How the Web is Changing Young Love and Sexuality

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, New York Magazine’s latest issue is dedicated to the most romantic of love-related topics: porn.

They’ve got everything covered, from a profile of the superstars of the porn business, to an analysis of how the current overload of porn is preventing men from being able to… do what those superstars are doing.

The most thought-provoking piece, however, was Alex Morris’ “They Know What Boys Want,” a study of the ways that teens’ sexual habits have been influenced by easy access to online pornography. Over the course of several conversations with several female students in New York City (ranging in age from 12 to 16), Morris paints a picture of the pressures being applied to young women to hyper-sexualize themselves as a result of the things that their male counterparts are viewing on the internet.

One of Morris’ subjects, Cristal, 14, has a Facebook page populated by self-portraits of her in her room in various super-sexy poses. When Morris finally meets her, we learn that this isn’t anything scandalous in Cristal’s world:

When I meet Cristal at a McDonald’s on East 14th Street, a few blocks from the high school where she is a freshman, she’s bundled up and buttoned up and decidedly more demure than she appears online. I learn that she’s 14, that she has a boyfriend, and that she would never consider posting a photo where she’s nude. “Like, naked?” she asks, aghast. “That’s completely out of the question. I don’t do that, not even with my boyfriend.” But she has no qualms about getting the juices flowing, or reveling in the secondhand sexual validation Facebook allows. She pulls the money shot up on her phone and studies it for a moment. “All it really showed was my thighs,” she says before giving in to a little frisson of pride in her developing looks. “But like, no cocky shit, but I have a body, so when I take a picture, it shows. Everything is, like, out there.”

The other girls interviewed in the article express a similar casual attitude towards having to be sexy at such a young age, saying that the ubiquity of online porn has changed boys’ expectations and desires. “Guys wouldn’t really know about that much stuff if it weren’t for the internet… It freaks them out,” Kelsey, 16, tells Morris. She then offers this insightful analogy:

“I think it mostly happens to guys ’cause they’re just like, ‘Oh, look, that’s really cool.’ You know how when we were little girls, mostly we wore dresses and stuff, and we didn’t want to jump in the mud or anything or splash in puddles that can get us dirty?” The guys, on the other hand, splashed eagerly away. “It’s, like, the same. It’s disgusting to look at that dirty stuff, but the boys are just like, ‘Whatever, it’s life.’ ”

Additionally, Morris’ interviews demonstrate that the ways that kids are learning about sex have evolved from the days of awkward fumbling in the back of a dark movie theater. Today, there’s no need for a learning curve — everything one could possibly want to know about sex is available at the click of a mouse, from the most basic stuff, to things that many adults might have never dreamed of.

Eventually, the article concludes that the web isn’t necessarily a bad influence on youth sexuality and relationships — but it is certainly an entirely new world that today’s teens and pre-teens charting out, with all new instruments and no guidelines at hand.

Read the entire article over at NYMag.com >

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