Pandemic of porn damaging young teenagers

The amount of porn young teenagers are accessing is causing so much damage to their psychological growth it must be seen as a major public health crisis.

The eye-catching claim was made as part of a high-profile US sexual exploitation conference yesterday — and has been backed by a leading Irish rape prevention group, which insisted the issue is increasingly contributing to attacks on women.

Speaking on the eve of a two-day meeting about the “porn pandemic” in Washington DC last night, anti-pornography organisations said the internet has brought with it a growing addiction to increasingly extreme sex websites.

The Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation summit — attended by health professionals, social workers, religious representatives, campaigners, and ex-porn stars — said the sites now get more visitors than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined.

It heard that a third of all internet downloads involve pornography and that a massive 4.2m porn websites now exist.

The conference was told that teens who access porn sites without having the maturity to understand what they are viewing is creating a generation of young people who have an aggressive attitude towards women.

Calling for immediate action to tackle the issue, campaigners said ignoring the problem is causing worrying developmental damage.

“Porn is without doubt the most powerful form of sex education today, with studies showing the average age of first viewing porn is between 11 and 14. And let me tell you, this is not your father’s Playboy,” warned Gail Dines, women’s studies professor at Wheelock College and author of Pornland: How porn has hijacked our sexuality.

“These degrading misogynist images have become the wallpaper of our lives. They are robbing young people of an authentic healthy sexuality that is a basic right,” she said.

Mary Anne Layden of the University of Pennsylvania, who specialises in sexual trauma, said that pornography has been a factor in every case of sexual violence that she has treated as a psychotherapist.

“The earlier males are exposed to pornography, the more likely they are to engage in non-consensual sex. “For females, the more pornography they use, the more likely they are to be victims of non-consensual sex,” she said.

Reacting to the claims, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre chief executive Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop said the same link between early porn usage and later violent attacks on women is being recorded in this country.

“There is definitely a link and it has definitely escalated in the last few years.

“From our own annual reports we can see that there is increasingly additional violence involved in sexual assaults, and that can be traced to the growing availability of pornography sites that are increasingly extreme,” she said.

During a European Parliament motion last year to ban some porn sites in the EU due to their claimed damage on young people, Rape Crisis Network Ireland director, Fiona Neary, raised similar concerns. She said the issue is “opening up a very interesting debate” as the “proliferation of pornography” means porn sites are no longer in the “realm of being harmless”. “The age at which children are viewing pornography is lowering all the time and it is becoming almost a substitute for sex education. “We need to start looking at what we can do rather than being paralysed by the internet,” she said.

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