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Pornography in Young Adults

In my dating career, I would often get asked “so…what do you study?” Then came a moment of decision: do I tell the truth? On the occasions that I chose to tell the truth, what ensued was often a little awkward for him…and for me. After all, pornography isn’t the most comfortable topic to discuss on first dates. However, I have since become more comfortable talking about my chosen field of study, and strongly believe in the importance of discussing the topic of pornography! In this post, I am going to briefly discuss two questions that I’ve studied over the past year.

o Question One: What porn use looks like among today’s young adults

o Question Two: How is porn influencing young adults’ dating and relationships?

Let’s dive into my first question what does porn use looks like among today’s young adults? Of my international young adult sample, including men and women from ages 18-30, 86% percent reported “ever viewing pornography.” Of that 86% that had ever used pornography – I found that the majority uses porn weekly or monthly. An important distinction I found in my study is that just because 86% of young adults have used pornography doesn’t mean that 86% of young adults are or were “addicts.” After measuring compulsive pornography use, I found that only 9% of the sample reported behaviors recognized as compulsive. The bottom line: Not all pornography use is pornography “addiction;” and most pornography users are not “pornography addicts.”

Now for my second question: what is pornography doing in young adult’s relationships? The easiest answer is that it depends what kind of young adult we are dealing with. I found that pornography use is associated with anxiety in dating and is linked with a certain discomfort for young adults who are engaged or married. But, I found that this anxiety is most present for males and for those who are religious. For example, compared to women, men were more likely to say that they’d had a relationship end because of pornography use. Men were also less likely to discuss pornography with their special someone, and when they did talk about it, men felt more anxious than women. I also looked at how religiosity influenced this anxiety and found that religious young adults were more likely than their non-religious peers to believe that pornography use somehow made them “damaged goods”, or impaired his or her ability to be a good boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife.

So what is the take-away of this research? As pornography use becomes more wide-spread, young adults will need to talk about it more in their relationships because communicating about it in healthy ways will help reduce the anxiety surrounding it, especially in for men and religious young adults.