Effects of pornography

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Research concerning the effects of pornography is concerned with multiple outcomes.[1] Such research includes potential influences on rape, domestic violence, sexual dysfunction, difficulties with sexual relationships, and child sexual abuse. Viewers of novel and extreme pornographic images may become tolerant to such images, which may impact sexual response.[1] Currently, there is no evidence that visual images and films are addictive.[2] Some studies support the contention that the viewing of pornographic material may increase rates of sexual crimes, whereas others are either inconclusive, suggest no effect, or conclude the liberalization of pornography in society may be associated with decreased rape and sexual violence rates.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9]

Sexual function[edit]

Currently, there is no empirical evidence that visual sexual stimuli contribute to erectile problems, although this is often speculated in the media.[10][11]


Main article: Pornography addiction

Pornography addiction is a purported[12] behavioral addiction characterized by compulsive, repeated use of pornographic material until it causes serious negative consequences to one's physical, mental, social, and/or financial well-being.[13][14] There is no diagnosis of pornography addiction in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM-5).[12] The DSM-5 considers such diagnosis and rejects it because "there is insufficient peer-reviewed evidence to establish the diagnostic criteria and course descriptions needed to identify these behaviors as mental disorders."[12]

A 2014 review found that high-frequency use of visual sexual stimuli "fails to meet standards of addiction", e.g. because it can reduce unhealthy behaviors.[15] Scientists do, however, state that excessive pornography viewing can be unhealthy if it becomes problematic for an individual due to personal or social reasons, including excessive time spent viewing pornography instead of interacting with others. Individuals may report depression, social isolation, career loss, decreased productivity, or financial consequences as a result of their excessive Internet pornography viewing impeding on their social life.[16]


Figure 5 in Effects of Prolonged Consumption of Pornography.[17]
Figure 10 in Effects of Prolonged Consumption of Pornography.[17]

In Effects of Prolonged Consumption of Pornography, a review of pornography research conducted for the Surgeon General in 1986, Zillmann noted that inconsistencies in the literature on pornography exist, but overall concluded that extensive viewing of pornographic material may produce some negative sociological effects, including a decreased respect for long-term, monogamous relationships, and an attenuated desire for procreation.[17] He describes the theoretical basis for these conclusions stating:

The values expressed in pornography clash so obviously with the family concept, and they potentially undermine the traditional values that favor marriage, family, and children ... Pornographic scripts dwell on sexual engagements of parties who have just met, who are in no way attached or committed to each other, and who will part shortly, never to meet again ... Sexual gratification in pornography is not a function of emotional attachment, of kindness, of caring, and especially not of continuance of the relationship, as such continuance would translate into responsibilities, curtailments, and costs ...[18]

In a 2012 review it was concluded that further studies are needed on this topic.[19]

Sexual violence[edit]

Figure 12 in Effects of Prolonged Consumption of Pornography.[17]

Controlled studies[edit]

A controlled study describes the relationship between given behaviors or environmental conditions and health effects in a laboratory setting in which conditions other than those under study are effectively held constant across groups of participants receiving various levels of the experimental condition(s). Since it is considered that the only functional difference between groups is the level of experimental condition(s) received, researchers can strongly infer cause-and-effect relationships from statistically significant associations between experimental condition(s) and health consequences. Thus, if executed properly, controlled studies have high levels of internal validity. However, such studies often suffer from questionable external validity due to the considerable differences between real-world environments and the experimental context, and the consequent belief that results cannot be generalized beyond that context.[20]

Some researchers claim that pornography causes unequivocal harm to society by increasing rates of sexual assault,[17][21] a line of research which has been critiqued in The effects of Pornography: An International Perspective.[22] In a paper written in 1965,[23] called Sexual Deviation as Conditioned Behavior: A Hypothesis, R.J. McGuire found that the viewing of pornography can serve as a source of a paraphilic "vivid sexual fantasy" which, when contemplated during masturbation, may condition men into perversion.[24] In a prison interview conducted by Gail Dines, rape of a prepubescent child followed "habitual" consumption of child porn "within six months," although the men were previously "horrified at the idea".[25]

