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Sexually Explicit and Pornographic Videos, Research Paper Example

Pages: 10

Words: 2797

Research Paper

Abstract

During the course of this paper, we will review recent research regarding the effects which sexually explicit and pornographic videos have on sexual behavior during adolescence. In particular, the literature review primarily focuses on explicit exposure which occurs before reaching the age of eighteen. This discussion will cover a broad range of developmental, psychological, social, and behavioral aspects of adolescence and will summarize and analyze the findings of six journal articles related to pornography and adolescence.  In addition, the research will be critiqued and linked to the intersection of pornographic videos and adolescence.

Introduction

In today’s society, internet exposure to sexual materials is inevitable. “It is not a matter of whether a young person will be exposed to pornography but when”, writes Bryant (2010, 18). As we will demonstrate through our review of the literature, most sources agree that the original exposure is usually unintentional (Camerona et al., 2005; Sabina et al., 2008; Bryant, 2010). They disagree on the level of adverse reactions to sexually explicit viewing. Still, these depictions will cause some alteration in the views of an adolescent toward sex, leaving us with the question: How do watching sexually explicit and pornographic videos affect sexual behavior in adolescence?  While our review of the literature will intensify the focus on the more frequent and/or harmful effects, a rounded presentation of these effects- or lack thereof- is sought.

Literature Review

Camerona, Salazar, Bernhardt, Burgess-Whitman, Wingood, & DiClemente (2005) conduct a qualitative study of the adolescent experiences and perceptions regarding sexually oriented and sexually explicit websites on the internet. Their study consulted of a focus group of forty adolescents of both sexes who were between the ages of 14 and 17. This focus group is only the source of these preliminary findings; the authors state their intent to conduct further research in the future. They were stratified by age and gender. This focus group utilized a secure space very similar to a chat room and allowed the respondents who did not agree with the others to send a personal message to the moderator, the adult who introduced the pre-approved topics and tracked the conversations. The source and specific nature of exposure were two such topics.

Unsurprisingly, the results showed a drastic gap between the level of exposure of adolescent males and females. Some males reported intentional viewing daily, whereas none of the females admitted to any intentional viewing of sexual materials unrelated to health. The authors pose several possible explanations for this gap- none of which address the socialization and the differences in gender roles.

They also defend a group setting, saying that the moderator negates the “bandwagon” effect. Although this is most likely true in a limited capacity, even a person who expressed disagreement with the group will moderate their own answers in response to the unspoken peer pressure of the group. This same peer pressure unsurprisingly convinces the adolescents that the sexual viewing has had no significant impact upon them, and they may even attribute a heightened sexual aggression to “normal” development rather than to their viewing. In post-test self-assessment, two participants admitted that they were not completely honest and open during the course of the study. Thus, the general conclusions of the paper are valid. However, the data does not accurately reflect the sexual double standard or present an appropriate context for the study of pornography and adolescents of both genders. Its use lies in the questions asked (Cameron et al., 2005).

Sabina, Wolak, & Finkelhor (2008) chose to focus exclusively on internet pornographic viewing during adolescence. Using professorial assistance in recruiting respondents and a money raffle incentive, the data was collected using an anonymous, online questionnaire which asked for information regarding their exposure before reaching the age of 18. The age of the average respondent was 19. After the collection process concluded, the data was sorted and statistically analyzed to clarify the facts associated with gender differences, as stated by the authors.

Their findings regarding the differing practices of males and females were remarkably similar- with the exception that, during this data collection, a small portion of females admitted to intentional viewing of pornography. Intriguingly, the average age of initial exposure for males and females was 14 and was generally unintentional. For males in particular, earlier exposure was more likely. Both sexes admitted to a change in attitude or emotions after explicit viewing. When they analyzed the findings in light of gender roles, they discovered that the young men were generally excited- and the young women generally embarrassed and disgusted- about viewing pornography. These findings are all consistent with the shortcomings which we suspected of Cameron et al.’s 2005 study.

Although Sabina et al. (2008) did express surprise at the varied levels of exposure and adverse reactions, their discussion emphasized the high proportion of violent pornographic viewing in male participants especially. However, they warn: “There was diversity both between and within genders, suggesting that relying on gender stereotypes about reactions to online pornography can obscure the full picture of how youth respond” (Sabina et al., 2008, 693). The methodology and findings of this research are reliable, and contradicted earlier presumptions about age and gender differences in the viewing of pornography.

Mesch’s journal article, Social Bonds and Internet Pornographic Exposure Among Adolescents, also conducts a literature review, but chooses to focus on the social and psychological implications of pornographic viewing during adolescent development (2009). In its second half, the article also describes interviewing nearly one thousand adolescent participants using questions derived from the literature review and from the data of recent national survey research. The study interviewed participants who were either Jews or Arabs living in Israel. Mesch (2009) maximizes the information in the context of the increased importance of religion in the area and tests the correlation between religious dedication and pornographic exposure. The analysis of their data focused on a) any correlations between social involvement and perception and pornography, b) comparison and contrast of adolescents using the internet for pornographic viewing against adolescents who use it for other purposes, and c) whether there is a correlation between pornographic internet viewers and deviant adolescents (Mesch, 2009).

