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Inthe Australian Institute of Family Studies AIFS was engaged by the Department of Social Services to review what the available research evidence tells us about the impact exposure to and consumption of online pornography has on children and young people. The increasing availability of pornography online has raised concerns about the impacts it may have on children and young people's:. The purpose of this project was not to duplicate the considerable work undertaken by other researchers working on these issues e.
To varying degrees, the international contexts listed here share some similarities with Australia, such as political and legislative systems.
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However, the implications of the research are not fully transferable. The term "pornography" is typically used across the academic and public policy literature as well as in popular and news media to describe sexually explicit material that is generally intended to sexually arouse the audience Flood, This can be a useful shorthand; however, it is important to note that there is not a singular type of pornography. There is diversity in the form pornography takes e.
This variation is important to keep in mind when discussing the harms associated with online pornography, and it may make more sense to speak of "pornographies" to acknowledge this diversity. At the same time, there is a dominant style and form of pornography that is easily accessible via the Internet, largely targets a male heterosexual audience and which makes up the majority of the global pornography industry Crabbe, Arguably, it is this form of pornography that is animating contemporary discussions about the harms associated with exposure to and consumption of online pornography.
In this report, the terms "pornography" and "online pornography" are predominantly used to encompass:. This means that research studies published after have necessarily been excluded and that traditional research studies have been privileged.
These research studies often lag behind the issues practitioners, educators and others are seeing in their work. The report is structured in two parts. The first part provides a synthesis of the literature and its implications for developing initiatives to address the harms associated with online pornography. The second part presents a review of the literature informing the synthesis report. The evidence library collated and used in this project is provided as a separate attachment to the report.
Pornography shaping young people's sexual experience.
Just under half of all Australian children aged years old have viewed pornography, with potentially negative impacts on their attitudes to sex. The implications are then considered for deing and implementing initiatives that aim to address the harms associated with online sexually explicit material.
The methodological approach used to undertake the review is described in Part Bthe review of the literature. First, "pornography" as a social issue or problem is both profoundly private and profoundly political. Desire, sexuality, sexual arousal, masturbation - these are deeply personal experiences. At the same time, pornography has also been a source of intense political, legal and philosophical debate about censorship, civil rights, moral standards and values, sexual freedom, protecting children, gender politics, sexual objectification and violence against women.
Diverse political and ethical viewpoints influence understandings about the effects of pornography on children and young people and how this is best addressed. Second, the advent of Web 2. Web 2. The World Wide Web is now characterised as:. This is the contemporary landscape into which young people have been born. These technological developments have also occurred within, and are shaped by, intersecting spheres of influence, namely:. Figure 1 provides a visual mapping of the research literature in relation to these spheres of influence.
Finally, sexual violence - perpetrated particularly against women and children - is highly prevalent both in Australia and internationally, as demonstrated in Box 1.
There has been a long-standing examination, from the s to the present time, of whether and in what ways consumption of pornography facilitates sexual violence perpetration. Overall, pornography's "causal attribution" has not been demonstrated. This does not mean, however, that there is no connection. Indeed, the growing evidence base on preventing violence against women and children by addressing its underlying determinants or conditions invites us to look at:.
In short, understanding the impacts of pornography on children and young people must start with situating pornography, its consumption and its impacts within its broader sociocultural context. As represented in Figure 2, key dimensions of this include:. As Figure 1 makes clear, the accessibility of and exposure to pornography is located within a of contexts and can therefore occur through a variety of mechanisms.
The key themes from the national and international research literature on exposure to and consumption of pornography are that:. Two key types of research have been undertaken to examine whether and in what ways consuming pornography is harmful:. Despite the limitations of the research methodologies, there is an emerging consistency in what pornography can influence and in what ways. These are:. In sum, exposure to and consumption of pornography can have a range of associated effects.
While some of these, such as more permissive attitudes and beliefs about sex e. In addition, this aggression often accompanies sexual interaction that is non-reciprocal e. The following section synthesises what the research suggests about factors that mediate these harms. In line with the points above, pornography consumption is one risk factor among others.
For example, using violent pornography has been linked to actual aggressive behaviours, including sexual assault. This shows that the content what types of pornography being accessed matters. There is also evidence that one's pre-existing understanding of sexual norms what kinds of sexual activities are appropriate affects how distressing exposure to pornographic material depicting other kinds of activities is.
This is especially applicable for younger children. Both age and cultural context make a difference in the effects of sexually explicit materials. How minors read pornographies also produces different effects, for example if they think that pornographic representations depict realistic or unrealistic sexual behaviour. All of these factors interact with each other differently, and in particular tend to have different effects for boys and girls of different age groups, making gender and age important points of interest.
