Erotica Viewing Effects on Intimate Relationships and Self/Partner Evaluations

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Results from pilot testing the stimuli to verify their appropriateness for the current study are available from the corresponding author upon request.

  2. 2.

    Supporting this, there were also main effects of Film type predicting ratings of heartbeat, F(2, 85) = 67.65, p < .01, \( \eta_{p}^{2} \) = .45, with participants reporting greater increases of heartbeat during the erotic film than the neutral, F(1, 87) = 121.58, p < .01, \( \eta_{p}^{2} \) = .58, or exciting, F(1, 87) = 30.52, p < .01, \( \eta_{p}^{2} \) = .26, films, and greater increases during the exciting film than the neutral, F(1, 87) = 42.64, p < .01, \( \eta_{p}^{2} \) = .33, film. However, participants only reported increases in sexual arousal during the erotic film.

  3. 3.

    Main effect of Film type, F(2, 85) = 16.07, p < .01, \( \eta_{p}^{2} \) = 16, for ratings of guilt indicated participants reported higher ratings of guilt during the erotic film than the exciting, F(1, 87) = 18.08, p < .01, \( \eta_{p}^{2} \) = .17, and neutral, F(1, 87) = 16.34, p < .01, \( \eta_{p}^{2} \) = .16, films. Main effect of Film type, F(2, 85) = 13.13, p < .01, \( \eta_{p}^{2} \) = 14, for ratings of anxiety indicated participants reported higher ratings of anxiety during the erotic film than the exciting, F(1, 87) = 6.52, p = .01, \( \eta_{p}^{2} \) = .07, and neutral, F(1, 87) = 21.04, p < .01, \( \eta_{p}^{2} \) = .20 films and higher ratings during the exciting film than the neutral film, F(1, 87) = 8.08, p < .01, \( \eta_{p}^{2} \) = .09.

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Staley, C., Prause, N. Erotica Viewing Effects on Intimate Relationships and Self/Partner Evaluations. Arch Sex Behav 42, 615–624 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-012-0034-4

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Keywords

  • Visual sexual stimuli
  • Pornography
  • Erotica
  • Couples
  • Excitation transfer
  • Social learning theory