Generation XXX: Billie Eilish is right about how porn warps kids

Billie Eilish said watching porn "warped" her ideas about sex and relationships. Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic

On Monday, singing sensation Billie Eilish, only 19 years old, confessed to Howard Stern that she had started watching porn movies on TV while still in grade school.

“I used to watch a lot of porn, to be honest. I started watching when I was like 11.” Eilish believes that her habit — it started with entry-level, “normal” porn and spiraled downward into more extreme forms — really warped her mind. “It got to a point where I couldn’t watch anything else unless it was violent,” she admitted. As a result, her ideas about sex and relationships became “warped.”

Eilish’s words may be shocking to many Americans. But what she described is not extraordinary, or the result of bad parenting or something their own children would never dream of doing. Habitual exposure to porn resulting in addiction is a pandemic amongst young people. Thanks to Pornhub, it’s anonymous, free and easily accessible.

As for porn’s extraordinary reach: About one-third of all Web downloads in the United States are porn-related. Porn sites get more visitors every month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined. Pornhub, which is self-described as “the world’s leading free porn site,” received 42 billion visits in 2019.

Eilish’s experience with porn is not unique.
NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

It’s bad enough kids are watching any porn at all. It’s the element of sadism that does the most damage to young girls. Studies show that 48 percent of 11- to 16-year-olds have seen porn online (more boys than girls), and many of them begin to believe that the sadomasochistic practices they see — notably choking of the women by the men — are sexual norms.

Professor Gail Dines, author of “Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality,” has spent 30 years studying the subject. She says: “All these practices sound extreme, but these are what an 11-year-old boy sees when he first puts ‘porn’ into Google. We know strangulation is among the most popular acts seen in porn.”

Young men assume this is normal; young women feel compelled to go along. As Eilish told Stern, “The first few times I had sex, I was not saying no to things that were not good. It was because I thought that’s what I was supposed to be attracted to.”

Debby Herbenick, an Indiana University professor with a specialty in sexuality, for example, was the lead author of a July 2021 probability survey of undergraduates, titled “Prevalence and characteristics of choking/strangulation during sex.” The study states that “26.5% of women, [and] 6.6% of men . . . reported having been choked during their most recent sexual event.”

“The first few times I had sex, I was not saying no to things that were not good. It was because I thought that’s what I was supposed to be attracted to,” Eilish said.
NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

This is not a uniquely American problem. A 2015 study of girls at the Universities of Bristol and Central Lancashire, conducted with participants from England but also Norway, Italy, Bulgaria and Cyprus, one of the biggest ever undertaken in Europe, found that four in 10 teenage girls have experienced sexual coercion, including rape. Around one in five (22 percent) also said they had suffered physical violence or intimidation from boyfriends, including, slapping, punching, strangling and being beaten with an object.

How did this banalization of sexual violence come to pass? Well, as Ernest Hemingway responded to a reporter asking how he went bankrupt, it happened “gradually and then suddenly.” Before the sexual revolution of the 1960s, when there was a bright line between what “nice” girls did and didn’t do to please men, porn was considered “dirty.” It was hidden. Nice girls never saw it.

Then came reliable birth control and feminism, a liberating influence in areas where liberation was needed — education, career opportunities, sport — but also in areas where it wasn’t.

Feminism told women that sexual modesty was a “social construction.” That although women were biologically different from men, they were in all other ways the same, including their sexuality. Men felt no guilt about sex disconnected from affection and commitment; neither should women.

Interesting theory. Trouble is, as Albert Einstein put it, “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.” Men were delighted with hook-up sex. Women, it turned out, not so much.

In her 2007 book “Unprotected,” psychiatrist Miriam Grossman chronicles her tenure as a counselor at a university, with its parade of sad female students made miserable by the loveless, commitment-free sex they were encouraged to regard as empowering.

Today, soft-corn porn is completely mainstream in our culture. Hard-core had to get darker to arouse jaded appetites. And it is suffused with hatred for women. In a podcast earlier this year, Lana Rhoades, a former popular porn star who regrets her career, described an incident that reveals the disturbing depth of that hatred: “Basically, this guy had a bowl and he, like, gagged me until I threw up into it . . . I didn’t know how to say no.”

Eilish said she started by watching “normal” porn but spiraled downward into more extreme forms.
The Howard Stern Show

“Didn’t know how to say no.” There’s a world of social history in those six words. Before the sexual revolution, girls knew how to say no and did say no and were respected for saying no. Once saying yes to what they liked became the norm, they were on a slippery slope. If this, which they enjoyed, why not that, which they didn’t enjoy but certain men did? It is easy to see in retrospect how “gradually” became “suddenly.”

Kudos to Eilish for so courageously pointing out just how damaging ubiquitous Internet porn is to our children. It’s time for a national discussion about how we regain at least some of our innocence.

Barbara Kay is a columnist for Canada’s National Post, The Epoch Times and the