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Pornography Consumption and Satisfaction: A Meta-Analysis: Pornography and Satisfaction

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A classic question in the communication literature is whether pornography consumption affects consumers' satisfaction. The present paper represents the first attempt to address this question via meta-analysis. Fifty studies collectively including more than 50,000 participants from 10 countries were located across the interpersonal domains of sexual and relational satisfaction and the intrapersonal domains of body and self satisfaction. Pornography consumption was not related to the intrapersonal satisfaction outcomes that were studied. However, pornography consumption was associated with lower interpersonal satisfaction outcomes in cross-sectional surveys, longitudinal surveys, and experiments. Associations between pornography consumption and reduced interpersonal satisfaction outcomes were not moderated by their year of release or their publication status. But analyses by sex indicted significant results for men only.
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Human Communication Research ISSN 0360-3989
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Pornography Consumption and Satisfaction:
A Meta-Analysis
Paul J. Wright1, Robert S. Tokunaga2, Ashley Kraus1, & Elyssa Klann3
1 The Media School, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA
2 Department of Communicology, University of Hawaii, Manoa, HI 96822, USA
3 School of Education, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA
A classic question in the communication literature is whether pornography consumption
aects consumers’ satisfaction. e present paper represents the rst attempt to address
this question via meta-analysis. Fiy studies collectively including more than 50,000 par-
ticipants from 10 countries were located across the interpersonal domains of sexual and
relational satisfaction and the intrapersonal domains of body and self satisfaction. Pornog-
raphy consumption was not related to the intrapersonal satisfaction outcomes that were
studied. However, pornography consumption was associated with lower interpersonal satis-
faction outcomes in cross-sectional surveys, longitudinal surveys, and experiments. Associ-
ations between pornography consumption and reduced interpersonal satisfaction outcomes
were not moderated by their year of release or their publication status. But analyses by sex
indicted signicant results for men only.
Keywords: Pornography, Sexually Explicit Media, Satisfaction, Meta-Analysis.
doi:10.1111/hcre.12108
Does consuming pornography have any discernable impact on consumers’ satisfac-
tion?Andifso,isthisimpactnegativeorpositive?esequestionshavestimulated
a large number of studies, but uncertainty about their answers remains among com-
munication scholars.
In early papers, authors primarily hypothesized that pornography had detrimental
eects on satisfaction (e.g., Kenrick, Gutierres, & Goldberg, 1989; Weaver, Masland, &
Zillmann, 1984; Zillmann & Bryant, 1988). is hypothesis was based on two assump-
tions. First, that satisfaction is a subjective state inuenced by comparisons to others
and their experiences. Second, that pornographic actors are more sexually attractive
and skilled than most consumers and their partners and that the gratications from
sex depicted in pornography exceed the gratications that most consumers expe-
rience in their own lives. In more recent papers, however, it has become common
for authors to reason that pornography may enhance the satisfaction of consumers
Corresponding author: Paul J. Wright; e-mail: paulwrig@indiana.edu
Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association 1
Pornography and Satisfaction P. J. Wright et al.
(e.g., Kvalem, Traeen, & Ianta, 2015; Morrison, Bearden, Harriman, Morrison, &
Ellis, 2004; Traeen et al., 2014). One reason for this shi in thinking has been that con-
sumers report primarily positive eects when asked directly about how pornography
has aected them.
For example, in a series of studies, Hald and colleagues (Hald & Malamuth, 2008;
Hald, Smolenski, & Rosser, 2013; Mulya & Hald, 2014) found that when queried
about how pornography has impacted them, consumers report that their use has
increased their satisfaction with their sexual knowledge, outlook, ecacy, skill,
relations,experiences,andeventheirlifeingeneral.Peoplewhoconsumepornog-
raphy more frequently and for longer durations are especially likely to perceive such
positive impacts (Hald & Malamuth, 2008; Mulya & Hald, 2014). One interpretive
option for such results is to take them at face value and conclude that pornography
has predominantly positive eects on consumers and more regular and intense
consumption only enhance these positive eects. However, the authors of these
studies caution that these self-perceived eects may also be due to rationalization,
justication, and biased optimism. It is common for people to rationalize and justify,
andtoperceivethemselvesaspersonallylesssusceptibleto,anynegativeimpactsof
behaviors that provide them with immediate and powerful rewards (Chapin, 2001;
Dillard, McCaul, & Klein, 2006; Jamieson, Mushquash, & Mazmanian, 2003; Pickard,
2016). It is also common for people to believe that they are personally unaected by
any pernicious eects that others may experience from using media with antisocial
elements (Perlo, 2009; Sun, Pan, & Shen, 2008). Such perceptions may reect a
self-enhancement bias, a desire to reduce cognitive dissonance, or a psychological
reactance against the insinuation that they should stop consuming the media in
question (Bushman & Huesmann, 2014; Taylor & Huesmann, 2014).
