Advances in production and distribution of sexually explicit media (SEM) online have resulted in widespread use among men. Limited research has compared contexts of use and behaviors viewed in Internet SEM by sexual identity. The current study examined differences in recent SEM use (past 6 months) by sexual identity among an ethnically diverse sample of 821 men who completed an online survey in 2015. Both gay and bisexual men reported significantly more frequent use of Internet SEM compared to heterosexual men. Although most participants reported viewing SEM at home (on a computer, tablet, or smartphone), significantly more gay men reported SEM use at a sex party or commercial sex venue than either heterosexual or bisexual men. Sexual identity predicted viewing of high-risk and protective behaviors in separate logistic regression models. Specifically, compared to heterosexual men, gay and bisexual men had increased odds of viewing condomless anal sex (gay OR 5.20, 95 % CI 3.35–8.09; bisexual OR 3.99, 95 % CI 2.24–7.10) and anal sex with a condom (gay OR 3.93, 95 % CI 2.64–5.83; bisexual OR 4.59, 95 % CI 2.78–7.57). Compared to gay men, heterosexual and bisexual men had increased odds of viewing condomless vaginal sex (heterosexual OR 27.08, 95 % CI 15.25–48.07; bisexual OR 5.59, 95 % CI 3.81–8.21) and vaginal sex with a condom (heterosexual OR 7.90, 95 % CI 5.19–12.03; bisexual OR 4.97, 95 % CI 3.32–7.44). There was also evidence of identity discrepant SEM viewing as 20.7 % of heterosexual-identified men reported viewing male same-sex behavior and 55.0 % of gay-identified men reported viewing heterosexual behavior. Findings suggest the importance of assessing SEM use across media types and contexts and have implications for research to address the potential influence of SEM on sexual behavior (e.g., investigate associations between viewing condomless vaginal sex and engaging in high-risk encounters with female partners).
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
We examined differences in participant characteristics and Internet SEM use between complete and partial cases. Several differences were noted after applying a Bonferroni correction. A greater proportion of bisexual-identified men had partial surveys (45.6 %) compared to heterosexual-identified men (32.4 %) (p = .003). No other sexual identity differences were noted. Men with complete surveys were significantly older (M = 38.08, SD = 12.16) than those with partial surveys (M = 34.48, SD = 11.24), F(1, 1467) = 32.31, p < .001. A greater proportion of men who identified their race as White (71.8 %) completed the survey compared to men who identified as Black (54.2 %, p < .001) or Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, or Other (44.8 %, p < .001). Further, significantly fewer men reporting up to a high school degree or GED completed the survey (46.1 %) compared to men with some college, Associate’s degree or Technical degree (59.3 %, p < .001), a 4-year college degree (67.8 %, p < .001), or a professional or graduate degree (68.6 %, p < .001). Significantly fewer men reporting an annual income of less than $10,000 completed the survey (50.0 %) compared to those who earned $40,000–$79,999 (63.1 %, p = .002), $80,000–$119,999 (73.2 %, p < .001), or $120,000 or more (68.7 %, p = .003). Similarly, significantly fewer men who preferred not to answer the item about annual income completed the survey (51.7 %) than men who reported earning $80,000–$119,999 per year (73.2 %, p = .001). A significantly greater proportion of men who reported a zip code corresponding to a US state in the West region completed the survey (73.3 %) compared to men in the Northeast (58.8 %, p = .001), Southeast (55.2 %, p < .001), and Midwest (60.4 %, p = .001) regions. There were no differences between complete and partial cases in relationship status, HIV status, current residence, or use of Internet SEM in the past 6 months (yes, no).
There were significantly more completed surveys among men who viewed SEM at home on a computer (67.6 vs. 40.3 % of men who did not view SEM at home on a computer, p < .001), at work on a computer (73.8 vs. 59.9 % of men who did not view SEM at work on a computer, p < .05), or while attending a commercial sex venue (72.4 vs. 58.5 % of men who did not view SEM while attending a commercial sex venue, p < .001). Further, there were significantly more completed surveys among men who viewed vaginal sex with a condom (87.9 vs. 54.4 % of men who did not view this behavior), vaginal sex without a condom (89.1 vs. 49.6 % of men who did not view this behavior), anal sex with a condom (87.9 vs. 39.3 % of men who did not view this behavior), and anal sex without a condom (89.3 vs. 26.2 % of men who did not view this behavior), p values <.001. Lastly, we observed no differences between complete and partial cases in the types of Internet SEM viewed in the past 6 months.
