have you read Levitucus 18? What don’t you understand about “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. 3 According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances. 4 You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them: I am the Lord your God. 5 You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.”

    If the old covenant does not exist, there is no reason for the new covenant to exist. Jesus is very clear about this in Matthew 5:17-20. “Do not think I have come to abolish the law…. not one iota shall pass from the law…”
  • commented 2016-04-08 18:18:46 +1000
    Rob Ward,

    The difference being if WE women went for that box of chocolates, we wouldn’t be blaming the box for being there, or the confectionery company for mass producing it, or the supermarket for promoting/selling it. We’d TAKE RESPONSIBILITY because we made THE DECISION to ATTACK the box and EAT the contents.

    Your analogy of women takes away the woman’s autonomy – their RIGHT to be their own person and make their OWN decisions – and worse it likens MEN to animals who can’t control themselves.

    No wonder we need feminists. Apparently MEN under the Patriarchal society thats been built don’t know that they are MORE than animals and that they are RESPONSIBLE for the choices that they make and the consequences that go with them.
  • commented 2016-04-08 06:58:42 +1000

    The economic conditions in which we live are such that every time we step into a supermarket intending to buy staple foods, we are confronted not with one box but with aisle upon aisle of chocolates, cakes, exotic fruits, sweetened drinks, etc. In many Western countries there’s also alcohol in the supermarket; in others that’s in a separate bottle shop, often right next door.

    It is in our best interests to indulge, at most, in moderation.
  • commented 2016-04-08 03:38:52 +1000
    The push-back I have had from women when I have raised issues of standards of modesty is: “a woman has a right to wear whatever she likes, and men should learn to control themselves”. This is naïve. My reply is: “Do you like chocolate? Would you like to have a box of chocolates dangled in front of you, out of your reach, but tempting you every day?”
  • commented 2016-04-08 03:37:57 +1000
    To be honest, I think that there are at least two sides to the coin. Many guys hunger for porn, but many girls feed that hunger by the provocative way they dress. I’m not asking for burkas, but some modesty instead of short skirts and low cut tops would be a good start.
  • commented 2016-04-06 02:45:14 +1000
    @jonathan Maddox I totally agree that kids learn most from what they EXPERIENCE from the adults they encounter.

    In my experience most adults fall into one of two camps:

    1. Sexually Repressed.
    common beliefs: ‘sex is bad / only for making babies / once you are married’
    Level of participation in and enjoyment of sex = LOW / LOW

    2. Friction Addicted.
    common beliefs: ‘longer bigger faster harder = better / ejaculation is the goal / f**king like a porn star is great’
    Level of participation in and enjoyment of sex = HIGH / LOWER THAN IT COULD BE

    Surely there is another way!!!
    What about sex where lovers take time to SLOW DOWN and FEEL and CONNECT. To CLEAR OLD WOUNDS and CREATE MAGIC? Now chances are most people reading this are gonna think ‘this guy has lost the plot’ so it may not be for you but for anyone who is interested check out this article on my blog –

    That is a gentle introduction and there is a lot more material you find online if you look for it!
  • commented 2016-04-06 02:35:11 +1000
    We should appreciate the grace and mercy of the New Testament and consider the second return would happen soon. Jacob seemed to have a desirable situation. Four women who wanted his attention. Must have been a believer who sought the bravery of an upright life. Rebellion and wrong are among the dishonourable routes in life and none would desire these. Another truth which should render the world safer exists in the principle of how sexual impropriety repeats on the perpetrator. Everybody sins and we can ask in prayer to receive the free gift of forgiveness and eternal paradise.

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