fbpx Skip to main content
Blog

Youth Who View Porn are More Likely to Hold False Beliefs About Sex

This study examined U.S. youth porn consumption, porn dependency, and belief in a variety of notions contradicted by sexological science.

By October 22, 2021No Comments

Decades of studies from respected academic institutions, have demonstrated significant impacts of porn consumption for individuals, relationships, and society. "What’s the Research" aims to shed light on the expanding field of academic resources that showcase porn’s harms in a variety of ways. Below are selected excerpts from published studies on this issue.

The full study can be accessed here.

Pornography vs. sexual science: The role of pornography use and dependency in U.S. teenagers’ sexual illiteracy

Authors: Paul J. Wright, Robert S. Tokunaga, Debby Herbenick, and Bryant Paul
Published: October 2021

Peer-Reviewed Journal: Communication Monographs

Abstract

This study examined U.S. adolescents’ pornography consumption, pornography dependency, and belief in a variety of notions contradicted by basic sexological science.

Data were from 595 youth aged 14–18 who participated in a population-based probability survey. Consistent with the sexual script acquisition, activation, application model (3AM) of sexual media socialization, adolescents who had viewed pornography were more likely to hold erroneous sexual beliefs than adolescents who had not viewed pornography. Also consistent with the 3AM, more frequent pornography consumption and higher levels of pornography dependency were independently associated with holding erroneous beliefs about sex among pornography consumers.

Counter to theoretical expectations, frequency of pornography consumption did not interact with pornography dependency in the prediction of erroneous sexual beliefs.

Background

Pornography scholars have observed a number of recurrent messages about sex in popular, commonly consumed pornography (Ainsworth-Masiello & Evans, 2019; Bridges et al., 2010; Dawson et al., 2020; Dines, 2010; Klaassen & Peter, 2015; Rothman et al., 2020).

The following messages, in particular, have been noted: women have orgasms relatively easily through vaginal intercourse; it is common for women to “squirt” fluids when they have orgasms; men must have large penises to satisfy their partners; men are able to engage in sustained thrusting without climaxing in order to prolong intercourse for an extended period of time; most women enjoy anal sex; men prefer multiple nonexclusive sexual encounters to a committed relationship and enjoy romantic sex much less than women do; rough sex is common (e.g., sex involving gagging, spanking, and insults), whereas more gentle sex is comparatively rare (e.g., sex involving kissing, hugging, and complements).

Each of these messages is incorrect according to basic human sexuality research. Most women do not experience orgasms easily through vaginal intercourse (Herbenick et al., 2018; Shirazi et al., 2018). Few women “squirt” when orgasming (Pastor, 2013; Pastor & Chimel, 2017; Salama et al., 2015). Sexual satisfaction during sex with men is not dependent on penis size (Lever et al., 2006; Stulhofer, 2006). Intercourse involving males does not usually last very long prior to ejaculation (Miller & Byers, 2004). Most women do not enjoy anal sex (Herbenick et al., 2017). Men are much more likely to have monogamous sex than sex with casual partners (Levine et al., 2018) and enjoy romantic sex as much as women do (Herbenick et al., 2017). Finally, affectionate sex is more common and preferred than rough sex (Herbenick et al., 2017).

In sum, pornography sends many fantastical messages about sex that are factually incorrect.

Methods

The data for the present paper came from The National Survey of Pornography Use, Relationships, and Sexual Socialization (NSPRSS), a population-based probability survey of Americans aged 14–60 (Herbenick et al., 2020)… The NSPRSS adolescent sub-sample included 614 youth. Of these, 595 responded to the sexual belief items and were the focus of the present analysis.

They spanned 48 states, ranged in age from 14 to 18, and were 15.96 years old on average (SD = 1.39). White youth comprised 55.40% of the sample, whereas 44.60% were youth of color. Female youth comprised 50.70% of the sample, whereas 49.30% were male youth. Heterosexual youth comprised 94.50% of the sample, whereas 5.50% were sexually diverse (i.e., LGB+).

Results

The more dependent adolescents were on pornography for sexual learning, the more erroneous sexual beliefs they held (r = .30, p < .01)… The more frequently adolescents consumed pornography, the more erroneous sexual beliefs they held (r = .22, p < .01)…

Adolescents who had seen pornography were more likely to hold erroneous beliefs about sex than adolescents who had not seen pornography (r = .29, p < .01)… The association between pornography dependency and erroneous sexual beliefs was stronger for sexually inexperienced youth, but sexually experienced youth were more likely to already hold erroneous sexual beliefs.

Further, precocious sexual experience was correlated with dependency on pornography for sexual learning, and path analysis indicated that the association between pornography dependency and erroneous sexual beliefs was mediated by early sexual experience.

Taken together, these correlations are inconsistent with the notion that youth discard the erroneous sexual beliefs they have learned from pornography as they gain experience with sex. Rather, they suggest that adolescents who are dependent on pornography for sexual learning are more likely to precociously enact sexual scripts they have observed in pornography, which reinforces the erroneous sexual beliefs they acquired from pornography in the first place and lessons the measurable impact of subsequent pornography consumption.

The full study can be accessed here.

Truth About Porn