Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 615–624 | Cite as

Erotica Viewing Effects on Intimate Relationships and Self/Partner Evaluations

  • Cameron StaleyEmail author
  • Nicole Prause
Original Paper


Viewing visual sexual stimuli (VSS) has been documented to have both positive (e.g., increased sexual arousal and sexual behaviors) and negative (e.g., higher anxiety, devaluing of partner attractiveness) effects. Excitation transfer and social comparison theories were used to generate hypotheses that could explain these mixed findings. Forty-four monogamous, heterosexual couples viewed erotic, exciting (non-erotic films), and nature films both alone and together. They rated their feelings of general arousal and relationship satisfaction as well as perceptions of self and partner sexual behaviors and attractiveness. Participants viewing both the erotic and exciting films reported equivalent increases in excitement; however, the erotic film was rated as slightly more generally arousing and increased participant’s desire to be close to their partner. Viewing the erotic films also induced greater reports of negative affect, guilt, and anxiety. These findings moderately support a transfer of excitation interpretation. No effects of partner presence or absence while viewing the films was found. Viewing erotic films led to more positive evaluations of one’s own sexual behaviors. These findings provide mixed support in regard to self and partner social comparisons. Co-occurring positive and negative emotional reactions were explored as possible explanation to the complex reactions to VSS.


Visual sexual stimuli Pornography Erotica Couples Excitation transfer Social learning theory 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Counseling and Testing CenterIdaho State UniversityPocatelloUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry, Semel Neuropsychiatric InstituteUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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