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I saw this article today sent by the Mental Health Academy and feel quite strongly about early exposure to pornography should be viewed as a public health issue for youth.

For more in formation look at organisations such as Culture Reframed and e Childhood.


The Truth about Adolescent Pornography Exposure

Written by Dr. Amanda L. Giordano


Whether or not the public is ready to acknowledge it, the majority of adolescents are viewing pornography. Indeed, more than half of U.S. high school students have been exposed to pornography (Maheaux et al., 2021) with an average age of exposure between 11 and 12 years old (Healy-Cullen et al., 2022; Kraus & Rosenberg, 2014). Additionally, among youth aged 16 to 18 in New Zealand, 85.31% had been exposed to internet pornography, more than half of whom had viewed it accidentally (Healy-Cullen et al., 2022).


Far from being difficult to access, data tell us that the most common method of viewing pornography is free content via smartphones (Herbenick et al., 2020; PornHub, 2021). Data released from the pornography site, YouPorn (2019), revealed over 5 billion site visits in 2019. Among adolescent populations, initial exposure to pornography can be as simple as a teenager passing his smartphone to a friend saying, “have you seen this?”

Given the ubiquitous nature of the internet and popularity of mobile devices, it is important to consider the potential impact of pornography exposure on young people. Although some may believe that pornography exposure is developmentally appropriate and can even be informative, empirical evidence suggests there could be negative consequences for adolescents who view pornography. Specifically, adolescent pornography use has been linked to aggressive or dominant sexual behaviors such as choking or name calling (Shin & Lee, 2019; Wright et al., 2021). This correlation is not necessarily surprising; depending upon the age of the adolescent, they may not have a schema or mental category for sex. Thus, if teenagers are taking their cues about sexual activity from pornography, they may develop sexual scripts that include violent, aggressive, or degrading acts depicted in some pornographic videos. Indeed, among high school students in the U.S., 21.9% had viewed violent pornography (i.e., females forced to engage in sexual acts) and violent pornography exposure significantly predicted teen dating violence (Rostad et al., 2019).


The content of internet pornographic videos is extremely diverse and continues to evolve. Rather than sneaking a peak at a picture in a magazine, youth have access to countless pornographic videos (of varying lengths) of numerous types of sexual behaviors. Much internet pornography may depict “mainstream” sexual activities, yet a portion of pornography entails group sex, violence, domination, paraphilias, or aggression (Carrotte et al., 2020). Furthermore, pornography may deviate substantially from safe sexual practices such as obtaining consent and using condoms. In fact, an analysis of 23 research articles examining the content of pornographic videos reported that condom use was rarely depicted (Carrotte et al., 2020). Therefore, if an adolescent does not have a conceptualization of safe and healthy sexual practices from which to contrast pornographic videos, they may consider the sexual acts of pornography to be “normal” or expected.


Indeed, without an understanding of sex or previous discussions about internet pornography with an adult, the experience of viewing a pornographic video (particularly of violence, rape, group sex, or paraphilias), could be alarming, distressing, and potentially traumatic for a teenager. The adolescent may feel ashamed and guilty on account of what they viewed (especially if they were aroused or curious by the video) and may choose not tell anyone. In fact, researchers found that among American high school students, only 17% talked to their parents about pornography although 57% had been exposed (Widman et al., 2021). Moreover, among youth in New Zealand, the majority of those who were accidentally exposed to pornography (76.15%) did not tell anyone about the experience (Healy-Cullen et al., 2022). Adolescents likely will try to make meaning of the content on their own by trying to answer questions like, “Is this what all adults do?” “Is this normal?” “Is this what is expected of me?” “Do people think of me sexually?” “Am I bad for being aroused?” “What other videos are out there?” Adolescence is a time of cognitive, emotional, and physical development. As the brain matures, children and adolescents take in a wealth of information from the world around them, yet they may not have the experience, information, or cognitive ability to accurately make meaning of what they observe. If left to their own devices, they can adopt distorted or maladaptive beliefs about themselves, the world, and others.

Another potential negative consequence of adolescent pornography use is the objectification of oneself or others. In a recent research study, pornography exposure among adolescents was linked to body comparison and self-objectification (Maheux et al., 2021). Thus, teens who view pornography may have faulty assumptions about the realism of the videos and fail to consider ways in which the videos or the actors’ bodies have been altered or enhanced. Youth are particularly sensitive to the opinions of their peers during adolescence and may feel inadequate or undesirable in comparison to the actors in pornographic videos. Furthermore, they may begin to compare others to what they see in pornography or sexually objectify those around them (particularly women).


