BBC Three survey reveals one in four young people first view porn at age 12 or under

I worry about the new generation of men whose first real introduction to sex is what they see on their laptop… They think we are supposed to look, sound and move like that. What’s scarier is that I worry young women are starting to think the same.Jameela Jamil, Presenter
Date: 10.04.2014     Last updated: 10.04.2014 at 13.20
Category: BBC Three; News
A survey carried out for tonight’s BBC Three programme Porn: What’s The Harm? has revealed that almost a quarter of young people were 12 years old or younger when they first saw porn online (24.6%) and a shocking 7.3% were under 10.

The survey found that the majority of young people (60%) were 14 years old or younger when they first saw porn online – although 62% said they first saw it when they weren’t expecting to, or because they were shown it by someone else. Only 22% of those surveyed say they were looking for it on purpose.

More than 1,000 16-21 year-olds were asked by ICM about their experiences of online pornography for tonight’s BBC Three documentary, Porn: What’s The Harm?

The anonymous  survey covered a range of areas relating to porn including when and how porn is viewed today, at what age this starts and whether young people believe it’s influenced their attitudes to sex.

More than half the respondents thought that online pornography affects what young men and women expect from sex – and a majority (74%) thought it particularly affected men’s expectations.

Asked to give reasons as to how they thought that was the case, the most common answer was that young men expect young women to behave like the women in porn films.

Almost 10% of the sample said it made young men expect young women would be their 'sex objects’ and many women gave answers indicating they seemed to expect to be treated this way.

Jameela Jamil, presenter of tonight’s documentary which is shown at 9pm on BBC Three, said: “I worry about the new generation of men whose first real introduction to sex is what they see on their laptop… They think we are supposed to look, sound and move like that. What’s scarier is that I worry young women are starting to think the same.”

Almost 50% of young men who took part told the programme that they look for porn online either all the time (i.e. every day), or quite often (i.e. once a week). Only around 10.5% of young women said the same.

But around half of the women who took part (48.6%) never look for porn online – compared with only 13.3% of young men.

When asked what was bad about porn, the most common answer was that porn is unrealistic (just over 17% said this) but around 12% said it was because porn objectifies women.

While many respondents did accept that porn gives unrealistic expectations of sex, a significant proportion (particularly women) said they watched porn to learn about sex.

The academics who worked with the BBC on the survey will be exploring the results in more detail. Dr Miranda Horvath, from Middlesex University, said: “What was so exciting about this was that it was an opportunity to go to a really large number of people in the UK, which is where there hasn’t been a lot of research in the past, and really get them to tell us what they thought, and what they felt.”

Dr Maddy Coy, from the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit at  London Metropolitan University, added: “The answers that young people gave us in the survey were so interesting, so inspiring, so thoughtful. This is the biggest survey in the UK that has been done of young people's experiences, and really gives them a chance to talk about what they think about pornography. They had really interesting things to say.”

The survey was funded by BBC Learning, who are now adapting content from the programme to be used in schools to better educate children and young people about the realities of pornography and how it can relate to sexual behaviour and relationships.

Porn: What’s The Harm? will be shown on Thursday 10 April at 9pm on BBC Three.

MH