Effects of Prolonged Consumption of Pornography reported a review of controlled studies which found that extensive viewing of the type of pornographic material commonly sold at adult bookstores was positively correlated with leniency in the sentencing of a person convicted of rape in a mock trial setting (figure 5), decreased satisfaction of participants with their sex lives and partners (figure 10), and an increased self-reported willingness to commit rape or other forced sexual acts (figure 12).[17] The effects of Pornography: An International Perspective countered this, arguing that the effects of exposure may be different when an individual controls their own exposure than when they are subjected to exposure experimentally:

The laboratory-school experiments or brief exposure experiments (less than a week to a semester or so) are hardly comparable to situations in the real world and may not be relevant at all. ... In real life, individuals can elect to experience some pornography for minutes or hours, at a single session, or over years. In real life, individuals are free to satisfy different sexual urges in ways unavailable to students in classroom or subjects in laboratory situations.[22]

The link between pornography and sexual aggression has been the subject of multiple metaanalyses.[26] Metaanalyses conducted in the 1990s suggested to researchers that there might not be an association of any kind between pornography and rape supportive attitudes in non-experimental studies.[27] However, a metaanalysis by Hald, Malamuth and Yuen (2010) suggests that there is a link between consumption of violent pornography and rape-supportive attitudes in certain populations of men, particularly when moderating variables are taken into consideration.[26]

In a recent review of this literature Ferguson and Hartley (2009) argue that "it is time to discard the hypothesis that pornography contributes to increased sexual assault behavior".[28] They state that the authors of some studies tended to highlight positive findings while deemphasizing null findings, demonstrating confirmation bias in the published literature. Ferguson and Hartley concluded that controlled studies, on balance, were not able to support links between pornography and sexual violence.

Epidemiological studies[edit]

An epidemiological study describes the association between given behaviors or environmental conditions, and physical or psychological health by means of observation of real-world phenomena through statistical data. Epidemiological studies generally have high levels of external validity, insofar as they accurately describe events as they occur outside of a laboratory setting, but low levels of internal validity, since they do not strongly establish cause-and-effect relationships between the behaviors or conditions under study, and the health consequences observed.[20]

Danish criminologist Berl Kutchinsky's Studies on Pornography and sex crimes in Denmark (1970), a scientific report ordered by the Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, found that the legalizing of pornography in Denmark had not resulted in an increase of sex crimes.[29] Since then, many other experiments have been conducted, either supporting or opposing the findings of Berl Kutchinsky, who would continue his study into the social effects of pornography until his death in 1995. His life's work was summed up in the publication Law, Pornography, and Crime: The Danish Experience (1999). Milton Diamond from the University of Hawaii found that the number of reported cases of child sex abuse dropped markedly immediately after the ban on sexually explicit materials was lifted in 1989.[30]

Some researchers claim there is a correlation between pornography and a decrease of sex crimes,[3][4][6][7][8][9] including Diamond (author of review from 2009).[5] The effects of Pornography: An International Perspective was an epidemiological study which found that the massive growth of the pornography industry in the United States between 1975 and 1995 was accompanied by a substantial decrease in the number of sexual assaults per capita, and reported similar results for Japan.[22] Findings of this nature have been critiqued by Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media,[31] on the grounds that the results are better explained by factors other than the increased prevalence of pornography:

In 1986, a review of epidemiological studies by Neil M. Malamuth found that the quantity of pornographic material viewed by men was positively correlated with degree to which they endorsed sexual assault.[32] Malamuth's work describes Check (1984), who found among a diverse sample of Canadian men that more exposure to pornography led to higher acceptance of rape myths, violence against women, and general sexual callousness. In another study, Briere, Corne, Runtz and Neil M. Malamuth, (1984) reported similar correlations in a sample involving college males. On the other hand, the failure to find a statistically significant correlation in another previous study led Malamuth to examine other interesting correlations, which took into account the information about sexuality the samples obtained in their childhood, and pornography emerged as the second most important source of information.[32] Malamuth's work has been criticized by other authors, however, such as Ferguson and Hartley (2009) who argue Malamuth has exaggerated positive findings and has not always properly discussed null findings.[28]

Studies among criminals[edit]

Silbert, M. and Pines, A., in "Pornography and Sexual Abuse of Women," published their study involving prostitutes in the international journal Sex Roles, "The comments followed the same pattern: the assailant referred to pornographic materials he had seen or read and then insisted that the victims not only enjoyed rape but also extreme violence."[33]

The study Use of Pornography in the Criminal and Developmental Histories of Sexual Offenders examined the exposure to and the usage of pornography in the histories of 38 rapists and 26 child molesters. The study found that both groups reported exposure to pornography and were "significantly more likely" to use pornographic materials before and during their offenses. According to the study pornography was employed to relieve an impulse to act out. According to the study, child molesters indicated "significantly more" exposure to pornography than rapists in adulthood.[34]

According to the study "Pornography Use as a Risk Marker for an Aggressive Pattern of Behavior Among Sexually Reactive Children and Adolescents", sexually reactive children and adolescents (SRCAs), also referred to as juvenile sexual offenders, "may be more vulnerable and likely to experience damaging effects from pornography use." According to the study, the SRCAs who used pornography were "more likely" to display aggressive behaviors than their nonusing counterparts.[35]

However, some evidence suggests that pornography consumption helps some sex offenders to keep from acting out on their urges.[36]

School-age juveniles[edit]

