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How Porn Grooms Children to Accept Violence and Abuse in Relationships

Kids, in unprecedented numbers, are watching extremely violent pornography. This is how it actively teaches them to accept abuse in relationships.

By November 1, 2022No Comments

This guest piece was written by Heidi Olson, RN, MSN, CPN, SANE-P, an expert witness and child victim advocate. 4-minute read.

Decades of studies from respected institutions have demonstrated significant impacts of porn consumption on individuals, relationships, and society. No Porn November is all about giving visibility to these facts and empowering individuals to choose to be porn-free. Learn more by clicking here.

Trigger warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of child abuse as well as descriptions of pornographic material. Reader discretion is encouraged.

The Impact of Children Being Exposed to Violent Porn

By Heidi Olson, a SANE Certified Pediatric Nurse in Kansas City

It’s hard for most of us to stomach the thought of a pre-pubescent child watching a violent, pornographic video; complete with a woman being strangled and a man ejaculating on her face. Innately, these two worlds should never collide, and we don’t want to think about it being a reality.

But kids, in unprecedented numbers, are watching extremely violent pornography.

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

Any child with access to a screen has the potential to see violent, degrading pornography, because it is so easy to stumble across. This undoubtedly leaves a child with many thoughts and feelings they may not even be able to articulate—from repulsion, to curiosity, to fear. Current studies show that more than 50% of 11-year-olds have smartphones.Kamenetz, A. (2019). It’s a smartphone life: More than half of U.S. Children now have one. Retrieved from New Survey Examines Phone, Media Use Among U.S. Teens And Children : NPRCopy 

It’s also estimated that the average age a child will be exposed to pornography is between 8-11 years old.British Board of Film Classification. (2020). Young people, pornography & age-verification. BBFC. Retrieved from https://www.bbfc.co.uk/about-classification/researchCopy 

What are the ramifications of so many kids seeing pornography at young ages? As a sexual assault nurse examiner, I can tell you the impacts are not positive.

Bark

Porn grooms children and teens to accept abuse

If we follow the stories that pornography tells kids about sex in a typical video involving one male and one female, there are several themes they are learning:

  1. Sex is not intimate or about mutuality, it is about whatever the male wants (no matter how painful or scary it may seem)
  2. Women might say “no,” but they actually like what is happening to them
  3. Violence is sexy and fun

According to studies analyzing the content of popular porn videos, at least 1 in 3 and as many as 9 in 10 porn videos depict sexual violence or aggression.Fritz, N., Malic, V., Paul, B., & Zhou, Y. (2020). A descriptive analysis of the types, targets, and relative frequency of aggression in mainstream pornography. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 49(8), 3041-3053. doi:10.1007/s10508-020-01773-0Copy Bridges, A. J., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., Sun, C., & Liberman, R. (2010). Aggression and sexual behavior in best-selling pornography videos: a content analysis update. Violence against women, 16(10), 1065–1085. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801210382866Copy 

I constantly see these themes play out with many teenagers that I encounter in the hospital. As I talk with kids who are victims of sexual assault, the way pornography has played a role in their trauma is undeniable.

Related: Parents—If You Don’t Teach Your Kids About Sex, Porn Sites Will

For many teenage girls who have been assaulted by peers, the narrative they learned from porn is that they don’t have a voice. It didn’t matter if the victim did not consent, verbally said “no,” or asked her assailant to stop, the boys always continue the assault without pause or recognition that they are hurting someone.

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Many times, when violence like strangulation is disclosed, girls minimize it as, “not a big deal” or “maybe he thought it was sexy.” What’s becoming readily apparent is that girls feel they should “take it” or enjoy sexual violence, making it difficult for them to name their abuse or clearly identify that what happened was violating.

This is cultural grooming and it’s creating huge vulnerabilities.

Related: How to Discuss Porn When You Talk to Your Kids About Sex

For boys, the same message is loud and clear. Do whatever you feel like doing. Girls enjoy the violence. How will they ever be able to have healthy sex lives if that’s the message they are receiving?

The normalization of sexual violence in intimate relationships

There was a young teenage girl in our Emergency Department who had been brutally raped by her boyfriend who was the same age.

During the assault, she pleaded with him to stop, which he ignored. He called her horrific names and ejaculated on her face. It was scene straight out of the porn industry. This caused massive amounts of damage for both of them. The female victim had been sexually assaulted and violated, and the male expressed suicidal ideations when it was over.

Related: When Your Child Has Seen Porn, How Can You Keep Talking With Them About It?

Because sexual violence is becoming so normalized among kids, they truly do not recognize it for what it is.

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We took care of a 12-year-old female who had been raped by a 16-year-old male. The male had met the 12-year-old girl online and had coerced her into creating child sexual abuse materials for a period of time before they met in person. When he assaulted her, it followed the porn script of violence and objectification, a recurring theme.

