First a few sobering statistics. According to Covenant Eyes, Teens and young adults 13-24 believe not recycling is worse than viewing pornography. Only 43% of teens believe porn is bad for society, compared to 31% of young adults 18-24, 51% of Millennials, 44% Gen-Xers, and 59% of Boomers. 64% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women say they watch porn at least once a month. 1
57% of teens search out porn at least monthly. 51% of male students and 32% of female students first viewed porn before their teenage years. The first exposure to pornography among men is 12 years old, on average. 71% of teens hide online behavior from their parents.
Now that we’ve gotten some national statistic out of the way, “What did you say about my daughter being more prone to becoming addicted to porn?” “Girls aren’t really looking at that stuff are they?” Another well-meaning parent asks.
While the research typically supports the idea that men admit to watching more porn than women, it is still common for women to report watching porn as well (the reason that this statistic has been so widely skewed is women’s hesitancy to report using porn due to “social norms” and stigmas). The reality is, that more and more of our girls are being programmed to not only use it, but have found it to be way more addictive. 2 Not to mention how much easier it is to access as well. Pornography has experienced some pretty serious evolution in the past two decades. From limited content that one had to seek out, it has become easily accessible, free, more varied, and far more dangerous. The landscape of sexuality and pornography has almost completely changed.
“The young women who talk to me on campuses about the effect of pornography on their intimate lives speak of feeling that they can never measure up, that they can never ask for what they want; and that if they do not offer what porn offers, they cannot expect to hold a guy.” #NaomiWolf
Says Michelle Brook, “When I saw porn for the first time at 11, I was convinced I was the only kid in the world who had stumbled upon it. My curiosity to find more was trumped only by my lack of access” admits online writer Michelle Brock of Relevant Magazine. 3
Indeed, it seems women experience the same pattern of exposure and addiction to hard-core images as men, according to Gary Wilson, author of Your Brain On Porn. "The key thing is that both male and female reward systems can be activated by porn.
"Since sexual arousal releases the highest levels of (feel-good chemicals) dopamine and opioids — the potential for sexual conditioning, or even porn addiction, is possible for both sexes." And it’s increasingly being recognised that women may have a higher risk than men of addiction.
This is because, as women who have shared their experiences with Wilson have pointed out, they don’t need as long a recovery period after climaxing as men. As a result, women have reported going on "porn binges". 4
Swedish research recently discovered that, like young boys, young girls now use pornography as their principal source of sex education. It discovered a third of 16-year-olds regularly browsed porn websites, 43% fantasized about mimicking what they saw, while 39 % had gone on to try them.
There’s a false assumption that porn use and addiction is “a men’s issue,” leaving women to struggle in silence.
While accountability and recovery groups for men abound, safe spaces for women to talk about their porn addictions are essentially non-existent. The fact is that the sexual templates of both boys and girls are increasingly based on porn.
What Are the Major Effects?
Besides the obvious, that addiction is harmful regardless of the object of the addiction, there are ALWAYS costs, just total the costs of your monthly coffee addiction. It’s ALWAYS higher than we think and the same is true of our daughters (and sons of course).
Like 2% of the population looks like that in real life ( I made up the stat, but you get it). No one can measure up to the images that we bombard our mind with, couple that with the fact that we/they will be searching out videos & images with what is perceived as an idealized partner and no person in real life can live up to that. Our daughters already struggle with comparison with other girls, now they have to look a certain certain way with their clothes off as well. They won’t even think about the surgeries she has undergone to look that way. Not to mention that this has also led to an increase in females getting surgery to modify the look of their genitalia to “look a certain way.” Which leads to the next topic:
This doesn’t just apply to physical appearance, girls who view pornography have an altered view of what being in a relationship looks like and how to achieve satisfaction in a relationship outside of sexual gratification. She may develop the view that the easiest/quickest way to make a boy happy is to do the things viewed in the videos, after all, THEY look happy/satisfied/pleased. Think back to any personal experiences you may have in this area and how you were most likely left feeling shameful and alone afterwards. There is a feeling that our daughters have of being betrayed.
There is a study (cited below) that frequent use of porn reduces viewing others as potential objects of sexual gratification. This is not just true of boys. Culture has worked very hard to reprogram the female brain to be aroused, not it by a strong man willing to make them feel safe, secure, and loved, but to validate them by making them feel sexy and sought after visually. Have you been shopping for a prom/homecoming dress lately? They gotten shorter, much tighter, and feature plunging neck lines that allow for an ample amount of side-breast to be seen. All in the name of what’s culturally “ok.” Yes, it is on our young men to honor and cherish our daughters, but the industry has made this task much more difficult.
Increased Potential for Violence/Rape
In a survey of 400 random vides videos that were selected in a secular study of porn, 90% of the videos featured violent acts up to and including rape. This has also pushed the bar for our daughters as far as what is appropriate. So if they DO decide to become sexually active before marriage, they are tolerating these same acts because they have been normalized. When asked, most teen girls would rather and willingly engage in oral sex then to have intercourse. They are then shamed into silence with the fear of being labeled as “one of THOSE kind of girls.” Or worse yet, when she DOES decide to say “no”, he will shame or manipulate her emotions in an effort to receive sexual gratification. This includes forcing himself sexually despite her efforts to stop.
We HAVE to talk to our daughters AND our sons about these issues even if they have not already been exposed. Helen Roberts, founder of Watford-based charity Dignify, revealed a survey of more than 1,000 young people in schools had thrown up startling statistics that were "confirming our concerns". Among them was that the average age young people reported first watching pornography was 12 to 13 years old, though some said they had viewed it as young as five. 5
We can no longer wait on a broken school system, or the youth pastor to talk to our kids about these important issues. “C'mon, you got this!” Time to roll up our sleeves, and to pray our kids through these discussions.
If you have younger kids, using a filtering service like Covenant Eyes or using the available Screentime App built into iOS can be helpful, but be aware that most teens are VERY tech savvy and they will find a way to appease their curiosity. It’s better to get out in front of this by addressing it BEFORE it becomes and issue. And trust me, in over 25 years of youth ministry it’s rarely an “if” it‘s a “when”. As always, feel free to reach out and let me know what further questions you may have or support we can offer as you lead your family.
If your teen is in the dating phase, talk about what it means to honor someone else above myself. What does it mean to put another’s purity above my desire for sexual gratification? What might it cost if we “go down that road?” Also, talk about the danger of sexting, covered here in this blog. It ALWAYS tanks the relationship and leads to much guilt and shame.