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CSSP: ‘Feeling Blue’: studying the effects of children’s exposure to pornography and other sexually explicit media

Plenary Address for Child Sensitive Social Policy conference, UNICEF & Women's University of Africa, Harare, Zimbabwe 4-6 November 2015
by

Kristen Cheney

on 8 December 2015

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Transcript of CSSP: ‘Feeling Blue’: studying the effects of children’s exposure to pornography and other sexually explicit media

Feeling
studying the effects of children’s exposure to pornography
and other sexually explicit media in Africa
Kristen E. Cheney, PhD.
International Institute of Social Studies

Children & Youth Studies
Erasmus University, The Hague, Netherlands
Many Western studies of porn's effect on young people but virtually none in developing countries
Indications of widespread child/youth exposure to porn (locally called ‘blue movies’ or PB for PlayBoy) in urban and rural Ethiopia and Uganda
Clear need for more in-depth research to understand how SEM influences young people’s sexual identity development in local contexts
Participatory youth peer research
Next Steps, Future Directions
Considering effective frameworks for analysis and advocacy
Can't ban porn, but can try to prevent it from reaching kids, and/or teach them to approach it more critically
Develop more holistic, media-responsive CSE curricula that will meet needs porn currently meets
start earlier
involve entire family
more child/youth centered
Inter-regional comparative study
'Blue'
Preliminary Results
The Study
The Challenge
Training
Issues to address:
porn vs. SEM
access vs. exposure
consumption vs. production
Phase II:
How? Why?
Focus groups, interviews
Prezi available at http://bit.ly/cssp_feeling_blue
Phase I
:
Who? What? Where?
Survey

Ethiopia:
200 14-26-year-olds surveyed, 72 under 18
69% of under-18s are sexually active
Only 14% have received sex education

Uganda:
214 12-24 year olds surveyed, 104 of them under 18
69% of under-18s are sexually active (78% of all respondents said they became active before they were 18)
52% have participated in sex education (47% of under 18s)
<-- Training in Addis Ababa
List generated from an FGD in Kampala -->
The Kampala team -->
Preliminary Conclusions
Access & Exposure:
Nearly
all
are exposed to SEM/ pornography -- including violent, hardcore -- before 18. Youngest age of 1st exposure: 8 (50% by age of 12 in UG, downward tread in ET)
Most reported it was easy to access. Boys seek it on a regular basis.
Common access through mobile phones (bluetooth) and internet cafes, videoshops and halls
Beyond consumption to production, e.g. 11% under-18s in ET report taking nude photos of a partner, posting nudes on FB
SEM is part of a
broader landscape of
sexual violence and sexual economy →
Ambivalence: SEM is omnipresent and kids feel largely positive about it, but most also realize it’s probably a bad influence in the long run, “a colonization of our sexuality”.
Sex ed is not meeting kids' needs. Porn allows for the release of EMOTION, positive or negative, and is thus more popular than CSE. Consuming porn is a way for young people to take charge of their own sexual knowledge.
Urban
Rural
In school
Out of
school
Motivations and Expectations:
Addis Out-of-School reporting on peers' motivations for watching porn
Watch it to get ideas, to release sexual feelings, for social activity.
More under-18s and in-school kids tend the believe that pornography ‘shows what sex is really like for normal people.’ Others say it creates sexual expectations, e.g. celebrity sex tapes
Production is part of a broader sexual economy (Red Pepper - sugar daddies - sex work)
Behaviors and Attitudes
Positive associations with porn across all age groups: ‘joy’, ‘excitement’ (less so for girls)
Almost all are practicing (or are trying to practice) what they see in porn.
In UG, frequency of access positively correlates with ‘riskier’ sexual attitudes. In ET, some reported lax attitudes about consent after viewing porn.
Rural students: Many young people start dressing differently and changing other day-to-day behaviors, increasingly violent after viewing violent sex.
Considered it more influential than sex ed
or
local culture (73% vs. 45% and 55% in ET - similar results in UG)
50% of ET under-18s acknowledged that pornography was a ‘problem’ that affected sexual attitudes, expectations, and behaviors.
BUT, under 18s tended NOT to take pornography as instructional or a substitute for sex ed (especially those in school).
Consequences
Social:
peer pressure, detachment, addiction.
Girls disproportionately suffer effects, e.g. rape, revenge porn
Academic:
grades suffer
Economic:
Pay to watch —> gambling and stealing from parents.
Out-of-school Kampala: “After watching it, you have to go and buy ‘a kilo’ (sex)”
Sexual economy: girls producing SEM to earn money, find economic support.
Full transcript