At the crux of debates concerning adult movies is their influence on children and adolescents. Seeing violence and sexual transgressions can have several malefic effects on adults, especially if such movies are viewed on a regular basis. But what can be bad for adults can do acute damage in the formative minds and physiologies of children and adolescents. The early memories of exposure to sexual media can leave a lasting impact on children and adolescents, making it a big concern for educators and parents alike. In a survey conducted to ascertain early emotional responses to sexual content, the topmost identified emotions were “disgust (24.5%), shock or surprise (23.6%), and embarrassment (21.4%; Cantor et al., 2003). Other negative emotional responses were anger (18.4%), fear (11.2%), and sadness (9.2%). Only three positive emotions were mentioned (interest, amusement, and happiness or pleasure); in contrast, eight different negative emotions received mention.” (Greenfield, 2005, p.746) Such statistics prove beyond doubt adult movies’ potential to significantly deter healthy psychological development of boys and girls. Moreover, the psychologist interviewed for this essay illuminates on how pornography affects the two genders differently:
“For example, for men, it might lead to frigidity, especially for those who are addicted to porn movies because they require more effort to be sexually excited. Women, on the other hand, might become obsessed with being like a porn star to attract men. However, there are effects applicable to both genders such as conveying the wrong message about how sex life should be, or showing apathy toward homosexuality and sexual deviation, etc.” (Interviewed Psychologist, 2011)
Although adult movies were made for an adult audience, adolescents show greatest interest in such content. This is a natural tendency, for they perceive it as a stepping stone to adulthood. But over-exposure to adult content at an earlier age can have several negative repercussions. For example, toddlers who have been exposed to images and videos of violence increase their chances of delinquency and violent behavior in high school. Even cartoon programs, which are directed to children, can contain sequences of violence. Especially because, younger viewers try to understand video content with an ‘exploration approach’, they actively seek for meaning in the content. Vividly colored characters, quick movements, “rapid changes of scene, and intense or unexpected sights and sounds” are what attract toddlers’ attention. (Josephson, et. al., 1995)
Usually, action/adventure genre movies are rated ‘universal’ and are directed to a general audience. But some movies that depict extreme violent acts and show excessive blood-shed are rated ‘adults only’. Exposure to violence through such movies can interact with the personal behavior of the viewer, adult or otherwise. As a society, both through television and movie exposure to violence, we are getting more aggressive and hostile in our personal interactions.
Children and adolescents are most vulnerable to growing aggressive tendencies watching violent video content. But even for mature adults with ability to exercise discretion over their thoughts and actions, there is risk of behavior modification following frequent exposure to sexual or violent content onscreen. Even consumption of movie promotions such as theatrical trailers and sneak-peeks can make a subliminal impact. For example, studies have shown “evidence for an indirect role of sexual and violent imagery in movie marketing…even a subtle manipulation of sexual or violent content appears to have strong effects on audiences’ expectations of what the previewed film will be like.” (Oliver, et. al., 2007, p.596)
Further, it appears that previews can have more deleterious effects by extrapolating shown content and increasing viewer anticipation with regard to sex and violence in the full-length feature. For example,
“the presence of sex and violence in the preview increased perceptions that more sex and violence would be encountered when the actual feature film is seen in its entirety. In this regard, viewers seemed to assume that the content of movie previews is representative of the subject matter depicted in the full-length movie and consequently, they appeared to have used the material portrayed in movie previews as the basis for their thoughts about what to expect from the movie.” (Oliver, et. al., 2007, p.596)