Albright, J. M. (2008). Sex in America online: An exploration of sex, marital status, and sexual identity in internet sex seeking and its impacts. Journal of Sex Research, 45(2), 175–186.
Baldwin, A., Dodge, B., Schick, V., Hubach, R. D., Bowling, J., Malebranche, D., … Fortenberry, J. D. (2015). Sexual self-identification among behaviorally bisexual men in the Midwestern United States. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44, 2015–2026.
Bishop, C. J. (2015). ‘Cocked, locked and ready to fuck?’: A synthesis and review of the gay male pornography literature. Psychology and Sexuality, 6(1), 5–27.
Boies, S. C. (2002). University students’ uses of and reactions to online sexual information and entertainment: Links to online and offline sexual behaviour. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 11, 77–89.
Cronin, B., & Davenport, E. (2001). E-rogenous zones: Positioning pornography in the digital economy. The Information Society, 17, 33–48.
Dodge, B., Schnarrs, P. W., Reece, M., Martinez, O., Goncalves, G., Malebranche, D., … Fortenberry, J. D. (2012). Individual and social factors related to mental health concerns among bisexual men in the Midwestern United States. Journal of Bisexuality, 12, 223–245.
Downing, M. J., Jr., Antebi, N., & Schrimshaw, E. W. (2014a). Compulsive use of internet-based sexually explicit media: Adaptation and validation of the Compulsive Internet Use Scale (CIUS). Addictive Behaviors, 39, 1126–1130.
Downing, M. J., Jr., Schrimshaw, E. W., Antebi, N., & Siegel, K. (2014b). Sexually explicit media on the internet: A content analysis of sexual behaviors, risk, and media characteristics in gay male adult videos. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 811–821.
Duggan, S. J., & McCreary, D. R. (2004). Body image, eating disorders, and the drive for muscularity in gay and heterosexual men: The influence of media images. Journal of Homosexuality, 47(3–4), 45–58.
Escoffier, J. (2009). Bigger than life: The history of gay porn cinema from beefcake to hardcore. Philadephia: Running Press Book Publishers.
Goldstein, B. Y., Steinberg, J. K., Aynalem, G., & Kerndt, P. R. (2011). High chlamydia and gonorrhea incidence and reinfection among performers in the adult film industry. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 38(7), 644–648.
Green, S. T. (2004). HIV and AIDS, the internet pornography industry and safer sex. International Journal of STD and AIDS, 15, 206–208.
Griffith, J. D., Adams, L. T., Hart, C. L., Mitchell, S., Kruger, A., Phares, B., … Finkenbinder, A. (2012). Pornography actors: A qualitative analysis of motivations and dislikes. North American Journal of Psychology, 14(2), 245–256.
Grudzen, C. R., Elliott, M. N., Kerndt, P. R., Schuster, M. A., Brook, R. H., & Gelberg, L. (2009). Condom use and high-risk sex acts in adult films: A comparison of heterosexual and homosexual films. American Journal of Public Health, 99, S152–S156.
Hald, G. M., & Malamuth, N. M. (2008). Self-perceived effects of pornography consumption. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37, 614–625.
Hald, G. M., Smolenski, D., & Rosser, B. R. S. (2013). Perceived effects of sexually explicit media among men who have sex with men and psychometric properties of the pornography consumption effects scale (PCES). Journal of Sexual Medicine, 10, 757–767.
Hald, G. M., & Štulhofer, A. (2016). What types of pornography do people use and do they cluster? Assessing types and categories of pornography consumption in a large-scale online sample. Journal of Sex Research, 53(7), 849–859.
Hare, K. A., Gahagan, J., Jackson, L., & Steenbeek, A. (2015). Revisualising ‘porn’: How young adults’ consumption of sexually explicit internet movies can inform approaches to Canadian sexual health promotion. Culture, Health and Sexuality, 17, 269–283.
