Study links porn use to lower sexual and relationship satisfaction — but only among men

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New research suggests that pornography can adversely affect men’s satisfaction with their romantic relationships.

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis — a method of statistically summarizing previous research — of 50 studies conducted between 1973 and 2014, with a combined total of 50,000 participants.

The meta-analysis found higher levels of pornography use were associated with lower levels of sexual and relational satisfaction — but only among men. In other words, the more often men viewed pornography, the more likely they were to say they were dissatisfied with their sex life or their romantic relationship. However, pornography consumption was not positively or negatively linked to body satisfaction or self-esteem among either men or women.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Human Communication Research on March 2, 2017.

PsyPost interviewed the study’s corresponding author, Paul J. Wright of Indiana University, Bloomington. Read his responses below:

PsyPost: Why were you interested in this topic?

Wright: We became interested in this topic because the questions of whether consuming pornography has any discernible impact on consumers’ satisfaction, and if so, whether the impact is negative or positive, have stimulated a large number of studies, but uncertainty about their answers had remained among communication scholars.

What should the average person take away from your study?

Contrary to the statements of consumers when asked directly about how pornography has positively impacted them, it seems unlikely that an increase in the frequency and intensity of consumption would, on the average, lead to a corresponding increase in satisfaction with oneself or one’s sexual or romantic relationships. The results of the studies analyzed in our paper, whose designs seem less likely to trigger defensive and rationalizing responses, suggest that women’s satisfaction would on the average be unaffected while men’s sexual and relational satisfaction would on the average be adversely affected.

Are there any major caveats? What questions still need to be addressed?

There are many important questions that remain unaddressed by the extant literature. As one example, too few studies included mechanism tests for any type of mediational meta-analysis. Mediation tests are needed to evaluate the appropriateness of the theories that have been proposed. Additional moderation analysis is also needed. That the average associations between women’s satisfaction and pornography consumption were not significant does not mean that certain subsets of women less frequently studied are not impacted, for example.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

While there may be a reciprocal element to these dynamics (i.e., lower sexual and relational satisfaction leading to pornography consumption), the convergence of results across cross-sectional survey, longitudinal survey, and experimental results points to an overall negative effect of pornography on men’s sexual and relational satisfaction.

The study, “Pornography Consumption and Satisfaction: A Meta-Analysis“, was also co-authored by Robert S. Tokunaga, Ashley Kraus, and Elyssa Klann.



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