New pornography research demonstrates need for Queensland action to prevent sexual violence

20 March 2024

Public health experts in Queensland are calling for State Government action to help prevent sexual violence, after new research published today showed that young Australians are learning about sex through porn well before their first intimate encounter.

Researchers from the QUT School of Justice Professor Michael Flood and PhD candidates Maree Crabbe and Kelsey Adams analysed the results of the first nationally representative survey of 1,985 Australians aged 15 to 20 on their exposure to and use of pornography.

The study has been published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

The survey was conducted by Our Watch, Australia’s leading violence prevention organisation, to inform violence prevention efforts.

Journal article lead author Ms Crabbe said a growing body of evidence indicated that young people’s pornography exposure and use had public health implications.

“In particular, pornography plays a role in shaping young people’s sexual understandings, expectations, and experiences,” Ms Crabbe said.

“Research has shown pornography is associated with a range of harmful attitudes, and behaviours, including risky sexual behaviours, greater sexual objectification of women, rape myth acceptance, and sexual coercion and aggression.”

Ms Crabbe said the survey showed that pornography had a widespread presence in young people’s lives in Australia.

“In this survey of 15–20-year-olds, 86 per cent of male and 69 per cent of female participants had seen pornography.

“Of those 50.1 percent of young men and 40.3 per cent of young women reported deliberately seeking pornography the first time they viewed it.

“Curiosity was cited as the main motivation for seeking pornography for the first time, followed by sexual stimulation, because friends were watching, and wanting to learn more about sex.

“Among young people who had seen pornography, the average age of first porn exposure was 13.2 years for males and 14.1 years for females. For most young people, exposure occurs years before their first sexual encounter. On average, young men see pornography 3 years before their first partnered sexual experience and young women see it 2 years before theirs.

Professor Michael Flood said the extent of pornography exposure the study revealed made it likely pornography was a significant influence on Australian young people’s sexual attitudes and behaviours.

“Pornography use is associated with both violence perpetration and victimisation. Given that young men aged 15-19 years are the group most likely to perpetrate sexual violence, and young women of that age group are most likely to be victims of it, violence prevention should include efforts to reduce pornography’s potential harms,” Professor Flood said.

“Almost half the young people who first encountered pornography accidentally stumbled upon it online via searches or pop-ups, suggesting both regulatory and technological measures should be considered to limit minors’ online exposure.”

The research has prompted the Public Health Association of Australia to call for action in Queensland.

Associate Professor Amie Steel, Queensland Branch President, Public Health Association of Australiasaid that sexual coercion and interpersonal violence is an issue that local public health experts are gravely concerned about.

“Violence against women is most commonly perpetrated by an intimate partner, and we cannot discount the impact of pornography in normalising sexual violence.European researchhas found that 90% of pornography depicts violence and disrespect towards women, so it is really concerning that so many young people are accessing pornography to learn about sex.

“We welcome the recent coercive control reforms in Queensland and the Government’s commitment toRespectful Relationships Education, but there is still a lot that can be done to prevent violence before it occurs.

“In the lead up to the next election we will be calling for the next Queensland State Government to provide ongoing funding to further support and implement an evidence-based approach to Respectful Relationships Education for all schools, as well as commit to mass-media campaigns, to tackle the very serious issues of coercive control and interpersonal violence.” 

Pornography exposure and access among young Australians: A cross-sectional study” was published in the Australia and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.


For media interviews please contact:

Hollie Harwood, Strategic Communications Advisor, Public Health Association of Australia [email protected] 0400 762 010

Paris Lord, Media and Communications Manager, Public Health Association of Australia, [email protected] 0478 587 917

Pornography exposure and access among young Australians: A cross-sectional study” has been published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health on the 20 March 2024 and is available here.

Please credit the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. The Journal is the official publication of the Public Health Association of Australia.

All articles are open access and can be found here: