Does watching pornography reduce or otherwise affect the desire of men to have actual sex?

This claim has been made by numerous people, including Naomi Wolf in The Porn Myth.

The broader claim is often that pornography is addictive for men, an arms race where real women can't compete with the physical features of the women of pornography, nor the apparently endless sexual appetites of these on-screen women for increasingly male-dominant/female-submissive relations. If I can use a quote from Naomi Wolf's article:

“For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women. Today, real naked women are just bad porn.”

What evidence is there of the actual effect of pornography on men?


1 Answer 1


This is actually pretty hard to research because of the huge pile of papers that has been touching this subject in one way or another, but also because of paywalls. I haven't found anything that directly answers your question, but I have found a lot of things about how pornographic consumption (possibly) influences our attitudes and behavior.

Processes Underlying the Effects of Adolescents’ Use of Sexually Explicit Internet Material: The Role of Perceived Realism would be interesting to dig into if it wasn't paywalled:

Although research has repeatedly demonstrated a link between adolescents’ exposure to sexually explicit Internet material (SEIM) and sexual attitudes, the processes underlying this association are not well understood. [ .. ]

Self-Perceived Effects of Pornography Consumption reports on self-perceived influences from hardcore pornography among the Danish consumers (Denmark was supposedly the first country to legalize pornography in 1969):

The self-perceived effects of “hardcore” pornography consumption were studied in a large representative sample of young adult Danish men and women aged 18–30. [ .. ] we conclude that the overall findings suggest that many young Danish adults believe that pornography has had primarily a positive effect on various aspects of their lives.

Associations Between Online Pornography and Sexual Behavior Among Adolescents: Myth or Reality? also noted that the only change in behavior was men who watch porn were less likely to use a condom:

Risky sexual behaviors were not associated with online pornography exposure in any of the groups, except that males who were exposed (deliberately or not) had higher odds of not having used a condom at last intercourse. Bi/homosexual orientation and Internet use parameters were not associated either. Additionally, males in the wanted exposure group were more likely to be sensation-seekers. On the other hand, exposed girls were more likely to be students, higher sensation-seekers, early maturers, and to have a highly educated father. We conclude that pornography exposure is not associated with risky sexual behaviors and that the willingness of exposure does not seem to have an impact on risky sexual behaviors among adolescents.

Another Danish study Gender Differences in Pornography Consumption among Young Heterosexual Danish Adults comments on correlations with pornographic consumption from a sample of 688 Danes:

[ .. ] Male gender, higher frequency of masturbation, lower age at first exposure, and younger age were found to account for 48.8% of the total variance of pornography consumption. [ .. ]

In summary there's lots of differences in behavior between those that consume porn and those that don't, though they seem to be largely positive (although I didn't bother reading the papers related to crime.)

What I don't understand with the claim you quotes is why she is singling out men, when no small portion of women are exposed to porn (voluntarily and involuntarily) as well.

I also don't understand why she is singling out porn when we are all ugly hobos compared to movie stars. Moreso if we can't detach fiction from reality, wouldn't we all walk around in life constantly disappointed at how the actual world is uglier than on TV?

I might revisit this later, because the volume of research available on this is to much to go through in one sitting.


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