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Rates, Age, & Impact of Exposure to Pornography

Women’s Age of First Exposure to Internet Pornography Predicts Sexual Victimization

Full Article Title: Women’s Age of First Exposure to Internet Pornography Predicts Sexual Victimization.

Open Access: Yes

Abstract

Increases in the availability and accessibility of Internet pornography have led growing numbers of children to become consumers of sexually explicit media. Research has identified negative behavioral and attitudinal outcomes associated with Internet pornography use in childhood and adolescence, but few studies have examined sexual victimization as a correlate. The current study aimed to examine the association between age of first Internet pornography exposure and sexual victimization. Data from 154 undergraduate women yielded several important findings. Women who viewed Internet pornography unintentionally at a younger age reported more sexual victimization. Specifically, compared to women who were first unintentionally exposed to Internet pornography at age 14 or older, women with unintentional first Internet pornography exposure before the age of 14 reported more childhood sexual abuse, sexual abuse in adulthood, and more instances of sexual coercion and aggression. Women with younger age of unintentional Internet pornography exposure also reported more interpersonal sexual objectification than women who had never viewed Internet pornography at all. Age of first intentional exposure to Internet pornography was not related to women’s self-reported experiences of objectification, although this may be because women’s intentional exposure tended to happen at older ages. Overall, the results of this study suggest that women’s unintentional Internet pornography exposure at a young age may contribute to a potentially harmful sexual socialization. Early Internet pornography exposure in childhood should be considered a potential risk factor for women’s sexual victimization.

Relevance

Among college-aged women in this study, the average age of first unintentional exposure to online pornography was 14 years old but as young as 5 years old. (The age of intentionally starting to view pornography was as young as 12.) Women who were unintentionally exposed to pornography at earlier ages (e.g., before age 14) reported more childhood and adult sexual abuse, and more sexual victimization (e.g., coercion and aggression). The study “indicates that accidental exposure to Internet pornography remains an issue in adulthood for a sizeable number of women.”

 

Citation

Harsey, S., Noll, L. K., Miller, M. J., & Shallcross, R. A. (2021). Women’s Age of First Exposure to Internet Pornography Predicts Sexual Victimization. Dignity: A Journal of Analysis of Exploitation and Violence, 6 (5), Article 1. https://doi.org/10.23860/dignity.2021.06.05.01