A few weeks ago I attended a workshop given by an expert in marketing and
social media. The speaker emphasized the unawareness about the age of
beginning to use pornographic material and the frequency of its use. He
pointed out that it begins earlier than in old times. It is surprising that
many parents see the problem as being very far away or think that it is not
going to affect their children because “they are not interested in that
kind of thing”.

What are things really like in this grave matter? Are adolescents exposed
to sexual content? How much and in what way does the exposition to sexual
material influence the behavior of young people? A study conducted by
social investigators from two Dutch universities (van Oosten of Amsterdam,
Peter de Leuven and Vandenbosch of the University of Antwerp in

Adolescents’ Sexual Media Use and Willingness to Engage in Casual Sex:
Underlying Processes

) gives us an answer to these and other questions.

It is the first study that demonstrates how sexual content in social
networks can also predict the perceptions and conduct of adolescents
about sexuality

The authors of the cited text investigated the relationship between
different types of sexual representations in separate media contents and
the disposition of adolescents to have occasional sexual relations, as well
as the underlying socio-cognitive processes in these relations. In the
context of the study, occasional sex is understood as unplanned, and
therefore unsafe sex.

The conclusion is clear: the exposition to sexually explicit material in
the Internet predicted, in a direct way, occasional sex. In addition, they
came to the conclusion that the enticing presentations of themselves in
social networks and the so-called “tele-reality” with a high level of
sexual content predicts the willingness of the adolescents to participate
in casual sex. That is, it can be affirmed that a relationship exists
between what adolescents see through different screens and the sexual
behaviors that they later develop.

Usefulness of the study and future challenges

The findings of this study, although they refer only to “casual sex”, also
have important implications with regard to research about types of sexual
behavior in general as a result of the viewing of erotic and/or
pornographic content in the media. Certainly they confirm what other
studies on pornography have demonstrated, already published on

our web page


In addition, as the authors emphasize in their bibliographical review, the
exposition to a that kind of contents also causes permissive types of
attitudes toward sex.

Methodology and observations

The base was made up of a longitudinal panel in three stages with an
interval of 6 months based on a sample of 1,467 Dutch adolescents, between
the ages of 13 and 17. The control variables were sex and age.

The study centers on three categories or variables to measure the
sexualized use of the media: exposure to explicit sexual content on the
internet, erotic presentation of themselves in their profiles in social
networks and viewing of daring “reality shows” – in particular MTV—which
are considered popular among adolescents.

These three categories mentioned can predict the will to be involved in
occasional sex in a different way, given the possible differences in the
socio-cognitive processes that underlie the changes in behavioral
disposition and, among other factors, the similarity of the social
surroundings of the adolescents: the more problematic the environment they
live in, the easier is for the adolescents to identify themselves with the
characters and integrate the content into their own lives.

The authors themselves warn that the results of the study may not be
applicable to other cultures less permissive than the Dutch. This caveat, typical of any social scientific study, does not lessen
the gravity of the implied alarm, especially when it is known that the
internet homogenizes cultures, even more than it is done by the cinema or
television formats spread internationally, such as some successful
television series. Two of the variables that they study refer precisely to
the internet and one to television.

It is clear, to my view that the implicit concern of the study is to call
attention to “unsafe sex”: although it is not affirmed, the assumption
seems to be that “casual sex” is riskier for contracting illnesses or for
getting pregnant. It is surprising, on the other hand, that no relevance is
given in the discussion of the study to the high levels of sexualization of
young people. In the various scales for measuring the “sexual” use of the
media they employ, the results obtained are worrisome: the young people are
already hypersexualized.

It is not the objective of the study to reveal the causes of the problem,
in particular if the problem is only seen partially. In my thinking, we
need studies are needed that look deeper into the causes and, as a result,
can offer better proposals of solution. If we do not teach young people
about love, and we content ourselves with “instructing” about safe sex
while leaving them at the mercy of the “sex merchants”, we will not solve


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