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Young people, pleasure, and the normalization of pornography: sexual health and well-being in a time of proliferation?

posted on 2015-01-01, 00:00 authored by Lyn HarrisonLyn Harrison, Debbie OllisDebbie Ollis
It has been argued that pornography is the most prominent sex educator for young people today (Flood, M. (2010). Young men using pornography. In E. Boyle (Ed.), Everyday Pornography (pp. 164–178). Oxford: Routledge). Research indicates that first exposure to pornography can be as young as 11 years of age. There is evidence that exposure to pornography is shaping young people’s sexual expectations and practices (H€aggstro ̈ m-Nordin et al. 2005). Many young people are learning what sex looks like from what they – or their partner or peers – observe in pornography. Significantly,pornography is normalizing sex acts that most women do not enjoy and may experience as degrading, painful, or violating. This raises serious implications for young people’s capacity to develop a sexuality that incorporates mutual pleasure, respect, and negotiation of free and full consent.While the results are complex and nuanced, research into the effects of pornography consumption provides reliable evidence that exposure to pornography increases aggressive attitudes and behavior towards women for some viewers (Malamuth et al. Annual Review of Sex Research 11, 26–91, 2000). Pornography consumption also has been found to be associated with sexual health risk taking and can impact negatively on body image and sense of self (Dean, L. (2007). Young Men, Pornography and Sexual Health Promotion, MA Research, Brighton University, Brighton, in possession of the author), and as such is a serious health and well-being issue, particularly for young women.This chapter explores preservice teachers’ reactions to pornography education using two examples from teaching of an elective Teaching Sexuality in the Middle Years, in 2011. These examples explore the complex emotions such teaching can generate and the challenges faced by preservice teachers when they are encouraged to confront the gendered and violent consequences of the normalization of pornography in a coeducational setting.


Title of book

Handbook of children and youth studies

Chapter number



155 - 167



Place of publication






Publication classification

B1 Book chapter; B Book chapter

Copyright notice

2015, Springer




J Wyn, H Cahill