Eleven-year-old James is Googling the optimal moveset for his favorite Pokémon. His parents do not have SafeSearch on, and he clicks on a video entitled “Flinching Through Iron Head” — but the subject of the video is not an Aerodactyl. Intrigued, he continues to click around; he slowly develops a new guilty pleasure.
Situations like these are not at all uncommon, as pornography is as ubiquitous as memes and felines on the Internet. Though the most hardcore porn sites are gated behind pay-per-view subscriptions and lurk on the so-called “Dark Web,” inaccessible from conventional browsers and search engines, there are plenty of explicit videos, both amateur and professional, easily accessible to the masses. PornHub, the largest adult video-sharing site, is the 66th most-viewed site on the Internet, and can be accessed easily, without verifying one’s age. The site received 88 billion views in 2015, and that number is increasing linearly every year.
According to the Internet analytics service Alexa, PornHub users are overwhelmingly male and primarily view the site from home or school, suggesting that most regular porn viewers are young males. Quite a few are teens: A 2008 study from “CyberPsychology and Behavior” found 35 percent of boys have watched porn on at least 10 occasions.
“When I broke my hand I was depressed, so I was watching a lot of porn,” senior Antonio Lopez said. “People get started because everyone talks about it. But porn is really bad for sex, because it makes the guy expect too much.”
There is insufficient evidence to claim that pornography is addictive, and it has at least one positive effect: a survey of 3,000 individuals found that many regular teenage viewers enjoy porn because it is safer than real sex. However, aside from that reason — and, perhaps, loneliness — another powerful impetus for teen porn use is simple curiosity.
“People watch porn to get an idea of what sex is like natural curiosity and exploration,” sophomore Lewis Catapang said.
According to Mary Clegg, the chair of the British Association of Sex Educators, speaking to “The Telegraph,” there is a shortfall of sex education in public schools, and teens turn to porn to learn more. Such behavior is likely to be no different in the United States.
“Young people are hungry for more explicit information,” Clegg said. “They’re curious and hormone driven.”
But there are some ugly consequences for such widespread underage porn use. A study presented to London University found that 88 percent of scenes in pornographic films depict physical aggression, usually directed at females, enforcing the view of teenage girls purely as sex objects. Aside from objectifying women, this can cause sex to be less pleasing or outright violent.
“Women who are in the [porn] industry are aware that they are being exploited and they consent to that, but viewers don’t know that it’s acting, not real life,” sophomore Kate Lagera said.
A recent issue of “TIME” magazine noted that frequent male porn users also report a psychological disorder that is commonly known as “porn-induced erectile dysfunction,” or PIED. These men claim to be unable to be aroused unless they are watching pornography, which is often unrealistic and heavily doctored.
“I got with a gorgeous girl and we went to have sex and my body had no response at all,” said Gabe Deem, a former porn user and founder of porn-quitting and PIED recovery site Reboot Nation, in “TIME.” “I was freaked because I was young and fit and I was super attracted to the girl.”
The “reboot” movement, comprised largely of 20-odd-year-old men looking to kick their porn habit and restore their sexual libido, has picked up steam in recent months — small wonder why.
“If [porn] is the only thing that arouses you, that’s really sad for you,” senior Demarrea Frazier said.
Regardless of concerns about the negative consequences of porn use, relatively few Americans, including only 20 percent of males, believe that porn should be banned.
“People are just going to find another way around filters,” Lagera said. “They’re just another door that they have to pass to get to porn.”