Becauseofthevaliditythreatposedbyaskingpornographyconsumersdirectly
how pornography has aected them, most scholars have preferred to investigate the
nature and extent of pornography’s inuence on satisfaction through pornography
exposure experiments or surveys correlating separate measures of pornography use
and satisfaction. e present paper provides a meta-analytic review of this literature.
Specically, the present paper reports results of meta-analyses on experimental and
correlational survey studies of pornography consumption and relational, sexual, self,
and body satisfaction.
Terminology and organizational framework
A survey of the literature on pornography and satisfaction indicates that researchers
have been interested in two basic questions: “Does pornography aect consumers’
satisfaction with their interactions with others?” and “Does pornography aect
consumers’ satisfaction with themselves?” In other words, research on pornography
and satisfaction has been interested in consumers’ satisfaction with their relations
with others (abbreviated as interpersonal satisfaction in the present manuscript) and
satisfaction with themselves (abbreviated as intrapersonal satisfaction in the present
manuscript).
2Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association
P. J. Wright et al. Pornography and Satisfaction
isdualinterestwaspreviewedbyprobablythebest-knownstudyinthisarea,
Zillmann and Bryant’s (1988) experiment on the eects of prolonged exposure to
pornography on sexual satisfaction. e central ndings of the study involved the rst
question of whether pornography impacts consumers’ satisfaction with their interac-
tions with others. is is reected in their summary of key results, which states that
“aer consumption of pornography, subjects reported less satisfaction with their inti-
mate partners —specically with these partners’ aection, physical appearance, sexual
curiosity, and sexual performance proper” (p. 438). But the paper also foreshadowed
the second question of whether pornography impacts satisfaction with oneself, which
was explored in later studies. In their concluding discussion, Zillmann and Bryant
wondered whether “consumers grant themselves sexual adequacy, even superior sta-
tusinthesexualrealm”or“areintimidatedbythelooksandactionsoftheirgender
peers in pornography and come to perceive themselvesas decient and inade-
quate” (p. 451).
Relational and sexual satisfaction are the interpersonal satisfaction variables most
frequently investigated in pornography studies (Muusses, Kerkhof, & Finkenauer,
2015; Szymanski & Stewart-Richardson, 2014). Relational satisfaction is dened
as participants’ contentedness with their romantic relationships (e.g., Willoughby,
Carroll, Busby, & Brown, 2016). Sexual satisfaction is dened as participants’ con-
tentedness with their sexual lives (e.g., Morgan, 2011). On the other hand, the most
frequently investigated intrapersonal satisfaction variables in pornography studies
are body and self satisfaction (Kvalem et al., 2015; Morrison et al., 2004). Self satis-
faction is dened as participants’ positive regard for themselves overall (self-esteem,
e.g., Rasmussen, Ortiz, & White, 2015) or for their sexual self specically (sexual
self-esteem, e.g., Morrison et al., 2004). Body satisfaction is dened as participants
contentedness with their overall body or with specic body parts (e.g., Burnham,
2013; Peter & Valkenburg, 2014). e terms “relationship,” “sexual,” “body,” and
“self” in reference to satisfaction were oen used in the studies meta-analyzed (e.g.,
Hill, 2011; Kvalem et al., 2015; Maddox, Rhoades, & Markman, 2011; Minarcik,
2010). However, the abbreviating title or phrase chosen for a variable by the authors
of a study was not the deciding factor in whether or not results associated with it were
included. Rather, the contents of its measurement items and their correspondence
with the paper’s conceptual denitions were the deciding factors.
