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Consequences of using pornographic material.


From photography to red-light cinema, from VHS to smartphones, the pornographic world literally becomes at your fingertips. The literature describes pornography as widely accessible, easily enjoyed, anonymous, and increasingly socially accepted.

Most of the research-psychological and otherwise-to date has focused on the more problematic aspects of pornography use, especially for adolescents and young adults, but it also does not exclude outcome positive such as sexual gratification, relief from boredom, and at the educational level, greater understanding and discovery of one’s sexual identity and exploration of new sexual activities (McCormack & Wignall, 2017).

In research based on self-perceptions of hardcore pornography use, it was found that most participants, report more positive than negative effects in several areas: increased knowledge about sex, sexual attitudes, sex life, and increased satisfaction in life in general.

Despite these findings, there is a far more robust strand of research that attributes negative effects and consequences to pornography. Those who use pornographic material may fail to distinguish pornographic content with real-life sexual interactions, assimilate new and unrealistic beliefs about sexuality, have more intrusive and obsessive thoughts not only about pornography but also about offline sexuality, more risky behaviors, and more permissive attitudes, including unsafe sex and more sexual partners. Finally, pornography could also negatively affect self-perception, body image, and sexual satisfaction.

Donevan & Mattebo ‘s (2017) research, identified that out of a sample of 371 male 18-year-olds, 69% said they were average users, while 11% were regular (everyday) users.
The most worrisome consequences emerge in the latter: lower age of sexual debut, risky sexual behavior, increased preoccupation with sexuality, and high risk of addiction to sexually explicit material. In addition, 25.1% of individuals who consume pornography more than once a week exhibit at least one abnormal sexual response following a medical examination.

Thus, the literature describes problematic effects regarding attitudes, beliefs and behaviors related to sexuality, addiction and compulsion, self-perception, identity and gender stereotypes. While research emphasizes the negative aspects of pornography, especially since the spread of the Internet, it is not possible to condemn this type of material without taking into account the various positive implications instead cited in other research, albeit little.

Of interest is the contribution of a recent study (Vaillancourt-Morel et al., 2017) that divides the use of cyberpornography(i.e., online pornography) into distinct dimensions. The authors’ goal is to specify that the type of use and the emotional state of the user appear to be determinants on different problematic outcomes .
The sample of 830 participants, aged 18 to 78, was asked to answer a battery of five questionnaires.

  • The first questionnaire, the Cyber Pornography Use Inventory, identifies three dimensions of pornography use: the compulsive aspect, the type of actions taken to access pornographic material, and finally the type of emotional distress related to the use of pornographic material.
  • The second tool is the Global Measure of Sexual Satisfaction, which assesses one’s overall satisfaction with one’s sex life.
  • This is followed by the questionnaire created specifically for sexual compulsivity, the Sexual Compulsivity Scale, which includes difficulties mastering one’s intrusive thoughts, concerns, or behaviors and the effects these have in everyday life.
  • The fourth tool, the Sexual Avoidance Subscale consists of ten questions investigating avoidance of sexual situations and interactions, and finally the last part of the questionnaire is theArizona Sexual Experience Scalewhich investigates possible sexual dysfunction that occurred in the seven days prior to completion: ability to have an erection, ability to experience sexual arousal, achievement of orgasm, and possible pain during intercourse.

The results allow the sample to be divided into 3 clusters:

  • recreational users (75.5%);
  • Highly stressed (distressed) but not compulsive (12.7%);
  • compulsive (11.8%).

Especially clinically important is the second group of subjects, who viewing online pornography experience great emotional stress (shame and self-loathing, punitive feelings), which in turn is associated with less compulsion and greater avoidance and sexual dysfunction.

The research shows how cyberpornography can thus be conceptualized based on a continuum, ranging from recreational use to compulsive use of sexually explicit material online. Finally, the authors suggest that in both scientific research and clinical practice, the consequences ofonline pornography use should be sought not only in the duration or type of material viewed, but also in the moral, social and personality characteristics of individual users.


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