With the emergence of rapidly expanding access to sexually explicit materials, research concerning pornography prevalence, pornography content, pornography users, and pornography effects has increased steadily among scientists and clinicians. Findings in this research area are often inconsistent and controversial.
The current discussion aims to assist scientists and clinicians to "read pornography-that is, pornography research-" from an appropriately rigorous scientific perspective, so that we may approach work in this area with a clearer understanding of the often contested evidence base and a clearer understanding of what science can, and cannot, tell us, at present, about pornography prevalence, content, users, and effects.
Discussion focuses on the critical implications, for scientific validity and clinical application, of variations in research design, participant sampling, conceptual and operational definitions of "pornography" and "use," measurement of sexually violent content, and measurement of pornography use effects.
Failure to acknowledge the implications of research design limitations and heterogeneity of conceptual and operational definitions of pornography have resulted in an inconsistent and contested evidence base in this area.
Clinicians must rigorously evaluate the published literature concerning pornography, according to classical principles of scientific research, before clinical application of diverse and inconsistent research claims.
Strength & limitations:
This analysis brings to bear classic scientific considerations in attempting to strengthen critical reading and research contributions in the area of pornography prevalence, content, users, correlates, and effects. Many of the assertions and suggestions contained in this discussion await empirical verification.
Rigorous application of basic scientific research principles should guide the evaluation and conduct of research concerning pornography prevalence, content, users, covariates, and effects. Fisher WA, Kohut T. Reading Pornography: Methodological Considerations in Evaluating Pornography Research. J Sex Med 2019;XX:XXX-XXX.