Studies linking porn use to “un-egalitarian attitudes” toward women

This page collects findings that falsify the popular sexology claim that porn use promotes egalitarian attitudes toward women.

Let’s begin with the 2016 study that inspired the creation of this page -“Is Pornography Really about “Making Hate to Women”? Pornography Users Hold More Gender Egalitarian Attitudes Than Nonusers in a Representative American Sample“. It has been heavily cited as strong evidence that porn use leads to greater egalitarianism and less sexist attitudes. Actually, this Taylor Kohut study (like a second 2016 Kohut paper) provides an instructive example of how to twist methodology to achieve a desired result. Namely, that porn use is only beneficial.

The authors of this study framed egalitarianism as support for the following: Feminist identification, Women holding positions of power, Women working outside home, Abortion.

Secular populations, which tend to be more liberal, have far higher rates of porn use than religious populations. By choosing these criteria and ignoring endless other relevant variables, lead author Taylor Kohut knew he would end up with porn users scoring higher on his study’s carefully chosen selection of what constitutes “egalitarianism.” Then he chose a title that spun it all.

Kohut has a history of publishing ‘creative’ studies designed to find little or no problems arising from the use of porn. In this 2016 study, Kohut appears to have skewed the sample to produce the results he was seeking. Whereas most studies show that a tiny minority of porn users’ female partners use porn, in this study 95% of the women used porn on their own (85% of the women had used porn since the beginning of the relationship)! Reality: Cross-sectional data from the largest US survey (General Social Survey) reported that only 2.6% of women had visited a “pornographic website” in the last month (data from 2000, 2002, 2004: Pornography and Marriage, 2014)

Kohut’s new website and his attempt at fundraising suggest that he just may have an agenda. By the way, over 50 studies report links between porn use and poorer sexual and relationship satisfaction.

The reality is that nearly every study assessing porn use and egalitarianism (sexual attitudes) has reported that porn use is associated with attitudes toward women that both liberals and conservatives regard as extremely problematic. (Please note that these studies all reported findings about attitude. Studies that did not report attitude correlations are not included, even if they did report a link between porn consumption and actual aggression.) Some examples:

Pornography and Attitudes Supporting Violence Against Women: Revisiting the Relationship in Nonexperimental Studies (2010)A review of the literature. An excerpt:

A meta-analysis was conducted to determine whether nonexperimental studies revealed an association between men’s pornography consumption and their attitudes supporting violence against women. The meta-analysis corrected problems with a previously published meta-analysis and added more recent findings. In contrast to the earlier meta-analysis, the current results showed an overall significant positive association between pornography use and attitudes supporting violence against women in nonexperimental studies. In addition, such attitudes were found to correlate significantly higher with the use of sexually violent pornography than with the use of nonviolent pornography, although the latter relationship was also found to be significant.

Pornography and Sexual Callousness and the Trivialization of Rape (1982) – Excerpt:

Explored the consequences of continued exposure to pornography on beliefs about sexuality in general and on dispositions toward women in particular. Found that massive exposure to pornography resulted in a loss of compassion toward women as rape victims and toward women in general.

Exposure to pornography and attitudes about women and rape: A correlational study (1986) – Excerpt:

Compared to a group that had watched a control film, male subjects who were shown the violent film agreed more with items endorsing interpersonal violence against women than did the control subjects. However, contrary to predictions, there was no statistically significant difference between the two groups in their acceptance of rape myths, although there was a trend in the predicted direction.

Use of pornography and self-reported engagement in sexual violence among adolescents (2005)

This cross-sectional study examined 804 adolescents, boys and girls, aged from 14 to 19 years, attending different types of high schools in the northwest of Italy. The main goals were: (i) to investigate the relationship between active and passive forms of sexual harassment and violence and the relationship between pornography (reading magazines and viewing films or videos) and unwanted sex among adolescents; (ii) to explore the differences in these relationships with respect to gender and age; and (iii) to investigate the factors (pornography, gender and age) that are most likely to promote unwanted sex. The findings showed that active and passive sexual violence and unwanted sex and pornography were correlated.

Relationships among cybersex addiction, gender egalitarianism, sexual attitude and the allowance of sexual violence in adolescents (2007)

This study was done to investigate cybersex addiction, gender egalitarianism, sexual attitude and the allowance of sexual violence in adolescents, and to identify the relationships among these variables. The participants were 690 students from two middle schools and three high schools in Seoul. Cybersex addiction, gender egalitarianism, sexual attitude and the allowance of sexual violence in adolescents were different according to general characteristics. Gender egalitarianism, sexual attitude and the allowance of sexual violence in adolescents were influenced by cybersex addiction.

