Porn Sex Versus Real Sex: How Sexually Explicit Material Shapes Our Understanding of Sexual Anatomy, Physiology, and Behaviour

Abstract

Given that consumption of sexually explicit material (SEM) and sexual behaviour are inextricably linked, the purpose of this study was to determine whether the frequency of SEM consumption predicts knowledge of sexual human anatomy, physiology, and typically practiced sexual behaviour. A secondary purpose was to investigate self-perceived effects of SEM consumption and whether participants report SEM as a positive or negative contributor to various aspects of life. Using a modified version of the Pornography Consumption Questionnaire and the Falsification Anatomy Questionnaire, we determined that contrary to expectations, frequency of SEM exposure did not contribute to inaccurate knowledge of sexual anatomy, physiology, and behaviour. Rather, the opposite relationship was found. However, in concert with previous literature, participants reported greater positive self-perceived effects of SEM consumption than negative effects.

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Correspondence to Cory L. Pedersen.

Appendices

Appendix 1: FAQ Questionnaire (Hesse 2015)

Please indicate the extent to which you disagree or agree with each statement below. Remember, we are only interested in your thoughts and opinions.

1. The average breast is cup size D Strongly agree
(1)
Agree
(2)
Disagree
(3)
Strongly disagree
(4)
2. The average penis is 7 inches in length Strongly agree
(1)
Agree
(2)
Disagree
(3)
Strongly disagree
(4)
3. Women orgasm every time they have vaginal sex Strongly agree
(1)
Agree
(2)
Disagree
(3)
Strongly disagree
(4)
4. Most women remove their pubic hair entirely Strongly agree
(1)
Agree
(2)
Disagree
(3)
Strongly disagree
(4)
5. Women’s vaginas look relatively the same Strongly agree
(1)
Agree
(2)
Disagree
(3)
Strongly disagree
(4)
6. Most women are easily aroused and ready for sex immediately Strongly agree
(1)
Agree
(2)
Disagree
(3)
Strongly disagree
(4)
7. Men do not generally last long while having sex Strongly agree
(1)
Agree
(2)
Disagree
(3)
Strongly disagree
(4)
8. Most women routinely engage in same-gender sexual behavior (e.g., girl-on-girl) Strongly agree
(1)
Agree
(2)
Disagree
(3)
Strongly disagree
(4)
9. Most women enjoy swallowing semen Strongly agree
(1)
Agree
(2)
Disagree
(3)
Strongly disagree
(4)
10. Sexual intercourse usually involves anal sex Strongly agree
(1)
Agree
(2)
Disagree
(3)
Strongly disagree
(4)
11. It is common for sex to involve more than two people (e.g., threesomes) Strongly agree
(1)
Agree
(2)
Disagree
(3)
Strongly disagree
(4)

Appendix 2: Modified Porn Consumption Questionnaire (MPCQ; Hald 2006)

This questionnaire contains questions about pornography and sexuality. The questionnaire is part of a research project which has been approved by both The Danish National Committee on Biomedical Research Ethics and the Danish Data Protection Agency.

Although the questions may sometimes seem very personal, please answer as honestly as possible. Please remember that you will never be held responsible for your answers or confronted with them again. In other words, your answers are 100% confidential and will be used for research only.

The following definition should be referred to whenever the term “pornography” is used in the following questions. Pornography refers to any kind of material that has:
 1. The intention of creating or increasing sexual emotions or sexual thoughts and at the same time contains
 2. Exposure or descriptions of sexual organs and involves
 3. Clear and obvious sexual acts (e.g., vaginal sex, oral sex, anal sex, masturbation, etc.)
Materials such as pinup girls, Playboy/Playgirl, various ads, etc. do not contain: “clear and obvious sexual acts” and are therefore NOT considered pornography.
1. Have you ever been exposed to pornography Yes No
2. Has your exposure to pornography been during the past 12 months? Yes No
3. Has your exposure to pornography been during the past 6 months? Yes No
4. Has your exposure to pornography been during the past month? Yes No
5. Has your exposure to pornography been during the past week? Yes No
6. Has your exposure to pornography been during the past 48 h? Yes No
7. Has your exposure to pornography been during the past 24 h? Yes No
  1. 8.

    Age at first exposure (approximately)? (years)

  2. 9.

    On average, how much time per week have you spent watching some kind of pornography over the last 6 months? Per week: _______hours and _______minutes

  3. 10.

    On average, how often have you watched pornographic materials during the last 6 months?

