Use of online pornography doesn't affect sexual satisfaction or mental well-being, claims study - Times of India


The usage of pornography doesn’t impact assessment of the self or others, says new research. The findings of this research were published in Sexual and Relationship Therapy.

The use of online sexually explicit material (oSEM) has increased which has also given rise to the concern of how it influences mental well-being. Despite the increased interest, scientific conclusions still remain inconsistent. There are some studies that have reported a connection between oSEM-use as well as negative outcomes like reduced sexual satisfaction, increased sexist attitudes and reduced body satisfaction. Other studies point out positive outcomes like improved sexual satisfaction.

Study author Ruth Charig and her team wanted to explore the topic through the lens of the Differential Susceptibility to Media Effects Model (DSMM). They wanted to do this in order to clarify the relationship between mental health outcomes and oSEM-use.

The researchers say, “One of the central propositions of the DSMM is the notion of media effects being indirect: i.e., that individual response-states (such as cognitive appraisals of the media) mediate the relationship between media-exposure and effects.”

A fluctuation that can influence a person’s susceptibility to the media is perceived realism. In this case, the realistic portrayal of sexual behavior depends on the extent to which a person believes oSEM. This is why the authors went on to inspect perceived realism as a potential mediator.

252 heterosexual men and women were questioned in an online survey on the frequency of their usage of online pornography. The survey even estimated their mental well-being, body satisfaction, sexist attitudes towards men, sexist attitudes towards men and sexual satisfaction.

The first results showed 79% of participants had used oSEM in the last three months. 85% of respondents used oSEM in their lifetime. As much as 80% of people reported that they believed the sex portrayed in oSEM is “unrealistic” or “somewhat unrealistic”.

These results also revealed that there is no significant relationship between oSEM-use and mental well-being. body satisfaction, sexual satisfaction or sexism. Moreover, the analysis also found no evidence for the mediating role of perceived realism in the correlation between oSEM-use and any of the mentioned outcomes.

Researchers say, “These results arguably provide some evidence that the correlates of normative oSEM-use may not be as pervasive or significant as some literature would have us believe. In our sample, there was little association between oSEM-use and important evaluations of self (in terms of sexual and body satisfaction, and mental well-being) or others (in terms of sexist attitudes), despite posited links.”

A limitation of this study was that its final sample didn’t include adults of atypical gender or other sexual identities. The suggestion by researchers says that future studies must include diversity in gender groups in order to offer a more clear vision of the study.

“Continuing to understand the positive uses and influences of oSEM through research may further challenge the cultural discourses focused on harm, and potentially contribute to healthier and more fulfilling sex lives. If evidence suggests that these stimuli are not inherently/unconditionally harmful, there may be more scope to explore potential beneficial applications or adjunctive uses within clinical settings,” the authors suggested implications for their findings.

The study, “A lack of association between online pornography exposure, sexual functioning, and mental well-being”, was authored by Ruth Charig, Nima G. Moghaddam, David L. Dawson, Hannah L. Merdian, and Roshan das Nair.



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