Pornography Problems Due to Moral Incongruence: An Integrative Model with a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Abstract

The notion of problematic pornography use remains contentious in both academic and popular literature. Although the mental health community at large is divided as to the addictive versus non-addictive nature of Internet pornography, substantial numbers of individuals report “feeling” as if their use of Internet pornography is problematic. The present work seeks to construct a model related to problematic pornography use that is clearly derived from empirical literature and that provides directions to be tested in future research. The focus of the present work is on those perceptions as they relate to the overarching experience of moral incongruence in pornography use, which is generally thought of as the experience of having one’s behaviors be inconsistent with one’s beliefs. To this end, we put forth a model of pornography problems due to moral incongruence. Within this model, we describe how pornography-related problems—particularly feelings of addiction to pornography—may be, in many cases, better construed as functions of discrepancies—moral incongruence—between pornography-related beliefs and pornography-related behaviors. A systematic review of literature and meta-analysis is conducted in order to evaluate support for this model, and the implications of this model for research and clinical practice are discussed.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    A diverse array of terms may refer to religiousness. For example, terms such as religiosity, religiousness, spiritual, and spirituality are all often encountered in psychological literature, with each potentially referring to different constructs (Hill et al., 2000; Oman, 2013; Pargament, 1999). Indeed, the psychology of religion and spirituality is actually an entire subfield of psychology more broadly, one that is concerned with the nuances of religion and spirituality (Hill et al., 2000; Hill & Pargament, 2003; Pargament, 1999). As such, in some domains of psychological literature, there are incredibly detailed and nuanced discussions of the precise definitions of religion or spirituality (for a review, see Hill & Pargament, 2003). Even with such nuances, such careful considerations of how religiousness is defined are not often found in academic considerations of pornography use or related problems. Given these factors, the studies reviewed herein most often conceptualize religiousness as some combination of the following: religious belief salience (i.e., how important religious belief is), religious participation (i.e., engagement in religious activities), religious affiliation (i.e., faith or denominational identity), or belief in god.

  2. 2.

    As previously explained, early work in this area focused on perceived problems associated with use (rather than objective measures of problematic pornography use more broadly), often using the Cyber-Pornography Use Inventory (Grubbs et al., 2010) and its later adaptation the Cyber-Pornography Use Inventory-9 (CPUI-9; Grubbs, Volk, Exline, & Pargament, 2015d). The CPUI-9 was the first instrument to specifically articulate a primary objective measuring perceived (as opposed to actual) problems associated with pornography use. However, as has been repeatedly highlighted in various studies, whereas the CPUI-9 may be the only inventory to explicitly state an intention of measuring perceptions of pornography-related problems, the vast majority of problematic pornography use inventories rely on self-reported perceptions of loss of control, disruption, and inability to self-regulate (for reviews, see: Grubbs et al., 2017b; Hook, Hook, Davis, Worthington Jr., & Penberthy, 2010; Womack, Hook, Ramos, Davis, & Penberthy, 2013). In this sense, then, to the extent that any measure of problematic pornography use relies primarily on self-reported feelings of compulsivity, disruption, dysregulation, preoccupation, or loss of control, that measure is assessing perceptions of problems associated with pornography use. In this vein, below we review studies that have made use of the CPUI-9, the Sexual Addiction Screening Test–Revised (Carnes, Green, & Carnes, 2010), a pornography-specific version of the Kalichman Sexual Compulsivity Scale (Kalichman & Rompa, 1995; Leonhardt, Willoughby, & Young-Petersen, 2018), and the Cyberporn Compulsivity Scale (Abell, Steenbergh, & Boivin, 2006).

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Grubbs, J.B., Perry, S.L., Wilt, J.A. et al. Pornography Problems Due to Moral Incongruence: An Integrative Model with a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Arch Sex Behav 48, 397–415 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-018-1248-x

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Keywords

  • Pornography
  • Addiction
  • Morality
  • Compulsive sexual behavior
  • Religion
  • ICD-11
  • DSM-5