An investigation into how young LGBTQ+ people cope with the potential harms associated with sexually explicit Internet material.

  • Ross Phillips

Student thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology


Background: In the last decade there has been an increase in research into the effects of sexually explicit internet material (SEIM) on adolescent development. In particular there has been a focus on how this material can negatively influence attitudes and promote unhealthy behaviours. However, at present there is very little literature on how young people protect themselves from these potential harms, and no existing literature on how young LGBTQ+ people develop resilience to this material. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted to explore how young people cope with the potential harms of SEIM and promote their own resilience. Nine individuals aged between 15 and 18 took part in the study. All were recruited from a specific LGBTQ+ group within a UK based non-governmental organisation. The transcripts of the interviews were analysed using thematic analysis. Findings: The analysis of the data led to the identification of eight major intrinsic assets that young people utilised to mediate the potential harms of SEIM (e.g. 'awareness of SEIM' and 'personal experience') and seven major extrinsic resources (e.g. 'education' and 'community experience'). Furthermore, although many of the coping strategies might apply to all youth communities, it was notable that the young people in this study described resilience processes that are likely to differ in emphasis and nature from those of their heterosexual peers. This was primarily due to their particular pre-existing relationship with hetero-normative pornography, and the journey of sexual reflection they went on prior to coming out. Conclusions: An ecologically informed humanistic understanding of young LGBTQ+ people's experiences of SEIM is presented. This suggests that working to bolster existing resilience strategies that account for both intrinsic needs (self-esteem, empowerment, and awareness) and broader extrinsic ecologies (families, friends, and communities) should form a large part of supporting individuals to navigate SEIM. Such an approach will help to enhance individuals' existing strategies, prove transferable to offline settings, and arguably transcend any particular nuances afforded by gender identity or sexuality.
Date of Award6 Jan 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorTerry Hanley (Supervisor) & Erica Burman (Supervisor)


  • LGBTQ+
  • SEIM
  • Young People
  • Online Sexual Material
  • Resilience

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