Self-Perceived Effects of Pornography Consumption

Abstract

The self-perceived effects of “hardcore” pornography consumption were studied in a large representative sample of young adult Danish men and women aged 18–30. Using a survey that included the newly developed Pornography Consumption Effect Scale, we assessed participants’ reports of how pornography has affected them personally in various areas, including their sexual knowledge, attitudes toward sex, attitudes toward and perception of the opposite sex, sex life, and general quality of life. Across all areas investigated, participants reported only small, if any, negative effects with men reporting slightly more negative effects than women. In contrast, moderate positive effects were generally reported by both men and women, with men reporting significantly more positive effects than women. For both sexes, sexual background factors were found to significantly predict both positive and negative effects of pornography consumption. Although the proportion of variance in positive effects accounted for by sexual background factors was substantial, it was small for negative effects. We discuss how the findings may be interpreted differently by supporters and opponents of pornography due to the reliance in this study on reported self-perceptions of effects. Nonetheless, we conclude that the overall findings suggest that many young Danish adults believe that pornography has had primarily a positive effect on various aspects of their lives.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The perceptual bias has also elsewhere been referred to as the perceptual gap or discrepancy (e.g., Lasorsa, 1989; Rojas, Shah, & Faber, 1996; Tiedge, Silverblatt, Havice, & Rosenfeld, 1991).

  2. 2.

    Pornography was defined as follows: any kind of material aiming at creating or enhancing sexual feelings or thoughts in the recipient and, at the same time containing explicit exposure and/or descriptions of the genitals, and clear and explicit sexual acts, such as vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, oral sex, masturbation, bondage, sadomasochism, rape, urine sex, animal sex, etc. It was emphasized that materials containing men and women posing or acting naked such as seen in Playboy/Playgirl did not contain clear and explicit sexual acts and were to be disregarded as pornography when completing the questionnaire.

  3. 3.

    It should be noted that although the constructs were similar for the two effect dimensions, the wording of items within each construct necessarily differs. Construct 5, Sexual Knowledge, was unique to the positive effect dimension. The assessment of self-reported positive and negative effects of pornography consumption was conducted separately in line with research showing that these two effect dimensions essentially are independent, rather than being opposites of the same continuum (e.g., Diener, 1994; Diener & Emmons, 1984). The validation process of the PCES further confirmed this dimensional independence as noted.

  4. 4.

    A principal axis factoring with oblimin rotation confirmed this finding (= .12).

  5. 5.

    The one exception concerned the Sex Life construct of the Negative Effect Dimension. Here, discrepancy between the screeplot and the Kaiser-Guttmann rule was found. The screeplot indicated that only one common factor should be extracted whereas the Kaiser-Guttmann rule indicated that two common factors should be extracted. However, with large samples, Field (2003) and Stevens (1992) suggest that the screeplot is used over the Kaiser-Guttmann rule to determine the number of common factors which should be extracted. Thus, we decided to extract only one common factor as suggested by the screeplot.

  6. 6.

    For more detailed information on consumption patterns and behaviors for the current sample, see Hald (2006).

  7. 7.

    In the calculation of Cohen’s d, means and SDs were used as follows:

    Table 4 Comparison of mean differences in positive and negative effects of pornography consumption by gender
    $$ {\text{Cohen's }}d = M_{1} - M_{2} /\sigma _{{{\text{pooled}}}} {\text{ where }}\sigma _{{{\text{pooled}}}} = \surd [(\sigma ^{2}_{1} + \sigma ^{2}_{2} )/2].$$

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Correspondence to Gert Martin Hald.

Appendix

Appendix

The Pornography Consumption Effect Scale (PCES)

Below is a series of questions. Please indicate your answer to each question using the following scale: 1 = not at all; 2 = to a very small extent; 3 = to a small extent; 4 = to a moderate extent; 5 = to a large extent; 6 = to a very large extent; 7 = to an extremely large extent.

Please write your answer on the line ____ before each question. Please answer all questions.

To what extent do you believe that your consumption of pornography:

   

Scoring instructions

The PCES is intended to be used as a measure of self-perceived overall positive and/or negative effects of pornography consumption by averaging the score for the positive and negative effect dimensions, respectively. Alternatively, specific areas of interest may be targeted by averaging the score for items constituting these areas. For example, if one wishes to investigate only self-perceived positive effects of pornography consumption on sex life, this could be done by averaging the scores for item 12, 21, 27, 28, 33, constituting the SL (P) construct.

Overall Positive Effect = average of the following items: 1, 3, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 33, 36, 38, 39, 41, 42, 43, 45.

Overall Negative Effect = average of the following items: 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 13, 17, 19, 22, 25, 26, 32, 34, 35, 37, 40, 44, 46, 47.

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Hald, G.M., Malamuth, N.M. Self-Perceived Effects of Pornography Consumption. Arch Sex Behav 37, 614–625 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-007-9212-1

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Keywords

  • Pornography
  • Sex differences
  • Denmark
  • Sexuality
  • Sex