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The Pornography Double Standard – What the Research Shows

"The effects of pornography on children and young people It also entails that women are depicted as sexual playthings waiting to satisfy male sexual desires.”

Below are some of the studies cited in a paper by Antonia Quadara, Alissar El-Murr and Joe Latham for the Australian Institute of Family Studies entitled “The effects of pornography on children and young people - An evidence scan - RESEARCH REPORT 2017”


Ideas About Sexual Roles and Women as Sex Objects


More frequent use of pornography was found to increase the likelihood of perceiving women (and girls) as sex objects; that is, that their primary purpose is to serve men sexually (ter Bogt et al., 2010; Peter & Valkenburg, 2007). More specifically, the objectification of women “refers to the reduction of women to their sexual appeal in terms of their outer appearance and a focus on their body parts, most notably the genitals.


The effects of pornography on children and young people It also entails that women are depicted as sexual playthings waiting to satisfy male sexual desires” (Peter & Valkenburg, 2010a, p. 359).


In a follow-up study, Peter and Valkenburg specified that “adolescents’ exposure to SEIM (sexually explicit internet material) was both a cause and a consequence of their beliefs that women are sex objects” (Peter & Valkenburg, 2009a), meaning that those more inclined towards believing women are sex objects are more likely to find pornography (in which women are primarily depicted in this way) appealing.


Another study that investigated multiple media platforms, boys’ use of SEIM was the strongest correlate to the notion of women as sex objects (ter Bogt et al., 2010). This concern was shared by a high school girl in one qualitative study, who commented: I think sexually explicit media has a particularly large part to play in the way boys of my age treat girls. And furthermore, the way in which girls of my age react to seek attention or approval from their peers or often don’t react when they receive unwanted attention. (Baker, 2016, p. 221)


Sexual Double Standards


Pornographic representations of sexual gender relations also reinforce double standards between men and women, where men are desiring subjects and women are objects of gratification for men (Häggström-Nordin et al., 2006; Tomson et al., 2014).


In addition to the sexual roles of men and women depicted in pornography, adolescents also expressed concern about how males interested or experienced with sex gain status as “studs”, while females are denigrated as sluts (Mattebo et al., 2012; Tomson et al., 2014).


These cultural double standards also relate to the consumption of pornography, whereby using pornography is considered normative, or status-enhancing for boys, but abnormal and corrupting of one’s reputation for girls (Löfgren-Mårtenson & Månsson, 2010; Mattebo et al., 2014; Scarcelli, 2015; Tomson et al., 2014). While these double standards are explicit in pornography, they are perpetuated and reinforced across a wide range of media.


This characterization was shared by boys in a Scottish study, as one described [to the prospect of viewing pornography with other boys], “They would enjoy it and have a laugh. I would pretend to but would be perturbed at the content” (Tomson et al., 2014, p. 18).


The effect of pornography on the minds, attitudes, and perceptions of our young men is truly frightening. And just as bad if not worse is the effects on our young women both emotionally and physically.

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