Pornography use linked to dissatisfaction with sexual variety among men — but not women

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Men who consume more pornography are more likely to say they are dissatisfied with the amount of variety in their sex life and the amount of time spent on sex.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, investigated the relationship between sexual satisfaction and viewing different types of sexual content.

“It seems logical that viewing a sports illustrated swimsuit edition is going to influence expectations of sexuality differently than viewing mainstream pornography. It also seems logical that satisfaction with sexual variety is not necessarily the same thing as satisfaction with love and affection in the sexual relationship,” explained study author Nathan D. Leonhardt of Brigham Young University.

“Yet, nobody has studied how viewing distinct types of sexual content might differ in influencing different aspects of sexual satisfaction.”

“In our study, we wanted to start a more comprehensive discussion of how sexual content influences sexual satisfaction,” Leonhardt told PsyPost. “We evaluated how both mainstream pornography, with explicit depiction of sexual acts, and non-explicit provocative sexual media, focused on women, were associated with several aspects of sexual satisfaction (time spent on foreplay, variety, overall satisfaction, frequency, love and affection, time spent on intercourse), for both men and women.”

The study surveyed 858 individuals in committed romantic relationships about their exposure to mainstream heterosexual pornography and other forms of sexually provocative media, such as an image of a woman in her underwear in a provocative pose.

The researchers found that men who watched more pornography tended to also be more dissatisfied with the amount of variety in their sex life and more dissatisfied with the amount of time spent on intercourse.

“Pornography use was connected to lower satisfaction with sexual variety and satisfaction with time spent on intercourse, but only for men,” Leonhardt explained. “It makes sense that pornography would be more likely to influence satisfaction with sexual variety and time spent on intercourse than viewing provocative sexual media, as pornography actually depicts explicit sexual acts.”

“Perhaps men who view pornography are disappointed in their partners’ lack of ability or desire to perform the sexual acts portrayed in pornography,” he continued. “It was interesting that this only held true for men. This is just supposition, but perhaps the negative connection was not there for women because their male partners are more willing to engage in the sexual acts depicted in pornography.”

However, more frequent pornography use was not associated with lower overall sexual satisfaction for men or women.

When it came to non-explicit provocative media of women, Leonhardt and his colleague found some evidence that it was associated with problems among the female participants.

“For both men and women, use of provocative sexual media was negatively connected to satisfaction with love and affection in the sexual relationship; we suspect this is due to the objectifying nature of the content. It could be difficult to establish a sexual relationship built on love and affection if individuals accept a message of sexuality without identity,” Leonhardt explained.

“Interestingly, provocative sexual media was particularly problematic for women, as it was also connected to lower satisfaction with sexual variety, overall sexual satisfaction, and satisfaction with time spent on intercourse. We suspect that women’s provocative sexual media use could be leading to a greater likelihood of self-objectification, which could negatively influence sexuality in a variety of ways.”

“Overall, our study highlighted the complexity of the connection between viewing sexual content and sexual satisfaction, but provided insight into the nuances by clarifying which aspects of sexual satisfaction are connected to viewing specific types of sexual content,” Leonhardt told PsyPost.

The study used a cross-sectional design, meaning the researchers cannot draw conclusions about cause and effect.

“The first major caveat is that we cannot claim causality,” Leonhardt said. “We cannot be sure which variables are actually influencing the others. Take the negative connection between men’s use of pornography and satisfaction with sexual variety as an example. The association may be due to men being disappointed in being unable to participate in sexual acts depicted in pornography.”

“Yet another equally plausible explanation is that men who are dissatisfied with the variety in their sexual relationship are looking at pornography in an attempt to find new ideas for sexual practices.”

The research still leaves some questions unanswered.

“Another major caveat is that our data did not consist of both partners’ perspectives,” Leonhardt said. “It would be helpful to see how these results might differ based on evaluating both partners’ moral approval of viewing sexual content, and the extent to which couples are viewing the content together.”

“We hope our study opens the door to exploring additional nuances in how the type of sexual content viewed influences differing types of sexual satisfaction,” he added. “On a practical note, those who view sexual content should carefully consider the messages presented, and whether those messages align with what they ultimately are pursuing in a sexual relationship.”

The study, “Pornography, provocative sexual media, and their differing associations with multiple aspects of sexual satisfaction“, was co-authored by Brian J. Willoughby.



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