New York Times “what Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn.”

People being committed, suicides, and deaths from sexual predators. And this one.

New York Times “what Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn.”

Yesterday in the New York Times, the editors of the regular “What Teens Are Learning” column, Jonathan Chait and Michael Morisy, offered their take on what teenagers are learning from online porn. Their thesis: girls find it easier to climax if they watch it than with a “classic” sex toy.

As teenagers themselves, Jonathan and Michael don’t have anyone their own age to throw the question to, so they decided to conduct an anonymous online survey with hundreds of readers between the ages of 12 and 19 to see what teenagers thought about the mechanics of using online porn with themselves as well as the mechanics of using it in bed. (Note: The content of this was vetted by two panelists from the teen sex research group NORC at the University of Chicago. Here’s the rest of the survey, edited for clarity).

Since I conducted the most recent teen sex survey at the University of Chicago in 2011, I’ve fielded many different questions about hookup culture and what teenagers are learning about sex. The most common concern over the past few years has been that sexual technology (cell phones, internet) are making it increasingly difficult for a sexually active teen to engage in safer sex, and are therefore responsible for sending teens back to “shackles” of sexual behavior that happened only in the bedroom of their teen years. Most of these concerns are unwarranted, in my view, as sex education has advanced enormously since my research.

That being said, one of the most useful questions I’ve seen respondents pose for research was “What teens are learning from online porn?”

While there are very different stories about what kind of material teenagers are interested in watching, what has stuck with me is the pattern that emerges in all but one of the responses.

The first graph shows the most common question most respondents posed about why they or their peers watch porn:

The patterns you see here make sense if you think about why you’d watch porn for. If you’re talking about videos or images that involve your age group, adults being pleasured by a video simulation, you would be watching those kinds of material for the individual gratification you would gain from watching it. (I’m not talking about infidelity here, of course, but about the rather forced closeness and sometimes lurid details of when adults are pleasured, such as are the degrading motions of oral sex.

But if you’re talking about adult pornography geared toward teenagers, you would be watching those kinds of materials for, well, amusement, for the additional pleasure the materials provide to the adult participants in these porn scenes.

Another common response that always seems to pop up is that sex is less fulfilling in the videos, and watching online porn provides a way for teenagers to explore that side of things.

In my 2011 survey, a lot of respondents indicated that the default setting with the way they would watch the videos was to push the camera more and more in order to achieve an erotic effect (although you also see here that a lot of respondents would switch their settings back to facilitate a more likely-inducing orgasm).

However, one particularly fascinating response that came in to my ORB research was that many people were curious about using and recording online porn on their smartphones, so they could take video of themselves having sex, and send it to an adult partner.

One interesting subverted use of the technology is that, like watching a video, the teens reported a sex sensation that was considerably heightened once they took a selfie using the phone. (The photos also did not always help an orgasm, of course, but they did at least in that instance provide information about the kinds of sex scenes they might want to watch for feedback before engaging in sex themselves.)

In sum, if you’re a teenager with an interest in getting involved in sex, then online porn can certainly help you explore that interest, particularly the voyeuristic side of porn, the social aspects, and the social interactions of online porn.

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