In the UK Association of Teachers and Lecturers feels schoolchildren need to be educated about pornography and warned what is reasonable and what is not acceptable.[37] Some experts say teaching about sex and relationships in school will reduce the appetite for pornography among schoolchildren. Authors of a 2014 report which examined 276 studies concluded that "causal relationships" between pornography and unprotected sex or sex at a young age "could not be established." Another smaller review from 2012 was also inconclusive.[1][38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Segal, David (28 March 2014). "Does Porn Hurt Children?". New York Times. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  2. ^ Tamsin McMahon Will quitting porn improve your life? A growing ‘NoFap’ movement of young men are saying no to porn and masturbation Maclean's, January 20, 2014. Quote: "Kruger helped revise the sexual disorders section of the latest edition of the psychiatric bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which doesn’t include sex or porn addiction due to lack of academic evidence that they exist."
  3. ^ a b Pornography, Sex Crime, and Public Policy by Berl Kutchinsky.
  4. ^ a b Kutchinsky, Berl (Summer 1973). "The Effect of Easy Availability of Pornography on the Incidence of Sex Crimes: The Danish Experience". Journal of Social Issues 29 (3): 163–181. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.1973.tb00094.x. Retrieved 31 March 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Diamond, Milton (September–October 2009). "Pornography, public acceptance and sex related crime: A review". International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 32 (5): 304–314. doi:10.1016/j.ijlp.2009.06.004. Retrieved 31 March 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Pornography and Sexual Representation: A Reference Guide, Volume 3 (book) by Joseph W. Slade.
  7. ^ a b Studies on Pornography and Sex Crimes in Denmark (1970) by Berl Kutchinsky.
  8. ^ a b Kendall, Todd D. (July 2007). "Pornography, rape and the internet". Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  9. ^ a b D'Amato, Anthony (23 June 2006). "Porn Up, Rape Down". Retrieved 19 December 2006. 
  10. ^ Witt, Emily. "Hands Off". New York Magazine 46 (12) (New York, US). pp. 28–31. Retrieved 13 March 2014. The medical profession isn't convinced. Every doctor and psychologist I spoke with informed me that "there’s no evidence" to link masturbation to sexual performance, and that it’s an over­simplification to think that frequent masturbation is the cause of delayed ejaculation. According to ­Stephen Snyder, a sex therapist in Manhattan, it's "most often not the case." Darius Paduch, a professor of urology and reproductive medicine at Weill ­Cornell Medical College, went so far as to say that ejaculation leads to greater fertility. "In our practice, we pretty much make men achieve an erection at least three to four times a week," he says. Paduch also cited studies that found that men who ejaculated multiple times a week faced less risk of erectile dysfunction later in life. There's also the body’s natural process of elimination: Many anti-masturbators start having wet dreams. 
  11. ^ http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11930-014-0016-8 "While no empirical claims tying erectile function and ‘porn addiction’ were identified, this is a frequent media claim."
  12. ^ a b c American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. pp. 481, 797–798. ISBN 978-0-89042-555-8. Thus, groups of repetitive behaviors, which some term behavioral addictions, with such subcategories as "sex addiction," "exercise addiction," or "shopping addiction," are not included because at this time there is insufficient peer-reviewed evidence to establish the diagnostic criteria and course descriptions needed to identify these behaviors as mental disorders. 
  13. ^ Stein, Dan J.; Hollander, Eric; Rothbaum, Barbara Olasov (31 August 2009). Textbook of Anxiety Disorders. American Psychiatric Pub. pp. 359–. ISBN 978-1-58562-254-2. Retrieved 24 April 2010. 
  14. ^ Parashar A, Varma A (April 2007). "Behavior and substance addictions: is the world ready for a new category in the DSM-V?". CNS Spectr 12 (4): 257; author reply 258–9. PMID 17503551. 
  15. ^ http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11930-014-0016-8
  16. ^ Twohig, M. P.; Crosby, J. M. (2010). "Acceptance and Commitment Therapy as a Treatment for Problematic Internet Pornography Viewing". Behavior Therapy 41 (3): 285–295. doi:10.1016/j.beth.2009.06.002. PMID 20569778.  edit
  17. ^ a b c d e f Zillmann, Dolf. "Effects of Prolonged Consumption of Pornography". National Institutes of Health. 
  18. ^ Zillmann, pages 16-17
  19. ^ http://rory.net/PUBS/PornAdolescents.pdf
  20. ^ a b *Mitchell, M. and Jolley, J. (2001). Research Design Explained (4th Ed) New York:Harcourt.
