Effects of pornography

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The effects of pornography on individuals or their sexual relationships depend on the type of pornography used and differ from person to person. Pornographic material has been studied particularly for associations with addiction [1] as well as effects on the brain over time. Some literature reviews suggest that pornographic images and films can be addictive, [2] [3] particularly when combined with masturbation, [4] while others maintain that data remains inconclusive. [5] [6] [7] [8] Other research has looked at pornographic material's relation to sexual violence, with varying results. [9] [10]

Contents

Methodology and hypotheses

Issues with research

Pornography has many different forms which are difficult to cover in blanket form. Pornographic internet videos, for example, have been found to have different effects on viewers than material such as pornographic magazines. Within the field of pornography research, there are also other challenges that arise due to strong opinions and feelings on the topic. Confirmation bias has been prevalent on both sides due to societal taboos surrounding pornography. Studies have looked into both negative effects of pornography as well as potential benefits or positive effects of pornography. A large percentage of studies suffer from methodological issues. In one meta-study by researchers at Middlesex University in England, over 40,000 papers and articles were submitted to the team for review: 276 or 0.69% were suitable for consideration due to the low quality of research within the field. [11]

Addiction

Pornography addiction is a purported 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. [12] [13] [14] There is no diagnosis of pornography addiction in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). [12] The DSM-5 considered the diagnosis of hypersexuality-related behavioral disorders (to which porn addiction was a subset), but rejected 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] Instead, some psychologists suggest that any maladaptive sexual symptoms represent a manifestation of an underlying disorder, such as depression or anxiety which is simply manifesting itself sexually, or, alternatively, there is no underlying disorder and the behavior simply is not maladaptive. These psychologists do not recognize the concept of addiction, only chemical dependence, and some believe the concept and diagnosis to be stigmatizing and unhelpful. [15] [16]

Two 2016 neurology reviews found evidence of addiction related brain changes in internet pornography users. Psychological effects of these brain changes are described as desensitization to reward, a dysfunctional anxiety response, and impulsiveness. [6] [7] Another 2016 review suggests that internet behaviors, including the use of pornography, be considered potentially addictive, and that problematic use of online pornography be considered an "internet-use disorder". [8]

Introductory psychology textbook authors Coon, Mitterer and Martini, passingly mentioning NoFap (former pornography users who have since chosen to abstain from the material) speak of pornography as a "supernormal stimulus" but use the model of compulsion rather than addiction. [17]

A number of studies have found neurological markers of addiction in Internet porn users, [18] [19] [20] which is consistent with a large body of research finding similar markers in other kinds of problematic internet users. [19] Yet other studies have found that critical biomarkers of addiction are missing, [21] and most addiction biomarkers have never been demonstrated for pornography. [22]

Other effects on human behavior

Research at Alliant International University found that participants who consumed internet pornography more frequently had increased rates of delay discounting. The researchers state, "The constant novelty and primacy of sexual stimuli as particularly strong natural rewards make internet pornography a unique activator of the brain's reward system, thereby having implications for decision-making processes." [23]

A study by Professor Kathryn C.Seigfried-Spellar and Professor Marcus Rogers found results which suggested deviant pornography use followed a Guttman-like progression in that individuals with a younger "age of onset" for adult pornography use were more likely to engage in deviant pornography (bestiality or child) compared to those with a later "age of onset". [24]

Sexual violence

Controlled studies

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. [25]

The link between pornography and sexual aggression has been the subject of multiple meta-analyses. [26] Meta-analyses 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 meta-analysis by Hald, Malamuth and Yuen (2000) 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]

A meta-analysis conducted in 2015 found that pornography "consumption was associated with sexual aggression in the United States and internationally, among males and females, and in cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. Associations were stronger for verbal than physical sexual aggression, although both were significant. The general pattern of results suggested that violent content may be an exacerbating factor." [28]

In an earlier review of this literature Ferguson and Hartley (2009) argued that "it is time to discard the hypothesis that pornography contributes to increased sexual assault behavior". [29] They stated 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.

