Rape culture and sexual violence may be gaining ground in New Zealand because of pornography, a new survey has found.

The survey of 622 sexual health services, youth workers, schools and families has found increasing genital injuries caused by violent sex inspired by pornography that depicts violence as normal.

Respondents report "increased degradation, objectification and disrespect of women and girls; normalising of sexual violence and coercion; a disregard for consent; a devaluing and transactional approach to sex; advanced sexual knowledge for development age; an erosion of mutual pleasure and the normalising of painful sex particularly for women and gay males."

The survey does not claim to be an academic study and was done to inform a set of resources for youth, schools and parents on how to deal with porn, which will be published on October 1 on www.thelightproject.co.nz.

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An Education Review Office review of sexuality education in schools, published today, highlighted the survey as evidence that many schoolchildren "are learning about sex through pornography" on their smartphones.

Survey organiser Nikki Denholm, a former sexual health nurse who has worked internationally on female genital mutilation and other sexual health issues, said she was inspired to do something about porn after working on child sex trafficking in the Philippines.

"I was surprised how many young people had been filmed for the sex industry," she said.

Nikki Denholm was inspired to develop resources to help young people struggling with porn after meeting young Filipinos who had been filmed for the sex industry. Photo / Supplied
Nikki Denholm was inspired to develop resources to help young people struggling with porn after meeting young Filipinos who had been filmed for the sex industry. Photo / Supplied

Back in New Zealand, she teamed up with Auckland sex therapist Jo Robertson, sexual health nurses Lief Pearson and Melissa Powell and former child protection worker Veronia Houghton to found the "Light Project", named "to shine a light in an area that is quite dark".

Schoolteachers, principals and guidance counsellors who responded to their online survey "gave many accounts of students viewing porn on personal or school devices during school hours".

One said: "Pornography is now the main sex educator for young people."

Another said: "Porn is normalising misogynistic, violent, rape culture, racist, anti-LGBTI sexual behaviour - leading to an expectation that this is okay behaviour."

Sexual health workers and youth workers said they saw "an increase in sexual aggression and sexual violence, including sexually coercive behaviours, increasing incidences of sexual assault (for boys and girls), an increase in sexually aggressive behaviours seen in younger children, sexual violence towards partners and increased incidences of child-on-child abuse including re-enacting porn scenes".

"Young people are inadvertently educated that it's normal to endure or inflict pain," one person said.

A sexual health doctor said: "A number of sexual practices are becoming more common and normalised among young people, I believe as a result of watching porn. These include pubic hair shaving, anal sex, group sex, etc."

Health services also reported "increasing presentations of young men to Sexual Health Services with sexual dysfunction".

"These men are reporting problems with 'normal' sex not being as stimulating as pornography, causing difficulty reaching orgasm or maintaining an erection," one person said.

Jo Robertson says erectile dysfunction would never have been seen in young men before porn became widely accessed on smartphones. Photo / Supplied
Jo Robertson says erectile dysfunction would never have been seen in young men before porn became widely accessed on smartphones. Photo / Supplied

Robertson, who is completing a master's thesis at Sydney University on the impacts of porn on adolescents, said therapists were seeing young men with erectile dysfunction that "you would have never seen in a 25-year-old" before smartphones.

Therapists expressed concern that parents were ignoring the issue.

"Fathers don't realise how vital it is to talk to their boys about it. They think it is acceptable, a fad, or just a 'fact of life'," one therapist said.

Denholm said the Light Project resources would include tips on how to talk to young people about porn, suggestions for schools, and resources for young people themselves about the importance of consent and where to get help.

"We were very sobered that this is here and this is New Zealand," she said. "Despite how enlightened adults might think we are, we have got a problem."