A recent study has shone a light on the dangers of pornography—particularly the nature of the graphic acts themselves and the age of the performers. This study, published in an academic journal looking specifically at violence against women, analyzed 127 mainstream, popular pornographic videos in order to examine the relationship between aggression and the age of female performers. What they found only proves that pornography fuels sexual violence, objectification, and degradation of women.
Several studies have already linked pornography to adverse health and social factors due to what the study names as the “Three A’s” of Internet pornography—accessibility, affordability, and anonymity. As the prevalence of Internet pornography only increases, it stands to reason that many people (especially young people) are now susceptible to porn becoming their primary vehicle of sex education. Young people who are watching aggressive porn that features similarly aged actors are then at risk of developing harmful sexual scripts and modeling behavior. What happens when the porn they are watching is full of physical, verbal, and coercive aggression?
The study says, “Exposure to pornography is associated with attitudes supporting violence against women, sexual harassment, and sexual coercion. Such attitudes were found to be especially prevalent among users of aggressive media.”
The disturbing trend of aggression, coded as “apparent intent to cause harm, pain, or discomfort” in this study, is linked to teenage actors in pornographic content.
How does aggression in porn compare with teenage actors and adult actors?
The study concluded that teen-themed pornography is more likely to include sexual aggression toward women. Across the 127 videos analyzed, split into teenage or adult performers, 43% of teen themed videos included visible aggression, and 15% included visible, non-consensual aggression. This aggression included acts like biting, hair pulling, hitting of face and body, forced gagging, and forceful penetration. Titles of teen-themed porn often included aggressive vocabulary such as “ravished” or “destroyed”. Consistently, pornography with teen-themed content advertised and featured more aggression and degrading or risky acts.
Additionally, this teen-themed porn also included the female actors responding to aggression with pleasure more often than adult actors. Of the videos analyzed, “90% of the teenage women containing visible aggression displayed pleasure, compared with 54.29% when visible aggression was not present”. So not only is pornography normalizing aggression and violence during sex, but it legitimizes abuse further by depicting women as enjoying and even preferring these acts. When compared to the data showing the use of pornography as sex education and model behavior, this creates a dangerous environment of real violence, particularly toward young women.
This particular study concludes that mainstream accessible pornography is actively portraying harmful stereotypes that regularly depict young, teenage women as sex objects who enjoy and desire being sexually dominated and demeaned.
“A considerable portion of popular pornographic videos does legitimate and even celebrate aggression and degradation by portraying these acts as both consensual—showing the dominance and aggression of men over willing women—and sensual—producing pleasure and satisfaction for both men and women. That is, these videos still reinforce the idea that women desire and derive pleasure from aggressive and degrading sexual practices, an idea that serves to perpetuate a rape culture.”
The study goes on to highlight additional consequences of aggressive teenage porn. Sexual scripts based on violence may then influence real life sexual behavior. Psychology issues such as males feeling pressure to act in a sexually aggressive manner as well as females feeling their partner expects submissive behavior are a risk. The prevalence of teenage porn as a category itself normalizes teenage girls as legitimate targets for sexual encounters, potentially fostering child sex abuse. And as young girls are frequently depicted as desiring violence, they may be at an increased risk for inter-partner domestic violence.
The fact that mainstream porn industry is framing sex with teens in such a normalized and aggressive light is extremely troubling given our society’s clear struggle to handle harassment and abuse. In our current #MeToo culture, we must look to pornography as a major contributor to issues such as assault, violence, and abuse. You can find more information about the harms of pornography here.