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A Meta-Analysis of Pornography Consumption and Actual Acts of Sexual Aggression in General Population Studies

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Whether pornography consumption is a reliable correlate of sexually aggressive behavior continues to be debated. Meta-analyses of experimental studies have found effects on aggressive behavior and attitudes. That pornography consumption correlates with aggressive attitudes in naturalistic studies has also been found. Yet, no meta-analysis has addressed the question motivating this body of work: Is pornography consumption correlated with committing actual acts of sexual aggression? 22 studies from 7 different countries were analyzed. Consumption was associated with sexual aggression in the United States and internationally, among males and females, and in cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. Associations were stronger for verbal than physical sexual aggression, although both were significant. The general pattern of results suggested that violent content may be an exacerbating factor.
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Journal of Communication ISSN 0021-9916
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
A Meta-Analysis of Pornography
Consumption and Actual Acts of Sexual
Aggression in General Population Studies
Paul J. Wright1, Robert S. Tokunaga2, & Ashley Kraus1
1 The Media School, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA
2 Department of Communicology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI 98816, USA
Whether pornography consumption is a reliable correlate of sexually aggressive behav-
ior continues to be debated. Meta-analyses of experimental studies have found eects
on aggressive behavior and attitudes. at pornography consumption correlates with
aggressive attitudes in naturalistic studies has also been found. Yet, no meta-analysis
has addressed the question motivating this body of work: Is pornography consumption
correlated with committing actual acts of sexual aggression? 22 studies from 7 dierent
countries were analyzed. Consumption was associated with sexual aggression in the
United States and internationally, among males and females, and in cross-sectional and
longitudinal studies. Associations were stronger for verbal than physical sexual aggression,
although both were signicant. e general pattern of results suggested that violent content
may be an exacerbating factor.
Keywords: Violence, Aggression, Pornography, Sexually Explicit Media, Meta-Analysis.
doi:10.1111/jcom.12201
Whether the consumption of pornography is associated with sexual aggression risk
has been the subject of decades of scholarly inquiry and multiple government investi-
gations. Rationales for why consuming pornography should, and should not, increase
the likelihood of sexual aggression have been put forward by numerous researchers.
Scholars who maintain that pornography is a risk factor point to theories of classi-
cal conditioning, operant learning, behavioral modeling, sexual scripting, construct
activation, and gendered power (see D’Abreu & Krahe, 2014; Kingston, Malamuth,
Fedoro, & Marshall, 2009; Seto et al., 2010). Scholars who maintain that pornog-
raphy reduces sexual aggression risk or that any eect is inconsequential argue for
masturbatory catharsis, that pornography must be violent to aect aggression and vio-
lent pornography is extremely rare, or that countervailing prosocial inuences dwarf
Corresponding author: Paul J. Wright; e-mail: paulwrig@indiana.edu
Journal of Communication 66 (2016) 183– 205 © 2015 International Communication Association 183
Pornography and Sexual Aggression P. J. Wright et al.
any possible aggression-promoting messages that appear in pornography (see Dia-
mond, Joziova, & Weiss, 2011; Ferguson & Hartley, 2009; Fisher & Grenier, 1994).
eformersetoftheorieswouldleadtothehypothesisthatpeoplewhoconsume
pornography are more likely to behave in sexually aggressive ways than people who do
not consume pornography or who less frequently consume pornography. e latter
set of assertions would lead to the hypothesis that people who consume pornography
areeitherlesslikelytobehaveinsexuallyaggressivewaysorareindistinguishable
in terms of sexual aggression from people who do not consume pornography or
who less frequently consume pornography. To better understand which hypothesis
provides a better match to the accumulated research ndings, this article reports a
meta-analysis of studies correlating direct measures of pornography consumption
with direct measures of sexual aggression in general population studies. Follow-
ing Hald, Malamuth, and Yuen’s (2010) recent meta-analysis of aggression-related
attitudes, pornography is dened as media featuring nudity and explicit sexual acts
designed to arouse the consumer.
Previous meta-analyses
One tactic for investigating whether pornography impacts sexual aggression is to
compare individuals who have and have not been charged with sexual oending. In a
meta-analysis of eight studies, Seto and Lalumiere (2010) found that male adolescent
sex oenders reported more exposure to sex or pornography than male adolescent
nonsex oenders. Allen, D’Alessio, and Emmers-Sommer’s (1999) meta-analysis
included adult sex oenders and assessed both the use of and arousal to pornography.
Sexoendersscoredslightlyhigherthannonoendersacross13studiesthatassessed
some indicator of use. A larger dierence was found across the 32 studies that
assessed sexual arousal, with sex oenders showing more arousal to pornography
than nonoenders.
While sex oender studies are suggestive, they assume that individuals who
have not been charged with a sexual oense are sexually nonaggressive. Because
most sexual assaults go unreported and a minority of reported sexual assaults lead
to arrests, equating a lack of formal charges with a lack of sexual aggressiveness is
problematic (Planty, Langton, Krebs, Berzofsky, & Smiley-McDonald, 2013; Rape
Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN), 2015). Sex oender studies also conate
charges with actual oenses. For these reasons, Malamuth, Addison, and Koss (2000)
argued that studies on pornography and sexually aggressive behavior in general
population samples would be an important contribution to the literature, but noted
that as of their writing, no meta-analysis had been conducted because of a paucity
of studies.
General population studies that have been meta-analyzed involve (a) the eects
of experimental exposure to pornography on nonsexual aggression and attitudes
supportive of violence (ASV) and (b) naturalistic (i.e., self-selected) pornography
consumption and ASV. Allen, D’Alessio, and Brezgel (1995a) meta-analyzed 33
experiments and found that pornography exposure increased nonsexual aggression.
184 Journal of Communication 66 (2016) 183– 205 © 2015 International Communication Association
P. J. Wright et al. Pornography and Sexual Aggression
Nonsexual aggression was operationalized as intentional physical, material, or
psychological aggression (e.g., the administration of electric shocks). Allen, Emmers,
Gebhardt, and Giery (1995b) meta-analyzed 16 experiments and found that pornog-
raphy exposure increased ASV. Hald et al. (2010) meta-analyzed nine survey studies
and found that naturalistic pornography consumption was associated with higher
levels of ASV. Examples of ASV include acceptance of interpersonal violence, rape
myth acceptance, and sexual harassment proclivities. Important both for experimen-
talists interested in further tests of the eects of pornography and for policy makers
interested in the potential remedial role of media literacy eorts is a meta-analysis
by Allen, D’Alessio, Emmers, and Gebhardt (1996) on educational briengs. is
meta-analysis of 10 experimental studies suggested that educational preexposure
brieng and postexposure debrieng materials informing participants about the
ctional nature of pornography and the harms of sexual aggression may mitigate its
adverse attitudinal eects.
Current meta-analysis
Despite years of research and social concern about pornography and sexually aggres-
sive behavior, arguably the most important meta-analysis has yet to be conducted.
Prior meta-analyses have shown that pornography consumption is associated with
higher levels of nonsexual aggressive behavior and ASV, but nonsexual aggression in
thelaboratorycannotbedirectlyequatedtoreal-lifeactsofsexualaggressionandatti-
tudes do not always predict behavior. Accordingly, the rst research question of the
present meta-analysis asks whether pornography consumption is positively correlated
with actual acts of sexual aggression (RQ1).
Potential moderators
e association between pornography consumption and sexual aggressive behavior
may not be uniform across samples and methods (Hald et al., 2010; Mundorf, Allen,
D’Alessio, & Emmers-Sommer, 2007). e exploration of moderating variables in a
meta-analysis is limited by the characteristics of the located studies. e studies found
for the present meta-analysis did allow, however, for the exploration of several poten-
tial moderators suggested by relevant literatures.
Biological sex
Because aggression in pornography is generally directed toward women (Bridges,
Wosnitzer, Scharrer, Sun, & Liberman, 2010), it might be expected that pornography
would more strongly predict the sexually aggressive behavior of males than females.
However, women have been found to aggress against other women in pornography
(Sun, Bridges, Wosnitzer, Scharrer, & Liberman, 2008) and females’ social learning
of aggression is not limited to same-sex models (Bandura, Ross, & Ross, 1961). is
meta-analysis’ second research question asks whether pornography consumption is
dierentially associated with sexually aggressive behavior among males and females
(RQ2).
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Pornography and Sexual Aggression P. J. Wright et al.
Age
Conventional theorizing would suggest that the eect of pornography on sexual
aggression would be stronger for adolescents than adults due to adolescents’ lack of
sexual experience and less developed critical thinking and forethought capacities.
But adults may also be aected for a number of reasons, including the possession of
more gendered beliefs about sex and a longer history of exposure (Peter & Valken-
burg, 2011; Wright & Tokunaga, 2015a). is meta-analysis’ third research question
asks whether pornography consumption is dierentially associated with sexually
aggressive behavior among adolescents and adults (RQ3).
