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Pornography Use and Sexual Health among Same-Sex and Mixed-Sex Couples: An Event-Level Dyadic Analysis

Abstract

A large number of partnered individuals regularly use or are in a relationship with someone who uses pornography. However, knowledge concerning the association between pornography use and partnered sexual health—sexual satisfaction, distress, and function—is fragmentary. The current study used an event-level dyadic design to examine the associations between pornography use and sexual satisfaction, distress, and function on days when partnered sexual activity occurred. A convenience sample of 217 couples (Mage = 30.2; SD = 8.3; 72 same-sex couples) completed a short survey on days of sexual activity with their partner, over a 35-day period. Self-report measures included questions about daily pornography use and masturbation as well as daily sexual satisfaction, distress, and function. Using pornography on days of partnered sexual activity was reported by half of the couples. An individual’s solitary pornography use on days of partnered sexual activity was related to their partner’s higher sexual distress and, for women’s use only, to their own higher quality of lubrication, compared to sex days without solitary pornography use. There was no evidence of an association between pornography use on sex days, whether alone or with the partner, and all other aspects of sexual health including sexual satisfaction. Our findings capture the complexity of the associations between pornography and sexual health. Men and women’s pornography use may create idealized fantasies around appearance and performance, which may lead the partner to feel distressed about their sex life. Women’s pornography use might facilitate their sexual responsiveness during partnered sexual activity.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Jean-François Jodouin, Kathleen Merwin, Kathy Petite, and Mylène Desrosiers for their assistance with data collection.

Funding

This study was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to Marie-Pier Vaillancourt-Morel and a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC; Grant No. 435-2016-0668) to Sophie Bergeron. Sophie Bergeron is supported by a Canada Research Chair, and Natalie O. Rosen is supported by a New Investigator Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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Correspondence to Marie-Pier Vaillancourt-Morel.

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The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Ethical approval

This study was performed in line with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. Approval was granted by the Université de Montréal and Dalhousie University's Institutional Review Boards (January 27, 2017/No. CERAS-2016-17-232-D and No. 2017-4291).

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Vaillancourt-Morel, MP., Rosen, N.O., Štulhofer, A. et al. Pornography Use and Sexual Health among Same-Sex and Mixed-Sex Couples: An Event-Level Dyadic Analysis. Arch Sex Behav 50, 667–681 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01839-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01839-z

Keywords

  • Pornography use
  • Sexual health
  • Partnered sexuality
  • Dyadic daily diaries