Porn: is it different for girls?

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The majority of adolescents with access to the internet have watched sexually explicit materials on the internet. However, the stigma attached to girls and their experiences of pornographic materials differs vastly from that of their male peers.

Cosimo Marco Scarcelli of the University of Bologna interviewed dozens of Italian teenagers to explore how adolescents – and in particular girls – consume pornography, how they do (or do not) use it and why, and what role sexual content has in their everyday lives. Read the full article online here.

Scarcelli discovered that pornography is used ‘socially’ by adolescents; it is also a means by which young people define and explore sexuality and what he calls ‘gender borders’.

He observes: “We need to escape the simplistic notion of pornography as an individual issue and explore the social and cultural dimensions which exist within the consumption of pornography.”

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    Scarcelli’s work, whioch appears in the journal Porn Studies, published by Taylor & Francis, also reveals significant differences between how boys and girls approach explicit material, including many familiar ‘double standards’.

    Social conventions and habits – as well as how pornography is produced – have made pornography a male field, something even adolescents pick up on.

    He notes: “Girls condemn pornography, describing the use of such material, especially by other girls, as something perverted. Their opinion is different when they speak about boys. In this case, they define the consumption of pornographic material as something naturally connected to the essence of being a man.”

    By and large, Scarcelli claims, pornography is not interesting for girls, but sometimes it can be useful: it can reduce anxiety related to first-time intercourse, help them understand boys’ worlds and desires, and assist them in discovering what it means to be ‘normal’ in their peer group.

    For girls, Scarcelli observes, pornography is less an autoerotic experience and more a form of ‘social intercourse’. “Girls are curious about what boys find so interesting,” he writes, “and this occupies part of their discourse in the peer group.” Pornography therefore helps girls reinforce and cross their own ‘gender borders’.

    Scarcelli concludes: “The internet permits girls to explore the boys’ universe without dealing with the stigma that society frequently places on adolescents and women who want to watch pornography. Girls prefer to pass through pornographic territory with a group that permits it in order to avoid the aura of shame which surrounds the practice of consuming pornography.”

    As it has been for generations of male consumers before them, the anonymity of pornography is one of its most appealing qualities for young girls too.