Porn is far more acceptable to the younger generation, including girls studying in US colleges, a new study reveals.
Most young women in the study said they personally did not use porn, but nearly half said viewing X-rated material was acceptable for them. But only 37% of the fathers and 20% of the mothers surveyed agreed.
The attitude of the young women and men in the study might be influenced by pornographic images that have proliferated on the Internet in the past 10 years, says Jeffrey Arnett, the editor of the Journal of Adolescent Research, which will publish the study in January.
In the 1980s, young adults had to go to a store and ask for the porn magazines, which often were kept behind the counter.
But Arnett says kids today are the first generation in which X-rated images can be pulled up with wireless technology from a handheld device.
"We're in an age of pocket porn," says study author Jason Carroll.
Carroll, a social sciences researcher at Brigham Young University, and his colleagues studied 813 college students from six schools across the USA. The students went online and answered questions about their views on pornography.
The researchers found that young men were much more likely to use pornography: 86% reported that they viewed such material in the past year. The study also found that one in five young men said they viewed pornographic material every day or nearly every day.
But only 31% of young women reported any viewing of pornography. Only 3.2% said they saw such material weekly or daily.
The gender differences in use and acceptance raise a lot of questions, Arnett says. For example, will the college students change their attitudes toward porn as they get older and form stable relationships? Young women who say they are tolerant of viewing Internet porn might not be so accepting of a spouse who's visiting an X-rated site every day, he says.
The study also linked regular porn use with risky behaviors, Carroll says. Regular porn users were more likely to go on drinking binges and more likely to have sex with multiple partners.
Additional studies must be done to determine whether frequent porn use leads to greater acceptance of such behavior, which can put students at risk for a host of health problems, such as alcoholism and sexually transmitted diseases, he says.
Children and teenagers are regularly bombarded with X-rated and suggestive images that imply that casual hook-ups are the norm, says Sabrina Weill, editor in chief of MomLogic, a website that helps mothers deal with a variety of parenting problems.
"It's really important for mothers to have a frank conversation with their kids," she says, because children who can talk openly to their parents are more likely to go on to make wise decisions in college.