Ferguson and Hartley updated their review with a 2020 meta-analysis. This meta-analysis concluded that mainstream pornography could not be linked to sexual violence and was associated with reductions in societal violence at the societal level. Small correlations were found between violent porn viewing and sexual aggression, but evidence was unable to differentiate whether this was a causal or selection effect (i.e. sexual offenders seeking out violent porn). [30]

Epidemiological studies

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. [25]

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. [31] 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). In 1998 Milton Diamond from the University of Hawaii noted that in Japan, the number of reported cases of child sex abuse dropped markedly after the ban on sexually explicit materials was lifted in 1969; however, in Denmark and Sweden, there was an increase in reported rapes after the liberalization of their pornography laws during the same time period. [32]

Some researchers argue that there is a correlation between pornography and a decrease of sex crimes, [33] [10] including Diamond (author of a review from 2009). [34] 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 - but not for Denmark and Sweden. [35] Findings of this nature have been critiqued by Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media, on the grounds that the results are better explained by factors other than the increased prevalence of pornography: "a more plausible explanation is that if there is a decline in "forcible rape," it is the result of a tremendous effort to curb rape through community and school-based programs, media coverage, aggressive law enforcement, DNA evidence, longer prison sentences, and more." [36]

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. [37] 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. [37] 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. [29] In a Quartz publication, Malamuth argued that porn is like alcohol: "whether it's bad for you depends on who you are" (stating that it increases violence in a few people, not in most people; it makes most people more relaxed). [38]

Occupational safety and health

Because pornographic film making involves unsimulated sex, usually without condoms (barebacking), pornographic actors have been found to be particularly vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases. [39] [40] [41]

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation tried several times to have California's Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health's Appeals Board force companies in the pornography industry to treat actors and actresses as employees subject to occupational safety and health regulation. In a 2014 case brought against Treasure Island Media, an administrative judge found that the company did have to comply with regulations. [42]

School-age juveniles

In the United Kingdom, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers feels schoolchildren need to be educated about pornography and warned what is reasonable and what is not acceptable. [43] The UK children's commissioner initiated a meta-study conducted by researchers at Middlesex University which concluded that pornography is linked to unrealistic attitudes about sex, beliefs that women are sex objects, more frequent thoughts about sex, and found that children and young people who view pornography tend to hold less progressive gender role attitudes. [11] Miranda Horvath stated about this: "But it is not possible to establish causation from correlational studies, and to say whether pornography is changing or reinforcing attitudes." [11]

See also

Related Research Articles

Hypersexuality is extremely frequent or suddenly increased libido. It is currently controversial whether it should be included as a clinical diagnosis used by mental healthcare professionals. Nymphomania and Satyriasis were terms previously used for the condition in women and men, respectively.

Hardcore pornography Explicit graphical depictions of sexual acts

Hardcore pornography, or hardcore porn, is pornography that features detailed depictions of sexual organs or sexual acts such as vaginal, anal or oral intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, fingering, anilingus, ejaculation, and fetish play. The term is in contrast with less-explicit softcore pornography. Hardcore pornography usually takes the form of photographs, films and cartoons. Since the 1990s, hardcore pornography has become widely available over the Internet, making it more accessible than ever before.

Pornography addiction is an addiction model of compulsive sexual activity with concurrent use of pornographic material, despite negative consequences to one's physical, mental, social, or financial well-being. Neither the DSM-5 nor the ICD-11 classify pornography as a mental disorder or addiction.

Rape pornography is a subgenre of pornography involving the description or depiction of rape. It can show simulated or real rape. It is not the same as the depiction of rape in non-pornographic media. Simulated scenes of rape and other forms of sexual violence have appeared in mainstream cinema, including rape and revenge films, almost since its advent.

Sex differences in psychology are differences in the mental functions and behaviors of the sexes, and are due to a complex interplay of biological, developmental, and cultural factors. Differences have been found in a variety of fields such as mental health, cognitive abilities, personality, emotion, sexuality, and tendency towards aggression. Such variation may be innate or learned and is often very difficult to distinguish. Modern research attempts to distinguish between these causes, and to analyze any ethical concerns raised. Since behavior is a result of interactions between nature and nurture researchers are interested in investigating how biology and environment interact to produce such differences, although this is often not possible.

Impulse-control disorder (ICD) is a class of psychiatric disorders characterized by impulsivity – failure to resist a temptation, an urge, or an impulse; or having the inability to not speak on a thought. Many psychiatric disorders feature impulsivity, including substance-related disorders, behavioral addictions, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, conduct disorder and some mood disorders.

Sexual addiction, also known as sex addiction, is a state characterized by compulsive participation or engagement in sexual activity, particularly sexual intercourse, despite negative consequences.

In 1969, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Stanley v. Georgia that people could view whatever they wished in the privacy of their own homes. In response, the United States Congress funded the President's Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, set up by President Lyndon B. Johnson to study pornography.