Finally, following the recent meta-analyses of Hald, Malamuth, and Yuen (2010)
and Wright, Tokunaga, and Kraus (2016), pornography was dened as media intended
to sexually arouse consumers through the depiction of nudity or explicit sexual behav-
ior. is denition aligns with both early and more recent studies of pornography and
satisfaction (see Maddox et al., 2011; Muusses et al., 2015; Zillmann & Bryant, 1988).
Pornography and interpersonal satisfaction
A number of theoretical frameworks have been used to cra hypotheses about
pornography and interpersonal satisfaction outcomes, most commonly predict-
ing adverse eects. Social comparison theory posits that feelings of satisfaction
Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association 3
Pornography and Satisfaction P. J. Wright et al.
are, in part, determined by comparisons between one’s own and others’ situations
(Festinger, 1954; Suls, Martin, & Wheeler, 2002). Upward comparisons (i.e., com-
parisons to superior situations) can result in decreased satisfaction. Scholars have
variously asserted that pornography consumers will, in comparison to pornographic
depictions, nd the physical appearance, performance, enthusiasm, availability,
responsiveness, and adventurousness of their actual or potential sex partners lacking
(Doran & Price, 2014; Kenrick et al., 1989; Lambert, Negash, Stillman, Olmstead, &
Fincham, 2012; Muusses et al., 2015; Peter & Valkenburg, 2009; Poulsen, Busby, &
Galovan, 2013; Zillmann & Bryant, 1988; see also Brosius, Weaver, & Staab, 1993;
Jensen & Dines, 1998).
Some studies have incorporated similar arguments from a sexual scripts per-
spective (Poulsen et al., 2013; Rowell, 2011). Sexual scripts are socially constructed
guidelines for sexual encounters, can be inuenced by pornography, and address
the questions of who one should have sex with, how the sex should unfold, and
what the consequences of the sex should be (Gagnon & Simon, 2005; Wright &
Donnerstein, 2014). e basic position has been that reduced sexual satisfaction is
likely if pornography consumers contrast the sexual attractiveness of their partners
with actors in pornography, evaluate how their sexual encounters unfold against the
positively planned and framed encounters depicted in pornography, and juxtapose
theirownandtheirpartners’levelsofblissandelationpostsexwiththeraptureand
delight exhibited by pornographic performers (Stulhofer, Busko, & Landripet, 2010;
Willoughby et al., 2016). e majority of this research has used the scripting concept
heuristically, as opposed to testing particular tenets of theoretical models designed
specically to explain the eects of sexual media, such as the sexual script acquisition,
activation, application model (3AM; Wright, 2011, 2014; Wright & Bae, 2016; Wright,
Malamuth, & Donnerstein, 2012).
Because sexual satisfaction is strongly predictive of relational satisfaction, any
eect of pornography on the former likely impacts the latter (Bridges & Moroko,
2011). But some authors have suggested that there may also be direct eects of
pornography on relational satisfaction (Doran & Price, 2014; Poulsen et al., 2013).
e investment model of commitment (Rusbult, 1983) can be used to theorize that
people who are relationally satised are also more committed to their partner and
more invested in their relationship (Etcheverry, Le, Wu, & Wei, 2013). Environmental
factors that reduce relational investment and relational commitment may, therefore,
reduce relational satisfaction. If pornography displaces partnered sex (reducing
investment) and primes the possibility of a better relationship or encourages the
pursuit of extrarelational encounters (reducing commitment), it may lower rela-
tional satisfaction (Doran & Price, 2014; Lambert et al., 2012; Muusses et al., 2015;
Poulsen et al., 2013). Gender role conict theory (O’Neil, Helms, Gable, David, &
Wrightsman, 1986) was also referenced to predict a negative eect (Szymanski &
Stewart-Richardson, 2014). Gender role conict occurs when the rigid internalization
of gender roles results in interpersonal dispute. Popular pornography oen displays
hypermasculine men and hyperfeminine women (Bridges, Wosnitzer, Scharrer, Sun,
4Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association
P. J. Wright et al. Pornography and Satisfaction
& Liberman, 2010; Klaassen & Peter, 2015). Conict and relational disappointment
may result if romantic partners fail to meet pornography consumers’ expectations
for hypergendered behavior (Doran & Price, 2014).
