Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? When you see something that you like, or that’s cool, you want to do it too. We see this played out with viral videos and trends like the Mannequin Challenge or Whip/Nae Nae—once an idea sparks some interest, it spreads like wildfire. This idea is supported by a theory of psychology, called the social learning theory. Essentially, it states that we are much more likely to mimic a behavior that we see on a screen when it seems realistic or when it is rewarded. [1]

And just like this theory can be applied to viral videos, it’s not hard to see how it can come into play with one of the most shocking, arousing, and exciting forms of visual stimulation: pornography.

Porn has been shown to be a very powerful teacher of attitudes and behaviors, especially for its young adolescent viewers. Our brains learn best through images and when they are sexually aroused [2], and porn checks off both those boxes in a major way. Because of this, it creates the perfect conditions for teaching our brains new attitudes and behaviors.

Related: Why Our Generation Is Watching Porn to Learn About Sex

Things get even more concerning when we consider the ideas porn sells about consent. In a normal, healthy sexual relationship, the partners are willing, considerate, and respected. They have an equal voice in every aspect of the relationship, including sex, and when one partner doesn’t like or feel comfortable doing something, the other partner respects them and communicates about it in a healthy way.

Porn, on the other hand, is a far cry from depicting this positive sexual experience. In the majority of popular porn, sexual equality and making sure every party is willing and ready to engage in a sexual act with verbalized consent is not a priority. Raw stories from even the most popular porn stars in the industry confirm this.

Not only does porn teach that you don’t need a willing partner to have sex, it sells the idea that a lack of consent is considered “sexy.” Think about it. One of the most common situations depicted in porn is a teen girl getting taken advantage of against her will. Yikes. And a few years ago, researchers did a study of the most popular porn videos at the time. [3] Of the 304 porn scenes examined, 88% contained physical violence and 49% contained verbal aggression. And the most disturbing part? At least 95% of the victims responded neutrally or with pleasure in the scenes.

If you’re wondering how watching porn can actually change how a person thinks and acts out when it comes to sex, the answer goes back to how porn can change the brain. Our brains have what scientists call “mirror neurons”—brain cells that fire not only when we do things ourselves, but also when we watch other people do things. [4]  So if someone watches a woman get kicked around and called names while feeling aroused, they’re more likely to associate that kind of violence with what’s arousing and sexy. [5] And even when porn isn’t explicitly violent, viewers are learning to see other people as nothing more than objects made to be used for sexual pleasure, even if it causes them discomfort. [6]

Related: The Day My Partner Acted Out His Rape Porn Fantasy On Me

Clearly, porn is teaching its viewers all the wrong lessons about sex and consent, and its lessons are having an effect that’s anything but healthy. Viewers are learning that women are merely objects that exist simply to satisfy, while men should be aggressive, dominant, and controlling. In porn, gone are the ideas of equality, sharing, and selfless love—as far as porn is concerned, these are outdated and boring. It’s time for this generation to rise up, rebel, and demand a change in the conversation around porn.

We’re fighting for meaningful relationships built on respect and trust with the people that mean the most instead of spending your time learning about sex and relationships from the world’s worst educational resource.

What YOU Can Do

There’s nothing sexier than two, committed partners in love. SHARE this article and raise awareness that porn is anything but harmless entertainment.

Citations

[1] Victor C Strasburger, Amy B. Jordan, and Ed Donnerstein, “Health Effects of Media on Children and Adolescents,” Pediatrics 125, no. 4 (2010): 756-767

[2] Layden, M. A. (2010). Pornography And Violence: A New Look At The Research. In J. Stoner And D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs Of Pornography: A Collection Of Papers (Pp. 57–68). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute.

[3] Bridges, A. J., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., Chyng, S., And Liberman, R. (2010). Aggression And Sexual Behavior In Best Selling Pornography Videos: A Content Analysis Update. Violence Against Women 16, 10: 1065–1085.

[4] Rizzolatti, G. And Craighero, L. (2004). The Mirror-Neuron System. Annual Review Of Neuroscience, 27, 169–192.

[5] Layden, M. A. (2010). Pornography And Violence: A New Look At The Research. In J. Stoner And D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs Of Pornography: A Collection Of Papers (Pp. 57–68). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute; Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books; Malamuth, N. M. (1981). Rape Fantasies As A Function Of Exposure To Violent Sexual Stimuli. Archives Of Sexual Behavior 10, 1: 33–47.

[6] Layden, M. A. (2010). Pornography And Violence: A New Look At The Research. In J. Stoner And D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs Of Pornography: A Collection Of Papers (Pp. 57–68). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute; Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, And Our Families. New York: Henry Hold And Co., 80; Berkel, L. A., Vandiver, B. J., And Bahner, A. D. (2004). Gender Role Attitudes, Religion, And Spirituality As Predictors Of Domestic Violence Attitudes In White College Students. Journal Of College Student Development 45:119–131.

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