New studies shed light on the sexual behaviour of Australian teens

Teenager texting with smartphone while studyingIn the first ever Australian study of its kind, researchers have surveyed the correlation between adolescents’ pornography viewing habits and sexual behaviour. The study – to be presented at a Sexual Health Conference in Sydney, 9-11 October – found that young people who consume pornography from a young age are more likely to engage in sexual behaviour early on. 

“Sexual behaviour is incredibly complex, but we are seeing a strong correlation between pornography viewing habits and sexual behaviour. We need to explore this correlation further to better understand the impact of pornography on young people’s sexual health and behaviour,” says Dr Megan Lim of Burnet Institute and the study’s lead researcher.

Over 70% of the survey’s respondents (aged 15-29) indicated that they viewed pornography, with 14 being the median age of first viewing pornography.

The study also found those who first watched pornography when they were younger than 14 had a significantly younger age of sexual debut (median 16 years compared to 17 years), and that weekly pornographic viewing was significantly associated with inconsistent condom use with casual partners, engaging in anal intercourse and sexting.

An associated study found that there is an alarming disconnect between teenagers’ perceptions of sexting and the actions they take.

While 77% of respondents agreed that ‘It should be illegal to pass on a sext without permission,’ a third said that they ‘might show a sext’ they received to friends. This finding is particularly important in light of new Victorian legislation illegalising non-consensual sharing of sexts.

Says Dr Lim: “One of the risks with sexting is that due to new laws coming into place in Victoria, teenagers are engaging in illegal behaviour without even realising. More education on confidentiality and risks of exposure is needed.”

The sexual landscape in Australia is shifting, with both pornography and sexting becoming commonplace among Australia teens, and potentially influencing their sexual behaviour. The studies conclude that more effective and targeted educational measures must be put in place to inform young people about the risks of sexting, including the legal issues, as well as the danger of risky sexual behaviour.

Source: Australasian Sexual Health Conference