National/International
It has long been suggested that the eect of pornography on sexual aggression is dif-
ferent outside of the United States (Malamuth & Billings, 1986), where most studies
have been conducted. However, many recent studies of pornography consumption
and other sexual behaviors in the United States and internationally have shown more
similarity than dierence (Wright, Bae, & Funk, 2013). is meta-analysis’ fourth
research question asks whether pornography consumption is dierentially associated
with sexually aggressive behavior in national and international studies (RQ4).
Pre-/post-Internet
Pornography is increasingly accessed online. Factors such as easier access to more
violent content, anonymity, and increased control over content selection may enhance
the eects of online pornography (Dines, 2010; Fisher & Barak, 2001; Shim & Paul,
2014). However, pornography had been suggested as a risk factor in sexual aggres-
sion and violent pornography was available well before the advent of the Internet
(Donnerstein & Hallam, 1978; U.S. Attorney General, 1986). is meta-analysis’
h research question asks whether pornography consumption is dierentially
associated with sexually aggressive behavior in pre-Internet and post-Internet
studies (RQ5).
Type of pornography
If facilitating eects of pornography on sexual aggression depend on overt displays
of force or coercion, then violent pornography consumption should correlate with
sexual aggressiveness while nonviolent pornography consumption should not (Allen
et al., 1995b). Translated methodologically, measures assessing naturalistic expo-
sure to violent pornography will correlate with sexual aggression while measures
assessing naturalistic exposure to nonviolent pornography will be unrelated to sexual
aggression.
e violent/nonviolent binary may be awed, however. An infrequently
investigated— but oen discussed —third category is nonviolent but objectifying
and degrading pornography (Kingston et al., 2009; Seto et al., 2010). Not explic-
itly violent, but nevertheless dehumanizing, depictions may also aect aggressive
attitudes and disinhibit aggressive behaviors (Wright & Tokunaga, 2015b). In their
meta-analyses, Allen and colleagues found that experiments in which investigators
186 Journal of Communication 66 (2016) 183– 205 © 2015 International Communication Association
P. J. Wright et al. Pornography and Sexual Aggression
classied content as “nonviolent” did not result in a statistically weaker aggressive
response (Allen et al., 1995a, p. 271) or, across all experiments, a statistically weaker
increase in ASV (although content labeled “violent” produced a stronger eect than
content labeled “nonviolent” within studies that included both conditions; Allen
et al., 1995b, p. 19). If, in naturalistic studies, individuals who consume objectifying
and degrading pornography record their exposure in relation to questions about their
nonviolent pornography viewing, these studies may still nd signicant associations.
Accordingly, this meta-analysis’ sixth research question asks if there is a dierence
in correlational strength between indices of violent pornography consumption and
sexual aggression and indices of nonviolent pornography consumption and sexual
aggression (RQ6).
Most measures of pornography consumption in naturalistic studies do not ask
aboutexposuretovarioustypesofcontent,suchasnonviolent,nonviolentbutdegrad-
ing, violent, and so forth, however. Instead, participants are simply asked about their
frequency of consumption of content featuring nudity and explicit sex. ese gen-
eral, content nonspecic measures oer an opportunity to probe another important
question. Recent studies suggest that the majority of popular pornography has themes
of aggression, degradation, or objectication (Bridges et al., 2010; Dines, 2010; Sun
et al., 2008). If these studies are accurate and the pornography consumed by most
individuals features one or more of these themes, then content nonspecic measures
andmeasuresofviolentconsumptionshouldbothcorrelatewithsexualaggression.
However,ifthesestudiesareinaccurateandthepornographyconsumedbymostindi-
viduals is devoid of aggression, degradation, or objectication, then content nonspe-
cic measures of pornography consumption should be unrelated to sexual aggression.
is meta-analysis’ seventh research question asks if there is a dierence in corre-
lational strength between indices of violent pornography consumption and sexual
aggression and indices of general, content nonspecic pornography consumption and
sexual aggression (RQ7).
Type of sexual aggression
Sexual aggression can take many forms. Two of the more researched types of sex-
ual aggression are physical and verbal (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDCP), 2014). Physical sexual aggression refers to the use or threat of physical force
to obtain sex. Examples of physical force provided by the CDCP include “pinning
the victim’s arms, using one’s body weight to prevent movement or escape, use of a
weaponorthreatsofuse,andassaultingthevictim”(p.11).Verbalsexualaggression
refers to verbally coercive but not physically threatening communication to obtain
sex, and sexual harassment. Examples of verbal coercion and harassment provided by
the CDCP include “being worn down by someone who repeatedly asked for sex or
showed they were unhappy; feeling pressured by being lied to, or being told promises
that were untrue; having someone threaten to end a relationship or spread rumors;
sending unwanted sexually explicit photographs; creating a sexually hostile climate,
in person or through the use of technology” (p. 12).
Journal of Communication 66 (2016) 183– 205 © 2015 International Communication Association 187
Pornography and Sexual Aggression P. J. Wright et al.
Given that the unethicality of and penalties for physical sexual aggression are more
apparent than for verbal sexual aggression, physical sexual aggression may be more
dicult to disinhibit. Indeed, physical sexual aggression is rarer than verbal sexual
aggression (Boeringer, 1994; Kennair & Bendixen, 2012). It is important to see if
pornography consumption is correlated with both types of aggression and if these
correlations dier in magnitude. is meta-analysis’ eighth research question asks
whether pornography consumption is dierentially associated with physical sexual
aggression and verbal sexual aggression (RQ8).
Cross-sectional/longitudinal data
Cross-sectional data are those gathered on a single occasion. ey allow for assess-
ment of covariation, but not the temporal sequencing of associations. Longitudinal
data are those gathered on two or more occasions. Longitudinal data allow for
the assessment of both covariation and time-ordering. Because causality is more
strongly suggested by prospective than concurrent associations (Malamuth et al.,
2000), it is important to see if pornography consumption is associated with sexually
aggressive behavior in both cross-sectional and longitudinal data. Additionally,
as motives and opportunities for aggressive behavior may take time to arise or
appear (Huesmann, 1998), it is important to test if there are dierences in the
magnitude of pornography sexual aggression correlations in cross-sectional and
longitudinal studies. is meta-analysis’ ninth research question asks whether
pornographyconsumptionisdierentiallyassociatedwithsexuallyaggressive
behavior in cross-sectional and longitudinal data (RQ9).
Report type
It is important to compare unpublished and published reports for two reasons. First,
published reports may be of higher quality, having been vetted by anonymous peer
reviewers (Neuman, Davidson, Joo, Park, & Williams, 2008). Second, unpublished
reports may be more likely to report null correlations, if journal editors prefer to
publish signicant ndings (Rothstein & Bushman, 2012). is meta-analysis’ tenth
research question asks whether pornography is dierentially associated with sexually
aggressive behavior in published and unpublished reports (RQ10).
Method
Literature search
e literature search was conducted as part of an ongoing eort to archive and
review studies on media and sexual socialization. e search for the current study
was continued until the end of 2014. Electronic database (e.g., Academic Search
Premier, All Academic, Cinahl Complete, Communication & Mass Media Com-
plete,ERIC,GoogleScholar,JSTOR,Medline,ProQuest,PsycINFO,PubMed,and
Sociological Abstracts) and ancestral (e.g., Bauserman, 1996; Flood, 2009; Hald,
Seaman, & Linz, 2014; Kingston et al., 2009; Linz & Malamuth, 1993; Seto, Maric, &
188 Journal of Communication 66 (2016) 183– 205 © 2015 International Communication Association
P. J. Wright et al. Pornography and Sexual Aggression
Barbaree, 2001) searches were used to locate published and unpublished scientic
reports. Searches were conducted by the study’s authors. Aer this compilation eort,
eight leading media and aggression scholars were contacted and asked to identify
omissions.
Criteria for inclusion in the meta-analysis were threefold. First, the study had to
sample from a general population. Sex oender/clinical studies were not included (see
Allen et al., 1999; Seto & Lalumiere, 2010). Second, the study had to measure pornog-
raphyconsumption.Pornographywasdenedassexuallyexplicitmediaintendedto
arouse the consumer (Hald et al., 2010; Seto et al., 2001). Studies that measured expo-
sure to sexually nonexplicit content in mainstream media only were not included.
ird, the study had to assess sexually aggressive behavior. Studies that assessed sex-
ually aggressive beliefs and attitudes only were not included (see Allen et al., 1995b;
Hald et al., 2010). Authors were contacted directly when the search criteria were met
but data necessary to extract an eect size (e.g., zero-order correlations) were not
described in the report (Chang et al., 2014; Gorman, 2014; ompson, Koss, Kingree,
Goree, & Rice, 2010; Williams, Cooper, Howell, Yuille, & Paulhus, 2009; Ybarra,
Mitchell, Hamburger, Diener-West, & Leaf, 2011). Authors were able to provide the
needed information in all but one instance (Harries, 2011). Studies that did not mea-
sure pornography consumption and sexual aggression directly, but instead measured
indirect indicators of pornography exposure (e.g., reductions in legal restrictions to
access) and indirect indicators of sexual aggression (e.g., crime reports) were not
included, as they are not able to inform the question of whether the people consum-
ing the pornography are the ones who are or who are not committing the sexually
aggressive acts.
