Sexually Explicit Online Content and Teen Recreational Attitudes Toward Sex


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The Relationship between Teens’ Exposure to Sexually Explicit Online Content

and their Recreational Attitudes Toward Sex

Teens’ exposure to sexually explicit online content may be linked to recreational attitudes toward sex. Male teens use sexually explicit online content more than female teens, which leads them to believe what they see is reality, rather than staged content. This perceived realism, in turn, acts as mediator in the relationship between exposure and recreational attitudes toward sex. Exposure to sexually explicit online content, then, is related to more recreational attitudes toward sex, but this relationship is influenced by the teen’s gender and mediated by how real they believe online sexual content is.

Since, teens’ exposure to some non-explicit content, such as soap operas, is linked to more permissive attitudes toward sex, sexually explicit online content may also be associated with more recreational attitudes toward sex. On the Internet, sexually explicit content is easily accessible, anonymous, and mostly free. This ease of accessibility, anonymity, and affordability of online sexual content has generated much public thought about its consequences for teens’ sexual socialization. There are several reasons, such speculations may be justified. A great number of teens use the Internet frequently. Also, teens want to learn about sexuality and often search for sexual content. Lastly, teens are less sexually experienced than adults and may not be able to put sexually explicit content into perspective.

Teens have a recreational attitude toward sex when they view sexual contacts as a purely physical activity

in which one’s own fulfillment is more important than either the relational or emotional aspects of it. Sexually explicit content usually presents sex as a merely physical, self-indulgent activity between casual, uncommitted partners that ignores social, emotional, and relational aspects of sexuality. Teens often imitate what they see. Because of the prevalence of this interpretation of sex in sexually explicit content, teens’ exposure to this content on the Internet is associated with more recreational attitudes toward sex.

Age and gender may shape a teen’s exposure to sexually explicit online content and influence the relationship between exposure and sexual attitudes. There is some evidence that the relationship between media depictions of health risks and health-related cognitions is mediated by perceptions of how realistic the depictions are. This suggests that the believed realism of sexually explicit online content may mediate the relationship between teens’ exposure and their sexual attitudes. Also, in the association between television violence and antisocial behavior, the more real it seems, the more influence it has. So compared with females and younger teens, males and older teens will use sexually explicit online content more frequently and will likely hold more strongly recreational attitudes toward sex.

Since teens’ exposure to sexually explicit online content may be connected with recreational attitudes toward sex, we can expect greater exposure to sexually explicit online content to be associated with a greater believed realism of such content. This perceived realism of sexually explicit online content refers to teens’ personal views of the extent to which the sexual activities depicted are similar to sexual activities in the real world and would thus appear useful to learn about sex. With more exposure to sexually explicit online content, teens will likely believe the content to be more realistic. This presupposes that believed realism of sexually explicit content is related to teens’ recreational attitudes toward sex. There is evidence that the believed realism of sexually non-explicit content is associated with sexual attitudes in general and with permissive attitudes toward sex in particular. Given the much more blatant messages in sexually explicit content, this pattern may also hold for teens’ believed realism of sexually explicit online content and their recreational attitudes toward sex.

Sexually explicit content is often created by males for males and predominantly caters to male notions of sex, so male teens will be more likely than female teens to believe sexually explicit online content to be realistic. The believed realism of the content usually declines as teens get older. So then, males and younger teens will generally believe sexually explicit online content is more realistic than females and older teens will.

Real-life experience with content depicted in the media generally affects the extent to which people believe media content is realistic. Youth are only starting to accrue sexual experiences. As a result, their perceptions of the extent to which online content actually resembles real-life sex may differ according to their own sexual experience. The social reality depicted in the content differs quite a bit from real-life sex and in particular from teens’ real-life sex. So, the extent to which exposure to sexually explicit online content is associated with the believed realism of the content may depend on teens’ own sexual experiences. Teens’ own sexual experiences may moderate then, the relationship between exposure and the believed realism of the content. As teens’ sexual experience increases, the relationship between exposure to sexually explicit online content and the believed realism of the content will likely decrease.

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Texting on a qwerty keypad phone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Parents can no longer ignore sexually explicit content on the Internet when addressing teens’ sexual attitudes. Exposure to sexually explicit online content is, via the believed realism of the content, associated with their recreational attitudes toward sex. This holds true even when contact with sexual content in media is other than the Internet. Home Internet access has grown in many industrialized nations, including North America, and Internet use is predicted to keep on growing. In the United States, teen sexual behavior shows a median age of loss of virginity at about 17, with the tendency to have sex at an earlier age, and the predominant occurrence of sex in a premarital context.