Adolescents’ Exposure to a Sexualized Media Environment and Their Notions of Women as Sex Objects (2007) – Excerpt:

This study was designed to investigate whether adolescents’ exposure to a sexualized media environment is associated with stronger beliefs that women are sex objects [on-line survey of 745 Dutch adolescents aged 13 to 18]. More specifically, we studied whether the association between notions of women as sex objects and exposure to sexual content of varied explicitness (i.e., sexually non-explicit, semi-explicit, or explicit) and in different formats (i.e., visual and audio-visual) can be better described as cumulative or as hierarchical. Exposure to sexually explicit material in on-line movies was the only exposure measure significantly related to beliefs that women are sex objects in the final regression model, in which exposure to other forms of sexual content was controlled. The relationship between exposure to a sexualized media environment and notions of women as sex objects did not differ for girls and boys

The use of cyberpornography by young men in Hong Kong some psychosocial correlates (2007) – Excerpt:

This study examined the prevalence of online pornography viewing and its psychosocial correlates among a sample of young Chinese men in Hong Kong. Moreover, participants who reported to have more online pornography viewing were found to score higher on measures of premarital sexual permissiveness and proclivities toward sexual harassment.

X-Rated: Sexual attitudes and behaviors associated with U.S. early adolescents’ exposure to sexually explicit media (2009) – Excerpt:

Correlates of use and subsequent sexual attitudes and behaviors predicted by exposure to sexually explicit content in adult magazines, X-rated movies, and the Internet were examined in a prospective survey of a diverse sample of early adolescents (average age at baseline = 13.6 years; N = 967).

Longitudinal analyses showed that early exposure for males predicted less progressive gender role attitudes, more permissive sexual norms, sexual harassment perpetration, and having oral sex and sexual intercourse two years later. Early exposure for females predicted subsequently less progressive gender role attitudes, and having oral sex and sexual intercourse.

Adolescents’ Exposure to Sexually Explicit Internet Material and Notions of Women as Sex Objects: Assessing Causality and Underlying Processes (2009) – Excerpt:

The aim of this study was to clarify causality in the previously established link between adolescents’ exposure to sexually explicit Internet material (SEIM) and notions of women as sex objects. On the basis of data from a three-wave panel survey among 962 Dutch adolescents, structural equation modeling initially showed that exposure to SEIM and notions of women as sex objects had a reciprocal direct influence on each other. The direct impact of SEIM on notions of women as sex objects did not vary by gender. However, the direct influence of notions of women as sex objects on exposure to SEIM was only significant for male adolescents. Further analyses showed that, regardless of adolescents’ gender, liking of SEIM mediated the influence of exposure to SEIM on their beliefs that women are sex objects, as well as the impact of these beliefs on exposure to SEIM.

Japanese College Students’ Media Exposure to Sexually Explicit Materials, Perceptions of Women, and Sexually Permissive Attitudes (2011) – Excerpt:

The present study examined Japanese college students’ (N  = 476) use of sexually explicit material (SEM) and associations with perceptions of women as sex objects and sexually permissive attitudes. Results indicate that Japanese college students used print media most frequently as a source for SEM followed by the Internet and the television/video/DVD. Male participants used SEM significantly more than females. In addition, sexual preoccupancy mediated the relationship between exposure to SEM and perceptions of women as sex objects, whereas exposure to SEM in mass media had a direct association with Japanese participants’ sexually permissive attitudes.

The influence of sexually explicit Internet material and peers on stereotypical beliefs about women’s sexual roles: similarities and differences between adolescents and adults (2011) – Excerpt:

We used data from two nationally representative two-wave panel surveys among 1,445 Dutch adolescents and 833 Dutch adults, focusing on the stereotypical belief that women engage in token resistance to sex (i.e., the notion that women say “no” when they actually intend to have sex). Finally, adults, but not adolescents, were susceptible to the impact of SEIM on beliefs that women engage in token resistance to sex.

Pornography Viewing among Fraternity Men: Effects on Bystander Intervention, Rape Myth Acceptance and Behavioral Intent to Commit Sexual Assault (2011) – Excerpt:

The present study surveyed 62% of the fraternity population at a Midwestern public university on their pornography viewing habits, bystander efficacy, and bystander willingness to help in potential rape situations. Results showed that men who view pornography are significantly less likely to intervene as a bystander, report an increased behavioral intent to rape, and are more likely to believe rape myths.

