We talked to the documentary’s director about her film and how widespread pornography is affecting society's youth.
By
Jenna Martin

1 Aug 2016 - 5:55 PM  UPDATED 2 Aug 2016 - 11:59 AM

Porn. It accounts for more than 30% of Internet traffic worldwide and with an estimated yearly profit of over $25 billion dollars; it’s not only a popular industry, but a profitable one. Also, far from being the domain of sad little hermits sitting in front of a computer with a box of tissues, porn is now mainstream. It’s infiltrated our advertising, our popular culture and it’s having a serious influence on the lives of young people. 

Written and produced by sexuality educator and Australian documentarian Maree Crabbe, The Porn Factor (premiering August 4 on SBS 2) looks at porn’s prevalence and it’s stereotyping of race, sexuality and gender. Speaking to everyone from porn actors in Los Angeles to medical professors in Melbourne – as well as over 70 young people across the world - Crabbe uncovers just how huge porn is in the lives of teenagers and how much it is influencing their ideas when it comes to sex and respectful relationships.

It’s an important documentary and there are so many vital - and frankly, terrifying - lessons to learn from watching it. Here are ten of the most important:

 

1. Porn is everywhere and yup: your kids are watching it

Many parents are unaware of just how pervasive pornography has become. No longer confined to a magazine centrefold, it’s now downloadable at the click of a button…

  • More than 60% of girls have seen online porn
  • More than 90% of boys have seen online porn
  • More than 30% of internet traffic is porn related

 

2. Porn creates extreme and dangerous messages

Especially when it comes to…

  • Sexual tastes and expectations
  • What is a “normal” or a “sexy” body type
  • The importance of practicing safe sex
  • Making male - not mutual - pleasure the most important part of sex

 

3. Porn normalises sexual violence and aggression towards women

Porn hasn’t just become more mainstream, it’s become more violent: it’s rougher, harder and more aggressive than ever before, because - as Maree Crabbe found when she went to the hub of the industry, Los Angeles - that’s what the punters want to see.

Men are portrayed as aggressive, violent and disrespectful and women are seen as subservient and happy to be treated with disrespect. A recent study of the fifty most popular porn films found that 88% of scenes included acts of physical aggression towards women and 48% included scenes of verbal aggression. Further studies have also found correlations between men who watch a lot of porn and men who engage in acts of domestic abuse.

There are no two ways about it: porn projects dangerous ideas when it comes to violence against women, ideas which can be particularly effective on an undeveloped teenage brain.

 

4. Porn also reinforces traditional stereotypes when it comes to race and sexuality

  • Gay male porn often reinforces the same ideas as straight porn, with a slight, more feminine male performer constantly being “dominated” by an aggressive masculine performer.
  • Porn that involves two women having sex is mostly made for a male heterosexual audience.
  • Porn consistently reinforces stereotypes about people of colour being “evil”, “dangerous” or “stupid”.

 

 

5. Porn is having a profoundly detrimental effect on the early sexual encounters of young people

“Some men (I spoke to) expressed genuine surprise that their partner hadn’t enjoyed or hadn’t wanted to do what they’d seen in porn," Crabbe says. "That’s obviously not a great experience for the boys but it’s also potentially a traumatic experience for the girls.”

 

6. We’re never going to stop kids watching porn so learning about it needs to be normalised

Says Crabbe: “Learning about pornography is already part of learning about sexuality in secondary schools in Victoria. It’s not happening in every school but there’s a growing awareness that it needs to be addressed. Although it’s a controversial topic and it’s difficult and challenging, the evidence is overwhelming that we need to be having this conversation with young people.”

 

7. In the meantime, parents need to be more aware and involved

“Many parents still aren’t aware that porn is so prevalent," Crabbe says. "Once you’re aware, it’s about accepting that it’s really likely that your child is going to come across porn either accidentally or intentionally. We should remember that sexual curiosity and interest is normal and healthy and good. We also need to remind ourselves that sex is good and it can be great - but great sex almost certainly isn’t porn sex, that there’s a huge difference between that and reality.”

 

8. Kids come to porn in a variety of ways

“It might be that someone has sent them a link, it might be that it’s come up accidentally or it might be that they are hooked on watching it but can’t talk about it - so we need to set aside our own fears and approach our young people with care," says Crabbe.

 

9. We can’t control the porn industry, but we can control how it affects our lives

“Porn’s prevalence gives us a mandate to start having conversations with our young people about gender, sex, equality, aggression and power," Crabbe says. "Porn is part of a much bigger conversation we can be having with kids about being good critical thinkers and resisting those things and also not to buy into those constructs - like the aggressive male or the submissive and sexualised woman that we don’t just see in porn but we see in advertising, film, music and television.”

 

 

10. We need to make consent sexy

“I’m always really regularly encouraged when I have conversations with young men and they’re genuinely interested in their partner’s pleasure," says Crabbe. "They’re not all, mind you, and peer group pressure is really significant but if we could shift it so that the peer group was interested in female pleasure and in consent - that’s part of the big thing that I argue, that we need to eroticise consent so the boys think it’s sexy to be with someone who wants to be with them.”

 

For more information about porn, sex and respectful relationships visit It's Time We Talked.

Watch The Porn Factor on Thursday, 4th August at 9:30pm (AEST) on SBS 2. After it airs, watch it on SBS On Demand.

Then check out Naked: Diary from Porn Valley, a Danish doc about a 25-year-old porn star attempting to make a comeback...

Also available (for a few more days) is Miami Porn, a documentary about how the Internet has changed the porn industry...

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