teens watching porn

Back in the day, if you wanted to see a porno, you had to head down to some seedy (always seedy) shop and actually rent a video. If you hop into your imaginary time machine and head even farther back, folks had to buy paper tickets and watch their blue entertainment in an actual theater — with seats, popcorn (I’m guessing) and other strangers in attendance sitting right next you. Man, talk about awkward. Don’t shake hands with anyone you bump into when you exit.

I was already a teenager when I saw my first porno, which in retrospect, I’m grateful for (the relatively late date, that is). While feminist and female-oriented porn does exist, anyone who takes even a cursory glance at the typical content or “storylines” (Shakespeare this ain’t) of online pornographic offerings has to realize that the vast majority of this stuff is geared toward men.

Yeah, you can find different studies and surveys telling you different percentages of people who watch porn online. My guess is that the statistics tend to lie when it comes down to the nitty-gritty. Yet if porn sites really do receive more monthly visitors than Amazon, Netflix and Twitter combined (according to Internet Safety 101), or even half the number of those sites, that’s an awful lot.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a crusader who’s out to end all porn. I know how people work. As soon as cavemen learned how to draw, they were etching images of naked ladies on the sides of cave walls. What I’m really concerned about are some of the types of porn available with a simple click, and the age of the little human beings doing the clicking.

Even if a six-year-old has stellar parents who’ve locked down the Internet in their home with parental controls that would make the security specialists at Fort Knox do a double-take, that same child probably has a friend whose parents aren’t as vigilant. With just a quick search, young kids can discover and view sexual niches and extreme subgenres I wasn’t even aware of until adulthood. (Yes, I was a late bloomer.)

It’s not that I begrudge anyone his or her sexual preferences or individual kinks. Heck, some I might even celebrate (but I won’t divulge any of that here), as long as the men and women partaking in whatever form of carnal extremis that floats their boats do so with willing and consensual partner(s).

But for children still developing their sense of compassion and love, I believe an early and consistent exposure to hardcore images, ranging from rape-like bondage scenarios to bukkake fests (look that one up if you’re in the dark) can create and stir up some bad juju. Living in a world — or a mind — warped by hardcore porn will influence how children (and the adults they become) see life in general, empathize with others, and understand the divide between physical pleasure and how a sentient human being should be treated.

A little S&M now and then (with a safe word, of course) is one thing. A life dominated by explicit, extreme porn that promotes the objectification and quasi-ownership of another individual is something else entirely.

I get it. Everyone needs something different to get off to. Even so, overexposure to fantasy images at an early age will “porn people out” before they ever get a change to discover — in a more organic manner — what works for them. Not everyone can bump uglies like a porn star, or even wants to. But if those are the images floating around people’s heads, many are going to be disappointed with the sex lives they wind up with, which could lead them down a path that’s even more extreme.

Being aware of this fact doesn’t do much to stop the onslaught. Porn will always be with us. And that’s all right, I suppose. I just wish it were a fraction harder to get hold off, in order to slow down the ease with which people consume it. In an odd kind of way, that actually makes me a bit nostalgic for the age of the seedy video shop. Getting into your car, filling out a rental form, browsing the aisles, and then driving back home for a wank is a hell of lot more work than simply plopping down on your couch and clicking on a mouse.