Pornography and Sexist Attitudes Among Heterosexuals (2013) – Excerpt:

Using a probability-based sample of young Danish adults and a randomized experimental design, this study investigated effects of past pornography consumption, experimental exposure to nonviolent pornography, perceived realism of pornography, and personality (i.e., agreeableness) on sexist attitudes (i.e., attitudes toward women, hostile and benevolent sexism). Further, sexual arousal mediation was assessed. Results showed that, among men, an increased past pornography consumption was significantly associated with less egalitarian attitudes toward women and more hostile sexism. Further, lower agreeableness was found to significantly predict higher sexist attitudes. Significant effects of experimental exposure to pornography were found for hostile sexism among low in agreeableness participants and for benevolent sexism among women.

Activating the Centerfold Syndrome: Recency of Exposure, Sexual Explicitness, Past Exposure to Objectifying Media (2013) – Excerpt:

This experimental study tested whether exposure to female centerfold images causes young adult males to believe more strongly in a set of beliefs clinical psychologist Gary Brooks terms “the centerfold syndrome.” The centerfold syndrome consists of five beliefs: voyeurism, sexual reductionism, masculinity validation, trophyism, and nonrelational sex. Past exposure to objectifying media was positively correlated with all five centerfold syndrome beliefs. Recent exposure to centerfolds had immediate strengthening effects on the sexual reductionism, masculinity validation, and nonrelational sex beliefs of males who view objectifying media less frequently. These effects persisted for approximately 48 hours.

Pornography Consumption and Opposition to Affirmative Action for Women: A Prospective Study (2013) – Excerpt:

Our study investigated a potential source of social influence that has often been hypothesized to reduce compassion and sympathy for women: pornography. National panel data were employed. Data were gathered in 2006, 2008, and 2010 from 190 adults ranging in age from 19 to 88 at baseline. Pornography viewing was indexed via reported consumption of pornographic movies. Attitudes toward affirmative action were indexed via opposition to hiring and promotion practices that favor women. Consistent with a social learning perspective on media effects, prior pornography viewing predicted subsequent opposition to affirmative action even after controlling for prior affirmative action attitudes and a number of other potential confounds. Gender did not moderate this association. Practically, these results suggest that pornography may be a social influence that undermines support for affirmative action programs for women.

Psychological, Relational, and Sexual Correlates of Pornography Use on Young Adult Heterosexual Men in Romantic Relationships (2014) – Excerpt:

The purpose of this study was to examine theorized antecedents (i.e., gender role conflict and attachment styles) and consequences (i.e., poorer relationship quality and sexual satisfaction) of men’s pornography use among 373 young adult heterosexual men. Findings revealed that both frequency of pornography use and problematic pornography use were related to greater gender role conflict, more avoidant and anxious attachment styles, poorer relationship quality, and less sexual satisfaction. In addition, the findings provided support for a theorized mediated model in which gender role conflict was linked to relational outcomes both directly and indirectly via attachment styles and pornography use.

A National Prospective Study of Pornography Consumption and Gendered Attitudes Toward Women (2015) – Excerpt:

The present study explored associations between pornography consumption and nonsexual gender-role attitudes in a national, two-wave panel sample of US adults. Pornography consumption interacted with age to predict gender-role attitudes. Specifically, pornography consumption at wave one predicted more gendered attitudes at wave two for older—but not for younger—adults.

Antecedents of adolescents’ exposure to different types of sexually explicit Internet material: A longitudinal study (2015) – Shows correlation between violent porn use and assessment of hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine attitudes. An Excerpt:

The present two-wave panel survey among 1557 Dutch adolescents addressed these lacunae by studying exposure to affection-themed, dominance-themed and violence-themed SEIM. Younger adolescents were more often exposed to affection-themed SEIM, while older adolescents and adolescents with higher levels of academic achievement were more frequently exposed to dominance-themed SEIM. Hyper masculine boys and hyper feminine girls were more frequently exposed to violence-themed SEIM.

‘It’s always just there in your face’: young people’s views on porn (2015) – Excerpt:

Findings highlight that many young people are exposed to porn both intentionally and unintentionally. Furthermore, they are concerned about gendered norms that reinforce men’s power and subordination over women. A link between porn exposure, young men’s sexual expectations and young women’s pressure to conform to what is being viewed, has been exposed.

