A recent incident where a 14-year-old raped and impregnated his 16-year-old sister, has brought to the forefront the problem of adolescent porn consumption in our country. As per a report in The Times of India, the Navi Mumbai boy who had been sexually exploiting his sister for two months was addicted to pornography and watched it on his mobile phone. Easy access to the Internet and smartphones has given adolescents free hand at pornographic content. While desktops or laptops could be monitored by parents using site blocking or child locks, it is not easy to monitor what an adolescent is consuming on his/her smartphone.

Kids as young as 12 or 13 now have access to porn, on either their own devices or on that of their friends. What starts out of curiosity to explore evolving sexuality soon turns into addiction. And this addiction can lead to grievous consequences in the absence of proper sex education or awareness.

Adolescents who watch porn without prior sex education and sensitization are at risk of sexually aggressive behaviour. A research review titled “The Impact of Internet Pornography on Adolescents” states that adolescents can learn sexual behaviours from observing the behaviours depicted in sexually explicit material.

This means that the impressionable young male minds get moulded on basis of the content they are watching. This may not only give birth to false expectations, but also blur the lines between acceptable and unacceptable sexual practices.

The same research review also states that among males “who have ‘predisposing risk levels’ towards aggressive sexual behaviour, those who frequently consume pornography have more than four times greater levels of sexual aggression, compared to their peers who infrequently seek out pornography.” (Ybarra and Mitchell in 2005)

Combine this with the lack of proper sex education and the Indian misogynist mindset. The young adults in our country grow up watching adult males treat women as objects meant for sexual gratification. As a result, they feel entitled to sexual favours from women. Uninhibited porn consumption thus, acts like jet fuel in our social set-up. It pushes boys even as young as this 14-year-old to sexual aggression.

Addiction to porn is as unhealthy as addiction to any other vice like social media drugs or alcohol.

It degrades a person mentally, physically and socially. Those around him also suffer the consequences of this addiction. This addiction is harmful irrespective of gender or age bar. But even irregular or minimal consumption of porn may be harmful when it is not preceded by proper sex education and sensitization to gender equality and a woman’s right to say “no”.

Young adults have in-depth knowledge of the “act” via porn. But porn never comes with a statutory warning about pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and consequences of sex with an underage girl or sex without consent. For most young adults (males), even a matter as serious as pregnancy is not a concern. After all, it isn’t their body which will be bearing the consequences. Which is why a ban on porn (which Indian government tried to put into effect in 2015) is just a half measure.

Young boys today need more guidance and education in this matter than patrolling.

Their rebellious mind will see any form of prohibition as a challenge instead of seeing it as a course correction. Besides, snatching mobile phones from your teen’s hands is barely a solution. Parents must go for the more difficult route here. Inculcate respect towards women among teens since a young age. Make sure they understand the meaning of words like consent when the age is right. Proper sex education, creating empathy for the opposite sex and ample knowledge about life-altering consequences of porn addiction and sex are the only ways we can steer our boys away from porn driven sexual aggression. I know it is more difficult than it sounds to be. But no one ever said parenting is easy.

Picture Credit: Newscrab

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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