Holmes, D., O’Byrne, P., & Gastaldo, D. (2007). Setting the space for sex: Architecture, desire and health issues in gay bathhouses. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 44, 273–284.
Hurley, R. (2009). How gay porn undermines safe sex campaigns. British Medical Journal, 338, 775.
Jonas, K. J., Hawk, S. T., Vastenburg, D., & de Groot, P. (2014). “Bareback” pornography consumption and safe-sex intentions of men having sex with men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 745–753.
Kinser, J. (2014). Michael Lucas explains his controversial decision to make condom-free adult films. Retrieved June 8, 2014 from http://www.queerty.com/michael-lucas-explains-his-controversial-decision-to-make-condom-free-adult-films-20140331.
Kline, R. B. (2013). Beyond significance testing. Statistics reform in the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Kraus, S., & Rosenberg, H. (2014). The Pornography Craving Questionnaire: Psychometric properties. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 451–462.
Kraus, S. W., & Rosenberg, H. (2016). Lights, camera, condoms! Assessing college men’s attitudes toward condom use in pornography. Journal of American College Health, 64(2), 139–146.
Kubicek, K., Beyer, W. J., Weiss, G., Iverson, E., & Kipke, M. D. (2010). In the dark: Young men’s stories of sexual initiation in the absence of relevant sexual health information. Health Education and Behavior, 37, 243–263.
Kuchment, A., & Springen, K. (2008). The tangled web of porn in the office. Newsweek, 152(23), 14.
Morgan, E. M. (2011). Associations between young adults’ use of sexually explicit materials and their sexual preferences, behaviors, and satisfaction. Journal of Sex Research, 48(6), 520–530.
Nelson, K. M., Leickly, E., Yang, J. P., Pereira, A., & Simoni, J. M. (2014a). The influence of sexually explicit online media on sex: Do men who have sex with men believe they “do what they see”? AIDS Care, 26(7), 931–934.
Nelson, K. M., Simoni, J. M., Morrison, D. M., George, W. H., Leickly, E., Lengua, L. J., & Hawes, S. E. (2014b). Sexually explicit online media and sexual risk among men who have sex with men in the United States. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 833–843.
Nichols, J. S. (2011). Let’s talk about sex blog. Retrieved June 8, 2014 from http://ltasex.info/home/2011/4/25/paul-morris-treasure-island-medias-maverick-sets-the-record.html.
Paul, B. (2009). Predicting internet pornography use and arousal: The role of individual difference variables. Journal of Sex Research, 46(4), 344–357.
Paul, B., & Shim, J. W. (2008). Gender, sexual affect, and motivations for internet pornography use. International Journal of Sexual Health, 20, 187–199.
Perrin, P. C., Madanat, H. N., Barnes, M. D., Carolan, A., Clark, R. B., Ivins, N., … Williams, P. N. (2008). Health education’s role in framing pornography as a public health issue: Local and national strategies with international implications. Promotion and Education, 15(1), 11–18.
Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2011a). The influence of sexually explicit material on sexual risk behavior: A comparison of adolescents and adults. Journal of Health Communication, 16, 750–765.
Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2011b). The use of sexually explicit internet material and its antecedents: A longitudinal comparison of adolescents and adults. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 1015–1025.
Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2012). Do questions about watching internet pornography make people watch internet pornography? A comparison between adolescents and adults. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 24(3), 400–410.
Rosser, B. R. S., Grey, J. A., Wilkerson, J. M., Iantaffi, A., Brady, S. S., Smolenski, D. J., & Horvath, K. J. (2012). A commentary on the role of sexually explicit media (SEM) in the transmission and prevention of HIV among men who have sex with men (MSM). AIDS and Behavior, 16(6), 1373–1381.
Rosser, B. S., Smolenski, D. J., Erickson, D., Iantaffi, A., Brady, S. S., Grey, J. A., … Wilkerson, J. M. (2013). The effects of gay sexually explicit media on the HIV risk behavior of men who have sex with men. AIDS and Behavior, 17, 1488–1498.
Salmon, C., & Diamond, A. (2012). Evolutionary perspectives on the content analysis of heterosexual and homosexual pornography. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 6(2), 193–202.