Studies meeting these criteria are overviewed in Table 1. Twenty-two studies from
21 reports were identied (Seto et al., 2010, reported on two studies, one conducted
in Sweden, the other in Norway).
Moderator coding
Biological sex
Fieenreportseithersampledmalesonlyorreporteddatafromtheirmalesam-
ple only. Six reports sampled and reported on both males and females. One paper
reported on females only.
Age
Five studies’ sample descriptions suggested that all or the majority of their participants
were adolescents (teenagers aged 17 and younger). Seventeen studies’ sample descrip-
tions suggested that all or the majority of their participants were adults (individuals
aged 18 and older).
National/International
Fourteen studies were conducted in the United States and eight studies were con-
ducted internationally.
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Pornography and Sexual Aggression P. J. Wright et al.
Table 1 Overview of Studies in Meta-Analysis
Study
Age of
Sample
Sex of
Sample
Design of
Study
Report
Typ e
Country
of Study
Boeringer (1994) Adult Male Cross-sectional Article United States
Bonino et al. (2006) Adolescent Male and female Cross-sectional Article Italy
Bouard (2010) Adult Male Cross-sectional Article United States
Brown and L’Engle
(2009)
Adolescent Male and female Longitudinal Article United States
Carr and VanDeusen
(2004)
Adult Male Cross-sectional Article United States
Chang et al. (2014) Adolescent Male and female Longitudinal Article Taiwan
Crossman (1994) Adult Male Cross-sectional esis United States
D’Abreu and Krahe
(2014)
Adult Male Longitudinal Article Brazil
Demare et al. (1993) Adult Male Cross-sectional Article United States
Gorman (2014) Adult Male and female Cross-sectional esis United States
Hardit (2013) Adult Male Cross-sectional esis United States
Kennair and Bendixen
(2012)
Adolescent Male and female Cross-sectional Article Norway
Kjellgren et al. (2011) Adult Female Cross-sectional Article Norway and
Sweden
Malamuth et al. (2000) Adult Male Cross-sectional Article United States
Peeks (2006) Adult Male Cross-sectional esis United States
Seto et al. (2010) Adult Male Cross-sectional Article Sweden
Seto et al. (2010) Adult Male Cross-sectional Article Norway
Simons et al. (2012) Adult Male Cross-sectional Article United States
ompson et al. (2010) Adult Male Longitudinal Article United States
Vega and Malamuth
(2007)
Adult Male Cross-sectional Article United States
Williams et al. (2009) Adult Male Cross-sectional Article Canada
Ybarra et al. (2011) Adolescent Male and female Longitudinal Article United States
Pre-/post-Internet
Few studies demarcated pornography found online and oine. As historians have
identied 1995 as an important turning point for popular Internet use (Campbell,
2015; Dominick, Messere, & Sherman, 2008), it was noted if a study was published
in/before or aer 1995. ree studies were published in 1995 or before. In one
instance, Malamuth et al. (2000) published their study aer 1995 but gathered their
data in the 1980s, so this study was included in studies conducted in/before 1995.
us, four studies were identied as “pre” Internet and eighteen as “post” Internet.
Type of pornography
Measures of pornography consumption were classied as violent, nonviolent, and
general. Following prior meta-analyses (Hald et al., 2010; Mundorf et al., 2007), vio-
lent pornography was dened as content depicting sex without consent, with coercive
acts, or with aggressive behavior. As an example of nonconsensual content, Boeringer
(1994, p. 293) asked about men’s exposure to depictions where “force is used and there
is an explicit lack of consent.” As an example of coercive content, Peeks (2006, p. 93)
190 Journal of Communication 66 (2016) 183– 205 © 2015 International Communication Association
P. J. Wright et al. Pornography and Sexual Aggression
asked about men’s exposure to depictions of women “receiving negative treatment”
or being “drunk or on drugs.” As an example of aggressive content, Seto et al. (2010,
p. 222) asked whether men and Kjellgren, Priebe, Svedin, Mossige, and Langstrom
(2011, p. 3357) asked whether women had “ever watched violent pornography.” Eight
studies included measures of violent pornography consumption.
Nonviolent pornography was dened as content depicting consensual sex, without
coercive acts, and without aggressive behavior. Only two studies included measures
that approximated this denition. Demare, Lips, and Briere (1993) asked about men’s
exposure to depictions of “mutually consenting sex” (p. 289) and classied arma-
tive responses as nonviolent pornography exposure. Ybarra et al. (2011, p. 5) asked
about boys’ and girls’ exposure to depictions of individuals being “physically hurt by
another person while they were doing something sexual.” Ybarra et al. classied boys
and girls who indicated consuming pornography, but not being exposed to any depic-
tions featuring violence, as nonviolent pornography consumers.
Fourteen studies included only a general, content nonspecic measure of pornog-
raphy consumption. As one illustration, Simons, Simons, Lei, and Sutton (2012,
p. 384) asked men how oen during the past year they had “viewed an X-rated
movie or visited an X-rated website on the Internet.” As another illustration, Bonino,
Ciairano, Rabaglietti, and Cattelino (2006, p. 272) asked boys and girls how frequently
they had “read or seen pornographic magazines or comics in the last six months and
had watched pornographic lms or videos in the last six months.” While some of
these measures identied particular delivery mechanisms (e.g., website, movie, and
magazine), none of them identied the type of content being delivered (e.g., violent
and nonviolent).
Type of sexual aggression
Following the CDCP (2014), physical sexual aggression was dened as the use or
threat of physical force to obtain sex, and verbal sexual aggression was dened as ver-
ballycoercivebutnotphysicallythreateningcommunicationtoobtainsex,andsexual
harassment. Six studies assessed physical sexual aggression. Kennair and Bendixen
(2012, p. 483), for example, measured boys and girls’ “use of explicit physical force” to
obtain sex. As another example, Crossman (1994, p. 67) assessed if men had “tried to
obtain sexual intercourse through threatening to use physical force” or had “obtained
sexual acts, such as oral or anal intercourse, through using threats or physical force.”
Six studies assessed verbal sexual aggression. As one illustration, Demare et al. (1993,
p. 289) assessed whether men had engaged in verbally coercive tactics with women
such as “threatening to end your relationship” or “pressuring her with continual argu-
ment.” As another illustration, Chang et al. (2014, p. 4) assessed harassing behaviors
amongboysandgirlssuchas“askedsomeonetodosomethingsexualonlinewhen
they did not want to.”
Cross-sectional/longitudinal data
Seventeen studies were cross-sectional and ve were longitudinal.
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Pornography and Sexual Aggression P. J. Wright et al.
Report type
Four reports were unpublished theses and 18 were published journal articles.
Eect size extraction and correction for measurement error
Reports were examined for their eect size estimates. In many instances, the rcor-
relation between pornography use and sexual aggression was reported; however, in
some cases, the correlation had to be estimated through unadjusted odds ratios and
chi-square values. In reports where a 2 ×2contingencytablewaspresented,thelog
odds ratio was rst transformed into Cohen’s dandthenintor.
e eect sizes were corrected for measurement error, which attenuates the maxi-
mum theoretical eect size (Schmidt & Hunter, 2015). Because attenuation can some-
times occur disproportionately across classes of reports, it is particularly important
when testing for moderators to correct for measurement error. e scale reliabil-
ity reported in each study was used in the correction equation for measurement.
e SpearmanBrown formula was used to estimate a case’s reliability when one
was not reported. e single-item alphas used to estimate the reliability were as fol-
lows: pornography consumption (αsingle-item =.42, Mitem =4) and sexual aggression
(αsingle-item =.27, Mitem =6).
Results
Analytic approach
e corrected correlations were summarized using a random-eects model
meta-analysis. Random-eects procedures are based on the assumption that
variation in the true eects exists beyond variation due to sampling error alone
(Anker, Reinhart, & Feeley, 2010; Borenstein, Hedges, Higgins, & Rothstein, 2009;
Hedges & Vevea, 1998). e eect sizes of the relationship between pornography
consumption and sexual aggression are presumed to be normally distributed, and in
accounting for this variation, generalizations can be made beyond the set of studies
included in this meta-analysis (Hedges & Vevea, 1998). To test the potential moder-
ators, mixed-eects model subgroup analyses were conducted. In the mixed-eects
model, a random-eects model is used to estimate the eects within subgroups but a
xed-eect model is used to estimate the variance between subgroups.
