University of Auckland student Ashlee-Ann Sneller has joined a study that analyses young people's pornography habits.
Sneller, 22, received one of 50 Summer Scholarships available in the Faculty of Arts, awarded to high achieving students to conduct a supervised research project over the summer months. She is half way through the study.
“I wanted a purpose over summer and what excited me the most about this topic, besides that it is so completely distinctive, is that there is a huge gap in the literature that needs to be filled,” says Sneller.
According to the University of Auckland, recent studies show that 30% of all internet bandwidth is used for pornography. Studies in Europe, Australia and the United States suggest that up to 88% of males aged over 15 viewed pornography within the last year.
“This research is so vital because with increasing technological advancement, it is incredibly easy for youth to access and consume pornography,” says Sneller.
“Youth may then regard pornography as ‘real-life' depictions of sex instead of fantasy, thereby assimilating the behaviours and expectations associated with pornography into their own personal lives,” she explains.
Sneller says people often wrongly assume that she watches pornography, when in fact viewing x-rated material is not part of her research. Rather she is comprehensively reviewing previous literature on the topic and gathering material from blogs and vlogs.
Sneller joins a research team headed by criminologist Dr Claire Meehan, who will use the findings in a bid to fund a larger study of the risk of online sexual harm for young people. Her findings could also be used to inform educators, health providers and policymakers as they grapple with keeping youth safe in an increasingly digital world.
Following her Summer Scholarship, Sneller is due to begin her Masters' thesis which will explore how revenge pornography cases are represented in the media in New Zealand and Australia.
She is also active in the youth organisation JustSpeak, which aims to empower young people from all walks of life to think independently and speak out about justice issues that they care about or that affect them.