In light of these trends, it is important for mental health professionals, teachers, and caregivers to engage in preventative efforts regarding pornography exposure among adolescents rather than responding only after an initial exposure. Given that the average age of first pornography exposure is between 11 and 12 years old, it may be helpful to discuss the realities of pornography with older children (ages 9 and 10). In these conversations, it is important to give children (1) a framework for understanding pornography and (2) directions for what to do when they see it. For example, a teacher, counselor, or caregiver may say:

“There are lots of pictures and videos on the internet. Some are made for children and teenagers, and some are made for adults. There may be times when you come across a video that is made for adults—videos of people who do not have clothes on, or people doing things that you do not understand. If you see a video like this, come and tell (me, your teacher, your parent, your counselor) so we can talk about it. It is never your fault if you see these types of videos, so don’t be afraid to come tell me or another adult about it. Do you have any questions?”


As a society, it is important to recognize the prevalence of pornography exposure among adolescent populations and prepare them for what they may encounter online. Once a teenager discloses pornography exposure to an adult, the adult can then process their experience, provide accurate information about sex, and dispel any myths that the adolescent may have adopted. For example, the adult and adolescent can discuss the realism of pornography, the importance of consent, the difference between paid actors versus real sexual experiences, the risks of objectifying men and women, body comparison and self-worth, safe sex practices, and the normalcy of sexual curiosity and arousal.


With the continuous evolution of new technology and devices (e.g., virtual reality), the accessibility of pornography will only increase with time. To set adolescents up for success and help facilitate safe online practices, mental health professionals, teachers, and caregivers must be prepared to broach the topic of internet pornography with children and adolescents and create safe spaces for them to process their experiences.


About the author:

Dr. Amanda L. Giordano is an associate professor of counselling at the University of Georgia. She specializes in addiction counselling and has clinical, instructional, and scholarly experience related to both chemical and behavioural addictions. She is the author of A Clinical Guide to Treating Behavioral Addictions.

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What is a Sexual Health Educator?

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What is a Sexual Health Educator?

Let me introduce myself. I’m Lisa, a sexual health educator for the last 20 years. I have a Bachelor of Science in Public Health, focusing on sexual education. In 2002, I went to a party with my girlfriends and was introduced to the concept of relationship enhancement parties. No, we aren’t talking about orgies, these are presentations where a lady is up at the front of the room and shows a bunch of bedroom toys, lubricants, etc.

I was immediately mesmerized by this presentation. I loved learning about products to incorporate into foreplay, edible powders and cremes, lubricants and vibrating toys. The education I was receiving was nothing like I got in school and I enjoyed the relaxed environment we were in. As soon as I left the party, with a bag full of goodies, I knew this was something I wanted to do. I signed up to be a consultant the next day.

Over the next 13 years I embraced my role as a sexual health educator and expanded my knowledge in this field. I worked with doctors, clinics, cancer groups and thousands of women across the United States. I helped women and couples learn about sexual side effects they experienced through medical treatments and medications and how to overcome these challenges through communication, foreplay, enhancement creams and toys. I spent countless hours talking with women about problems they faced that made them feel abnormal and never felt comfortable talking about with anyone else. I provided a safe space for people to explore their sexuality and learn how to embrace and love themselves.

To say this has been one of the most fulfilling careers I have ever had is an understatement. I’ve cherished the number of personal stories I’ve had from people, both women and men, who have contacted me over the years and shared how I helped them in their relationships or their sexual wellbeing. The ability to make huge impacts in someone’s life is priceless.

In 2015 I decided to change my profession. I found it challenging in Australia to find women who were willing to be vulnerable and open up about their personal issues related to their sexuality. I received a lot of push back that what I offered was ‘dirty’, unnecessary, and only things that should be talked about with their partner behind closed doors. Like many women around the world I realized Australian woman were struggling with accepting a ‘shame free’ approach to their bodies and sex lives.

When Covid-19 became the new normal I found myself in a space I was unfamiliar with. I didn’t feel like I had a purpose anymore and I wasn’t in a position where I could help anyone. In January 2021 I realized that I missed educating and helping people who where struggling with their sexuality and sexual health. So what did I do? I reached out to a few different businesses that focused on relationships and sexuality and I found my passion again.