Hypotheses predicting that more pornography consumption will be associated
with less interpersonal satisfaction are at odds with the perceptions of pornogra-
phy consumers, however. Pornography consumers are signicantly more likely to
perceive positive than negative eects on their sex life, for example, and disagree
with the notion that pornography has adversely impacted their relationships (Hald
& Malamuth, 2008; Mulya & Hald, 2014). Consistent with this, the ndings of an
early experiment suggested that exposing people to sexually explicit content could
increase their positive feelings toward their partner (Dermer & Pyszczynski, 1978).
e rst research question of the present meta-analysis asks:
RQ1: Is pornography consumption associated with relational and sexual satisfaction?
Pornography and intrapersonal satisfaction
Similar to studies of interpersonal satisfaction outcomes, studies of intrapersonal
satisfaction outcomes have typically referenced social comparison theory and/or
sexual script theory to predict reduced satisfaction eects due to upward com-
parisons by consumers to idealized actors and sexual encounters in pornography.
Arguments about detrimental eects on body satisfaction have been based on the
position that men in pornography have large, “preternaturally erect” penises (Mor-
rison et al., 2004, p. 145), at stomachs, and muscular physiques while women are
slender and beautiful, with perky breasts, smooth vulvas, and petite labia (Bramwell,
2002; Duggan & McCreary, 2004; Morrison, Ellis, Morrison, Bearden, & Harriman,
2006; Peter & Valkenburg, 2014; Schick, Rima, & Calabrese, 2011; Vandenbosch &
Eggermont, 2013). Detrimental eects on self satisfaction have been rooted in the
stance that performers in pornography have enviable stamina, virility and technique,
the capacity to delay orgasm interminably or climax on call, the ability to attract
numerous attractive partners, and the attributes of traditional masculinity (e.g.,
status, dominance) and femininity (e.g., desired by others, youthful; Doornwaard
et al., 2014; Frable, Johnson, & Kellman, 1997; Kvalem et al., 2015; Morrison et al.,
2004; Morrison et al., 2006; Tylka, 2014; Vandenbosch & Eggermont, 2013).
On the other hand, there are several reasons to believe that pornography either
has no impact or even a positive impact on consumers’ intrapersonal satisfaction.
First, as indicated previously, aer nding in their experiment that pornography expo-
sure reduced participants’ satisfaction with partners across a variety of domains, Zill-
mann and Bryant (1988) speculated that consumers’ upward comparisons may center
on their partners, not on themselves. Second, Traeen et al. (2014) and Kvalem et al.
(2015) reasoned that consumers could just as readily learn from, model, and focus
on the similarities between themselves and actors in pornography, thereby increasing
positive self perceptions, as make ego-threatening upward comparisons. ird, and
consistent with the positions of Traeen et al. and Kvalem et al., when asked directly
about pornography’s eects on them, many consumers report positive results in areas
Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association 5
Pornography and Satisfaction P. J. Wright et al.
such as learning new sexual techniques, discovering new sexual desires, and experi-
menting with new sexual behaviors; they also deny negative eects such as increased
performance anxiety (Hald & Malamuth, 2008; Hald et al., 2013; Mulya & Hald, 2014).
Fourth, although in a subsequent survey the authors found the opposite association
(Morrison et al., 2006), in an early survey on the topic Morrison et al. (2004) found
that pornography consumption correlated positively with sexual self-esteem. Conse-
quently, the second research question of the present meta-analysis asks:
RQ2: Is pornography consumption associated with body and self satisfaction?
Potential moderators
Findings regarding pornography consumption and satisfaction may not be uniform
across participants, samples, and methods. e examination of moderating variables
in a meta-analysis is determined by the characteristics of the located studies. e mod-
erators that can be tested are limited by the samples and methods reported.