What Is the Attraction? Pornography Use Motives in Relation to Bystander Intervention (2015) – Excerpt:

We found that several motivations to view pornography were associated with suppression of willingness to intervene as a bystander, even after controlling for frequency of pornography use. This study joins others in suggesting an association between pornography use and callousness toward sexual violence.

An experimental analysis of young women’s attitude toward the male gaze following exposure to centerfold images of varying explicitness (2015) – Women exposed to explicit centerfolds had greater acceptance of men staring at them sexually.

This study measured young women’s attitude toward the male gaze following exposure to centerfolds of varying explicitness. Explicitness was operationalized as degree of undress. Women exposed to more explicit centerfolds expressed greater acceptance of the male gaze than women exposed to less explicit centerfolds immediately after exposure and at a 48 hour follow-up. These results support the view that the more media depictions of women display women’s bodies, the stronger the message they send that women are sights to be observed by others. They also suggest that even brief exposure to explicit centerfolds can have a nontransitory effect on women’s sociosexual attitudes.

Men’s Objectifying Media Consumption, Objectification of Women, and Attitudes Supportive of Violence Against Women (2016) – Excerpt:

Guided by the concepts of specific and abstract sexual scripting in Wright’s sexual script acquisition, activation, application model of sexual media socialization, this study proposed that the more men are exposed to objectifying depictions, the more they will think of women as entities that exist for men’s sexual gratification (specific sexual scripting), and that this dehumanized perspective on women may then be used to inform attitudes regarding sexual violence against women (abstract sexual scripting).

Data were gathered from collegiate men sexually attracted to women (N = 187). Consistent with expectations, associations between men’s exposure to objectifying media and attitudes supportive of violence against women were mediated by their notions of women as sex objects. Specifically, frequency of exposure to men’s lifestyle magazines that objectify women, reality TV programs that objectify women, and pornography predicted more objectified cognitions about women, which, in turn, predicted stronger attitudes supportive of violence against women.

Soft-core pornography viewers ‘unlikely to hold positive attitudes towards women’ (2016) – Excerpt:

Frequent viewers of soft-core pornography, such as photographs of naked and semi-naked female models, are unlikely to think positively about women and are likely to have become desensitised to soft-core pornography common in newspapers, advertising and the media. The results indicated that people who frequently viewed soft-core pornographic images were less likely to describe these as pornographic than people who had low levels of exposure to these images.  People who were desensitised to these images were more likely than others to endorse rape myths. Furthermore, people who frequently viewed these images were less likely to have positive attitudes to women.

Pornography, Sexual Coercion and Abuse and Sexting in Young People’s Intimate Relationships: A European Study (2016) – Excerpt:

New technology has made pornography increasingly accessible to young people, and a growing evidence base has identified a relationship between viewing pornography and violent or abusive behavior in young men. This article reports findings from a large survey of 4,564 young people aged 14 to 17 in five European countries which illuminate the relationship between regular viewing of online pornography, sexual coercion and abuse and the sending and receiving of sexual images and messages, known as “sexting.” In addition to the survey, which was completed in schools, 91 interviews were undertaken with young people who had direct experience of interpersonal violence and abuse in their own relationships.

Rates for regularly viewing online pornography were very much higher among boys and most had chosen to watch pornography. Boys’ perpetration of sexual coercion and abuse was significantly associated with regular viewing of online pornography. In addition, boys who regularly watched online pornography were significantly more likely to hold negative gender attitudes. The qualitative interviews illustrated that, although sexting is normalized and perceived positively by most young people, it has the potential to reproduce sexist features of pornography such as control and humiliation.

Age of first exposure to pornography shapes men’s attitudes toward women (2017) – Excerpt:

Participants (N = 330) were undergraduate men at a large, Midwestern university, ranging in age from 17-54 years (M = 20.65, SD = 3.06). Participants predominantly identified as White (84.9%) and heterosexual (92.6). After providing informed consent, participants completed the study online.

Results indicated that lower age of first exposure to pornography predicted higher adherence to both the Power over Women and the Playboy masculine norms. Additionally, regardless of the nature of the men’s first exposure to pornography (i.e., intentional, accidental, or forced), participants adhered equally to the Power over Women and the Playboy masculine norm. Various explanations may exist to understand these relationships, but the results show the importance of discussing age of exposure in clinical settings with men.

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