Although the stricter social context of the interviews limits the findings, it also presents a unique opportunity for the author to address a social and psychological aspect which is often overlooked in the research regarding pornography: religious background (Mesch, 2009). They found that informational internet searches had no bearing on the frequency of pornographic viewing. However, internet usage for music consumption and either communication or information together were found to increase the likelihood of intentional pornographic internet usage. This pornographic consumption also increased the perception of the “rape myth” that women are in some way responsible for sexual violence committed against them. Regardless, the relatively scarce research of adolescent explicit viewing is a byproduct of ease of access and passive, accepting consumption of available media product (Mesch, 2009). If only Mesch’s article itself were so easily formatted for consumption, then it, too, might have made a greater impact with its keen examination. I personally also wondered if the music consumption and communication or information correlation was gender-specific. It is an opportunity for further research.

Mesch (2009) provides correlations between the purpose of any type of internet usage and the adolescent and then proceeds to narrow down the particulars of pornographic viewing and concepts of sexual acts. Focusing mainly on the early development of the interest in pornography, the study presents a clearer image of factors which influence the choice to intentionally view pornographic material and of the wide range of pornographic exposure and subsequent attitudinal correlations.

Breakwell and Millward (1997) mailed a random survey to 17-to-19-year-old males and females in the United Kingdom. Using the Sexual Self-Concept Checklist, the authors identified themes of socio-emotional and relational concepts in males and assertiveness in females. Highly assertive females tended to be sexually precocious- but were equally as likely to use condoms. Males who felt that sex was exploitative, seductive, and experimental were less likely to have sex or to use drugs or drink alcohol. In both cases, the traditional perceptions regarding the role of gender concepts and certain risk behaviors was countermanded.

It is a very thorough review of the research up to that time. Particularly, this article demonstrates the necessity of meticulous examination of assessment methods. A variety of scales and questionnaires are discussed and analyzed for benefits and drawbacks and seems to be unbiased. This resource is invaluable as a tool for understanding the subtler effects of explicit viewing. The reader may curious to learn more about the assessment’s discovery that a self-concept as ‘sexy’ is quantitatively linked to communication which utilizes manipulation to achieve goals. It should be noted that the questionnaires were distributed to 100 adolescents of the same socio-economic status, which does not allow for much diversity of findings. The authors illustrate that gender roles and sexual self-concepts are related and may overlap, but they are still distinct and separate. Liberal self-conceptualization may remain within the boundaries of the culturally-acceptable gender roles but still contribute to a propensity for risk-taking behaviors. They conclude that female sexual self-concepts are created of both submissiveness and of responsibility (Breakwell & Millward, 1998). These results were not contradicted by the later research, and several findings from the body of literature support this pioneer study.

Peter and Valkenburg (2010) begin by stating that sexually explicit internet materials have been linked to sexual uncertainty and question the reasons for this link. They utilize nearly one thousand adolescent respondents in three waves six months apart. An anonymous, online questionnaire was provided after informed consent was provided. Younger adolescents were not represented as frequently- due to refusal of the voluntary invitation for the study. Boys were less likely to participate also- but were still ably represented.

One of the most unique aspects of their methodology was the utilization of different questions. Instead of asking who, what, where, etc., the authors utilized scales of one to five which gauged more creative research questions, such as the level of engagement and time awareness during explicit viewing, the level of agreement about changing sexual perceptions, and the types of materials or not “Playboy-type nudity” (Peter & Valkenburg, 2010, 364). Nearly half of the respondents reported high levels of involvement while viewing pornographic videos or pictures and even being unaware of the lapsing of hours. The research did credibly demonstrate that sexually explicit viewing, sexual uncertainty, and involvement overlap. In fact, the involvement level is credited with the degree of sexual uncertainty which is produced by the exposure to explicit video. This is a fundamental component of the understanding of self-concepts and psychosocial development after explicit viewing.

Bryant writes that “it is not a matter of whether a young person will be exposed to pornography but when” (2010, 18). In Adolescence, Pornography, and Harm, he explores the factors of exposure to pornography and how these interact with the development of adolescence to produce an increased likelihood of adverse reactions to exposure. For his article, he drew from Australian and international research which included visual materials rated X18+ and which included type materials designated as Restricted. Bryant (2010) also finds that gender differences in gender roles “arise out of broader social constructs that shape ‘appropriate’ sexual identity and expression” (19). He writes that younger children may also seek it out as a risk-taking, rule-breaking, gratifying form of latent rebellion. The research of potential harmful factors centered around pornography’s potential to contribute to early and/or casual sexual activity, the undermining of general adolescent well-being and intimacy, and foster sexual violence.