Research Question 1: overall association
Eect sizes for 22 cases were extracted from the 21 reports identied in the literature
search (see Table 2). e total number of participants evaluated in the meta-analysis
was 20,820 (males =13,234, females =7,586), with an average of 947 (Mdn =479)
per case. Across the cases, the sample-weighted mean eect size of the association
between pornography use and sexual aggression was positive and signicant, r=.28,
SE =0.01, 95% CI [.24, .32], p<.001, random-eects variance (v)=.007. Accord-
ingly, consumption of pornography was associated with an increased likelihood of
committingactualactsofsexualaggression.
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P. J. Wright et al. Pornography and Sexual Aggression
Table 2 Raw and Corrected Eect Sizes for Studies in Meta-Analysis (N=20,820)
Study NRaw Overall rCorrected Overall
Boeringer (1994) 477 .268 .390
Bonino et al. (2006) 779 .233 .463
Bouard (2010) 325 .180 .201
Brown and L’Engle (2009) 967 .190 .277
Carr and VanDeusen (2004) 99 .300 .382
Chang et al. (2014) 2,268 .135 .218
Crossman (1994) 480 .218 .260
D’Abreu and Krahe (2014) 120 .200 .254
Demare et al. (1993) 383 .153 .283
Gorman (2014) 415 .078 .115
Hardit (2013) 177 .120 .191
Kennair and Bendixen (2012) 1,123 .185 .261
Kjellgren et al. (2011) 4,212 .221 .221
Malamuth et al. (2000) 2,652 .170 .203
Peeks (2006) 154 .230 .291
Seto et al. (2010, Sweden) 1,978 .325 .325
Seto et al. (2010, Norway) 1,971 .304 .304
Simons et al. (2012) 308 .170 .235
ompson et al. (2010) 644 .110 .136
Vega and Malamuth (2007) 102 .480 .655
Williams et al. (2009) 88 .090 .095
Ybarra et al. (2011) 1,098 .384 .427
Research Question 2: biological sex
Research Question 2 asked whether biological sex moderates the association between
pornography consumption and sexual aggression. e mixed-eects model subgroup
analysis did not indicate a moderating eect of biological sex, Qbet(1) =0.24, Zdi =
0.49, p=.62. e average correlation for the 21 cases sampling males (r=.29, 95%
CI [.24, .33], p<.001) did not signicantly dier from the average correlation for the
seven cases that sampled females (r=.26, 95% CI [.18, .34], p<.001).
Research Question 3: age
e question of whether the correlations between pornography consumption and sex-
ual aggression changed as a function of age groups was asked in Research Question
3. e cases were categorized into a group that used adolescent samples and a group
that sampled adults. e results of the subgroup analysis demonstrated that the asso-
ciation between pornography consumption and sexual aggression was not moderated
by age group, Qbet(1) =2.11, Zdi =1.45, p=.15. e mean correlation for the cases
that sampled adolescents (r=.33, 95% CI [.25, .40], p<.001, k=5) did not dier
from the cases that sampled adults (r=.26, 95% CI [.21, .31], p<.001, k=17).
Journal of Communication 66 (2016) 183– 205 © 2015 International Communication Association 193
Pornography and Sexual Aggression P. J. Wright et al.
Research Question 4: national/international
Research Question 4 asked whether a dierence in the average correlations between
pornography consumption and sexual aggression exists between studies conducted
in the United States and those conducted internationally. e international studies (r
=.28, 95% CI [.21, .34], p<.001, k=8) yielded almost the identical mean eect size
as studies conducted in the United States (r=.28, 95% CI [.22, .34], p<.001, k=
14). Accordingly, whether the study was conducted nationally or internationally did
not aect the relationship between pornography consumption and sexual aggression,
Qbet(1) =0.001, Zdi =0.03, p=.97.
Research Question 5: pre-/post-internet
Study year was tested as a possible moderator in Research Question 5. e cases were
grouped into one of two categories: reports released in or before 1995 and reports
made available in or aer 1996. is categorization makes it possible to probe whether
the association between pornography consumption and sexual aggression diered
prior to and aer the adoption of the Internet on a mass scale. e results of the
subgroup analysis demonstrated that year was not a signicant moderator, Qbet (1) =
0.001, Zdi =0.03, p=.97. e average correlation of the four studies conducted prior
to 1995 (r=.28, 95% CI [.17, .37], p<.001) was similar in magnitude to the average
correlation of the 18 studies conducted aer 1996 (r=.28, 95% CI [.23, .33], p<.001).
Research Question 6: nonviolent/violent pornography
e content of the pornography consumed was tested as a moderator of associations
between pornography consumption and sexual aggression in Research Question 6.
Correlations with nonviolent pornography consumption were compared to correla-
tions with violent pornography consumption. Although violent pornography con-
sumption (r=.37, 95% CI [.28, .45], p<.001, k=8) produced a stronger association
on average than nonviolent pornography consumption (r=.27, 95% CI [.07, .45], p=
.008, k=2), the moderation was nonsignicant, Qbet(1) =0.91, Zdi =0.95, p=.34.
Research Question 7: general assessment/violent assessment
Whether indices that assess exposure to violent pornography specically yield
stronger associations than indices that evaluate pornography consumption more
generally was asked in Research Question 7. In the eight cases that measured vio-
lent pornography consumption (r=.37, 95% CI [.28, .45], p<.001), a stronger
sample-weighted mean correlation was reported in comparison to the 14 cases that
measured general pornography consumption (r=.26, 95% CI [.19, .34], p<.001).
is dierence was marginally signicant in the mixed-eects model subgroup
analysis, Qbet (1) =3.34, Zdi =1.83, p=.07.
Research Question 8: type of sexual aggression
Casesthatmeasuredverbalorphysicalsexualaggressionwereidentied.iscat-
egorization was performed to test whether associations between pornography con-
sumption and sexual aggression diered depending on if the aggression was verbal or
194 Journal of Communication 66 (2016) 183– 205 © 2015 International Communication Association
P. J. Wright et al. Pornography and Sexual Aggression
physical in Research Question 8. Pornography consumption was associated with both
verbal (r=.30, 95% CI [.24, .36], p<.001, k=6) and physical (r=.20, 95% CI [.13,
.26], p<.001, k=6) sexual aggression, but the association was signicantly larger for
verbal sexual aggression, Qbet(1) =5.49, Zdi =2.34, p=.02.
Research Question 9: cross-sectional/longitudinal data
Studies that employed a cross-sectional design were compared to studies that used
a longitudinal design in Research Question 9. e design of the study was not a
signicant moderator of the association between pornography consumption and
sexual aggression across the 22 cases, Qbet(1) =0.05, Zdi =0.22, p=.83. e average
cross-sectional correlation (i.e., the correlation of pornography consumption and
sexual aggression at the same data collection: r=.28, 95% CI [.23, .33], p<.001, k
=17)wasnearlyequivalentindirectionandmagnitudetotheaverageprospective
correlation (i.e., the correlation of pornography consumption at an earlier data
collection with sexual aggression at a later data collection: r=.27, 95% CI [.18, .36],
p<.001, k=5).
Research Question 10: report type
e potential moderating eect of report type was tested in Research Question 10.
e cases were categorized into published and unpublished reports. No dierence was
detected by the moderator analysis, Qbet(1) =1.44, Zdi =1.20, p=.23. e average
correlation of published reports (r=.29, 95% CI [.24, .33], p<.001, k=18) did not
dier from the average correlation of unpublished reports (r=.21, 95% CI [.10, .33],
p<.001, k=4).
Discussion
e meta-analysis reported in this article investigated associations between natural-
istic pornography consumption and actual acts of sexual aggression in 22 general
population studies. e results are reviewed and contextualized in the remainder of
the study. Directions for future research are also considered.
Overall association
Associations between pornography consumption and sexual aggression in the general
population can be examined at the aggregate or individual level. Using secondary
statistical indices, the former technique correlates an indirect metric of consumption,
such as the number of pornographic movies available during a particular time
period, with an indirect assessment of sexual aggression, such as government data
on rape during the same time period. Using experimental and survey methods,
the latter technique correlates attributes of individuals’ sexual aggression which
are measured directly with those individuals’ actual patterns of pornography con-
sumption. Because aggregate methods cannot inform the key question of whether
those who consume more pornography dier in their sexually aggressive behavior
Journal of Communication 66 (2016) 183– 205 © 2015 International Communication Association 195
Pornography and Sexual Aggression P. J. Wright et al.
from those who consume less pornography and have to rely on group-level data to
conjecture about individual-level behavior, the vast majority of pornography and
sexual aggression research has been conducted at the individual level (Kingston
& Malamuth, 2011; Malamuth & Pitpitan, 2007). Individual-level data should be
privileged over aggregate-level data when they are available (MacInnis & Hodson,
2015). Accordingly, the results of the present meta-analysis are situated within the
individual-level, general population literature.