    • Brewer, M. (2000). Research Design and Issues of Validity. In Reis, H. and Judd, C. (eds.) Handbook of Research Methods in Social and Personality Psychology. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.
    • Shadish, W., Cook, T., and Campbell, D. (2002). Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Generilized Causal Inference Boston:Houghton Mifflin.
    • Levine, G. and Parkinson, S. (1994). Experimental Methods in Psychology. Hillsdale, NJ:Lawrence Erlbaum.
    • Liebert, R. M. & Liebert, L. L. (1995). Science and behavior: An introduction to methods of psychological research. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  21. ^ Malamuth, Neil M.: "Do Sexually Violent Media Indirectly Contribute to Antisocial Behavior?", [1], page 10
  22. ^ a b c Diamond, Milton. "The effects of Pornography: An International Perspective". University of Hawaii System. 
  23. ^ McGuire, RJ; Carlisle, JM; Young, BG (1965). "Sexual Deviations as Conditioned Behavior: A Hypothesis.". Behaviour research and therapy 3: 185–90. PMID 14253217. 
  24. ^ McGuire, R.J.; Carlisle, J.M.; Young, B.G. (1964). "Sexual deviations as conditioned behaviour: A hypothesis". Behaviour Research and Therapy 2: 185–90. doi:10.1016/0005-7967(64)90014-2. 
  25. ^ Bindel, Julie, The Truth About the Porn Industry: Gail Dines, the Author of an Explosive New Book About the Sex Industry, on Why Pornography Has Never Been a Greater Threat to Our Relationships, in The (U.K.) Guardian, Jul. 2, 2010, section Life & Style, subsection Women, as accessed Jul. 17, 2010.
  26. ^ a b Hald, Gert Martin; Malamuth, Neil; Yuen, Carlin (2010). "Pornography and Attitudes Supporting Violence Against Women: Revisiting the Relationship in Nonexperimental Studies" (PDF). UCLA Division of Social Sciences. Retrieved 13 March 2013. 
    • Kingstona, Drew; Malamuthb, Neil; Fedoroffc, Paul; Marshalld, William (24 March 2009). "The Importance of Individual Differences in Pornography Use: Theoretical Perspectives and Implications for Treating Sexual Offenders". The Journal of Sex Research 46 (=2-3). doi:10.1080/00224490902747701. 
  27. ^ Allen, Mike; D'Alessio, Dave; Brezgel, Keri (17 March 2006) [1995]. "A Meta-Analysis Summarizing the Effects of Pornography II Aggression After Exposure". Human Communication Research 22 (2): 258–283. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2958.1995.tb00368.x. 
  28. ^ a b Ferguson, Christopher J., The pleasure is momentary...the expense damnable? The influence of pornography on rape and sexual assault. 
  29. ^ Berl Kutchinsky: Studies on Pornography and sex crimes in Denmark
  30. ^ The Effects of Pornography: An International Perspective University of Hawaii Porn 101: Eroticism, Pornography, and the First Amendment: Milton Diamond Ph.D.
  31. ^ a b Peters, Robert (4 August 2006). "‘Could it be that pornography prevents rape?’". ObscenityCrimes.org. Archived from the original on 2006-10-01. 
  32. ^ a b Malamuth, Neil M. (August 4, 1986). Do Sexually Violent Media Indirectly Contribute to Antisocial Behavior?. Public Health Service of United States. p. 38. 
  33. ^ Silbert, Mimi H.; Pines, Ayala M. (1984). "Pornography and sexual abuse of women". Sex Roles 10: 857–68. doi:10.1007/BF00288509. 
  34. ^ Carter, D. L.; Prentky, R. A.; Knight, R. A.; Vanderveer, P. L.; Boucher, R. J. (1987). "Use of Pornography in the Criminal and Developmental Histories of Sexual Offenders". Journal of Interpersonal Violence 2: 196–211. doi:10.1177/088626087002002005. 
  35. ^ Alexy, Eileen M.; Ann W. Burgess; Robert A. Prentky (2009). "Pornography Use as a Risk Marker for an Aggressive Pattern of Behavior Among Sexually Reactive Children and Adolescents". Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association 14 (6): 442–453. doi:10.1177/1078390308327137. 
  36. ^ Moyer, Melinda Wenner (23 June 2011). "The Sunny Side of Smut". Scientific American. Retrieved 13 March 2014. 
  37. ^ Sellgren, Katherine (26 March 2013). "BBC News - Pupils 'should be taught about risks of pornography'". BBC News. Retrieved 13 March 2014. 
  38. ^ "BBC News - Is sex education key to porn battle?". BBC News. 20 September 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Kutchinsky, Berl (1970). Studies on Pornography and sex crimes in Denmark. Denmark: New Social Science Monographs. 
  • Kutchinsky, Berl (1999). Law, pornography, and crime: The Danish experience. Oslo, Norway: Pax Forlag. 
  • Hald, Gert Martin (2007). Pornography Consumption - a study of prevalence rates, consumption patterns, and effects. Aarhus Universitet, Denmark: Psykologisk Institut. 
  • Hald, Gert Martin; Malamuth, Neil (2008). "Self-Perceived Effects of Pornography Consumption". Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention. doi:10.1080/10720162.2012.660431. 

External links[edit]