When she arrived at the hospital, she repeatedly told her nurse that she didn’t think she had been sexually assaulted. It all started to make sense when she also disclosed that she’d been looking at pornography every day for the last seven years. She was given an iPad at the age of five, and her parents did not monitor what she was viewing.

Related: Does Mainstream Porn Fuel and Normalize Sexual Violence in Teen Relationships?

Quickly, after getting access to a screen, she accidentally stumbled onto porn as so many kids do.

The 12-year-old admitted that she now can’t stop looking at pornography and has thousands of videos of violence against women seared into her mind. The porn industry groomed her into thinking her assault was normal.

The impacts of porn being viewed for education about sex

These trends are not unique to one hospital, city, or country. The same themes are being repeated globally wherever kids have access to screens

Research also echoes these trends, showing that teenagers who look at pornography are more likely to engage in sexual violencePeter, J., & Valkenburg, P. (2016). Adolescents and pornography: A review of 20 years of research. The Journal of Sex Research, 53(4-5), 509-531.Copy Ybarra, M., & Thompson, R. (2017). Predicting the emergence of sexual violence in adolescence. Prevention Science: The Official Journal of the Society for Prevention Research. DOI 10.1007/s11121-017-0810-4Copy  and that boy’s frequent viewing of pornography is associated with increased sexual coercion, abuseStanley, N., Barter, C., Wood, M., Aghtaie, N., Larkins, C., Lanau, A., & Overlien, C. (2018). Pornography, sexual coercion and abuse and sexting in young people’s intimate relationships: A European study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 33(19), 2919–2944.Copy  sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape.Ybarra, M., & Thompson, R. (2017). Predicting the emergence of sexual violence in adolescence. Prevention Science: The Official Journal of the Society for Prevention Research. DOI 10.1007/s11121-017-0810-4Copy 

Related: What Porn and Shame Have to Do With Child-on-Child Sexual Assault

It is also noteworthy that studies show that teens who view pornography are more likely to have experienced sexual assault, and boys who regularly use pornography are more likely to perpetrate sexual assault.Alexandraki, K., Stavropoulos, V., Anderson, E., Latifi, M.Q., & Gomez, R. (2018). Adolescent pornography use: A systematic literature review of research trends 2000-2017. Current Psychiatry Reviews, 14(47) doi.org/10.2174/2211556007666180606073617.Copy 

Because pornography affects the brain, especially those of children, it would be naive to think there wouldn’t be fallout from the porn industry teaching our kids about sex.

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The power of honest, open, and ongoing conversations

While this topic is difficult to digest, the reality is that we as adults have the ability to protect kids before it gets to this point of sexual violence.

That means talking to kids about what to do when they see pornography, having protective measures on their phones and screens, and frequently having conversations about bodies, consent, relationships, and boundaries.

Related: Barbi’s Story: How Porn Played a Role In My Childhood Sexual Abuse (VIDEO)

The unfortunate reality is that most parents think it’s not time to have “that conversation” with their child. Meanwhile their kids are seeing violent pornography, and do not have the tools or skillset to navigate what they are witnessing.

Having open, honest, and ongoing conversations protects and empowers kids from grooming, assaults, and toxic messages about sex from the porn industry.

Conversation Blueprint

About the Author

Heidi Olson, RN, MSN, CPN, SANE-P is a Certified Pediatric Nurse and Certified Pediatric Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), she is also the Founder and President of Paradigm Shift Training and Consulting, which equips healthcare workers with skills to be able to identify and treat victims of trafficking and exploitation. Heidi previously managed the SANE Program at a large children’s hospital where she performed/reviewed over 1,500 pediatric sexual assault exams, many of them trafficking cases, communicated with a large multidisciplinary team, and educated hundreds of staff members on relevant topics regarding sexual violence. Heidi also serves as an expert witness in civil and criminal trials related to sexual assault.

In 2019, Heidi implemented an evidence-based screening process in an Emergency Department, which has resulted in hundreds of vulnerable children being identified as victims of exploitation. Heidi has testified in favor of bills that have been passed into law and most recently, Heidi testified at a briefing in Washington D.C. about protecting children online. Over the last few years, Heidi has presented over 200 times internationally about recognizing human trafficking, child-on-child sexual assault, pornography, and exploitation. Heidi has also been featured in several documentaries, including Vulnerable Innocence, which has won 24 awards.

Fight the New Drug collaborates with a variety of qualified organizations and individuals with varying personal beliefs, affiliations, and political persuasions. As FTND is a non-religious and non-legislative organization, the personal beliefs, affiliations, and persuasions of any of our team members or of those we collaborate with do not reflect or impact the mission of Fight the New Drug.

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