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Toxic Masculinity and First Pornography Exposure – Does Age Matter?

There are few things that can be more toxic to a boy than early exposure to pornography.

At the present there is a lively discussion regarding the term “toxic masculinity”. The topic is being examined, discussed, and debated in many forums. The dictionary defines the word toxic as poisonous, venomous, virulent, noxious, dangerous, destructive, harmful, unsafe, malignant, injurious, pestilential, pernicious, etc.

In our view there are few things that can be more toxic to a boy than early exposure to pornography. Research presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association found a direct correlation between early viewing and later behavior. An article found at describing the research can be found here.

From the article:

“The goal of our study was to examine how age of first exposure to pornography, and the nature of said first exposure, predicts conformity to two masculine norms: playboy — or sexually promiscuous behavior — and seeking power over women,” said Alyssa Bischmann, a doctoral student at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, who presented the research.

While the researchers did find a significant association between age of first exposure and adherence to the two masculine norms, the association was different for each. “We found that the younger a man was when he first viewed pornography, the more likely he was to want power over women,” Bischmann said. “The older a man was when he first viewed pornography, the more likely he would want to engage in playboy behavior.”

This finding was surprising, according to co-author Chrissy Richardson, MA, also from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, because the researchers had expected both norms to be higher with a lower first age of exposure. It also did not matter how the participants were exposed, as the researchers found no significant association between the nature of the exposure and attitudes.

“We were surprised that the type of exposure did not affect whether someone wanted power over women or to engage in playboy behaviors. We had expected that intentional, accidental or forced experiences would have differing outcomes,” said Bischmann.

The findings provide further evidence that pornography viewing has a real impact on heterosexual men, especially with regard to their views about sex roles, according to Richardson. Knowing more about the relationship between men’s pornography use and beliefs about women might assist sexual assault prevention efforts, especially among young boys who may have been exposed to pornography at an early age. This information could also inform the treatment of various emotional and social issues experienced by young heterosexual men who view pornography, she said.

With 88% of pornography scenes depicting sexual, physical, or emotional abuse of women, we as parents and grandparents recognize and are grateful for the great work being done by the providers of information and resources to help parents protect their children from becoming ensnared in the trap of pornography. For those who become trapped, we have a solution that parents can turn to.

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