COMMENTS: The present study is a further analysis of an earlier study that has already been critiqued by YBOP: Cyberpornography: Time Use, Perceived Addiction, Sexual Functioning, and Sexual Satisfaction (2016). Both studies involved the same subjects, with the earlier study reporting that greater porn use was related to both less sexual satisfaction and less sexual dysfunction. The new study added a twist by categorizing the porn users into 3 distinct groups:
- recreational porn users (75.5%),
- highly distressed non-compulsive porn users (12.7%),
- compulsive porn users (11.8%).
In line with the earlier study the current study reported that “compulsive porn users” had both less sexual satisfaction and less sexual dysfunction. As explained in the earlier critique, this finding is inconsistent with nearly every other study on compulsive porn users and sex addicts, which generally report less sexual satisfaction and greater sexual dysfunction. How could more porn use be related to both less sexual satisfaction and less sexual dysfunction?
The most probable answer is the same as for the earlier study by the same team of researchers: This study used the ASEX to measure sexual function, and not the standard IIEF. The ASEX doesn’t distinguish between sexual functioning during masturbation (typically to digital porn) and partnered sex, while the IIEF is only for sexually active subjects. As today’s porn users who develop sexual dysfunctions typically experience them during partnered sex, this research is basically useless in understanding porn’s effects on sexual function.
Many of the subjects were rating the quality of their orgasms, arousal and erections while masturbating to porn – not while having sex. Again, most have no problems attaining erections or climaxing to screens – whether due to the endless novelty and ready availability of more extreme porn online, or due to the fact that today’s heavy porn users have trained (sensitized) their brains to screen-based arousal, not real people.
Additional information provided in the current study actually supports this hypothesis as the compulsive porn users were mostly males and avoided partnered sex:
“Sexual behaviors reported by these individuals suggest that their pornography use might be framed into a broader pattern of compulsive sexuality that includes avoidance of sexual interactions with a partner.”
Moreover, only 38% of the compulsive porn users had partners. (NOTE: this doesn’t mean that 38% had sex with a partner, as a common symptom of porn addiction is choosing porn over partnered sex). In any case, at least 62% of the compulsive subjects were porn addicts who didn’t have sex with real people. This means that the vast majority of the compulsive porn users in these two studies were assessing their arousal and erections while masturbating to porn, not while having sex with a partner. Thus, dysfunction rates would be expected to be far lower than if the researchers had only asked porn users who could answer about partnered sex.
Many guys who use porn solo have no idea that they have sexual dysfunctions during partnered sex. Believing they have abnormally high libidos because they are masturbating so frequently, with erections, they are often baffled when they get with a partner and discover that “it doesn’t work right.” Since the advent of streaming internet porn, rates of sexual dysfunctions have jumped in men, and among problematic porn users, rates of sexual dysfunctions (with partners) are as high as 71%! There’s nothing in this paper to suggest that the cause is underlying “compulsivity” that mysteriously drives them away from partners, rather than simply internet porn addiction itself. (Addicts typically prefer their addictive activity or substance to other activities.)
Measuring sexual performance in solo porn users creates a huge confound, and the researchers were mistaken to claim their results bear any relation to sexual dysfunction studies that use the IIEF. The ASEX that they used measures “apples,” while the IIEF measures “oranges.” Only the latter can reveal sexual dysfunctions during partnered sex – which is where the sexual dysfunctions typically arise first in today’s porn users.
Summary: The peculiar results of greater sexual dissatisfaction and yet less sexual dysfunction are almost certainly due to the fact that the researchers used the wrong instrument to measure sexual dysfunction in porn users, and therefore included a lot of subjects who were not having partnered sex. And drew unsupported conclusions as a consequence.
J Sex Med. 2017 Jan;14(1):78-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2016.10.016.
Although findings concerning sexual outcomes associated with cyberpornography use are mixed, viewing explicit sexual content online is becoming a common activity for an increasing number of individuals.
To investigate heterogeneity in cyberpornography-related sexual outcomes by examining a theoretically and clinically based model suggesting that individuals who spend time viewing online pornography form three distinct profiles (recreational, at-risk, and compulsive) and to examine whether these profiles were associated with sexual well-being, sex, and interpersonal context of pornography use.
The present cluster-analytic study was conducted using a convenience sample of 830 adults who completed online self-reported measurements of cyberpornography use and sexual well-being, which included sexual satisfaction, compulsivity, avoidance, and dysfunction.
Main Outcomes Measures
Dimensions of cyberpornography use were assessed using the Cyber Pornography Use Inventory. Sexual well-being measurements included the Global Measure of Sexual Satisfaction, the Sexual Compulsivity Scale, the Sexual Avoidance Subscale, and the Arizona Sexual Experiences Scale.
Cluster analyses indicated three distinct profiles: recreational (75.5%), highly distressed non-compulsive (12.7%), and compulsive (11.8%). Recreational users reported higher sexual satisfaction and lower sexual compulsivity, avoidance, and dysfunction, whereas users with a compulsive profile presented lower sexual satisfaction and dysfunction and higher sexual compulsivity and avoidance. Highly distressed less active users were sexually less satisfied and reported less sexual compulsivity and more sexual dysfunction and avoidance. A larger proportion of women and of dyadic users was found among recreational users, whereas solitary users were more likely to be in the highly distressed less active profile and men were more likely to be in the compulsive profile.
This pattern of results confirms the existence of recreational and compulsive profiles but also demonstrates the existence of an important subgroup of not particularly active, yet highly distressed consumers. Cyberpornography users represent a heterogeneous population, in which each subgroup is associated with specific sexual outcomes.