Is watching too much pornography a gateway to problematic porn usage? A study published in the Journal of Sex Research suggests that though this relationship does exist, there are a myriad of other factors that play a role in whether or not porn consumption becomes an issue.
Pornography is a controversial topic and is taboo to many people. Despite this, pornography usage is very common. The internet irrevocably altered the availability and access to porn by making it easier and cheaper to obtain and watch in larger quantities. Pornography usage can become problematic, with overuse leading to impairments in individuals’ lives and functioning. This is often described as a “porn addiction,” although no such diagnosis currently exists in the psychiatric field.
Regardless, pornography overuse can have adverse effects on consumers. This study seeks to explore the literature linking quantity of pornography use to problematic use, including other factors that could affect or moderate this relationship.
Researcher Lijun Chen and colleagues utilized a meta-analysis methodological structure for this paper. This included 61 different studies comprising 74,880 participants. In order to be utilized in this meta-analysis, studies needed to measure usage duration or frequency of pornography use and problematic pornography use.
Multiple authors assessed quality with high inter-rater reliability. All participants had to be adolescents or adults. The researchers tested for publication bias and did not find significant evidence of any.
Results showed a significant relationship between quantity of pornography use and problematic pornography use. The overall relationship was moderate, but the strength of the relationship was moderated by other factors and differed by subgroup. A factor that caused discrepancies was the way problematic porn usage was measured. Studies that focused on behaviors of addiction, such as relapse and lack of control, found larger associations than ones that focused on self-perception of use.
In regard to quantity, frequency of usage was a more effective predictor of use having adverse life effects than time spent consuming porn. Additionally, this study found that the relationship between quantity of pornography use, and problems associated with use was stronger for people in more sexually conservative countries. No significant gender or sexual orientation differences were found.
This study embarked on the important task of synthesizing the relevant information already existing in the literature regarding the relationship between quantity of pornography use and this use being a problem in the consumer’s life. Despite this, there are limitations to note. One such limitation is that most studies utilized self-report measures, which are susceptible to desirability bias, especially on a controversial topic.
Additionally, the sexual orientation was not always reported and for studies that did report it, there was a very limited number of participants in the sexual minority group, making it difficult to extrapolate if there are differences that were not found.
The study, “The Association between the Quantity and Severity of Pornography Use: A Meta-analysis“, was authored by Lijun Chen, Xiaoliu Jiang, Qiqi Wang, Beáta Bőthe, Marc. N. Potenza, and Huijuan Wu.