What Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn New York Times

New York Times looks at how the high-tech porn industry can be teaching teens the real, untapped truth.

What Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn New York Times

In what could prove to be a turning point in the fight against the proliferation of online pornography, the New York Times has produced an in-depth report on the impact of this new medium on teenagers’ sexuality.

In looking at the question of whether pornography increases or reduces the risk of sexual assault among teenagers, the Times found a potential solution in a study led by a doctor at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City that surveyed some 3,500 14-year-olds.

In 2006, a physician at Mount Sinai said there was growing concern that “the Internet was creating new problems for adolescents.” That doctor was Leslie Glen, an infectious disease specialist and chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, according to the Times.

The study, published last year in Pediatrics, found that the younger students who reported more contact with pornography as teens — which is to say, viewing at least one porn movie, or sending a porn photo or video — were more likely to suffer from risky behavior, including unwanted sexual contact.

“As young people have greater access to high-speed Internet connections,” Dr. Leslie Glen told the Times in a phone interview, “we should prepare for that to lead to issues of sexual coercion, violence, and increased sexual risk-taking.”

The study found that of the 14-year-olds whose habits involved sending explicit text messages, a third had engaged in unwanted sexual contact within a year of their freshmen year in high school.

The Times found another possible explanation for the link between high-speed access to porn and sexual activity: exposure to pornography actually leads to sex being viewed more often.

In a recent interview with the Boston Globe, Lisa Rogak, a social scientist who studies adolescent sexuality and the prevalence of pornography and sexting, said of teenagers who get online for sex, “They see more porn than kids of the same age who are with their own parents, even though they’re sending the same number of pictures and forwarding the same number of pictures, and they’re more open to pornography than the kids who are on their own.”

A journalist and political commentator based in Los Angeles, Amy Argetsinger spent six months following teenagers from ninth to eleventh grade. She found, however, that many young people — even those who she had tried to coax into adult topics — were intentionally hard to reach.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been approached by teenagers, their parents, their teachers, their older sisters, their older brothers, their mothers, their fathers, all saying, ‘I need to talk to you about this sensitive issue because it’s not safe for me to bring up this topic at home or with the people in my life right now,’” Argetsinger told me.

“But I have found with this one subject in particular, with this particular group of teenagers — and it’s really at every socioeconomic level — that none of those people are protected from the onslaught of pornography and exposure to pornography,” she said.

Argetsinger noted that the Internet, in a culture that glamorizes online sex, is certainly a contributor to the prevalence of porn among teenagers, but so are the inevitable factors at work in any culture.

That includes the increasing availability of X-rated material — movies, videos, even television shows — through streaming services such as Netflix, and in the normalization of mainstream media.

Just as the middle class has funded a program to spread the LGBTQ community, the middle class is funding a program to spread internet porn.

“Here’s what the majority of teenagers think: It’s a basic aspect of life, some people have good taste and some people don’t,” Argetsinger told me. “And the reality is that there are many people who don’t have good taste. All you have to do is look at so many celebrities who have been taken advantage of.”

Young people these days “don’t take for granted that others, especially adults, have their best interests at heart, or if they are good at that, that someone will protect them,” she added.

She says if her employer were to allow her to raise any other issue or question in the workplace, she would have been reprimanded and fired. But Argetsinger says that after she asked a wealthy media executive why he was hired, he said: “Well, I wanted to do something that would be controversial.”

Those comments made her realize that, like her progressive employer, her own community was similarly primed to police her, and felt no need to protect her from the onslaught of modern porn.

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