Schnarrs, P. W., Dodge, B., Reece, M., Goncalves, G., Martinez, O., Pol, B. V., … Fortenberry, J. D. (2012). Subjective sexual experiences of behaviorally bisexual men in the midwestern United States: Sexual attraction, sexual behaviors and condom use. Journal of Bisexuality, 12, 246–282.
Schrimshaw, E. W., Antebi-Gruszka, N., & Downing, M. J., Jr. (2016a). Viewing of internet-based sexually explicit media as a risk factor for condomless anal sex among men who have sex with men in four U.S. cities. PLoS One, 11, e0154439.
Schrimshaw, E. W., Downing, M. J., Jr., & Cohn, D. J. (2016b). Reasons for non-disclosure of sexual orientation among behaviorally bisexual men: Non-disclosure as stigma management. Archives of Sexual Behavior. doi:10.1007/s10508-016-0762-y.
Schrimshaw, E. W., Downing, M. J., Jr., & Siegel, K. (2013a). Sexual venue selection and strategies for concealment of same-sex behavior among non-disclosing men who have sex with men and women. Journal of Homosexuality, 60, 120–145.
Schrimshaw, E. W., Siegel, K., Downing, M. J., Jr., & Parsons, J. T. (2013b). Disclosure and concealment of sexual orientation and the mental health of non-gay-identified, behaviorally bisexual men. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 81, 141–153.
Short, M. B., Black, L., Smith, A. H., Wetterneck, C. T., & Wells, D. E. (2012). A review of internet pornography use research: Methodology and content from the past 10 years. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15, 13–23.
Stein, D., Silvera, R., Hagerty, R., & Marmor, M. (2012). Viewing pornography depicting unprotected anal intercourse: Are there implications for HIV prevention among men who have sex with men? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41, 411–419.
Štulhofer, A., Buško, V., & Landripet, I. (2010). Pornography, sexual socialization, and satisfaction among young men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 168–178.
Sun, C., Bridges, A., Johnason, J., & Ezzell, M. (2016). Pornography and the male sexual script: An analysis of consumption and sexual relations. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45(4), 983–994.
Traeen, B., & Daneback, K. (2013). The use of pornography and sexual behaviour among Norwegian men and women of differing sexual orientation. Sexologies, 22, e41–e48.
Traeen, B., Nilsen, T. S., & Stigum, H. (2006). Use of pornography in traditional media and on the internet in Norway. Journal of Sex Research, 43, 245–254.
TrafficJunky Media Kit. (2015). Retrieved May 10, 2016 from http://www.trafficjunky.net.
Weinberg, M. S., Williams, C. J., Kleiner, S., & Irizarry, Y. (2010). Pornography, normalization, and empowerment. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 1389–1401.
Wilkerson, J. M., Iantaffi, A., Smolenski, D. J., Brady, S. S., Horvath, K. J., Grey, J. A., & Rosser, B. R. S. (2012). The SEM risk behavior (SRB) model: A new conceptual model of how pornography influences the sexual intentions and HIV risk behavior of MSM. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 27(3), 217–230.
Wright, P. J. (2013). U.S. males and pornography, 1973–2010: Consumption, predictors, correlates. Journal of Sex Research, 50, 60–71.
Wright, P. J., & Tokunaga, R. S. (2016). Men’s objectifying media consumption, objectification of women, and attitudes supportive of violence against women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45, 955–964.
Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., & Kraus, A. (2016). Consumption of pornography, perceived peer norms, and condomless sex. Health Communication, 31(8), 954–963.
Conflict of interest
This research was supported by a grant from the Foundation for the Scientific Study of Sexuality to Martin J. Downing, Jr., Ph.D. (no award number provided). The authors declare that they have no other conflicts of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
About this article
Cite this article
Downing, M.J., Schrimshaw, E.W., Scheinmann, R. et al. Sexually Explicit Media Use by Sexual Identity: A Comparative Analysis of Gay, Bisexual, and Heterosexual Men in the United States. Arch Sex Behav 46, 1763–1776 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0837-9
- Sexually explicit media
- Sexual identity
- Sexual orientation