Does watching pornography as a teenager harm sexual satisfaction later? New study suggests it doesn’t

Changes in pornography use appear to be unrelated to sexual satisfaction, according to new longitudinal research that examined high school students. The findings appear in The Journal of Sex Research.

“Due to rising societal concerns about pornography use, particularly in young people, most research in the field focuses on potential adverse outcome. We wanted to explore, using longitudinal data, if there is any link between adolescents’ sexual satisfaction and their use of pornography,” said Aleksandar Stulhofer, a professor at the University of Zagreb and the corresponding author of the study.

In the study, 775 female and 514 male Croatian high school students were first surveyed regarding their pornography use and sexual satisfaction when they were 15 to 18 years old. They were then resurveyed approximately every six months for 36 months.

But the researchers found no significant association between the frequency of pornography use and adolescents’ sexual satisfaction for either male or female participants.

The findings provide a contrast to a previous survey of 1,052 Dutch adolescents, published in 2009, which found that pornography use was associated with reduced sexual satisfaction.

“Past longitudinal research among adolescents carried out in the Netherlands, one of the most liberal countries, suggested that pornography use can negatively affect sexual satisfaction, particularly for male adolescents,” Stulhofer told PsyPost.

“Our study, carried out in a more religious and less sexually permissive European country (Croatia), found no such links. We observed no substantial relationship in either female or male adolescents between the frequency of their pornography use and sexual satisfaction.”

“It should be noted that we controlled for the effect of being in a relationship and that we asked all participants about their sexual satisfaction — regardless of whether they had a sexual intercourse,” Stulhofer explained.

The study — like all research — includes some limitations.

“Our analysis is restricted to middle to late adolescent period, the period when the majority of young Croatians report sexual debut. Additional research would be needed to find out if our null findings are also relevant for emerging adults,” Stulhofer said.

“Considering the conflicting findings obtained by our and the Dutch studies, there is an interesting question about culture-specific influences on adolescents’ satisfaction and pornography use. Sociocultural context is likely highly relevant for how pornography is perceived by young people, but the mechanisms underlying this influence remain unexplored.”

The study, “Longitudinal Assessment of the Association Between Pornography Use and Sexual Satisfaction in Adolescence“, was authored by Goran Milas, Paul Wright, and Aleksandar Štulhofer.