Online porn

This page is for ages 12+. Some of the language and types of things explained aren't appropriate for younger children.

Some young people watch porn or are curious about it. It's normal to want to know more, and it could make you feel anything from aroused to disgusted. However you feel - there are a few things that are good to know about online porn.

Things to know about porn

You might look at porn as a way of learning about sex or finding out what certain body parts look like. It's not illegal to look at most porn but it's important to remember that porn is created for adults.

Watching or sharing some types of porn is illegal. For example, degrading porn (which can include someone urinating on another person), violent porn (which includes things like rape or abuse) or anything that shows sexual behaviour with children (anybody under the age of 18) are all against the law.

It's against the law to have, share or look at images of child sexual abuse. This is sometimes called child pornography. This includes sexual pictures that someone, such as a partner, might have shared with you if they are under 18. Read more about sexting.

What you need to remember:

  • lots of young people do not look at pornography
  • it's okay to be curious or aroused by porn, nudity and sex
  • porn is not the same as reality
  • watching lots of porn all the time can make you think about sex and relationships in a negative way
  • some types of porn are illegal
  • if someone is pressuring you to watch porn, this is wrong and you don't have to if you don't want to.

Porn is a fantasy, not reality

It's important to remember that porn is made for adults. And most of the time porn doesn't show what sex is really like. In fact it's usually completely different from sex in real life. Here's some things to remember about sex and porn:

  • everyone's bodies and body parts are different - breasts and penises come in different shapes and sizes
  • it's OK to feel uncomfortable with acts that you see in pornography, such as men ejaculating (coming) on faces
  • unprotected sex, which is common in pornography, can cause STIs or pregnancies
  • sex can sometimes be painful or awkward, and people don't always orgasm
  • it's important to feel safe with the person you are having sex with and it's OK to say no
  • pubic hair is natural. It's your body and your choice whether and how much to keep
  • it's never OK to force someone into doing sexual acts.

Porn: Fantasy vs. Reality

is it
really
like that?

Talk to others on our message boards

How porn can make you feel

Watching porn can leave you with mixed feelings because it's not something people usually talk about openly. You might feel:

  • excited or aroused by what you've seen
  • interested in watching different types of porn
  • worried about what will happen if someone finds out you look at porn
  • embarrassed or confused about enjoying porn because you think it's wrong
  • disgusted about liking porn because it feels dirty
  • upset or confused by what you've seen
  • worried about having sex if that is what it's like or what your partner will expect
  • angry about how some people are shown in porn or how it's often stereotypical
  • ashamed about watching porn because you think it is against your religion or beliefs.

Porn and your body

You might compare yourself to people in porn. Or you may think you should look a certain way. Porn is very different from real life and watching it shouldn't make you feel bad about yourself.

Remind yourself that:

  • people in porn are usually actors and many of them have breast enhancements, plastic surgery and wear lots of make-up
  • sometimes certain actors are chosen because they have large penises or big breasts
  • videos and photos are often adjusted and airbrushed
  • it can be normal to feel unsexy or unattractive when you look at other naked people
  • if you're getting nasty comments from people, you could talk to other young people on our message boards, a close friend, a trusted adult or talk to a Childline counsellor.

Tips for feeling positive

If watching porn makes you feel bad about yourself, then doing something positive can help. You could:

  • focus on hobbies and try new or interesting things which make you feel happy
  • try not to compare yourself to other people - get advice about how you look and building confidence and self-esteem
  • delete porn videos from your phone, get rid of DVDs or plan to do something else when you get the urge to watch porn.

porn and masturbation

Masturbation is when you touch your body and your genitals (private parts) because it feels good. Some girls, boys and non-binary young people masturbate. It's a way of discovering your body and what kind of things make you feel good. Some people think of a sexual fantasy when they masturbate and others might look at porn.

Some things to know about masturbation:

  • it is a normal part of life and not something to be ashamed of
  • don't masturbate in public places or when it would make someone uncomfortable
  • if you masturbate with your partner, it's important to feel safe doing this
  • if someone is forcing you to masturbate or film yourself doing it, this is wrong.

watching porn with a partner

Some couples like to watch porn. It can be a way of trying different sexual things together. If you are being asked to watch porn with someone or make a video of yourself, you should first think of what feels right for you. Anything done in a sexual relationship should be agreed on first. You may also want to think of how looking at porn or making a sexual video could change your relationship with the person you are with.

Also remember that it is against the law to have, share or look at sexual images of someone who is under 18. That includes selfies.

Being forced to watch porn is a type of sexual abuse. If anyone is pressuring you to watch porn or do sexual things, this is wrong.

Tips if you're being pressured to watch porn:

Whether you're in a relationship or not, there might come a time when you have sex or when you look at porn. To help you stay in control, try:

  • Be honest
    Say how you feel and say what you think is right or wrong
  • Talk
    Explain what you want to happen and what you don't want to happen
  • Feel safe
    Making sure you feel safe where you are and with who you're with
  • Being comfortable
    Say if you don't feel comfortable with anything. Just because you have kissed someone or done something sexual, it doesn't mean you have to have sex or do other sexual acts.

being filmed or having photos taken of you

You might feel unsure if someone wants to film or take photos of you. It could be to make a porn video or a video of you doing sexual things like masturbating. It's important to feel safe and agree on anything that happens, but remember, if you're under 18 this is illegal. Find out more about peer pressure and being assertive so you can say how you feel.

