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Decoding Women’s and Girls’ Relationship with Pornography

While pornography is mostly viewed by men and is typically catered to a male audience (where women perform acts for the sole purpose of pleasing men), viewership among women and girls is on the rise. Culture Reframed’s new white paper, “Women and Girls’ Use of Pornography: Myths, Facts, and Controversies,” argues that the growing number of women consuming pornography warrants attention.

Here, we highlight one important myth, one fact, and one controversial viewpoint identified in the research around women and girls’ use of pornography.

MYTH: Creating and watching porn is empowering for women.

The porn industry argues that porn creates sexual empowerment. In reality, this inaccurate message is used to groom young women to watch pornography by building confidence based entirely on sexuality. Additionally, the ties between pornography and prostitution show that many female performers are actually being sexually exploited.

FACT: Women are watching more porn than ever before.

Over the past five decades, there has been a significant increase in women’s use of porn. Studies show that 83% of women have seen porn, and one-third of them have viewed it before the age of 13. This statistic reinforces the importance of looking carefully at the dangerous lessons porn teaches kids about sex.

According to a recent study, more than 60% of women reported consuming porn in the past month. In a 2023 survey conducted by Pornhub, 36% of visitors were female, which is up 4% from the year before, challenging the notion that porn consumption is exclusively a male activity.

CONTROVERSY: Porn is sex-positive.

Many women report feeling embarrassed, uncomfortable, and inadequate after watching porn, leading to lower self-esteem and increased psychological distress. Additionally, porn consumption can have negative impacts on women’s sexual health. This includes the potential for earlier engagement in sexual activity, an increased risk of sexual violence victimization, and more permissive attitudes toward casual sex. From our perspective, this is anything but sex-positive.

How to Protect Women and Girls from the Harms of Pornography

Spreading awareness of the dangers and misperceptions of pornography is critical to combatting this issue. Ensuring young people receive quality sex education is an important first step.

Young people need trusted adults who they can talk to when they have questions. Young women and girls, especially, need advocates to help build self-esteem and keep them resilient against the negative effects of our hypersexualized culture.

Culture Reframed offers free courses to support parents and educators. Our Parents Programs provide a science-based framework and guidance on how to have gentle, safe conversations with kids about explicit content. Our porn-critical sex ed curriculum helps kids contrast facts about healthy intimacy with the exploitative portrayal of porn.

For more information on this topic, read the full white paper here: Women and Girls’ Use of Pornography: Myths, Facts, and Controversies.

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