Noting continued disagreement about pornography consumption and sexual
aggression, Allen et al. (1995a, 1995b) meta-analyzed experimental studies on
pornography exposure, nonsexual aggression, and ASV. Pornography exposure
was found to have a consistent eect on nonsexual aggression and ASV, resolving
the debate about the reliability of experimental studies (Fisher & Grenier, 1994;
Malamuth et al., 2000). e debate about the validity of pornography experiments
in general, however, remained. Fisher and Grenier, for example, questioned the
information value of experiments, in addition to their consistency. ey argued that
experiments suer from limitations such as subject awareness, selective attrition, and
lack of ecological validity. ey called for “naturalistic studies of the development of
sexually violent behavior” (p. 37). Later, Fisher and Barak (2001, p. 317) noted the
need for “research concerning eects of exposure to sexually explicit materials on
those who choose to consume them.” e only design capable of assessing eects
is the experimental design, and random assignment to conditions is necessary for
a study to be an experiment. Without random assignment, any group dierences
postexposure may be due to self-selection dynamics and preexisting attitudes and
behaviors. Additionally, ethical considerations preclude attempts at sexual aggression
inducement. In sum, experiments cannot make the requested contributions. ey
can only be made by correlational investigations, such as survey studies.
Hald et al.’s (2010) meta-analysis of naturalistic pornography consumption and
ASV was directly related to these calls. is meta-analysis found that higher levels
of pornography consumption were associated with stronger ASV. Fisher, Kohut,
Gioacchino, and Fedoro (2013) were not swayed by these results, however, and
emphasized that sexually aggressive behavior is the chief cause for concern.
e general population studies in the present meta-analysis assessed both
self-selected pornography consumption and actual acts of sexual aggression, aligning
with the requests of prior evaluative commentaries. Although previous meta-analyses
have had far smaller total sample sizes than the present synthesis’ 20,000 plus total
(N=2,040 in Allen et al., 1995a; N=4,268 in Allen et al., 1995b; N=2,309 in Hald
et al., 2010), results were consistent with these earlier summaries in that pornography
consumption was correlated with heightened sexual aggression risk. It is worth
noting that the magnitude of both the overall corrected (r=.28) and uncorrected
(r=.22) associations in the present meta-analysis, which focused on actual acts
of sexual aggression, were larger than the overall association sizes found in prior
syntheses that included a surrogate for sexual aggression risk (r=.13 in Allen et al.,
1995a; r=.10 in Allen et al., 1995b; r=.18 in Hald et al., 2010). It should also be
196 Journal of Communication 66 (2016) 183– 205 © 2015 International Communication Association
P. J. Wright et al. Pornography and Sexual Aggression
noted that the uncorrected correlations for verbal (r=.23, 95% CI [.18, .28], p<
.001) and physical (r=.16, 95% CI [.10, .21], p<.001) sexual aggression were also
signicant.
Association contingencies
Oftheninemoderationtests,sevenwerenull,onewasmarginal,andonewas
signicant. is general lack of moderation is consistent with past meta-analytic
research on pornography and nonsexual aggressive behavior (Allen et al., 1995a)
and media consumption and aggression more generally (Anderson et al., 2010). Yet,
it is suggested that this homogeny of results be viewed tentatively, as Hald et al.’s
(2010) meta-analysis on naturalistic pornography consumption and ASV suggested
thelikelypresenceofmoderatingfactorsandseveralmoderationcomparisonsinthe
present study were based on limited cases or measures. Additional research is needed
before any rm conclusions can be drawn about moderating factors. Given that all
22 studies yielded a positive overall correlation, though, it appears likely that any
dierences found in future research will be more in degree than kind.
Consistent with Allen et al.’s (1995a) meta-analysis of laboratory aggression, bio-
logical sex was not a signicant moderator. Pornography consumption was associ-
ated with an increased likelihood of sexually aggressive behavior for females as well
as males. As men’s arousal to pornography is stronger than women’s (Allen et al.,
2007), this nding aligns with the nding of Mundorf et al. (2007) that arousal to
pornography is not a reliable predictor of its eects on aggression. Rather, pornog-
raphy consumption may aect females’ aggressive behavior due to the observation
of aggressive female models or to identication with male aggressors. Future stud-
ies should test whether pornography consumption is more strongly associated with
females’ verbal sexual aggression than physical sexual aggression (Crick & Grotpeter,
1995) and if pornography consumption more strongly predicts females’ same-sex sex-
ual aggression (e.g., insults and harassment) than males’ same-sex sexual aggression
(Sun et al., 2008). Research is also needed on shis in women’s negative psycholog-
ical reactions to pornography with repeated exposures. Brief exposure studies have
found that women respond more negatively to pornography than men (Allen et al.,
2007) and negative reactions would appear to inhibit the likelihood of a modeling
eect. Pornographic scripts may become normalized with repeated exposures, how-
ever, decreasing negative reactions and increasing the likelihood of script application
(Wright, 2011; Zillmann & Bryant, 1982, 1986).
Age was not a moderating factor. Pornography consumption was associated with
an equivalent likelihood of sexual aggression among adults and adolescents. Adults’
sexually aggressive scripts may be inuenced by pornography due to repeated expo-
sures and the possession of scripts congruent with pornography’s presentation of gen-
dered power. It is important to note, though, that most of the adult samples were
of college students or college-aged students. Because perpetrators of sexual aggres-
sion are generally acquainted with their targets and targets of sexual aggression are
predominantly adolescents and young adults (Felson & Cundi, 2014; Planty et al.,
Journal of Communication 66 (2016) 183– 205 © 2015 International Communication Association 197
Pornography and Sexual Aggression P. J. Wright et al.
2013), this similarity is perhaps not surprising. Interestingly, the weakest association
was found in the study with the oldest sample (Gorman, 2014; average participant age
=46). Future studies should incorporate a wider range of adults so that associations
canbecomparedacrossabreadthofagegroups.
Associations between pornography consumption and sexually aggressive behav-
ior in international studies were not signicantly dierent from those conducted in
the United States. What is clear from this analysis is that the association between
pornography consumption and sexual aggression is not unique to the United States.
What remains unclear is whether the association varies in degree between coun-
tries. e reports available for the present meta-analysis allowed only for a basic
national/international comparison. A variety of countries were represented (e.g.,
Brazil, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and Taiwan), but no more than two studies were
conducted in any country other than the United States. Only when multiple reports
are available within particular countries will a more nuanced analysis be possible.
It has been suggested that the content of pornography found online and novel ele-
ments of the online experience may enhance the eects of Internet pornography. As
few studies dierentiated mechanisms of delivery, a direct comparison of online and
oine pornography consumption was not possible. It was found, however, that asso-
ciations in studies published or conducted before 1995 did not dier from those in
subsequent reports. While this nding does not support the contention of exacerbated
impacts of Internet pornography, it should certainly not discourage researchers inter-
ested in further tests of this hypothesis. Future survey studies on sexually aggressive
behavior can ask specic questions about medium of delivery (Peter & Valkenburg,
2007) and future experiments on sexually aggressive attitudes can manipulate aspects
of users’ experience that mimic online versus oine dynamics (Shim & Paul, 2014).
Violent and nonviolent pornography consumption were each associated with
sexual aggression and the dierence between the associations was not signicant.
Two important points are in order regarding these ndings. First, that nonviolent
pornography consumption was associated with sexual aggression is consistent with
the results of prior meta-analyses (Allen et al., 1995a, 1995b; Hald et al., 2010). Mea-
sures of self-reported nonviolent pornography consumption may predict sexually
aggressive behavior because acts that are indeed violent are not perceived as such
by desensitized consumers (Jensen, 2007) or because content that is nonviolent is
still objectifying and degrading (Wright & Tokunaga, 2015b). Second, caution is
suggestedregardingtheconclusionfromthesendingsthatpornographywithvio-
lence is no more impactful on the likelihood of sexual aggression than pornography
without violence. Although the dierence was not statistically signicant, the violent
pornography association was stronger (rΔ=.10) than the nonviolent pornography
association. Signicance tests are impacted by sample size, and only two studies
assessed nonviolent pornography consumption— the smallest comparison group
inthemeta-analysis.Additionally,descriptionsofthepornographymeasuresthat
authors called “nonviolent” did not clearly indicate whether each met all the criteria
of nonviolence: fully consensual sex without any coercion or any aggressive behavior.
