The Australian Psychological Society has spoken out about their concerns for the wellbeing of children due to the easy accessibility of online pornography.
In their submission to the Inquiry into the 'Harm being done to Australian children through access to pornography on the Internet' they explain the trends in young people's early exposure to violent and degrading online pornography stating that exposure "for young men at least - is at saturation point."
They also explain that online pornography is now mainstream and has become more aggressive with 88% of scenes from the most popular porn included acts of physical aggression:
The following themes in contemporary porn are of great concern:
- Men being aggressive and in control; women being happily dominated
- Acts of aggression including gagging, choking and slapping, directed at women
- Degradation and humiliation of women
- Women portrayed as sex objects for men’s sexual pleasure
- A focus on men getting what they want, with the women there just to please the men
- A focus on particular types and ways of doing sex which are not reflective of what most people – particularly women – like or want in real life
- Showing people doing unsafe sexual acts, including multiple partners having unprotected sex.
- Porn performers with bodies that do not reflect how most people look.
This exposure to pornography can have a negative impact on the development of healthy and respectful relationships and young people's expectations of sex and sexuality. It does not teach young people about the crucial role of consent.
There are also concerns about the role pornography plays in facilitating and normalising violence against women in addition to its role in the sexualisation of women and girls.
The sexualisation of women and girls is a specific outcome of pornography (but of course is not limited to this medium – however it could be argued that it is driven by this medium). All forms of media provide examples of sexualised images of girls and women, but these images are ubiquitous in most pornography.
Research on pornography imagery indicates that women more often than men are portrayed in a sexual manner (e.g., dressed in revealing clothing, with bodily postures or facial expressions that imply sexual readiness) and are objectified (e.g., used as a decorative object, or as body parts rather than a whole person).
According to the report of the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the Sexualisation of Girls (APA, 2007), the cumulative exposure of children and young people to sexualised images and themes has negative effects in many areas, including self-objectification, links with eating disorders, low self-esteem, depression or depressed mood and diminished sexual health. The APA has also raised concerns about the ways in which the sexualisation of girls and women contributes to broader societal consequences, such as sexism and sexist attitudes.
The Australian Psychological Society suggests a range of recommendations to tackle the problem including quality relationally-based sex education, setting appropriate limits on technology use and working collaboratively with governments, industry, schools and community organisations to raise awareness of the harmful impact of porn on young people and develop appropriate policy and legislative responses to prevent this harm.
The full submission can be read here #347.
See also Michael Flood's presentation from the 'Pornography and Harms to Children and Young People' Symposium
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