Sex
A common suggestion in the literature is that the eects of pornography on satis-
faction may dier for men and women. e majority of authors highlighted reasons
why adverse eects may be more likely for men. Regarding interpersonal satisfaction,
many authors surmised that negative associations would be more likely for men given
ndings indicating that men are more likely to consume pornography in solitude for
self-stimulation while women are more likely to view pornography with partners and
ndings suggesting that solitary consumption is more detrimental to relationships
than coviewing (Bridges & Moroko, 2011; Daneback, Traeen, & Mansson, 2009;
Maddox et al., 2011; Muusses et al., 2015; Poulsen et al., 2013; Traeen & Daneback,
2013). Satisfaction is higher when couples have sex more frequently (Doran & Price,
2014). Coviewing may encourage coupled sex and increase satisfaction while soli-
tary consumption for masturbatory purposes may displace coupled sex and decrease
satisfaction (Bridges & Moroko, 2011; Maddox et al., 2011; Manning, 2006). Con-
sequently, men’s solitary consumption of pornography may displace sex with their
partner and lead to decreased satisfaction while women’s coupled pornography con-
sumption may increase their partnered sex and their satisfaction. at the content of
pornographyviewedbymenmaybemorelikelytoemphasizenonrelational,objec-
tifying, and gender-stereotypical sex was another reason suggested for why men’s
interpersonal satisfaction may be more negatively aected (Bridges & Moroko, 2011;
see Malamuth, 1996, and Salmon, 2012, for a discussion of the origins of gender dif-
ferences in sexual content preferences). Sex that is solely for physical pleasure, that
treats partners as objects to be acquired rather than individuals to connect with, and
that emphasizes men’s dominance and women’s submission may ultimately leave men
emotionally unlled, alienated from their partners, and sexually and relationally dis-
satised (Brooks, 1995; Doran & Price, 2014; Stock, 1997; Tylka, 2014; Willoughby
et al., 2016).
6Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association
P. J. Wright et al. Pornography and Satisfaction
Intrapersonally, three reasons why men may be more adversely aected were put
forth. First, because the ability to obtain sex with multiple physically attractive part-
ners is more central to men’s masculine sense of self than is the ability to have casual
sex with uninvested partners is for women’s feminine sense of self, men may be more
likely to make upward comparisons to performers in pornography than women (Peter
& Valkenburg, 2009; Vandenbosch & Eggermont, 2013). Second, because idealized,
perfected depictions of women’s bodies are near ubiquitous in media, women may
be more able to “ignore or confront” such imagery than men (Duggan & McCreary,
2004, p. 47). ird, it is more socially acceptable for women to discuss body image
issues than it is for men, so men may be more likely to internalize their insecurities
(Duggan & McCreary, 2004; Vandenbosch & Eggermont, 2013).
Not all studies that have examined sex as a moderator have found an interaction
eect, however (Peter & Valkenburg, 2009; Zillmann & Bryant, 1988), and theoriz-
ing in the body-image literature does not suggest that men are more impacted than
women (American Psychological Association, 2007; Tiggemann, 2013). Accordingly,
this meta-analysis’ third research question asks:
RQ3: Do associations between pornography consumption and satisfaction dier by sex?
Year
It was rare for a study in the present meta-analysis to argue that more recent investiga-
tions should produce larger eect sizes. Yet some academic (Dines, 2010; Jensen, 2007)
and much popular discourse (Maltz & Maltz, 2008; Paul, 2005) suggests that nega-
tive impacts on consumers and their relationships have become more pronounced
over time as advances in communication technology such as the Internet have made
pornography, in general, and dehumanizing and aggressive pornography, in partic-
ular,moreaccessible.Arecentmeta-analysisofpornographyandsexualaggression,
however, did not nd that eect sizes diered in studies conducted pre and post Inter-
net (Wright et al., 2016). e eect sizes were constant between the time periods,
indicating that pornography consumption was associated with an increased likeli-
hood of sexually aggressive behavior across time. Consequently, this meta-analysis
fourth research question asks:
RQ4: Do associations between pornography consumption and satisfaction vary by year?
Method
Dierent research methods allow for varying levels of causal inference and ecological
generalization (Babbie, 2004; Hocking, Stacks, & McDermott, 2003). Experimental
studies provide the best evidence of cause, as they can demonstrate that variables
change together systematically (covariation), that a cause temporally precedes
its eect (time-order), and that no third-variable is responsible for the covariation
between the independent and dependent variables (nonspuriousness). Social psycho-
logical experiments, however, are oen critiqued as lacking real-world applicability,
especially in pornography research (Linz & Malamuth, 1993). Cross-sectional survey
Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association 7
Pornography and Satisfaction P. J. Wright et al.
studies are more ecologically valid, as they simply correlate participants’ responses
and do not contain any manipulations, but reverse causality and unmeasured
third-variable confounds are possibilities. Longitudinal surveys maintain the advan-
tage of ecological validity but also address the reverse causation threat. us, it is
when the results of experiments, cross-sectional surveys, and longitudinal surveys
align that the most powerful evidence of a media eect is demonstrated (Wright,
2011). Accordingly, this meta-analysis’ h research question asks:
RQ5: Do associations between pornography consumption and satisfaction vary by
method?
