Sexually Explicit Media and Communication: Selected Research Findings and Practice Implications

Published by: Jeff R. Temple, PhD , Emily F. Rothman, ScD

Dr. Temple will discuss sexting (a combination of the words sex and texting), the practice of electronically sending sexually explicit images or messages from one person to another.  Sexting has received an abundance of attention in the popular press. Much of this attention has been limited to (1) legal cases in which teens who create, send, receive, store, and/or disseminate nude pictures of themselves or another teen face criminal charges including child pornography, and (2) cases in which teens are harassed and bullied as a result of the nude picture being distributed beyond the intended audience. Although media reports often cite various examples of sexting leading to bullying, cyberbullying, and even suicide, we understand very little about the public health importance of sexting. Using data from his ongoing longitudinal study of adolescent health, Dr. Temple will examine the prevalence of sexting behaviors as well as their relation to dating, sex, risky sex, and psychosocial health.

Dr. Rothman will present the results of two studies she conducted to investigate the potential linkage between sexually explicit material consumption (i.e., pornography) and adolescent dating abuse.  The first study involved collecting qualitative data from 23 youth ages 16-18 years old, and the second study involved quantitative data collection from a sample of 72 youth ages 15-17 years old.  Taken together, results suggest that some youth imitate sexual acts that they observe in pornography that may be physically painful to female partners, ask their dating and sexual partners to reenact some things that they see in pornography, and that most youth in these samples who were asked to reenact sexual acts seen in pornography by their partners were not happy to be asked.  Adolescent dating abuse was associated with more frequent consumption of sexually explicit media, and associated with substance use while watching pornography.