While Bryant does not minimize the impact that any exposure to pornography may have, his literature review and analysis specifically targets the content of the explicit exposure (2010). Interestingly, he claims that prevailing experimental research indicates that exposure solely to nudity decreases aggression and that adolescent inexperience often leads them to fall conceptualizations about safe sex and acceptable actions- placing the young and sexually active teens of today at an increased risk for sexual violence.

From beginning to end, Bryant’s thoughtful examination of the literature is captivating, accessible, and credible (2010). Because information from other, similar studies in other countries is included, the information presented is an intriguing mixture of well-chosen, specific facts and universal applicability. In his discussion of the content of the explicit exposure, he mentions the pressing matter of violent depiction- but also addresses that a portion of the danger to relationships is posed by the lack of intimacy in the sexual relations depicted in pornographic materials. The diagram is ingenious- but too complicated to come to mind when it is not close at hand. Frankly, it should have been organized more efficiently and effectively. It attempts to illustrate the increasing effects which the media, peers, and self-concepts, respectively, have on adolescent sexual development.

Conclusion

Naturally, much of the research focused on the differences in gender and the potential for aggressive escalation after viewing violent pornographic scenarios. Female levels of acceptance of sexually explicit viewing are typically lower during the secondary years- but may even surpass that of males when both sexes reach the ages of 20-25. Still, the range of content viewed by females is generally more reserved than that of their male counterparts, who reported viewing atypical pornography, such as that which involved multiple partners, children, or animals (Sabina et al., 2008). When used as an outlet for risk-taking, as Bryant presented, pornographic viewing within certain limits of content place the adolescent at lower risk for long-term effects than does drug or alcohol use, cigarette smoking, or casual sex (2010). As a risk-taking behavior during adolescent development, it is often the lesser threat. As we have discussed, the primary exception to this rule occurs when violent sex is viewed by naturally aggressive and impressionable young adults. This is often exacerbated by deviant pornographic exposure (Bryant, 2010) or through the habitual viewing of videos which accept the “rape myth” which seems to justify sexual violence (Mesch, 2009).

There is still much potential for further research. Mesch (2009) just brushes the surface of the pornographic tendency to undermine women and deflate their sense of assertive control over their sexuality. Breakwell and Millward (1997) pose many interesting findings concerning sexual self-concepts and treatment of others, which present an aspect of pornographic exposure which continues to be undervalued and underrepresented in research. Bryant (2010) just begins to remark on the skewed perceptions that internet exposure to pornography has on romantic expectations, realities, and adjustment.

Explicit exposure teaches a new alpha male and alpha female example which is meant for adults- not children who believe they are grown. The “ethics of relationships” or “ethics of negotiation” have been altered on a wide sociological basis (Peter & Valkenburg, 2010). The impact of these decisions holds the key to a variety of concepts of personal and intrapersonal concepts. When violent or other deviant pornography is not viewed and an inexplicable penchant for violence develops, it is, therefore, entirely possible that violence is nothing more than an outlet for the frustrations of unsuccessful attachments. The formation of some form of personal connection is beneficial to a variety of relationships: professional, familial, and romantic among others. This specific example is meant to demonstrate that the gaps in the research are great in number and gravity.

In short, when studying the effects of pornographic viewing during adolescence, the researchers’ foci are too often limited to action. These deviant actions are a symptom of the subtler negative effects of pornography- most of which stem from a faulty depiction of sexual scripts and practices, as well as reconceptualization of an ideal for oneself. Although the research conducted by Peter and Valkenburg did attempt to tackle the increase in sexual uncertainty that accompanied explicit viewing, it is unclear what the boundaries of the central term “sexual uncertainty” are (2010). Similarly, another central term (involvement) is vaguely and confusingly defined by a mixture of direct and indirect pieces scattered throughout the lengthy article (Peter & Valkenburg, 2010).

References

Breakwell, G. & Millward, L. (1997). Sexual Self-concept and Sexual Risk-taking. Journal of Adolescence: 20, 29-41. The Association for Professionals in Services for Adolescents. Guildford, UK: Social Psychology European Institute.

Bryant, C. (2010). Adolescence, pornography and harm. Youth Studies Australia, 29(1), 18-26. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

Camerona, K., Salazar, L., Bernhardt, J., Burgess-Whitman, N.,  Wingood, G. & DiClemente, R. (2005). Adolescents’ experience with sex on the web: results from online focus groups. Journal of Adolescence (28): 535-540. National Institute for Mental Health.

Mesch, G. (2009). Social bonds and Internet pornographic exposure among adolescents. Journal of Adolescence: (32): 601-618. Elsevier Ltd. doi: 10.1016.

Peter, J. & Valkenburg, P. (September 2010). Adolescents’ Use of Sexually Explicit Internet Material and Sexual Uncertainty: The Role of Involvement and Gender. Communications Monograph, 77 (3): 357-375. doi: 10.1080/03637751.2010.498791. London, UK: Routledge.

Sabina, C., Wolak, J., & Finkelhor, D. (2008). The Nature and Dynamics of Internet Pornography Exposure for Youth. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 11(6), 691-693. doi:10.1089/cpb.2007.0179.

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