You might be tricked into doing something by someone pretending to be friendly. This is called online grooming. Find out more about online grooming and online safety.

If a sexual image of you has been shared online:

check out our sexting page for information about sending a sexual text, image or video.

If you're under 18 and a sexual image of you has been shared online Childline can help you remove it from the internet, or you can make a report online to try and get it removed.

pornography and embarrassment

It can be very embarrassing if your parents or carers find out you look at porn or if they walk in while you are watching porn or masturbating.

Sometimes parents or carers may choose to ignore things and carry on like nothing happened but sometimes they may want to speak to you about porn.

They might be worried about what you look at online, who you share things with and how this can affect you. It could also be that some parents or carers don't ask you any questions or don't worry about what you do online.

Having a conversation about porn can seem really hard but it could also make it easier after having a chance to talk. If you don't feel comfortable talking, you could write them a letter explaining how you feel.

pop ups and warnings

If you are on a porn website or have looked at porn before, either by mistake or by wanting to, it's common for pop-up boxes or messages to appear on your screen.

These pop-ups are usually spam and are created to scare you or to get money from people. They do this by threatening to report porn on your computer or phone or saying you need to pay a fine for being on a porn website. Other pop-ups will have information about reporting you for watching porn unless you pay a large amount of money.

These are scams and you should not pay the fine. Always think carefully before you give your name, personal details, address or bank account details to anyone on the internet. Find out more about staying safe online.

You can report online scams to Action Fraud, or talk to a Childline counsellor for advice and support. Close pop-ups, delete history and cookies on your computer and block sites that use these scams.

seeing something you didn't expect to see

It's normal to feel curious about sex and to look online for information about it or to search for sexual things. Sometimes while you're online you may see pages or get lots of pop-ups with other things that you weren't expecting to see. Some things can be shocking to look at, for example, images which show child sexual abuse, violent sex or abuse.

There are lots of sites that have been made for young people to tell you everything you need to know about sex. You can have a look at the Childline pages on sex and relationships and try sites like Brook and the Terrence Higgins Trust.

Pop-ups or other pages about sex might also appear on your screen if someone else has searched for porn or sex on your computer.

It's important to remember you haven't done anything wrong.

Close pages or pop-ups, delete history and cookies on your computer and block these sites. Try to use anti-virus software and check your privacy settings too. Find out more about staying safe online.

Viewing illegal pornography

Viewing child sexual abuse images (sometimes called child porn) is illegal. This includes images or videos under 18s have taken of themselves.

You should not search for any pornography that's of someone who is under 18, and if you do a warning will pop up.

If you are worried or unsure about something you've seen, you can talk to a Childline counsellor in confidence.

If you think you've seen something that's illegal you can anonymously report this to the IWF, or Childline can help you to report it.

feeling worried about watching lots of pornography

You may feel worried if you're watching porn a lot and it's affecting your relationships, school work, family life or hobbies.

Watching a lot of porn can change the way you treat people as you may start to compare them to porn actors.

You might also expect them to do things you've seen in porn. It's important to think about your behaviour and be honest with yourself. You can always speak to one of our counsellors for free, if you'd like some advice. 

You might feel worried if you:

  • struggle to cope without porn and it becomes one of the main things in your life
  • feel uncomfortable about how much porn you're watching
  • don't enjoy sexual experiences with your partner because you prefer porn
  • feel the need to watch different types of porn because you get bored easily
  • feel like porn stops you from doing other activities.

Tips to help you stop watching porn

You can try some of these tips if you feel like you need to stop watching porn:

  • distractions like reading, drawing, listening to music or playing games
  • exercising and doing sports or hobbies which you enjoy
  • setting small goals to watch less porn until you’re ready to stop completely
  • talking to other people on the message boards, someone you trust or a Childline counsellor
  • writing down what you want to change and how you want to feel, then looking at that list when you get the urge to watch porn.

supporting friends or partners

Sometimes you might feel worried about a friend or partner because of the impact that pornography is having on them. You might notice that they are acting differently, are making comments that make you feel uncomfortable, or that they are becoming less sociable. It's not OK for someone to make you feel uncomfortable, but there are things you can do.

Your friend or partner may tell you that they are worried about how much pornography they watch or that they have seen something that has upset them. Here are some things you can do to help them:

  • listen to them. Let them know you don't judge them and try to understand why they watch it.
  • Spend time with them. Do something with them that can take their mind off it.
  • Help them report it. If they think they have seen something online that's illegal, such as child pornography, you can help them report it to the IWF or speak to a Childline Counsellor.

You might also feel upset or angry when you find out that they look at pornography, or you may be worried about them. If someone's comments or behaviour make you feel uncomfortable, or if they are putting pressure on you to act or look a certain way, it's not OK.

Remember:

  • if someone's behaviour makes you feel uncomfortable you have a right to tell them how you feel
  • if you don't know how to help, or how to talk to your friend or partner about it, try asking an adult for help or speak to a Childline Counsellor.