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40 People Share How They Were Exposed to Porn for the First Time as Kids

“I first saw porn in the high school locker room after practice. I was 13. Guys used to bring Bluetooth speakers and play it on their laptops. I had no idea what it would end up doing to me.”

The fact is, it isn’t completely clear exactly how old most kids are when they’re first exposed to porn.

But what is clear—at some point, everyone will see porn for the first time.

Every child’s experience will be unique to them and their circumstances. But regardless of the average age, every child is different, and every child deserves to learn about sex, sexuality, and relationships from healthier sources than porn.

Based on available data, the likely age of a child’s first exposure to porn is around tween years. The majority of kids are exposed to porn by age 13, with some exposed as young as seven, according to a 2020 survey.British Board of Film Classification. (2020). Young people, pornography & age-verification. BBFCCOPY 

Related: What’s the Average Age of a Child’s First Exposure to Porn?

But no matter how young, these incidents aren’t isolated cases, and it’s not like early porn exposure only happens to a small slice of people—in fact, in the United States, it happens to almost everybody before they leave their teens. A nationally representative estimate of U.S. youths (ages 14 to 18) exposed to pornography: 84.4% of males and 57% of females.Wright, P. J., Paul, B., & Herbenick, D. (2021). Preliminary insights from a U.S. probability sample on adolescents’ pornography exposure, media psychology, and sexual aggression. J.Health Commun., 1-8. doi:10.1080/10810730.2021.1887980COPY 

So, how does it happen? Here are a few real-life examples.

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We asked our followers, “How were you first exposed to porn?” This is what they said.

1. “My parents never told me about it, found it online accidentally. Didn’t know what I was reading.”

2. “There was a pop-up on a friend’s computer at like eight years old.”

3. “I was searching for something online, not related to porn.”

4. “I was probably 12 or 13, at a friend’s house and her older sister had it on with friends.”

5. “An older child of a family friend showed it to me.”

6. “I was 11 and my cousin said, ‘Wanna learn about sex?’ It only got worse from there.”

7. “At a sleepover in high school.”

8. “I was eight and my cousin three years older showed me and another cousin a porn video. we were just kids.”

9. “On Pinterest, the only ‘social media’ I was allowed to have at 11 years old.”

10. “I was seven and my friend wanted to show me how he know how to search images on Google.”

Related: TEDx Talk—Tips from a Sex Therapist on Talking to Your Kids About Porn

11. “I was in seventh grade. Honestly, I can’t remember how old I was. Curiosity got the best of me, so I had looked on my own.”

12. “I was on Pinterest and looking up words I heard at school in the dictionary or online.”

13. “My boyfriend at the time wanted me to be experienced so I tried to learn from porn.”

14. “I looked something up that had nothing to do with porn but accidentally spelled a word incorrectly.”

15. “After hearing the word ‘sex’ on a bus, I looked it up. I wanted too know what they were talking about.”

16. “It’s among my earliest blurry memories that we’d look at erotic websites with my 3 years older brother. I was maybe seven? Don’t remember when it went over to hardcore (as in penetrative sex) videos either. Maybe around ten.”

17. “A friend had a video on his phone and brought it into school. I remember a big group of people gathered and I went over to see what it was. I was nine.”

18. “I was six years old when my former stepsister showed me the porn tv channel her dad had.”

19. “I was seven or eight and I walked downstairs to get my gameboy sp charger… My dad had it on the TV in our family living room.”

20. “In the high school locker room after practice. I was 13. Guys used to bring bluetooth speakers and play it on their laptops. I had no idea what it would end up doing to me.”

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21. “Nine years old, I saw a porn movie hidden in a pirated tape of Jurassic Park.”

22. “I was first exposed at five, led to a 38-year relationship with porn. Quit in 2010, helping others do the same.”

23. “I tried to go on YouTube but ended up spelling it wrong by accident and launched a porn site. I was eight.”

24. “I was six years old. My older sisters found our moms boyfriends tape and played it. I definitely wound up with an unhealthy obsession back then but am not addicted now thankfully.”

25. “I was eight or nine, and I was Googling information for a school thing and misspelled whatever it was I looking for.”

26. “I found a bag of magazines in the woods whilst playing aged about eight or nine. Rather than warping us, we found it funny and disgusting and set fire to them.”

27. “An older male friend of the family had collections of magazines he kept in the game room. My uncle showed me mag photos of naked men around four or seven years old.”

28. “I’m only 26 but this makes me sound old because we found a magazine in my friends’ backyard from the previous owners. I was eight.”

29. “I found a pornographic magazine at the laundromat in the apartment complex where I grew up. I was 10 years older the time, then was heavily addicted for 15 years.”

30. “I was 12. I was helping my mother with household chores, went for bedsheets she needed, found porn magazines underneath a pile of bedding.”

Related: The Question Parents Dread: How Much Porn is Your Child Watching?

31. “I was nine, boys who bullied me shoved a porn magazine in my face.”

32. “Family friends were a couple of boys slightly older than me and my brother. I was ten-ish.”

33. “A bunch of dudes in a videogaming community thought it would be funny to link it without any warnings as a joke, because they knew it would upset me. I was in my mid-late teens. It was the same community that told me that looking at it more would cure my inability to feel attracted to anybody.”

34. “A friend showed it to me when I was 13.”

35. “Porn was on Google Images, I found it while doing a completely unrelated search.”

36. “I was 10 the first time that I actually viewed full naked porn. It was a sleepover and we actively searched the web.”

37. “I was maybe 12 years old. A classmate handed my then best friend a note with a link on it and it truly sounded very innocent. We didn‘t expect any of what we got to see.”

38. “My first porn exposure was through a female friend. I was 10 and she was 16.”

39. “I was 12 years old. I got curious and looked it up myself.”

40. “I was 12 when I found it, 13 when I became addicted. A guy I was talking to online sent it to me so I would know what to talk about during our chats. I was hooked until about a year ago. Haven’t viewed it in almost a year! My hope is to be able to help other women who struggle too.”

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The reality of kids’ exposure to porn

Clearly, the cases underage exposure are more of the rule and less of the exception.

The images in the magazines people mentioned were far tamer than the content that’s available today with one simple click or misspelled search term, and there was another major difference, too, with magazine content—hardcore or explicit content wasn’t available everywhere.

Related: How Porn Can Distort Consumers’ Understanding of Healthy Sex

It’s an obvious difference, but porn has quite simply become far easier to find in many more places than it ever used to be, which makes the likelihood of early exposure much higher.

And consider this. If 60% of 10 and 11-year-olds have smartphones, is it really all that surprising that, sometimes, they encounter porn online whether they’re looking for it or not?

Fighting to educate those around us

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Even if porn consumption is happening earlier than ever and at an all-time high rate, parents shouldn’t be entirely discouraged. We live in a time where there is less of a deafening silence around this issue, and anyone can get help who might need it.

There are tons of resources for parental figures to navigate talking to their kids about sex and porn, and talking about it early.

Related: 20 Stats About the Porn Industry and its Underage Consumers

And like never before, there are also amazing resources for those who might be struggling with an obsession or compulsion to porn. Now, more than ever, there is hope.

With our comprehensive understanding of exactly how porn can harm and why it isn’t healthy to watch, we can more effectively equip those around us to understand why they shouldn’t go looking for it, and even if they’ve already seen it, it’s not worth watching. Running away from the issue won’t help to equip the next generation to think critically about porn and make educated decisions.

Now, more than ever, is the perfect time to step up and speak out about the harms of porn.

To explore our comprehensive step-by-step conversation guide that will help you navigate how to talk to your kids about porn, click here.

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