Men who regularly watch pornography are more likely to depend on it to stay aroused but are less likely to enjoy sex with a real-life partner, a new study says.
The “media scripts” that men absorb when they view pornography can play a role in their sexual activities, said Arkansas psychologist Ana Bridges and other academics in New York and Virginia.
After studying 487 male college students, the researchers found that the more men used pornography, the more likely they were to try to act out the same scenes and rely on pornography-inspired fantasies to engage in sex.
“Pornography is sometimes dismissed, celebrated or problematized as fantasy,” and many people use it “as a form of entertainment,” Ms. Bridges, associate professor of psychology at the University of Arkansas, wrote in the December issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior.
“[B]ut pornography is also much more,” she said. “What happens on the screen may implicate life off of it.”
Patrick A. Trueman, president of Morality in Media, said the new study shows “the damaging psychological effects of pornography.”
This is “a public health crisis,” he said Thursday, “and it is urgent that government and society address it.”
Notably, after Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in September he would step down, Mr. Trueman said that he and his allies hoped the next attorney general would enforce laws prohibiting the distribution of “obscene material” by “Internet, cable/satellite TV, in retail shops, on hotel/motel TV, through the mail or common carrier.”
During Mr. Holder’s six years in office, he “refused to initiate even one new obscenity indictment during his tenure,” Mr. Trueman said. As a result, the attorney general “bears much responsibility for pornography’s pandemic of harm,” said Mr. Trueman, who served as the chief of the Justice Department’s child exploitation and obscenity section of its criminal division from 1987-1993.
In the new study, Ms. Bridges said that while some researchers have found neutral or positive outcomes for pornography use, mainstream pornographic materials are “overwhelmingly centered on acts of violence and degradation toward women.”
Most pornography omits acts of tenderness, intimacy, verbal compliments, laughing or even kissing and hugging, she wrote, citing a 2010 study she did with colleagues.
Since pornography use starts in adolescence and is fairly widespread, what role is it playing inside “real-world” sexual relationships, she and her colleagues asked.
They sought answers from 487 heterosexual male students, aged 18 to 29, who answered questions about their pornography use, relationship satisfaction and related questions.
They found that men who had high rates of pornography use — using it several days a week or more — tended to rely on it to “become and remain sexually excited,” and were more likely to “integrate pornography into sexual activities.”
In addition, such men had “diminished enjoyment” in sex with their partners compared to men with lower rates of pornography use.
Thus, “pornography is not mere fantasy or an individualized experience for men,” they wrote. Instead, it looks like pornography “can become a preferred sexual script for men.”
Chyng Sun, a media studies professor at New York University who made a documentary on the “price of pleasure” in the adult entertainment industry, is a co-author of the study, as were academics at Virginia Commonwealth University and James Madison University.