Never Less than once a month 1–2 times a month 1–2 times a week 3–5 times a week More than 5 times a week
  1. 11.

    How many different people have you had vaginal intercourse with?

None 1–2 3–4 5–6 7–8 9–10 11–12 13–14 15–16 17–18 19–20 21 or more
  1. 12.

    How many different people have you had anal intercourse with?

None 1–2 3–4 5–6 7–8 9––10 11–12 13–14 15–16 17–18 19–20 21 or more
  1. 13.

    How many different people have you had Oral Sex with?

None 1–2 3–4 5–6 7–8 9–10 11–12 13–14 15–16 17–18 19–20 21 or more
  1. 14.

    How often do you masturbate?

Do not mastur-bate Once every 6 months or less Once every third month Once every second month Once a month Twice a month Once a week 2–3 times a week 4–5 times a week Once a day or more
  1. 15.

    How often, approximately, do you have sex, including intercourse?

Have not had sex including inter-course Once every 6 months or less Once every third month Once every second month Once a month Twice a month Once a week 2–3 times a week 4–5 times a week Once a day or more

Below is a series of questions. Please indicate your answer to each question using the following scale:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Not at all To a very small extent To a small extent To a moderate extent To a large extent To a very large extent To an extremely large extent
  1. 1.

    Has taught you new sexual techniques?

  2. 2.

    Has made you less tolerant towards sex?

  3. 3.

    Has influenced positively your outlook on sex?

  4. 4.

    Has adversely affected your views of the opposite gender?

  5. 5.

    Overall, has had a harmful effect on your life?

  6. 6.

    Overall, has been a negative supplement to your sex life?

  7. 7.

    Has led you to view the opposite gender more stereotypically?

  8. 8.

    Has added to your knowledge of vaginal sexual intercourse?

  9. 9.

    Has taught you something new about your sexual desires?

  10. 10.

    Has made you less satisfied with your life?

  11. 11.

    Overall, has made a valuable contribution to your life?

  12. 12.

    Overall, has improved your sex life?

  13. 13.

    Has reduced your sexual activities?

  14. 14.

    Has added to your knowledge of anal sex?

  15. 15.

    Has positively affected your view of the opposite gender?

  16. 16.

    Has added to your knowledge of sexual foreplay?

  17. 17.

    Has made your life more problematic?

  18. 18.

    Has made you more tolerant in relation to sex?

  19. 19.

    Has made you less sexually liberal?

  20. 20.

    Has made you more respectful towards the opposite gender?

  21. 21.

    Has made you experiment more in your sex life?

  22. 22.

    Overall, has made your sex life worse?

  23. 23.

    Has added to your knowledge of masturbation?

  24. 24.

    Has made you more content with your life?

  25. 25.

    Has reduced your quality of life?

  26. 26.

    Has had a negative influence on your attitudes toward sex?

  27. 27.

    Has increased your sexual activity?

  28. 28.

    Overall, has been a positive supplement to your sex life?

  29. 29.

    Has improved your knowledge of sex?

  30. 30.

    Has improved your quality of life?

  31. 31.

    Has had a positive influence on your attitudes toward sex?

  32. 32.

    Has adversely affected your outlook on sex?

  33. 33.

    Has added something positive to your sex life?

  34. 34.

    Has made you experiment less in your sex life?

  35. 35.

    Has made you less respectful towards the opposite gender?

  36. 36.

    Has made you friendlier towards the opposite gender?

  37. 37.

    Has adversely influenced your opinions of sex?

  38. 38.

    Has led you to view the opposite gender less stereotypically?

  39. 39.

    Has improved your knowledge of oral sex?

  40. 40.

    Has led to problems in your sex life?

  41. 41.

    Has given you more insight into your sexual fantasies?

  42. 42.

    Has made your life less problematic?

  43. 43.

    Has positively influenced your opinions of sex?

  44. 44.

    Has added something negative to your sex life?

  45. 45.

    Has made you more sexually liberal?

  46. 46.

    Generally, has given you performance anxiety when you are sexually active on your own (e.g., during masturbation)?

  47. 47.

    Generally, has given you performance anxiety when you are sexually active with others (e.g., during intercourse, oral sex, etc.)?

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Hesse, C., Pedersen, C.L. Porn Sex Versus Real Sex: How Sexually Explicit Material Shapes Our Understanding of Sexual Anatomy, Physiology, and Behaviour. Sexuality & Culture 21, 754–775 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-017-9413-2

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Keywords

  • Pornography
  • Consumption
  • Anatomy
  • Sexual behaviour