198 Journal of Communication 66 (2016) 183– 205 © 2015 International Communication Association
P. J. Wright et al. Pornography and Sexual Aggression
e comparison between general, content nonspecic measures of pornography
consumption and measures of violent pornography consumption is informative of
this question. Although the dierence between the violent and content nonspe-
cic associations was similar to the dierence between the violent and nonviolent
associations (i.e., violent association .11 stronger than the content nonspecic asso-
ciation), the former comparison involved more cases and was marginally signicant.
If the content of pornography was uniform or irrelevant to an eect, it appears
unlikely that these patterns would emerge in the data. Taken together with research
that has found signicant nonviolent/violent dierences (Hald et al., 2010) and
content analyses of popular pornography (Bridges et al., 2010; Sun et al., 2008), it
appears most likely that (a) the level of violence, degradation, and objectication
matters, but (b) the pornography consumed by the average individual contains
enoughoftheseelementsthatitisassociatedwithanelevatedlikelihoodofsexual
aggression. Future studies should be comprehensive and explicit when dening
and measuring pornography labeled as “nonviolent,” and should evaluate whether
nonaggressive, nondegrading, nonobjectifying pornography is so infrequently con-
sumed that its existence is largely irrelevant to discussions of pornography’s social
impact.
Pornographyconsumptionwasassociatedwithbothverbalandphysicalsexual
aggression, but the association was stronger for verbal sexual aggression. It is impor-
tant to emphasize, however, that sexual harassment can be extremely damaging and
verbal coercion to obtain sex, even without the threat of physical force, is still an act
of sexual violence (CDCP, 2014). It is also important to reiterate that the association
for physical sexual aggression, although smaller than the association for verbal sexual
aggression, was still positive and signicant. Pornography consumption was associ-
ated with an increased probability of the use or threat of force to obtain sex. Future
studies should more frequently demarcate dierent types of sexual aggression and
investigate the circumstances under which pornography consumption is most likely
to correlate with each type.
Pornography consumption was associated with sexually aggressive behavior in
both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. e signicant average association in
longitudinal research, along with the ndings of individual longitudinal studies in the
meta-analysis, does not support the position that pornography– sexual aggression
associationsaresimplyduetosexuallyaggressiveindividualswatchingcontentthat
conforms to their already established aggressive sexual scripts (Fisher et al., 2013).
Brown and L’Engle (2009), for example, found that pornography consumption
predicted boys’ later sexual aggression even aer controlling for their earlier sexual
aggression. Relatedly, D’Abreu and Krahe (2014) found that prior sexual aggression
was a poor predictor of later pornography use.
Finally, the possibility that signicant pornographysexual aggression asso-
ciations are due to publication bias was not supported. Pornography consump-
tionwasassociatedwithsexualaggressioninbothpublishedandunpublished
reports.
Journal of Communication 66 (2016) 183– 205 © 2015 International Communication Association 199
Pornography and Sexual Aggression P. J. Wright et al.
Implications for theory
Assessing the magnitude and direction of the association between pornography con-
sumption and sexually aggressive behavior has been the primary goal of naturalistic
studies to date. Most studies are guided by the overall question of whether sexual
mediaareasourceofsociallearning,asopposedtotestingspecicelementsofmod-
els developed to explain the role of pornography in sexual aggression specically (e.g.,
the conuence model of sexual aggression) or the mechanisms, pathways, and mod-
erators operable in sexual media eects on sexual behavior more generally (e.g., the
sexual script acquisition, activation, application model of sexual media socialization,
or 3AM). is limits the theoretical implications that can be drawn from the results
of the present meta-analysis. Nevertheless, several of the aggregated results, results
from individual studies, and results from related studies can be used to broach the
following points for theory development consideration.
First,theextantdatawouldnotsupportatheorypostulatinginherentsexdier-
ences in the eects of pornography on aggression. Predictions of gender dissimilarity
would have to be based on dierentiating proximal factors as opposed to uniform bio-
logical variance. Second, while there are certainly developmental dierences between
adolescents and emerging adults, the extant data would not support a theory pre-
dicting that these dierences lead to one group or the other being more or less sus-
ceptibletotheeectsofpornographyonsexualaggression.ird,theextantdata
would not support a catharsis theory of violent pornography and sexual aggression.
From a catharsis perspective, individuals who consume violent pornography purge
their sexually aggressive inclinations vicariously, reducing their likelihood of manifest
sexualaggression.Withoutsuchanoutlet,individualswhodonotconsumeviolent
pornography become more likely to enact their aggressive inclinations on real-life
victims. Contrary to the catharsis perspective, violent pornography consumers were
morenotlesslikelytocommitactualactsofsexualaggression.Fourth,thend-
ing that pornography consumption was more strongly associated with verbal than
physical sexual aggression would support a theory hypothesizing that the disinhibit-
ing eects of pornography will be stronger for behaviors that individuals perceive as
less antisocial or that are associated with less severe penalties.
Fih, although the studies taken together did not allow for a meta-analytic
test of personal attributes, the results of a few individual studies included in the
meta-analysis did indicate the importance of individual dierences. Future stud-
ies should more frequently assess characteristics that are associated with sexual
aggression and report zero-order correlations for groups at diering levels of risk
(Hald, Malamuth, & Lange, 2013; Kingston et al., 2009). is will allow for a better
understanding of the individual dierences that interact with pornography exposure
tomoststronglyincreasethelikelihoodofsexualaggression.reespecicattributes
suggested by prior research are an impersonal orientation toward sex, a hostile
approach to gender relations, and a disagreeable personality. Both naturalistic and
experimental research indicate that associations between pornography consumption
and sexually aggressive behavior are likely higher when these attributes are present
200 Journal of Communication 66 (2016) 183– 205 © 2015 International Communication Association
P. J. Wright et al. Pornography and Sexual Aggression
(Hald & Malamuth, 2015; Malamuth, Hald, & Koss, 2012; Malamuth & Pitpitan,
2007; Malamuth et al., 2000; Vega & Malamuth, 2007).
Conclusion
Meta-analyseshavenowfoundthatpornographyconsumptionaectsnonsexual
aggression and ASV in laboratory studies and is correlated with ASV and sexually
aggressive behavior in naturalistic studies. As with all behavior, sexual aggression
is caused by a conuence of factors and many pornography consumers are not
sexually aggressive. However, the accumulated data leave little doubt that, on the
average, individuals who consume pornography more frequently are more likely to
hold attitudes conducive to sexual aggression and engage in actual acts of sexual
aggression than individuals who do not consume pornography or who consume
pornography less frequently.
It is acknowledged that the results of the present meta-analysis will not change
the minds of those committed to the position that pornography cannot aect sex-
ual aggression (see Linz & Malamuth, 1993; Malamuth & Pitpitan, 2007). e eld
will have to accept a “weight of evidence” approach to evaluation as opposed to a
consensus among scholars” approach. Following the call of Malamuth et al. (2000)
for a meta-analysis of naturalistic pornography consumption and sexually aggres-
sive behavior in general population samples, the present synthesis contributes to the
weight of the evidence.
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... The second hypothesis, in relation to the impact at the personal level, which is expected to be greater among men as a consumer group, is that pornography might be expected to become the main source of sex education for adolescents (Albury, 2014;Tallon-Hicks, 2016). As a result of this process of 'education' at an early age, a rise in gender-based stereotypes, women's objectification, distortion of relationships, a tendency towards sexual aggressiveness, and an influence on self-concept are expected (Malamuth, 2014;Owens et al., 2012;Wright et al., 2015Wright et al., , 2016. The third hypothesis concerned the interpersonal and social impact of the consumption of new pornography. ...
... This trend is consistent with the main reasons young people give for consuming pornography: masturbating, satisfying their curiosity, and as a source of learning about sex. It is thought that the fact that young people are developing their sexuality based on new pornography will in turn favour aggressiveness in their relationships (Mesch 2009;Hardy et al. 2019), genderbased distortions and stereotypes, or even concerns regarding their own identity; that is, the consumption of pornography would affect their future behaviour (Malamuth, 2014;Owens et al., 2012;Wright et al., 2015Wright et al., , 2016. However, some authors find an inverse relationship, arguing that sexual behaviours are predictors of subsequent consumption of pornography (Hardy et al., 2019). ...
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... The second hypothesis, in relation to the impact at the personal level, which is expected to be greater among men as a consumer group, is that pornography might be expected to become the main source of sex education for adolescents (Albury, 2014;Tallon-Hicks, 2016). As a result of this process of 'education' at an early age, a rise in gender-based stereotypes, women's objectification, distortion of relationships, a tendency towards sexual aggressiveness, and an influence on self-concept are expected (Malamuth, 2014;Owens et al., 2012;Wright et al., 2015Wright et al., , 2016. The third hypothesis concerned the interpersonal and social impact of the consumption of new pornography. ...