If you are looking to talk to someone about concerns you may have in your relationship, with your sexuality or a sexual health issue I encourage you to contact us at www.trih.com.au

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11February 2022

Changing our behaviours and habits can be very hard. It helps to understand why they exist in the first place. For example, why do we sabotage relationships when they are probably good for us? Why do you automatically come home and go to the fridge for a wine or beer without thinking why? Sometimes we don’t want to know why? The idea of stopping and sitting with what drives these behaviours is more uncomfortable than just engaging in the behaviour.

Typically, clients only seek therapy when these behaviours have caused a ‘crisis’. Now we are “ready to make a change” because there are too many consequences if things stay the same. Many times, there are attempts to change and this works for a while, but eventually we slip back into our default settings.

Here are some tips to try and improve your life and minimise distress.

1. Become a scientist – you are going to run an experiment. A 6-week experiment. Pick a behaviour you are not quite happy with. Something small like “I’m always so tired but I enjoy staying up late because it’s my time”. Take a few minutes to explore this dilemma.

How does staying up late on my own make me feel? Calm, peaceful, unburdened.

What do I think about my staying up late? “I shouldn’t do it because I’ll be tired tomorrow, but I want to stay up to unwind.”

What would I do with more energy because I have slept better? “I would be less cranky and less reactive with the kids.”

2. Give thanks to your brain for creating a behaviour that it believes helps you because you give so much during the day to others, that at night you just want sometime for you. Be genuine about this, your brain only ever makes us behave in ways it thinks are helpful.

3. Tell your brain you are going to try an experiment – where you get to try small changes to see if its worth it. That you might be able to handle a little less time on your own or will find it elsewhere so you can sleep more.

4. Start going to bed 15 minutes earlier, not hours just 15 minutes in the first week. Then another 15 minutes in the second week. 15 minutes the next and again in the 4 th week.

5. After 6 weeks. Note any changes to having an extra hour of sleep, more energy, clearer thinking. Note any thoughts of feeling good about making a small positive change for your and your kids wellbeing. Feeling empowered, in control, pride, less reactive. Note how this helps you feel better about yourself.

6. Ensure you tell your brain to note these positive changes and that you prefer feeling the way you do. That you believe letting go of that old habit is better than holding onto it. That you have found a way to gain time for yourself by taking the longer slower route home and listening to good music in the car.

7. Note how your brain starts to believe that you can cope and take control rather than diverting you to its way of doing things. Keep doing the new behaviour and reinforcing it with the positive observations.

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Our bodies are designed to seek homeostasis. To find equilibrium between interdependent elements. Our bodies know that if our system is "out of whack", we are not functioning at our best and it tries to compensate. We need balance in our gut to maintain good nutrition and mental health. We need balance in rest and activity to maintain good health. We need balance in awake and sleep to function at our best.

Rate the following from 0-10. 0 being 'Not where I want it to be' to 10 "No need for improvement" Rate the elements according to your satisfaction in these areas.

Business/Career

Finances

Health

Family and Fitness

Romance

Personal Growth

Fun and Recreation

Now you know where you might want to improve or have achieved your goals.

Ask your self what action would I need to take to help improve these areas. 

Doesn't have to take it to a 10 but just a 3 to a 5 perhaps, as an example.

Then ask yourself how would this make a positive difference for my life?

Then think of one small action you can take towards this difference.

Then you make the choice between staying stuck or finding harmony.

What to expect when seeing a sex therapist.

02 February 2022

Many people have some nerves about seeing a therapist. Worries about becoming emotional, bringing up painful memories or concerns about judgement and feeling safe. Sex therapy is talk therapy and at no time should you be touched

Here are 3 things to keep in mind.

1. If you have made an appointment with a sex therapist much of the worry about approaching sensitive topics doesn’t need to be there as permission to talk about these things is already assumed. Typically, we find people struggle to bring up topics of a sexual nature to GP’s or general psychologists etc as they are unsure of the response they will get. Here we welcome it.

2. This is your space and time. Our job is to create a relaxing environment where you feel safe to discuss what you need. You are welcome to tell your therapist how fast or slow you want to go. You are in control.

3. Often people assume that the focus will be on uncomfortable personal details when in reality we are often talking about how to manage underlying causes of these issues like anxiety and depression.

So, if you have had an issues around your sexuality, sex life and relationships there is a specialised service to support you. You will learn grow and move towards the life you would like.