To set the stage for this chapter here’s a recent interview we did with Maree Crabbe, a subject matter expert, on the emotional, psychological, physical, and social concerns surrounding online pornography and the hypersexualization of youth.
The explicit pornography of today, and its easy access, is not the pornography that we grew up with as teens. Today’s porn includes acts such as:
- Rough Anal Sex
- ATM (Ass To Mouth) aka “Gonzo Porn”
- Spitting, and
- Severer Chocking
In 2018, the University of Calgary found that one in five youth experienced unwanted online exposure to sexually explicit material, and it is estimated that the first exposure to porn takes place between the ages of nine to twelve years. Some other interesting stats and facts:
- The average age of a youth viewing porn is 9-12yrs
- Among 16yr old girls, 30% reported using porn and in this group, 39% had tried to copy sexual acts seen in port.
- 51% of 16-17yr olds had been asked to watch porn with a partner and 44% had been asked to do something a partner say in porn.
- Some adolescent dating victimization has been linked to porn.
Another interesting statistic from the 5Rights Foundation, a Not-For-Profit group that promotes online child safety, security, and privacy stated in an online posting https://bit.ly/3nySqhN
“Almost half (42%) of children aged 5-12 are on social media sites, despite most having a minimum age requirement of 13, and over 80% of pornography sites do not have age checks. This is what tech self-regulation age assurance looks like.”
So, what is driving the pornography industry online?
- Accessibility. In the past, a teen’s access to pornography usually consisted of finding a Playboy magazine, or old VCR tape that a parent tried to hide in the home. Today, porn can be accessed 24/7 online within two mouse clicks.
- Affordability. Most online porn can be accessed for free online.
- Anonymity: In the past, a person had to purchase a pornography magazine or video in person from a corner store or video outlet. Today, it can be viewed for free or purchased online with very little risk of revealing one’s identity
Although access to online pornography at younger ages is often accidental, sometimes teens will purposely search it out online for four reasons:
- Curiosity: Teens are sexual beings, so curiosity about human sexuality, in all its forms, will drive them to seek out online pornography, and
- Education: If parents don’t want to talk about healthy human sexuality with their kids, then teens will turn to the online world for sex education with the belief that porn is what healthy human sexuality looks like. The porn industry knows this and uses it to its advantage.
- Sexual Arousal
- Peer Pressure/Relatiohsip Pressure
By far, the largest and best-known online vendor of pornography is “PornHub”. When we present in both middle schools and high schools and ask students where they can access free porn online, PornHub is always the number one answer. Anecdotally, during COVID-19, the number of views registered on PornHub went from 120 million visits per day to over 134 million. Although much of what can be seen on PornHub is free, during COVID-19 they also made their “premium” paid content free as well.
Although pornography is usually delivered via text, pictures, and video, it should be noted that pornographic cartoons and Anime, known as “Hentai”, has also become popular with some teens. Just google “Hentai” (make sure young kids are not in the room) and be prepared to be shocked by what you will see.
Here’s a GREAT YouTube video of Australian sex educator Maree Crabbe on the emotional, psychological, physical, and social challenges of online pornography and teens
It’s not just the porn industry that normalizes sex trafficking, sexual objectification, and even rape culture, we need to also concern ourselves with
- Movie Streaming Platforms such as Netflix, which provide free and easily accessible hypersexualized movies such as “365 DNI”
- Video games such as Grand Theft Auto, Witcher, and God of War where animated sex scenes and extreme hypersexualization can take place.
- Video Platforms such as YouTube – just search “big brother sex scenes”
- Search engines such as “Google” – just search the word “porn” and then click on the “images” tab.
Yes, pornography is a significant issue online, but so too is “hypersexualization”. For the purpose of this book, we define Hypersexualization as:
“where young people are depicted or treated as sexual objects through media, marketing or products directed at them that encourages them to act in adult sexual ways”
Some examples of hypersexualization provided by the “Canadian Women’s Health Network” include:
“thongs marketed to 6-year old girls, ads of young girls in sexy poses, and girls dressing up and dancing porn-style to their favorite pop star very adult lyrics”
We are also seeing an increase of hypersexualization taking place on social media platforms such as TikTok, in retail stores that sell lingerie in malls, in very explicit music videos, and even in modern dance schools.
To provide the reader with how the hypersexualization of youth on social media platforms can easily be used as a catalyst to create child sexual abuse material, we offer this example from the popular app TikTok.
TikTok, which was rebranded in 2017 when it was called musicall.ly, is owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance. Since its release, it has become one of the most popular apps to be downloaded by teens throughout the world. The TikTok app allows users to create short video clips that can be lip-synced to music, or to create short looping 60-second comedic video clips.
Recently, TikTok has garnered significant attention given its privacy issues, remember it is owned by a Chinese company, as well as some of its adult language and hypersexualized content which is not age-appropriate for some youth. To create a TikTok account you need to be 13, but there is no age verification structure within TikTok to prove that someone is actually 13, and not an 11yr old who is lying about their age. It has been our anecdotal experience that there are many teens under the age of 13 on this app.
