‘Sexting’ overload as porn images put youth at risk

Mainstream and accessible pornography is exposing young people to aggressive material and reshaping their sexual practices, according to Warrnambool-based research.

Brophy Family and Youth Services has made a submission to the government’s Law Reform Committee Inquiry into Sexting to consider the relationship between pornography normalisation and “sexting” – sending sexually explicit messages or images between mobile phones.

The submission has been informed by a three-year Brophy research project, titled ‘Reality & Risk: Pornography, young people and sexuality’.

The project’s 140 interviewees, which include south-west youth, academics, Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt and more than 30 people from the US and Hungary adult film industry, will also feature in a Brophy documentary examining the impact of pornography on young people.

Brophy Family and Youth Services project worker Maree Crabbe said the submission asked the Law Reform Committee to assess the legal responses necessary to address the current media landscape, which allows people to easily produce and disseminate sexual imagery of young people.

“The kind of material young people are exposed to is not just the centrefold of a magazine anymore,” Ms Crabbe told The Standard.

“We’ve found that pornography is very mainstream, that it is quite normal for young people to be exposed to pornography either accidentally or intentionally.

“They’re very easily exposed to highly explicit and often aggressive material, particularly towards women.

“It’s an emerging issue and an area there will be further research undertaken.”

She said online pornography was shaping young people’s expectations and sexual practices. “This raises a number of concerns about the capacity for young people to develop sexuality that is freely and fully consenting, pleasurable and fully respectful.

“We think there is a challenge in this new context where it is so pervasive and very problematic. It’s a challenge to schools, parents and the community more broadly to equip young people with the skills they require to develop healthy, socially and sexually in that context.

“I look forward to seeing the discussions and the legal, educational and social responses that are brought about because of the inquiry.”