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Table 2 highlights some of the important factors that affect the reception of, engagement with and potential effects of pornography. These are grouped under the following headings:. Taken together, the research findings suggest that the key issues underpinning the harms associated with pornography relate to the following and how they interconnect:.
An important implication arises from this: the harms associated with pornography consumption needs to be considered at both the individual and collective levels. When examined in the context of multiple, interacting factors, the findings are highly consistent across experimental and nonexperimental studies and across differing populations in showing that pornography use can be a risk factor for sexually aggressive outcomes, principally for men who are high on other risk factors and who use pornography frequently.
At the collective level, the three issues listed above essentially create an "echo chamber" for the sexual socialisation of children and young people, particularly males. As Sun and colleagues noted in their study:. We, too, find that pornography is not mere fantasy or an individualised experience for men. Instead, our findings are consistent with a theory suggesting that pornography can become a preferred sexual script for men, thus influencing their real-world expectations. This means that initiatives to address the negative effects of pornography need to also address these intersecting issues.
This is examined in the following section. The implications arising from our analysis is that pornography and its impacts need to be situated within a broader framework of primary prevention and supporting the sexual safety and wellbeing of children and young people. The following sections outline interventions and initiatives that have been implemented nationally and internationally.
The most recent Australian Government intervention has been the Senate inquiry into the harm being done to Australian children through access to pornography on the Internet, which released four recommendations in November The Senate committee recommended:. Other Australian Government and non-government services have taken steps to reduce children and young people's exposure to online risks - including pornography - and enact harm minimisation strategies.
The first section describes the three interventions listed above and looks at examples of each, including interventions pertaining to technology-facilitated sexual violence. The third and final section provides an overview of the resources available to teachers, and discusses the whole-of-school approach that sees schools as a key setting in ensuring the healthy sexual development of children and young people.
The Enhancing Online Safety for Children Act Cth was implemented in Australia to oversee the management of issues regarding children and young people's digital activities. Part of its function was to establish the Office of the e-Safety Commissioner, an independent statutory office deed to provide "online safety education for Australian children and young people, a complaints service for young Australians who experience serious cyberbullying, and address illegal content through the Online Content Scheme" Office of the Giggle in central muscular female adult hook Commissioner, Indeed, inonly Victoria and South Australia have specific legislation pertaining to the management of the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.
In terms of Commonwealth legislation, s Further, Commonwealth legislation can also be used to charge perpetrators with offences related to child pornography, if the intimate image depicts an individual Giggle in central muscular female adult hook the age of 18 Attorney-General's Department, Submission the phenomenon colloquially referred to as "revenge porn" The Enhancing Online Safety for Children Act "has authority to communicate to websites or social media services that are hosting harmful material and require the removal of that material" Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Reference Committee,p.
Researchers, legal experts and social service workers generally support more specific Commonwealth legislation to provide legal definition and federal management of this important issue Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Reference Committee, Other legal strategies include the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network, which has processed approximately online complaints about the non-consensual sharing of intimate images since its establishment in Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Reference Committee, The funding comes from the overall budget for the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children Specifically, the funds are intended to combat virtual violence by:.
Specific training for those working in the criminal justice sectors is required to develop best practice management of technology-facilitated sexual violence and ensure legal remedies are effective. There are several key education resources in Australia aimed at primary and secondary school aged children and young people listed in Table 5.
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The list includes some resources that may not directly refer to online pornography but could be adapted in different ways to provide such information to children and young people. The national school curriculum begins teaching children about bodies, boundaries and relationships at a foundational level, prior to years 1 and 2 i.
The most recent resources are the Resilience, Rights, and Respectful Relationships materials for schools in Victoria. This resource provides social, emotional and sex education for children and young people from foundation to year 12, covering the following eight topics in an age-appropriate manner:. Foundation level up to level 6 : Gender, social and emotional skills education is provided but, as with other Victorian school curriculums, education regarding sexual relationships including discussions about pornography doesn't start until levels 7 and 8. Levels : The resource offers information and activities regarding gender, gender identity, gender-based violence and the use of technology and media platforms for gender ideologies, with a view to assist in the development of critical literacies and promote positive relationships.
Topics covered include:. Levels : Activities and detailed information for the topics of gender and identity and positive gender relations are included. The final subsection defines pornography as "a vehicle for communicating and shaping norms within gender relationships, particularly when that pornography also incorporates acts of violence against women" Department of Education and Training,p.