Publication status
It is critical to compare unpublished and published studies for two reasons. First,
published studies may be of superior quality, having been evaluated by peer review-
ers (Neuman, Davidson, Joo, Park, & Williams, 2008). Second, unpublished studies
may be more likely to report null correlations if journal editors and reviewers favor
signicant ndings over nonsignicant ndings (Rothstein & Bushman, 2012). is
meta-analysis’ sixth research question asks:
RQ6: Do associations between pornography consumption and satisfaction vary by
publication status?
Method
Literature search
e study’s authors conducted the literature search as part of an ongoing eort
to archive and review studies on the eects of sexual media. e search for the
current study continued until the end of 2015. We used electronic database (e.g.,
Academic Search Premier, All Academic, Cinahl Complete, EbscoHost, Communi-
cation & Mass Media Complete, ERIC, Google Scholar, JSTOR, Medline, ProQuest,
PsycINFO, PubMed, Sociological Abstracts) and ancestral (e.g., Ezzell, 2014; Hald,
Seaman, & Linz, 2014; Harkness, Mullan, & Blaszczynski, 2015; Owens, Behun, Man-
ning, & Reid, 2012; Short, Black, Smith, Wetterneck, & Wells, 2012) searches to locate
published and unpublished scientic reports. We used the following search terms and
their combinations: pornography [pornography, sexually explicit media/materials,
SEM, erotica, sexual content, sexual media] and satisfaction [satisfaction, dissatisfac-
tion, partner, couple, relationship, body, body image, self, self-concept, self-esteem].
Many of the electronic databases (e.g., All Academic, Google Scholar, ProQuest)
included unpublished studies, such as theses, dissertations, and works presented
at conferences. Ancestral (i.e., reference section) searches were also potential sites
for the location of unpublished studies. Aer this compilation eort, we contacted
multiple leading media sex scholars and asked them to indicate omissions. None
were identied. Not all papers that included measures germane to the present inves-
tigation reported the results required for analysis. Whenever contact information for
8Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association
P. J. Wright et al. Pornography and Satisfaction
the authors of these papers was locatable, they were contacted and asked to provide
additional information. Papers whose authors generously provided such information
are identied by a “” in the reference section.
Criteria for inclusion in the meta-analysis were twofold. First, the study had to
include a quantitative assessment of pornography exposure. As an example of a typical
self-report assessment, Doornwaard et al. (2014) asked participants “How oen do
youusetheInternettoviewapornWebsite(aWebsitewithpicturesormoviesthat
show nudity or people having sex)?” (p. 1105). In manipulated exposure experiments,
pictures of nude models or videos of explicit sexual acts were common stimuli (e.g.,
Kenrick et al., 1989; Weaver et al., 1984; Zillmann & Bryant, 1988).
Second, the study had to include a quantitative assessment of relational, sexual,
self, and/or body satisfaction. Twenty-four studies measured relational satisfaction.
As an illustration of a typical relational satisfaction index, Maddox et al. (2011) asked
participants about their relational happiness, thoughts about relational dissolution,
and overall perceptions of how well their relationship was going. Twenty-eight
studies measured sexual satisfaction. As an illustration of a typical sexual satisfaction
assessment, Peter and Valkenburg (2009) asked participants how happy and how
satised they were with their sex life. Self satisfaction assessments came from nine
studies that measured either self-esteem in general or sexual self-esteem speci-
cally. Regarding general self-esteem, Rasmussen et al. (2015) utilized Rosenberg’s
Self-Esteem Scale and Daneback et al. (2009) assessed participants’ habitually nega-
tive self-perceptions. As illustration of a typical sexual self-esteem item, Traeen et al.
(2014) asked participants about their level of agreement with the statement “I am
better at sex than most other people” (p. 17). Body satisfaction assessments came
from 16 studies that measured either body satisfaction in general (e.g., satisfaction
with “body build”Burnham, 2013) or satisfaction with specic body parts (e.g.,
penis, breastsPeter & Valkenburg, 2014).
e studies meeting these criteria are overviewed in Tables 1 and 2. In total, 50
studies from 47 papers were identied. Doran and Price (2014) used the General
Social Survey (GSS) to assess married U.S. adults’ pornography consumption and
relational satisfaction. ey analyzed data between 1973 and 2010. Because the GSS is
publicly available, we replicated their analyses using data up until 2014 (Smith, Mars-
den, & Houtem, 2014).