... This trend is consistent with the main reasons young people give for consuming pornography: masturbating, satisfying their curiosity, and as a source of learning about sex. It is thought that the fact that young people are developing their sexuality based on new pornography will in turn favour aggressiveness in their relationships (Mesch 2009;Hardy et al. 2019), genderbased distortions and stereotypes, or even concerns regarding their own identity; that is, the consumption of pornography would affect their future behaviour (Malamuth, 2014;Owens et al., 2012;Wright et al., 2015Wright et al., , 2016. However, some authors find an inverse relationship, arguing that sexual behaviours are predictors of subsequent consumption of pornography (Hardy et al., 2019). ...
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The rise in the use of new pornography and widespread increase in Internet access represents an unprecedented scenario in interpersonal relationships in young people. This study is pioneering as it focuses on a large scale of perceptions, attitudes, and behaviours in relation to new pornography use and its impact on interpersonal relationships. The main objective was to explore and describe – with a web-based survey – perceptions, opinions, and profiles regarding pornography use and interpersonal relationships. The survey was administered to 2,457 young people aged between 16 and 29 years from representative areas of Spain. The results obtained reveal that the first accesses to pornography occur at an early age (eight years), and the Internet and pornography were shown to be substitutes for affective sexual education, clearly influencing perceptions, attitudes, and behaviours of adolescents and young people and increasing risk behaviours. It is concluded that affective sexual education should be improved, and the involvement of different agents of socialisation must be monitored. Keywords: New pornography, youth, interpersonal relationships, sex education, consumption.
... La exposición a la pornografía se ha asociado con la violencia entre parejas adolescentes ya que, con la proliferación de Internet, los adolescentes acceden fácilmente a material sexualmente explícito (Rostad et al., 2019). También se ha demostrado que la exposición frecuente a la pornografía se relaciona con actos de agresión sexual y violencia en el noviazgo en la adolescencia (Wright, Tokunaga y Kraus, 2016). El contenido de las escenas representadas y la frecuencia con la que se consume podría contribuir al desarrollo de una cultura que apoye el maltrato hacia las mujeres, favoreciendo actitudes tolerantes hacia el uso de la violencia contra estas (Sun, Bridges, Johnson y Ezzell, 2016). ...
... También se han visto diferencias entre ambos grupos en función de la tendencia política, posicionándose más a la derecha los chicos que las chicas, así como una mayor exposición a contenido pornográfico, relación en la que los análisis evidencian un tamaño del efecto elevado (d = 1.03). Estos hallazgos son especialmente relevantes, puesto que este consumo supone un importante factor de riesgo en la perpetración de la VG (Brem et al., 2020;Sun et al., 2016;Wright et al., 2016) y en la representación de las mujeres como objetos sexuales (Gallego y Fernández-González, 2019), haciéndose evidente la necesidad de intervención, ya que parece haber elevadas tasas entre la población adolescente que recurre a la pornografía para la educación sexual (Rothman et al., 2015). No obstante, los y las adolescentes del presente trabajo reportaron que el consumo de pornografía era escaso, aunque los chicos autoinformaron de haberlo consumido en mayor medida que las chicas. ...
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La violencia de género (VG) es un problema que afecta a todas las culturas, cuyo origen se encuentra en la socialización diferencial. El presente estudio, de corte transversal y diseño ex-post-facto y con una muestra de 777 adolescentes de Castilla-La Mancha, tiene como objetivo conocer las diferencias entre chicos y chicas respecto a las creencias distorsionadas sobre las mujeres y el uso de la violencia, así como la relación entre estos pensamientos distorsionados con la religiosidad, el posicionamiento político y el consumo de pornografía. Los resultados evidencian que los chicos presentan mayor tolerancia hacia estas creencias que las chicas. Además, las diferencias se encuentran entre quienes se consideraban personas muy religiosas, se posicionaban políticamente en la derecha política y consumían algo de pornografía, respecto a quienes se consideraban poco o nada religiosas, políticamente situadas en el centro o a la izquierda política y consumían nada o casi nada de pornografía, respectivamente.
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... Data from Western countries and China showed that teenagers tended to have their first experience with pornography around the age of 12 (Chen, Jiang, Luo, Kraus, & Bőthe, 2022;Sinkovi c, Stulhofer, & Bo zi c, 2013), and more than 50% reported using it weekly or more often (Bőthe, Vaillancourt-Morel, et al., 2020). Excessive pornography use may result in dysregulated or problematic pornography use (PPU), and previous studies showed that 5-14% of teenagers may experience PPU (Bőthe, Vaillancourt-Morel, Dion, Stulhofer, & Bergeron, 2021;Doornwaard, van den Eijnden, Baams, Vanwesenbeeck, & ter Bogt, 2016;Efrati & Gola, 2018b;Pizzol, Bertoldo, & Foresta, 2016;Stulhofer, Rousseau, & Shekarchi, 2020;Svedin, Akerman, & Priebe, 2011) and may be related to many aspects of their life, such as intimate relationship (Stanley et al., 2018), well-being (Kohut & Stulhofer, 2018), sexual problems (Efrati & Amichai-Hamburger, 2021;Owens, Behun, Manning, & Reid, 2012), or sexual aggression (Wright, Tokunaga, & Kraus, 2016). Thus, it is essential to examine adolescents' pornography use and screen for and classify those who are at the risk of problematic use to be able to provide targeted help or intervention for them as early as possible. ...
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Background and aims Little data exist on exploring the subgroups and characteristics of problematic pornography use (PPU) in help-seeking adolescents. The aims of the study were to classify the subgroups among help-seeking male adolescents, explore their similarities and differences, and uncover their core symptoms. Methods A total of 3,468 Chinese male adolescents ( M age = 16.64 years, SD = 1.24) who were distressed about their pornography use were recruited. The Problematic Pornography Consumption Scale, the Brief Pornography Screen Scale, and Moral Disapproval of Pornography Use were used to classify them. The General Health Questionnaire, the Pornography Craving Questionnaire, and the Sexual Compulsivity Scale were used to investigate participants' negative consequence related to their pornography use; and the Online Sexual Activity Questionnaire (OSAs) and time spent on pornography use every week were considered as quantitative indicators. Results Help-seeking male adolescents could be divided into 3 profiles, namely, self-perceived problematic (SP, n = 755), impaired control (IC, n = 1,656), and problematic use groups (PPU, n = 1,057). Frequency of OSAs was important for the identification of SP individuals, while negative consequences were more effective in identifying individuals with objective dysregulated behavior. Salience and mood modification were shared by all groups; however, in addition to this, the SP and PPU groups also showed withdrawal symptoms. Discussion and conclusion This study's results provide support for the presence of different profiles of help-seeking individuals and information on potential intervention targets among adolescents which is lacking in the literature.
... Content analyses have identified features of pornographic material that may be linked to sexual aggression perpetration and victimization, such as use of coercion and sexual objectification of women, directly or via affecting cognitive representations of sexuality (Fritz & Paul, 2017;Kulibert et al., 2021). Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have shown an association between pornography consumption and sexual aggression perpetration among both women and men (Wright et al., 2016). Perceived realism of pornographic material mediated the effect of sexually explicit Internet material on instrumental attitudes toward sex, referring to a focus on sexual gratification over relational aspects of sex (Peter & Valkenburg, 2010), which is a predictor of sexual aggression perpetration in males (Huntington et al., 2022). ...
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The current study evaluated an intervention program, designed by the authors and based on the theory of sexual scripts and social learning theory, to reduce empirically established risk and vulnerability factors of sexual aggression. A sample of 1,181 university students in Germany (762 female) were randomly assigned to an intervention and a no-intervention control group. The intervention group completed six modules addressing established antecedents of sexual aggression perpetration and victimization: risky sexual scripts, risky sexual behavior, low sexual self-esteem, low sexual assertiveness, acceptance of sexual coercion, and perceived realism of pornography. After baseline (T1), intervention effects were measured one week after the last module (T2), nine months later (T3), and another 12 months later (T4). The intervention group showed significantly less risky sexual scripts and higher sexual self-esteem at T2, T3, and T4. The intervention indirectly reduced risky sexual behavior at T3 and T4 via less risky sexual scripts at T2 and increased sexual assertiveness at T3 and T4 via higher sexual self-esteem at T2. No intervention effects were found on the acceptance of sexual coercion and pornography realism. The implications of the findings for reducing the prevalence of sexual aggression perpetration and victimization are discussed.
... 1993). There is, for example, a well-established research literature on links between pornography consumption and tendencies towards sexually aggressive behavior, and thus (potential) sexual violence, among both young people (Peter & Valkenburg, 2016) and the general population (Wright, Tokunaga, & Kraus, 2016), meaning in practice primarily men and boys. ...