Pornography Explicit portrayal of sexual acts and intercourse

Pornography is the portrayal of sexual subject matter for the exclusive purpose of sexual arousal. Pornography may be presented in a variety of media, including magazines, animation, writing, film, video, and video games. The term does not include live exhibitions like sex shows and striptease. The primary subjects of present-day pornographic depictions are pornographic models, who pose for still photographs, and pornographic actors who engage in filmed sex acts.

Internet sex addiction, also known as cybersex addiction, has been proposed as a sexual addiction characterized by virtual Internet sexual activity that causes serious negative consequences to one's physical, mental, social, and/or financial well-being. It may also be considered a subset of the theorized Internet addiction disorder. Internet sex addiction manifests various behaviours: reading erotic stories; viewing, downloading or trading online pornography; online activity in adult fantasy chat rooms; cybersex relationships; masturbation while engaged in online activity that contributes to one's sexual arousal; the search for offline sexual partners and information about sexual activity.

Berl Kutchinsky

Berl Kutchinsky was a Danish Professor of Criminology at the University of Copenhagen. He became internationally famous for his studies in the public health effects of pornography.

There are many different theories explaining the causes of sexual violence. The theories that will be discussed in this article include military conquest, socioeconomics, anger, power, sadism, traits, ethical standards, laws, and evolutionary pressures that lend some explanation to the causes of sexual violence. Please note, most of the research on the causes of sexual violence has only been done on male offenders and is in no way fully developed.

Behavioral addiction is a form of addiction that involves a compulsion to engage in a rewarding non-substance-related behavior – sometimes called a natural reward – despite any negative consequences to the person's physical, mental, social or financial well-being. Addiction canonically refers to substance abuse; however, the term connotation has been expanded to include behaviors that may lead to a reward since the 1990s. A gene transcription factor known as ΔFosB has been identified as a necessary common factor involved in both behavioral and drug addictions, which are associated with the same set of neural adaptations in the reward system.

Sex industry Field of business

The sex industry consists of businesses that either directly or indirectly provide sex-related products and services or adult entertainment. The industry includes activities involving direct provision of sex-related services, such as prostitution, strip clubs, host and hostess clubs and sex-related pastimes, such as pornography, sex-oriented men's magazines, sex movies, sex toys and fetish and BDSM paraphernalia. Sex channels for television and pre-paid sex movies for video on demand, are part of the sex industry, as are adult movie theaters, sex shops, peep shows, and strip clubs.

A range of research has been conducted examining the link between viewing child pornography and perpetration of child sexual abuse, and much disagreement persists regarding whether a causal connection has been established. Perspectives fall into one of three positions:

Addiction Compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse consequences

Addiction is a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse consequences. Despite the involvement of a number of psychosocial factors, a biological process—one that is induced by repeated exposure to an addictive stimulus—is the core pathology that drives the development and maintenance of an addiction, according to the "brain disease model" of addiction. However, many scholars who study addiction argue that the brain disease model is incomplete and misleading.

The exploitation of women in mass media is the use or portrayal of women in mass media to increase the appeal of media or a product to the detriment of, or without regard to, the interests of the women portrayed, or women in general. This process includes the presentation of women as sexual objects and the setting of standards of beauty that women are expected to reflect. Sexual exploitation of women in the media dates back to 19th century Paris, in which ballerinas were exposed to harassment and objectification. The ballerinas in the Paris Opera Ballet were ogled by their male audience members and often even expected to perform sexual favors for the male subscribers behind the scenes. Feminists and other advocates of women's rights have criticized such exploitation. The most often criticized aspect of the use of women in mass media is sexual objectification, but dismemberment can be a part of the objectification as well.

Women's pornography, sometimes referred to as sex-positive pornography, is pornography often produced by women and aimed specifically at the female market – rejecting the view that pornography is only for men.

Porn studies is the critical academic study of pornography and its associated industry, typically in the broader rubric of the field of sexuality studies. Porn studies takes as its object of research pornography itself — its visual artefacts, cultural role, controversies, and influence on the public — as well as the manner in which pornography is researched. The development of porn studies as a field of academia has been driven by the publication of the same name.

The culture of violence theory addresses the pervasiveness of specific violent patterns within a societal dimension. The concept of violence being ingrained in Western society and culture has been around for at least the 20th century. Developed from structural violence, as research progressed the notion that a culture can sanction violent acts developed into what we know as culture of violence theory today. Two prominent examples of culture legitimizing violence can be seen in rape myths and victim blaming. Rape myths lead to misconstrued notions of blame; it is common for the responsibility associated with the rape to be placed on the victim rather than the offender.

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Further reading