Study: Frequency of pornography viewing not linked to body image or relationship problems in women

A new study suggests that pornography viewing frequency, perceptions of excessive use, and control difficulties are unrelated to body image or relationship problems among women. The research was published in Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity.

“Problematic pornography is a huge issue that no one talks about. We have lots of research indicating men view pornography and that it affects their relationships/views of self. However, we have considerably less research on women’s pornography viewing behaviors, let alone their ‘problematic pornography viewing,'” said study author Nicholas C. Borgogna of the University of South Alabama.

For their study, the researchers surveyed 949 women regarding their pornography viewing habits, body image, and relationship satisfaction. The average age of the sample was 22, and most participants reported first viewing pornography around the age of 15.

“Women view pornography and some develop problems such as excessive use, control difficulties, and dysfunctional use of porn to avoid negative emotions (albeit all of their frequencies are less than those traditionally observed in men),” Borgogna told PsyPost.

For example, people who show signs of problematic pornography use tend to agree with statements such as “I risked or put in jeopardy a significant relationship, place of employment, educational or career opportunity because of the use of pornographic materials.”

The researchers found no evidence that the frequency of viewing pornography was related to women’s body image satisfaction or relationship satisfaction by itself. However, one aspect of problematic use was weakly linked to reduced body and relationship satisfaction.

“Women’s pornography use as a dysfunctional coping mechanism was modestly correlated with body image issues and relationship satisfaction issues,” Borgogna explained.

Women who showed signs of this aspect of problematic use agreed with statements like: “I use pornographic materials to escape my grief or to free myself from negative feelings” and “I watch pornographic materials when am feeling despondent.”

But two other aspects of problematic use — excessive use and control difficulty problems — were not related to body image or relationship satisfaction.

“We did not measure body image internalization dimensions, such research could help further elucidate our non-significant findings related to body image,” Borgogna said. “The findings are cross-sectional. Thus, longitudinal research would be extremely helpful in establishing the temporal order of these relationships.”

The study, “Is Women’s Problematic Pornography Viewing Related to Body Image or Relationship Satisfaction?” was authored by Nicholas C. Borgogna, Emma C. Lathan, and Ariana Mitchell.