Does pornography usage make women more self-conscious about their bodies? A study published in the Computers in Human Behavior journal suggests that this relationship may be related to attachment style to romantic partners.
Body image self-consciousness is something many women struggle with for a myriad of reasons, including the strict societal beauty standards placed on women. Being self-conscious about one’s own body is associated with negative body satisfaction, lower sexual self-esteem, and lower self-perceived attractiveness. Body image self-consciousness during sexual activity can lead to a less fulfilling sex life, with decreased sexual functioning and pleasure and increased shame and anxiety.
Attachment theory posters that people seek support and proximity when faced with a threat, and that the level of responsiveness they receive from a caregiver in childhood can have implications for romantic relationships later in life. Attachment theory and body image self-consciousness have not been significantly studied together, and the new research seeks to address that, as well as examine a potential mediating role of pornography usage.
Study author Ateret Gewirtz-Meydan and colleagues conducted an online survey of 1,001 Israeli women ranging from 18 to 56 years of age. Participants completed a demographic survey, an attachment orientation scale, answered how often they consume pornographic content, and completed a measure on body image. Gerwitz-Meydan and colleagues sought to measure if pornography usage mediated the relationship between attachment and body image self-consciousness in this study.
Results showed significant group differences between participants in romantic relationships and participants not in romantic relationships. People in romantic relationships showed lower levels of anxious and avoidant attachment styles and reported lower body-image insecurities and pornography usage. Pornography usage was not a mediator between attachment and body image for women who were not in a romantic relationship and was a significant mediator only for women in a romantic relationship who showed an anxious attachment style. This is consistent with previous research that shows that anxious attachment, not avoidant attachment, predicts body dissatisfaction and insecurity.
This study has implications for treating body image issues by working on attachment style. Despite this advantage, the study has some limitations to speak of. Regarding the sample, it was a convenience sample gathered through social media, which may limit generalizability. This research also focused purely on women, and future research could focus on if similar relationships are found in men. Gerwitz-Meydan and colleagues also left pornography usage as a pretty vague variable, and the relationship may be affected by what type or medium of pornography is consumed.
“The findings of the present study extend the literature by utilizing attachment theory to gain a better understanding of how women develop body image self-consciousness during intimate relations,” the researchers concluded. “Specifically, the findings suggest that women may be more susceptible to the influence of pornography use on their body image self-consciousness when they are anxiously attached and in a romantic relationship.”
The study, “Attachment insecurities and body image self-consciousness along women: The mediating role of pornography use“, was authored by Ateret Gewirtz-Meydan, Kimberly J. Mitchell, Zohar Spivak-Lavi, and Shane W. Kraus.