Viewing Sexually Explicit Media and Its Association with Mental Health Among Gay and Bisexual Men Across the U.S.

Abstract

Gay and bisexual men (GBM) have reported viewing significantly more sexually explicit media (SEM) than heterosexual men. There is evidence that viewing greater amounts of SEM may result in more negative body attitude and negative affect. However, no studies have examined these variables within the same model. A national sample of 1071 HIV-negative GBM in the U.S. participating in a larger study completed an online survey, which included measures of SEM consumption, male body attitudes, anxiety, and depression. Participants reported viewing 3 h of SEM per week, on average, and 96% of participants reported recently viewing at least some SEM. Greater consumption of SEM was directly related to more negative body attitude and both depressive and anxious symptomology. There was also a significant indirect effect of SEM consumption on depressive and anxious symptomology through body attitude. These findings highlight the relevance of both SEM on body image and negative affect along with the role body image plays in anxiety and depression outcomes for GBM. They also indicate a potential role for body image in explaining the co-occurrence of SEM consumption and negative affect. For interventions looking to alleviate negative affect for GBM, it may be important to address SEM consumption and body image as they are shown to be associated with both anxious and depressive symptomology.

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Acknowledgements

One Thousand Strong was funded by a research grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01 DA036466: Jeffrey T. Parsons and Christian Grov, MPIs). H. Jonathon Rendina was funded by a career development award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (K01-DA039030). Special thanks to the other members of the One Thousand Strong study team: Tyrel Starks, Ana Ventuneac, Mark Pawson, Andrew Cortopassi, Ruben Jimenez, Chloe Mirzayi, Brett Millar, and Raymond Moody, as well as other staff from the Center for HIV/AIDS Educational Studies and Training: Chris Hietikko, Brian Salfas, Doug Keeler, Chris Murphy, and Carlos Ponton. Thank you to the staff at Community Marketing, Inc.: David Paisley, Heather Torch, and Thomas Roth. Finally, a special thanks to Jeffrey Schulden at NIDA. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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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 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in this study.

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Whitfield, T.H.F., Rendina, H.J., Grov, C. et al. Viewing Sexually Explicit Media and Its Association with Mental Health Among Gay and Bisexual Men Across the U.S.. Arch Sex Behav 47, 1163–1172 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-017-1045-y

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Keywords

  • Sexually explicit media
  • Gay and bisexual men
  • Body attitude
  • Negative affect
  • Sexual orientation