A team of psychology researchers recently found that heterosexual men rated familiar women as less attractive compared to new (novel) women when the men were sexually aroused. Their findings have been published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.
The Coolidge effect refers to males exhibiting sexual interest in new females, even after intercourse with other available females. There is little research investigating whether “Coolidge-like effects” apply in the context of men being more attracted to new female faces and bodies after being shown pornographic images.
Research suggests that pornography consumption can have adverse consequences for men, including less physical attraction towards their female partners. Although familiarity is generally attractive, previous work shows that men are more attracted to new female faces compared to a female face they viewed for a second time.
Researchers Jordan Sculley and Christopher D. Watkins were interested in investigating men’s preferences for the same female faces and bodies compared to new/novel female faces and bodies after being primed with pornography images.
The researchers recruited 129 heterosexual men aged 18-35 for experiment 1. Participants rated five female faces and five other female bodies. Next, participants were shown 57 pornographic images of attractive women in different poses and revealing nudeness to various degrees. Participants were then shown a mixture of images of new female faces and bodies and the same female faces and bodies they previously rated. Ten randomized trials were conducted. Participants rated each image for level of attractiveness on a scale of 1-7.
Results from experiment 1 show no effect from the experimental priming and no interaction between the experimental priming condition and modality (viewing a face or body).
But the researchers found that men who were primed with pornographic images rated familiar bodies as less attractive. Furthermore, men who were primed with nude female pornographic images rates familiar bodies as less attractive compared to men who were primed with pornographic images consisting of clothed females and images of intercourse.
Overall, experiment 1 showed that men were more attracted to new/novel female bodies after viewing nude female bodies. Notably, men were quicker to decide they were less attracted to familiar faces but spent more time assessing the attractiveness of new female faces and bodies.
In a second experiment, Sculley and Watkins recruited 82 homosexual men to investigate whether male sexual arousal is sex-specific and independent of male sexual orientation. The methods for experiment 2 were the same as experiment 1. The homosexual male participants were primed with the same female pornography images from experiment 1.
Results from experiment 2 show that homosexual men preferred new faces after being primed with pornographic images. Similar to experiment 1, homosexual men were quicker to rate familiar faces as less attractive and slower to rate newer faces as more attractive. However, homosexual men rated familiar bodies as more attractive than new bodies.
Sculley and Watkins suggest that their data supports “Coolidge-like effects” in men; however, these findings “could be better accounted for by theories of mere visual exposure on subsequent body perception rather than sexual arousal per se, as they were observed in men of both sexual orientations,” the researchers wrote.
Considering heterosexual men prefer new/novel females in general, Sculley and Watkins suggest that exposure to pornographic images is not likely to change men’s perceived attractiveness of the same woman.
Some limitations of this study include a sample of men in their mid-20s. It is unknown if findings would be similar among older men or female participants. Sculley and Watkins also mention that viewing pornographic images may not be representative of typical porn consumption.