Although the issues of privacy and hyper-sexualized content specific to TikTok should be concerning to parents, it was brought to our attention, by one of our teen followers, that there is a greater concern especially for young teens called, “TikTok porn Juxtaposition.” According to the Merrian-Webster Dictionary, Juxtaposition is, “the act or an instance of placing two or more things side by side often to compare or contrast or to create an interesting effect”
TikTok presently has a function called Duet, which allows a user to use a split-screen with a friend, or even a celebrity, to mirror a dance, song, or to create a reaction or entirely new video. This is actually a really cool feature that we have used on our TikTok page.
However, according to the teen who connected with us, over the past year there has been a growing underground movement known as “TikTok porn groups” which are found online in places like subreddits. In these groups, they copy TikTok’s of young people who have posted a hypersexualized video and create their own pornified duet where they juxtapose a faceless video of themselves masturbating and ejaculating in the video. Again, this video is not posted to TikTok, but in more hidden – but searchable- areas online as TikTok videos posted can be downloaded and shared away from the app.
We confirmed the existence of these subreddits, and actually viewed the videos contained in these very disturbing groups. It should also be noted that the young girls aren’t actually consensually participating in these porn groups, but rather their videos, which they have often posted innocently, have been hijacked without their knowledge and then pornified. These juxtaposed videos are then posted to these subreddits to allow others to sexually objectify them while they masturbate.
Although these videos are located in more hidden areas online, they are searchable by Google and often identifiable to a TikTok user who has no idea that this has happened. Given this fact, these morphed videos could become public or even be used for the purpose of sextortion.
Having said all this, there have been some teen users who innocently started out on TikTok or other platforms, but once they hit the age of 18yrs, sexually monetize their followers by creating private “premium” accounts on sites like onlyfans.com or private Snapchat accounts. OnlyFans or private Snapchats accounts are also used by popular creators such as Twitch streamers.
We were able to identify one teen who garnered hundreds of thousands of followers on TikTok because of their sexualized dance moves, and then once they turned 18, created an “OnlyFans” page. On this private subscription-based account, this 18yr old teen did the same TikTok dance moves fully naked. It was estimated that through their OnlyFans account, they were taking in more than $90,000 a month.
We don’t recommend TikTok for those under the age of 15yrs, given its sometimes very concerning content. – you have to be 13yrs to join- We also advised that teens stay away from posting any hypersexualized content given the above-noted concerns.
The Consequences of Pornography and Hypersexualization
So, what are some of the consequences of pornography and hypersexualization?
- Both pornography and hypersexualization create a false understanding of what healthy human sexuality actually looks like.
- It often objectifies women, and sometimes men, as a commodity to provide sexual gratification.
- It promotes problematic messages surrounding gender, power imbalance, sexual aggression, incest, and normalizes practices of actual physical displeasure during sex
- It can lead to the problematic use of pornography that can have emotional, psychological, physical, and social consequences. We have met 9 teens in our presentations, all under the age of 18yrs, who are now in treatment to help them cope with their problematic use of online pornography.
Another interesting consequence, according to Dr. Carolyn West (Ph.D.) from the University of Washington, porn often perpetuates racism. Dr. West found that Pornography:
- Is filled with racial stereotypes.
- Is one of the most racist forms of media-specific to African Americans or any person of color.
- Is more likely to treat women of color as targets of sexual aggression/violence, and
- More often portrays men of color as the perpetrators of sexual aggression.
Just recently (2021), Magic Lantern Pictures released a documentary called, “Raised On Porn” that is available for free on YouTube. This is another resource that we believe parents, and even parents and their teens should view together, as it does a great job at contextually shining a light on this challenge. https://youtu.be/hzPylqS01qU
Another great resource on the topics of pornography and hyper-sexualization and how to educate youth and teens on these topics can be located here https://www.culturereframed.org. Darren participated in the FREE online training for parents that this organization offers through their website, and thought it was another excellent resource to help parents understand the issues surrounding pornography and hyper-sexualization. More importantly, the training also provides parents and caregivers with tools on how to have an open and honest discussion about the emotional, psychological, physical, and social challenges of pornography and hyper-sexualization with their kids.
Given today’s hypersexualized world, respecting boundaries when it comes to healthy human sexuality is an important discussion that we need to have with our kids. Our kids need to understand that “Informed Consent”, specific to sexual intimacy, is an ongoing process that must be given at every stage of intimacy. It should also be understood that informed consent cannot be given if the other person is under the influence of drugs, alcohol, asleep, or unconscious. Important to understand that informed consent is not a “maybe”, or a coerced “yes”, a “sure” or “I guess so”, or even silence.
Planned Parenthood in the United States developed something they called “Consent Fries” to help explain informed consent, with “Fries” being an acronym that stands for:
Freely Given – consenting is a choice you make without pressure, manipulation, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Reversible – anyone can change their mind about what they feel like doing, anytime. Even if you’ve done it before, and even if you’re both naked in bed
Informed – You can only consent to something if you have the full story. For example, if someone says they’ll use a condom and then they don’t, there isn’t full consent.
