Adolescents’ attitudes towards sex and their sexual behavior are often influenced by sexual content in the media.  A new CcaM study shows that exposure to sexy self-presentations on social network sites also influences teens’ sexual behavior.

This study showed that adolescents who hold sexual stereotypical attitudes and have more experience with pre-coital sexual behaviors are more likely to look at sexy pictures that their peers post of themselves on social network sites. This is especially the case for younger adolescents (aged 13-15). The exposure to these sexy self-presentations, in turn, makes it more likely that adolescents’ will engage in oral sex or intercourse six months later. It did not influence their sexual stereotypical attitudes, however.

This study is one of the first to relate user-generated sexual media content (i.e., sexy self-presentations on social network sites) to sexual outcomes. Prior to this study, research has typically focused on sexually explicit television or internet material.  

The findings from this study suggest that sexy self-presentations on social network sites may reinforce notions from other sexual media content that having sex is a normative part of adolescence. It also shows that exposure to sexy self-presentations is likely the result of adolescents’ growing sexual curiosity, and thus depends on their sexual history and pre-existing attitudes about sex.

For this study, 1,636 Dutch adolescents (aged 13–17) filled in a questionnaire at two points in time, about six months apart. The teens indicated how often they looked at pictures of others on social network sites in which these others posed in a sexy way or were dressed sexy. To measure stereotypical sexual attitudes, they were also asked whether they thought having sex was a purely physical act and something one does ‘just for fun,’ and whether they thought it was ok if boys are only interested in girls for their body and sexual attractiveness. In addition, they were asked whether or not they had engaged in genital touching, oral sex, and/or sexual intercourse during the past six months.

The study was conducted by a team of CcaM researchers: Annemarie (Johanna M.F.) van Oosten, Jochen Peter, and Inge Boot. Click here to read the article “Exploring Associations Between Exposure to Sexy Online Self-Presentations and Adolescents’ Sexual Attitudes and Behavior”.

If you would like more information about this article, please contact the corresponding author – Annemarie (Johanna M.F.) van Oosten – via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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