Viewing porn does not cause sexual aggressiveness in teenage boys, Irish study finds

Viewing porn does not cause sexual aggressiveness in teenage boys, Irish study finds

A new Irish-led study of teenage boys has found that while viewing porn does not cause sexual aggressiveness, those who said they are sexually aggressive are more likely to have watched a lot of pornographic material.

The study also said that bullying and peer pressure were possible indicators of sexually aggressive behaviour.

The research, entitled 'Adolescent sexual aggressiveness and pornography use: A longitudinal assessment', as led by Kate Dawson of the School of Psychology at NUI Galway, and based on a longitudinal study by academics at the University of Zagreb in Croatia. It used data relating to 594 male Croatian high school students, recruited from 14 larger secondary schools in Rijeka, the third-largest city in Croatia, over a 20-month period.

The study, now published in an international journal on aggressive behaviour, found that porn and sexual aggression are linked, but while people who are sexually aggressive are also more likely to watch a lot of porn, consuming pornography does not predict aggression.

However, it also found that bullying and reported peer pressure significantly predicted initial levels of pornography use. In addition, those who reported little or no sexual aggressiveness were characterised by significantly lower initial levels of pornography use compared to their peers who reported substantial sexual aggressiveness in the period under observation.

On a possible direct link between watching porn and sexual aggressiveness, the research said: "While a slight increase [in pornography use over time] was observed in adolescents who reported no or marginal levels of sexual aggression, those who reported substantial, although not consistent, sexual aggressiveness were characterized by a decrease in the frequency of pornography use.”

Ms Dawson said this fall in the viewing of porn as boys got older may be related to greater maturity or actual sexual experience, and according to the study “the results do not corroborate a positive dynamic association between male adolescents’ pornography use and sexual aggressiveness".

The study said the frequency of bullying and reported peer pressure and striving for peer popularity were factors and that “bullying seems to be logically connected to aggressive sexual behavior. Studies have shown that bullying predicts sexual violence perpetration in some middle to late adolescent males".

“Social contexts within a peer group around the acceptability of pornography and importance of sexual experiences may be one of the motivating factors for those who consume greater amounts of pornography or behave in a sexually aggressive way. This may particularly be the case in early to middle adolescence, a period in which the desire to be popular peaks."

It concluded that a link between pornography use and sexual aggressiveness during the transition from early to middle adolescence "cannot be ruled out" as younger adolescents might be more susceptible to acquiring information about sex and applying it in their own lives than older adolescents.

"Taking into account the need to prevent or at least reduce sexual coercion among young people, the significant association between pornography use and self-reported sexual aggressiveness at the age of 16-17 years suggests that school-based sexual violence prevention programs should commence in an early developmental period and address, among other things, the potentially contributing role of pornography use in the development of sexual aggressiveness," it said.

Ms Dawson said there were many similarities between Croatia and Ireland but one significant difference is that children in Croatia receive no formal sex education. She said the findings of this and other studies show the importance of sex education, including among younger age groups.

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