Teens’ exposure to sexually explicit online content is not directly related to recreational attitudes toward sex but is instead mediated by the extent to which teens consider the content realistic. So when teens use sexually explicit online content more often, they tend to believe it’s realistic. This perception, in turn, is associated with more recreational attitudes toward sex. Parents often worry about their children’s exposure to sexually explicit content on the Internet and how it relates to their teens’ sexual attitudes. Though parents may feel overwhelmed by the question of how to deal with their children viewing sexually explicit content on the Internet, they should recognize that there is a relationship between teens’ exposure and their attitudes toward sex and do what they can to limit exposure and influence their attitudes.

There is evidence that effects of exposure to sexually explicit content can be undone by parents reminding their teens of the staged nature of what is depicted in sexually explicit content. This is where concerned parents could start. Parent’s didactic attempts may emphasize that, although the sexual acting in sexually explicit content is real, the depicted social and emotional reality is not. These moral and educational attempts may focus on the degrading depictions of women in the content, the depiction of sex as always available, and the view that sex is a purely physical act that ignores social and relational aspects of human behavior. Parents can and should talk to their children about the influence of sexually explicit online content on their attitudes about sex.

Reference:

Exposure to Sexually Explicit Online Material J. Peter & P. M. Valkenburg

656 Journal of Communication 56 (2006) 639–660 ª 2006 International Communication Association

About mamaheartfilled

I am a mother of eight wonderful children and three grandkids, who I am very proud of. I am also a bi-vocational ordained evangelical minister, and a Christian Counselor. I received my B.S. degree in 2004, studying primarily in the areas of Psychology, with minors in Religion and English. I received my Masters Degree in 2009 in Psychological Counseling with an emphasis in Christian Counseling. My ministry is geared toward victims of sexual and domestic violence, including victims of childhood sexual abuse, whether currently or in the past. Since I have personally experienced the healing hand of God in overcoming many of the life issues that Christians may face, I feel qualified and compelled to discuss them in a truthful and open manner, as God’s word tells us that “We shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free.” God has brought me through such diverse tribulations as sexual, physical, and mental abuse, being a victim of a drunk driving accident, spousal pornography addiction, adultery, divorce, remarriage, a very brief, though unjust, incarceration, and having experienced multiple miscarriages and various other trials. I have been asked to leave two Southern Baptist Churches, due to my being a female, ordained as a minister, and fired from a SBC sponsored Christian School (mostly white) for speaking out against racial prejudice in the Family of God. Through God’s merciful forgiveness of my own sins and inadequacies and God’s grace given to me to forgive those who have been a stumbling block to me, I have overcome many of these adversities. God’s word tells us that “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to the purposes of God." Since I have this hope, I believe that God has blessed me with the ability to confront and relate these issues to the Christian community, and that I have been called to the homeland mission field of North America. I hope to be able to use my personal experiences as a ministry of God’s grace and in the comforting of the people of God with the truth of God's mercy. I claim II Corinthians 1: 3 & 4 as my calling, which states: “Blessed be God, the Origin of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Origin of mercies, and the God of comfort; who comforts us in all our troubles, that we may be able to comfort those who are in trouble, by the comfort we ourselves have been given by God.” As I have received the gift of God’s healing, I hope to be able to bring the peace beyond understanding to others with the message of God’s mercy and grace. My love for the Sovereign Lord of my life, Jesus Christ, along with my passion for writing has drawn me to explore these commonly experienced crisis issues from the perspective of my own experience in the hope that I may bring an empathetic and compassionate insight to God’s people. I am now a published author and have several books in publication, including my autobiography, "A Little Redneck Theology." The views expressed in my writings are strictly my own insights, acquired from personal experience and diligent study of the related topics and God’s word concerning them. Though I am an ordained minister, my views should not be considered authoritative. I believe that the Christian community’s ultimate authority is the guidance of the human heart by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
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3 Responses to Sexually Explicit Online Content and Teen Recreational Attitudes Toward Sex

  1. Pingback: Conflicts of Censorship: The Pros and Cons | Go Fish Ministries, Inc

  2. Pingback: Teens and Sex on TV | Go Fish Ministries, Inc

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