Enthusiastic – when it comes to sex, you should only do stuff you want to do, not things that you feel you’re expected to do.
Specific – Saying yes to one thing (like going to the bedroom at a party to make out) doesn’t mean you’ve said yes to others (like having sex)
Please share Planned Parenthood’s “Consent Fries” analogy with your teens, and take the time to integrate it with your ongoing talks with your kids about relationships and healthy human sexuality.
Also teach your kids to be aware of “red flags” that can indicate that the other person is not respecting informed consent such as:
- Trying to pressure or guilt your teen in doing things they don’t want to do such as saying “come on, I’ve been waiting for this all day” or “what, you don’t love me, if you did you would do this for me” or “you have been coming on to me all night”
- Attempt to make your teen feel like they owe them sex by saying things like, “ I took you out for dinner and a movie and now you want to ignore me”
- Reacting negatively when your teen says “no” and shows anger and resentment in their reaction to them saying “no”, and
- Completely ignore it when your teen verbally says “no” but also ignore their non-verbal physical reactions such as pushing them away.
Remember, teach your teen that “NO” is a complete sentence and there is no room for negotiation. If a person is not respecting your boundaries and informed consent specific to healthy human sexuality, teach your teen to leave the situation if they can. If they can’t remove themselves, then let the other person know that if they continue that what they are doing is “rape” – a term that can often bring the reality of a situation to the offender’s attention which can often stop further escalation.
So, What Is A Parent to Do?
Here’s the elephant in the room that some parents do not want to acknowledge,
“Adolescents = Becoming Sexual Beings”
It’s because of this fact, we need to start talking to our kids about the difference between healthy human sexuality, pornography, and hypersexualization because if we don’t, parents are leaving it to the porn industry and media to do it for us, which is a recipe for disaster. Not only do we need to have “the talk” with our kids about where do babies come from and healthy human sexuality, but we also have to have what child psychologist Dr. Jillian Roberts calls “the other talk”, that being age-appropriate information specific to pornography and hypersexualization. Yes, we need to talk about the “biological” of healthy human sexuality, but we also need to educate our kids about the positives surrounding pleasure, arousal, desire, what is consent, and how to negotiate consent when it comes to healthy sexual intimacy. As Maree Crabbe stated in the above noted YouTube video, “most teens have told me that when it comes to sex education what they get is too little, too late, and too biological.”
The question that usually follows from parents when we bring this to their attention is, “what age should we be talking about the issues surrounding pornography and hypersexualization with our kids?” Our Answer, “as soon as they have access to the internet”. The look of shock and awe after we share this answer with parents is priceless but so important. To help parents with this extremely important parental responsibility, once again we turn to Dr. Jillian Roberts. Dr. Roberts has written “THE” book on this topic that we cannot speak more highly of titled, “Kids, Sex, & Screens: Raising Strong, Resilient Children in the sexualized Digital Age” that you can find on our website here: https://www.thewhitehatter.ca/book-list
Dr. Roberts has created a blueprint for parents that will help us to navigate this sometimes very uncomfortable, and often unwanted discussion, with our pre-teens and teens in an age-appropriate manner.
“Show us a child who comes from a family that doesn’t talk about these issues in an age-appropriate, open and honest way, and we will show you the next target of today’s pornography and hypersexualized industry”
The White Hatter
Our interview with Dr. Jillian Roberts, child psychologist and author of “Kids, Sex & Screens”
Software Filtering Options:
Given that the most popular mobile devices being used by youth are iPhones and iPads, here’s a quick way to ensure that parents and caregivers engage parental controls on these devices, especially for those under the age of 15yrs, to minimize access to adult-oriented content or websites you do not want your child to see. On your child’s iPhone or iPad:
- Click the “settings button” on the device
- On this screen scroll down and click “Screen Time” (purple button)
- On this screen click “Content & Privacy Restrictions” (red button)
- On this screen scroll down and turn on “Content & Privacy Restriction” button (make sure it’s green and pick a 4-digit passcode that you do not share with your child. This will prevent youth from changing your parental settings
- Once you have turned on the Content & Privacy Restrictions button and picked a 4-digit passcode, scroll down on this page and click “Content Restrictions”
- On this screen scroll down and click “Web Content”
- On this screen click “Limit Adult Websites” This setting does a pretty good job at filtering out most, not all, adult content. This also prevents “history” from being deleted in the Safari browser.
- On this same page scroll down and click on “Add Website”. You can then add, copy, paste the URL of websites that you do not want your child to access on their device into this box such as TikTok, PornHub, Omegle, or any other site that you as a parent do not want your child to access.
Unfortunately, the Android mobile platform does not make it as easy to block and filter out adult content, but here’s a great article from Wikihow.com that walks you through several methods to do so https://www.wikihow.com/Block-Porn-on-Android . FYI – the “Spin” browser mentioned in this article can also be downloaded onto an Apple device as well.
We speak more about filtering and monitoring hardware and software in Chapter 13
Remember, there are no settings or technology filters on the market that can prevent youth from accessing pornography by accident, or on purpose, 100% of the time. This is why open and honest age-appropriate discussions on this topic are so important!