The unsettling way porn is shaping your teenager’s attitude towards sex.

the porn factor documentary

Once tightly sealed in black plastic in a dark corner of the newsagency, porn is now freely available to anybody with an internet connection.

In fact, porn is so ubiquitous it’s responsible for 30 per cent of internet traffic; so mainstream it’s infiltrated popular culture; so accessible that 60 per cent of teenage girls and 90 per cent of teen boys have been exposed to it.

As Australian sexuality educator and filmmaker Maree Crabbe reveals in her unsettling new documentary The Porn Factor, this online content is actively shaping teenagers’ attitudes to sex — and not in a good way.

“The reason for doing this work is to try to support young people to have relationships and sexuality that might feel great, where they have the possibility of safe, respectful, mutually pleasurable, fully consenting sexuality,” Crabbe told Mamamia.

“And I think pornography undermines young people’s capacity to do that.” (Post continues after video.)

In researching the film, Crabbe and her colleagues spoke to 70 young people around the world, as well as leading sexual health scholars and members of the pornography industry. What this reinforced was a disturbingly close link between what was happening on screen and what young people, particularly young men, carried out in the bedroom.

“Our interviews with young women repeatedly told us that their male partners pressured them to engage in practices that have been normalised in pornography,” Crabbe said, “for example, ejaculating on faces and bodies, and heterosexual anal sex.”

Maree insists that it’s not that such acts are necessarily harmful or problematic in themselves, it’s the way they’re carried out for the camera.

“Pornography generally doesn’t depict the negotiation of consent, the use of lubrication and safer sexual practises, and a general easing and checking in with your partner. It’s very aggressive in its depiction of these sorts of practises,” she said.

the porn factor documentary

Sexuality educator and documentarian, Maree Crabbe. Image: supplied.

The other issue here, Crabbe says, is given pornographic content is overwhelmingly targeted at men, there's rarely any consideration of whether it's pleasurable or even comfortable for the woman.

“We need to have a much more open conversation about female pleasure,” she said.

“Sometimes, I'm disturbed to hear, young women have no sense that sex should be something that's pleasurable for them. Sort of like it's a chore, that it's something that they need to do.”

This isn't only problematic socially and psychologically, but physically as well.

Dr Anita Elias, a specialist in sexual medicine who features in Porn Factor, says that at least half of all her female patients report sex being painful, sometimes to the point that they develop conditions that ultimately make penetrative sex impossible.

“One of the most common causes of pain is that they're not being sufficiently turned on when they're having sex, they're not having the normal level of lubrication,” she told Mamamia.

“Porn can contribute to that, in that they're doing the sorts of things that they're not enjoying, often things that their boyfriend are wanting them to do because that's what they're seeing in porn.”

That's where porn distinguishes itself from other forms of media. See, while we're able to watch a Fast and the Furious film without replicating that behaviour in our driving, we don't tend to see people having sex in real life; there's no counter reference point to let us know what's not normal behaviour.

“Young people need the support to understand that porn is not real, it's not realistic, in so many ways: the bodies, the way people relate, the depictions of pleasure and what's pleasurable, the ways that it depicts race," said Crabbe. "And not only is it not realistic, it's not healthy."

In fact, even as a form of entertainment, Crabbe believes porn can be dangerous.

“Particularly masturbating to it, because it can shape our tastes, even tastes for things that we initially might not like, that we think are a bit off," she said.

"But if we continue to consume it and associate pleasure with it, then it can start to shape our tastes in those sorts of directions.”

the porn factor documentary

Anyone who's ever visited a porn-hosting site will appreciate why that notion is particularly frightening. Words like "deep throat", "whore", "slut" and "chokes" appear regularly in the titles, and even the more delicately named videos often include the woman engaging in some kind of submissive or coerced behaviour.

In fact, a recent study of the 50 most popular porn films found that 88 per cent of scenes included acts of physical aggression towards women.

Should some of these scripts be carried out in the real-world, they would be at 'best' disrespectful to women, at worst outright sexual assault.

“The project is a violence-prevention project,” said Maree.

“It's about acknowledging that pornography contributes to conditions that makes violence, including sexual coercion and subsequent painful sexual conditions, more likely.”

the porn factor documentary

Adult film actor Clayra Beau after filming a 'facial abuse' scene. Image: Clayra Beau

For parents of young teens, this is likely to be a terrifying revelation. But using education and open discussion, there's a way forward, says Maree.

“I think the conversation with young people needs to be about respect – respect for yourself and respect for someone else," she said.

"We need to help them capture vision for how fantastic relationships and sex can be when we're with a partner that cares about us, checks in with us, is only interested in being sexual in ways that feel good, where it's freely and fully consenting. Well, I like to say enthusiastically consenting.”

While Maree concedes that, yes, there may be some female-friendly, respectful pornography online that could play a role in healthy sexual relationships, she points out that it's generally behind a pay wall and almost certainly not being viewed by teenage boys.

“I'm not anti porn, but the vast majority of the material that's out there conveys really deeply problematic messages," she said.

"If the porn that was available that most people saw depicted mutual, respectful sex, then I wouldn't being doing this work."

The Porn Factor airs Thursday, August 4, at 9:30pm AEST on SBS 2 and SBS On Demand.

For resources and tips on how to discuss pornography and sex with your teen, visit www.itstimewetalked.com.au.

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