NUIG study suggests porn use exacerbates sexual aggression

NUIG study suggests porn use exacerbates sexual aggression

A study from NUI Galway has found that porn use by adolescents exacerbates tendencies towards sexual aggression in young men.

Research was carried out by NUIG and Zagreb University in Croatia on 600 Croatian male high school students aged 15-17 over the course of 20 months, looking at how much porn they consumed and how it affected their sexual development.

It suggests that porn use is connected with sexual aggression over time, but crucially found that this only occurred in people who reported a pre-disposition toward aggression.

The study found that frequent pornography use during the first round of data collection was associated with sexual aggressiveness, but over time pornography use did not predict aggressive tendencies.

In other words those who reported sexually aggressive tendencies were also more likely to watch a lot of pornography.

Those who watched none or very little pornography were least likely to report that they had acted in a sexually aggressive way.

Lead researcher of the study, Dr Kate Dawson from NUIG said that with the need to prevent sexual coercion among young people, school-based sexual violence prevention programmes should start around the age of 16 – 17 years old.

“Intervention efforts should also address the potential contributing role of violent pornography in the reinforcement of sexually aggressive behaviour.”

“Similarly, our findings may inform recently proposed pornography literacy programmes, which provide tools for critical interpretation of sexually explicit imagery, but also to educate that a lack of consent is never acceptable.”

The study asked two key question:

  • Is pornography use during middle to late adolescence related to male adolescents’ sexual aggressiveness?
  • Do personality traits account for the relationship between pornography use and sexual aggression?

Adolescence is a key stage in sexual development, where beliefs about appropriate sexual behaviour is formed.

It is well documented that many harmful behaviours manifest during adolescence, with approximately half of sexual offenders reporting their first assault during this time.

The rising prevalence of porn usage mostly, but not exclusively, among young men has prompted concerns among researchers and policy makers about the impact it is having on people’s development.

Particular concerns exist about how it portrays sexual aggression and the sexualisation of youth, and the how that might effect the views of people in real life.

Much of the data gathered on this up until now had been cross-sectional data. That is to say it was collected from different people at one single point in time.

The research group at NUIG felt that longitudinal data, gathered from the same cohort of people over an extended period, would tell them more.

The study was carried out by Dr Kate Dawson from the School of Psychology and Active Consent Programme at NUI Galway and Dr Azra Tafro and Professor Aleksandar Stulhofer from Zagreb University, Croatia.

To read the full study in the journal Aggressive Behaviour, visit: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ab.21854.

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