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In this paper, we examine the nature and limits of violence by way of a comparison of the physical violence and online violation, in terms of their form, structure and effects. We explore similarities and dissimilarities in what precedes the event, perpetrator intentions and motivations, the forms and types of violence, the medium through which they are delivered, who they are directed towards, the technologies and processes deployed, and their impacts. We argue that it is problematic to restrict the concept of ‘violence’ to intended physical acts that cause harm, because non-physical, psychological, emotional and other forms of non-(directly)physical violence may be equally or even more impactful. Our discussion draws, illustratively, on research, including our own, on both ‘domestic violence’ and ‘revenge pornography’, with the latter an example of the growing numbers of relatively new forms of representational and psychological forms of violence. These are important political, policy and practical concerns, not only with the spread of violence, abuse and violation with and through digital technologies, but also as examples of differing ways in which these can be, and are, constructed, within academic, policy and popular media debates.
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This study explored factors influencing the sexual and reproductive health-related misuse of digital media in Bangladesh. The study adopted Key-Informant-Interview (KII) among the Nineteen (19) relevant key informants including academicians, researchers, policymakers, and activists. The thematic analysis of the transcripts was carried out. The mean age of the informants was 40 (SD+/-6.8) years with having a minimum level of a bachelor degree. Easy access to indecent (porn) sites, low self-awareness of the girls in using social networking sites and other digital devices, the culture of injustice and muscle-men phenomenon, parent's negligence, and the level of awareness were found as the major factors behind the misuse of digital media in the form of cyber-bullying, sexting, revenge porn, sextortion, access to and production of porn videos, etc. This study revealed that women and girls are the prime victims of the misuse where the worst form of victimization is to lead a deplorable life as a sex-slave and persist with chronic mental disorders. The study recommended that the complete ban on provocative indecent websites, high level of awareness among the women and girls, seeking immediate help from the law-enforcement agencies, and importantly, parents' full-edged care and attention.
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In this chapter, the authors critically review the body of research on adolescents’ and emerging adults’ pornography use and its consequences. We start with a number of theoretical concepts—including social learning and comparison theories, sexual scripting, self-objectification theory, the confluence model, the value congruence model, cultivation and media practice models developed in communication science, and the differential susceptibility to media model—that have been employed in the field, mainly with the goal of understanding possible effects of youth pornography use. Next, we explore the prevalence (both pre- and post-internet), the dynamics (i.e., change over time), and correlates of pornography exposure and use. Associations between pornography use on the one hand and sexual risk taking and sexual aggression on the other hand are explored in separate sections. The role of pornography use in young people’s psychological and sexual well-being is also explored, focusing on possible negative, but also positive outcomes. Acknowledging rising societal concerns, we also reviewed the research on the role of parents in their children’s experience with pornography, as well as the potential contribution of emerging pornography literacy programs. In the final section, we present some recommendations for future research. In particular, much needed measurement (for pornography use and its specific content) and research design improvements are suggested, and practical implications are briefly discussed.KeywordsPornography useAdolescents and emerging adultsSexual risk takingSexual aggressionPsychological and sexual well-being
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Purpose Violence perpetration is common among adolescents worldwide but existing research largely focuses on boys, older adolescents, and partner violence. Our study sought to identify individual, family, and neighborhood/peer factors associated with violence perpetration in a multinational sample of male and female young adolescents. Methods We used cross-sectional data from 5,762 adolescents in four sites in the Global Early Adolescent Study: Flanders, Belgium; Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Shanghai, China; and Semarang, Indonesia. Adolescents resided in high-poverty urban areas and were aged 10 to 14 years. Logistic regression examined pooled and stratified associations between independent variables with peer violence perpetration in the past six months. Factors included media viewing habits, gender norms, victimization, agency/empowerment, adversity, depression, familial relationships, neighborhood cohesion, and peer behaviors. Results Restricted-model analyses found increased odds of violence perpetration associated with high media consumption, pornography viewing, violence or bullying victimization, having drank alcohol, depressive symptoms, adverse childhood experiences, greater behavioral control, greater decision-making, feeling unsafe in the neighborhood/school, peer alcohol/tobacco use, and witnessing peers start a fight. Decreased odds of violence perpetration were associated with more egalitarian views on two gender norms scales, closer parental relationships, neighbors looking out for one another, and greater availability of adult help. Discussion Among young adolescents, increased odds of violence perpetration were related to a perceived lack of safety and risky peer behaviors. Parental and neighborhood connections were often associated with decreased perpetration. Further research examining the interplay of such factors among young adolescents is needed to inform effective intervention and policy.
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A recent White House Council Report on Women and Girls called attention to sexual assault on college campuses and encouraged continued research on this important public health problem. Media that sexually objectify women have been identified by feminist scholars as encouraging of sexual assault, but some researchers question why portrayals that do not feature sexual assault should affect men's attitudes supportive of violence against women. Guided by the concepts of specific and abstract sexual scripting in Wright's (Communication Yearbook 35:343-386, 2011) sexual script acquisition, activation, application model of sexual media socialization, this study proposed that the more men are exposed to objectifying depictions, the more they will think of women as entities that exist for men's sexual gratification (specific sexual scripting), and that this dehumanized perspective on women may then be used to inform attitudes regarding sexual violence against women (abstract sexual scripting). Data were gathered from collegiate men sexually attracted to women (N = 187). Consistent with expectations, associations between men's exposure to objectifying media and attitudes supportive of violence against women were mediated by their notions of women as sex objects. Specifically, frequency of exposure to men's lifestyle magazines that objectify women, reality TV programs that objectify women, and pornography predicted more objectified cognitions about women, which, in turn, predicted stronger attitudes supportive of violence against women.
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This experimental study tested whether exposure to female centerfold images causes young adult males to believe more strongly in a set of beliefs clinical psychologist Gary Brooks terms “the centerfold syndrome.” The centerfold syndrome consists of five beliefs: voyeurism, sexual reductionism, masculinity validation, trophyism, and nonrelational sex. Past exposure to objectifying media was positively correlated with all five centerfold syndrome beliefs. Recent exposure to centerfolds interacted with past exposure to predict three of the five centerfold syndrome beliefs. Recent exposure to centerfolds had immediate strengthening effects on the sexual reductionism, masculinity validation, and nonrelational sex beliefs of males who view objectifying media less frequently. These effects persisted for approximately 48 hours.
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This chapter provides a summary of existing data on the impacts of pornography for a specially defined sample. The studies included were studies that used only criminal sexual offenders, either incarcerated or in treatment. The findings indicate no difference in the frequency of consuming sexually explicit materials (r = -.05) between criminal sexual offenders and noncriminal controls. However, criminal sexual offenders were more likely to use pornography prior to engaging in sexual behaviors (r = .23) than were noncriminal controls. Physiological measures of arousal indicate that although sexual offenders are generally more aroused by such material (r = .15), the correlation increases dramatically when the content of the material is matched to the crime committed by the individual (r = .48). The findings illustrate that it is the reaction to and function of the mass media material, not the frequency of consumption, that differentiates criminal sexual offenders from noncriminal controls.
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Studies of the impact of the mainstream mass media on young people’s sexual behavior have been slow to accumulate despite longstanding evidence of substantial sexual content in the mass media. The sexual media effects landscape has changed substantially in recent years, however, as researchers from numerous disciplines have answered the call to address this important area of sexual socialization scholarship. The purpose of this chapter is to review the subset of accumulated studies on sexual behavior effects to determine whether this body of work justifies a causal conclusion. The standards for causal inference articulated by Cook and Campbell (1979) are employed to accomplish this objective. It is concluded that the research to date passes the threshold of substantiation for each criterion and that the mass media almost certainly exert a causal influence on United States’ youth sexual behavior.
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This article describes theory and research regarding the effects of pornography and on explaining gender differences in the consumption of such sexually explicit materials. The three major ideological/theoretical perspectives (Conservative/Moralist, Liberal and Radical Feminist) that have particularly influenced the scientific research in this area are described and related research summarized. An evolutionary-psychological theoretical perspective is also discussed and applied specifically to understanding gender differences in attraction to and consumption of pornography.
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There are 2 families of statistical procedures in meta-analysis: fixed- and random-effects procedures. They were developed for somewhat different inference goals: making inferences about the effect parameters in the studies that have been observed versus making inferences about the distribution of effect parameters in a population of studies from a random sample of studies. The authors evaluate the performance of confidence intervals and hypothesis tests when each type of statistical procedure is used for each type of inference and confirm that each procedure is best for making the kind of inference for which it was designed. Conditionally random-effects procedures (a hybrid type) are shown to have properties in between those of fixed- and random-effects procedures.
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IntroductionIndividual studiesThe summary effectHeterogeneity of effect sizesSummary points