The Impacts of Sexual Media Exposure on Adolescent and Emerging Adults' Dating and Sexual Violence Attitudes and Behaviors: A Critical Review of the Literature

Trauma Violence Abuse. 2019 Oct;20(4):439-452. doi: 10.1177/1524838017717745. Epub 2017 Jul 13.


Dating violence (DV) and sexual violence (SV) are widespread problems among adolescents and emerging adults. A growing body of literature demonstrates that exposure to sexually explicit media (SEM) and sexually violent media (SVM) may be risk factors for DV and SV. The purpose of this article is to provide a systematic and comprehensive literature review on the impact of exposure to SEM and SVM on DV and SV attitudes and behaviors. A total of 43 studies utilizing adolescent and emerging adult samples were reviewed, and collectively the findings suggest that (1) exposure to SEM and SVM is positively related to DV and SV myths and more accepting attitudes toward DV and SV; (2) exposure to SEM and SVM is positively related to actual and anticipated DV and SV victimization, perpetration, and bystander nonintervention; (3) SEM and SVM more strongly impact men's DV and SV attitudes and behaviors than women's DV and SV attitudes and behaviors; and (4) preexisting attitudes related to DV and SV and media preferences moderate the relationship between SEM and SVM exposure and DV and SV attitudes and behaviors. Future studies should strive to employ longitudinal and experimental designs, more closely examine the mediators and moderators of SEM and SVM exposure on DV and SV outcomes, focus on the impacts of SEM and SVM that extend beyond men's use of violence against women, and examine the extent to which media literacy programs could be used independently or in conjunction with existing DV and SV prevention programs to enhance effectiveness of these programming efforts.

Keywords: dating violence; intimate partner violence; mass media; media effects; media exposure; sexual assault; sexual violence; sexually explicit media; sexually violent media.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Attitude*
  • Erotica*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intimate Partner Violence*
  • Male
  • Motion Pictures*
  • Music*
  • Sex Factors
  • Sex Offenses*
  • Television*
  • Young Adult