On December 7th, 3 men gathered in a house in York County South Carolina. Such a gathering would not be considered unusual – particularly during a time when the holidays are approaching. On December 8th, when none of the men returned home, family members went to check on their well-being. Sadly, they found that all three had passed away. There were no marks on their bodies or signs of violence. Authorities believe the carbon monoxide from a heater or grill was the cause of their demise.
On December 9th, 350 miles away in Northern Kentucky a young man was in the home of an 18-year-old woman that he knew. A few hours later he was arrested on rape and sodomy charges. The young lady with whom he visited had visible signs of physical abuse over several parts of her body. Today, this is scenario is often called date rape.
On the surface, these two events seem to have nothing in common. Yet they very well might share the fate of unintended consequences.
The burning of coal and wood and other means of keeping warm were developed for the betterment of mankind. However, it would take years before humans understood that if used in un-vented areas, there would be deadly consequences due to a silent killer.
Based on years of experience we know that Carbon Monoxide – sometimes known as “the silent killer” is the most common type of fatal air poisoning in many countries still today. It is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, but deadly. It is the unintended consequence of burning wood to stay warm.
But what about the story of the young man charged with rape or sodomy? While we don’t know of his innocence or guilt, we are beginning to understand why a young man with a promising life would possibly — violently rape a young lady he had known. Was this a case of an unintended consequence?
You’ll see what I mean momentarily.
BOYS & PORN
A new study conducted at the University of Nebraska, determined based on age of first exposure — a man’s attitude towards women is “negatively shaped from the first time he is exposed to pornography.”
In other words, the age of the first encounter with pornography significantly impacted the view of woman and sex in the eyes of the man or boy.
The group surveyed 330 undergraduate men, between the ages of 17 to 54. Eighty-five percent of those participating in the survey were white – with ninety-three percent of those being heterosexual.
Each participant was asked the following questions:
- At what age did you first watch pornography?
- Was it accidental, intentional or forced?
They were then asked 46 additional questions to determine two masculine norms:
- Playboy (meaning promiscuous.)
- Those that seek power over women
As I stated earlier, their findings suggest men who had watched porn at the earliest ages would behave more aggressively and dominant towards women.
Men that watched porn later in life would more likely engage in promiscuous behavior – but not necessarily act violently toward them.
In Peggy Ornstein’s book, GIRLS & SEX, she states that while researching her topic, she spoke with more than 70 young women between the ages of 15 and 20 concerning their attitudes and early experiences with types of physical intimacy.
During her interview on NPR’s Fresh Air’s with Terry Gross she said, “pop culture and pornography sexualize young women by creating undue pressure to look and act sexy. These pressures affect both the sexual expectations that girls put on themselves and the expectations boys project onto them.”
Having read her book and the girls’ varied experiences with sex and the “bro” culture, it would appear her observations are correct if not downright depressing.
In fact, last month I was speaking to a group of psychologists about teen’s use of technology. One told me that he is seeing a significant change in the sexual expectations of young men toward the women they are dating. He feels that the sex that boys see in porn becomes an expectation when they begin to date. This expectation is supported in Peggy Orenstein’s book.
Well you might be thinking, that’s all very well and good, but what is the unintended consequence?
I’m getting there…
THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING
On January 9th, 2007 as he was about to introduce the iPhone, Steve Jobs stood on a stage in San Francisco and told 4000 reporters and industry analyst, “occasionally, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything. “
Jobs was right. The introduction of the iPhone has largely changed not just life in America – but nearly everywhere and everyone. For the most part – it’s been positive. But like all advances in technology, it introduced its share of problems and unintended consequences.
Jobs never envisioned a world where kids as young as 8-9 years of age would have access to an iPhone. Yet the average age a child gets a smartphone in America is 10 bit trending toward 9. The average age a child first sees porn is age 11. Coincident?
I think Jobs would agree with my statement, “You wouldn’t allow your 13 year old child to drive your Porsche until 4 in the morning – why would you allow your child to have unfettered access to an iPhone?” Note: For the record, I drive a Buick. As our oldest granddaughter would say, “There’s not a self-respecting teen that wants to be caught driving a Buick.” But I digress.
Which brings me to the very serious topic and unintended consequence related to date rape — and why access to porn at an early age might be a factor.
WE GAVE THEM THE KEYS
By 2011, adults that had purchased iPhones and later Android phones began updating their devices. Often, they would hand-down those devices to their children without understanding that those devices connected their kids to the world and the world to their kids.
For example: 56 percent of children, age 8 to 12, have a cellphone. [Source]
Today, a child viewing porn is almost mainstream.
The non-profit Childline Abuse Registry in Pennsylvania has voiced its concerns. To illustrate their apprehension, one boy under the age of 15 told ChildLine that he was “always watching porn, and some of it is quite aggressive”… I didn’t think it was affecting me at first but I’ve started to view girls a bit differently recently and it’s making me worried.”
To be honest, for every study you find on the pitfalls of pornography, you will find another study suggesting that viewing porn is not an issue. However, we have only had about 10 years to understand how instant access to porn might impact teens.
In years past, pornography was limited to print on glossy paper. By the 1990’s porn on video cassettes were popular, but not easy to play on your parent’s VHS deck. Porn “addiction” was unlikely if you could only view it the few times mom and dad went on a date.
Today, we have the first generation that can watch porn 7 days per week, 24 hours a day at any time and any place.
Porn today is professionally produced, with almost broadcast quality lighting and 1080 HD resolution. In fact, Virtual Reality Porn is viewed in 3D with 180 degree vision of the scene. The viewer is part of the action using VR goggles.
We are in the midst of an unintended experiment on a generation.
Baby Boomers remember the drug, Thalidomide that was first marketed in 1957 in West Germany. Unknowingly, this wonder drug was prescribed as a sedative or hypnotic. Thalidomide also claimed to cure, insomnia, gastritis, and tension” It was a miracle!
However, before long between 5,000 and 7,000 infants were born with malformations of the limbs. Less that 50% of these children survived.
The drug later made its way to America and had similar repercussions. A generation was impacted by the unintended consequence of a drug.
IS TODAY’S MOBILE PORN THE THALIDOMIDE OF THE PAST?
We don’t know if the young man in Northern Kentucky is guilty as charged. But if he is guilty of date rape, is it due in part to the young man’s opinion of woman he adopted from viewing porn at a young age?
I don’t know. But pornography much like carbon monoxide has silently invaded our homes and now the very devices we have given our children. Highly sexualized images of woman enter our TV sets during prime time while we were lulled into a false sense of security with Hollywood sensors.
It could very well be the Thalidomide of the 1950’s has resurfaced as a digital drug under the auspices of porn — “malforming” the brains of many young men and in the process the lives of young women.
When all is said and done, victims of date rape don’t care why it happened, they simply want to heal.
As a society, we must take steps to understand why this happens and make certain it doesn’t happen again. Frankly, I’m not confident this will occur.
The solution starts when we pay attention to the access we’ve given our kids to the world, and the access that the world has to our kids?
NOTE: If you’d like us to come to your school or organization for our presentation on the impact of social media on teens, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org