Moderator variables
We coded four potential moderator variables: biological sex of participants, the year
the study was released, the method of the study, and whether or not the study was
published. We coded the biological sex of participants as male or female. We used the
citationyearprovidedbythestudysreferencetocodetheyearofthestudy.Studies
methods were coded as cross-sectional survey, longitudinal survey, or experiment.
Studies included either published journal articles or unpublished student theses.
Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association 9
Pornography and Satisfaction P. J. Wright et al.
Table 1 Overview of Studies in Meta-Analysis
Study by Year Age of Sample Sex of Samplea,b Design of StudycReport Type Country of Study
1. Dermer and Pyszczynski (1978) Adults M Experiment Article United States
2. Weaver et al. (1984) Adults M Experiment Article United States
3. Zillmann and Bryant (1988) Adults M, F Experiment Article United States
4. Kenrick et al. (1989) Adults M, F Experiment Article United States
5. Amelang and Pielke (1992), Study 1 Adults M, F Experiment Article Germany
6. Amelang and Pielke (1992), Study 2 Adults M, F Experiment Article Germany
7. Duggan and McCreary (2004) Adults M CS Survey Article Canada
8. Morrison et al. (2004) Adults M, F CS Survey Article Canada
9. Deloy (2006) Adults M CS Survey esis United States
10. Morrison et al. (2006) Adults M CS Survey Article Canada
11. Dellner (2008) Adults M, F CS Survey esis United States
12. Hosley, Caneld, O’Donnell, and Roid (2008) Adults M CS Survey Article United States
13. Daneback et al. (2009) Adults M, F CS Survey Article Norway
14. Peter and Valkenburg (2009) Adolescents M, F L Survey Article Netherlands
15. Minarcik (2010) Adults M, F CS Survey esis United States
16. Stulhofer et al. (2010) Adults M CS Survey Article Croatia
17. Bridges and Moroko (2011) Adults M, F CS Survey Article United States
18. Hill (2011) Adults F CS Survey esis United States
19. Maddox et al. (2011) Adults M, F CS Survey Article United States
20. Morgan (2011) Adults M, F CS Survey Article United States
21. Rowell (2011) Adults F Experiment esis United States
22. Johnston (2012) Adults M, F CS Survey esis United States
23. Lambert et al. (2012), Study 1 Adults M, F CS Survey Article United States
24. Lambert et al. (2012), Study 3 Adults M, F Experiment Article United States
25. Lambert et al. (2012), Study 5 Adults M, F CS Survey Article United States
26. Stulhofer, Busko, and Schmidt (2012) Adults M, F CS Survey Article Croatia
10 Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association
P. J. Wright et al. Pornography and Satisfaction
Table 1 Continued
StudybyYear AgeofSample SexofSample
a,b Design of StudycReport Type Country of Study
27. Vandenbosch and Eggermont (2012) Adolescents F CS Survey Article Belgium
28. Burnham (2013) Adults F CS Survey esis United States
29. Emmers-Sommer, Hertlein, and Kennedy (2013) Adults M, F CS Survey Article United States
30. Poulsen et al. (2013) Adults M, F CS Survey Article United States
31. Stana (2013) Adults M, F CS Survey esis United States
32. Traeen and Daneback (2013) Adults M, F CS Survey Article Norway
33. Vandenbosch and Eggermont (2013) Adolescents M CS Survey Article Belgium
34. Brown (2014) Adults M, F CS Survey esis United States
35. Doornwaard et al. (2014) Adolescents M, F L Survey Article Netherlands
36. Kvalem, Traeen, Lewin, and Stulhofer (2014) Adults M, F CS Survey Article Norway, Sweden
37. Laier, Pekal, and Brand (2014) Adults F CS Survey Article Germany
38. Peter and Valkenburg (2014) Adolescent, adult mix M, F L Survey Article Netherlands
39. Smith et al. (2014) Adults M, F CS Survey Article/GSSdUn ited St ate s
40. Szymanski and Stewart-Richardson (2014) Adults M CS Survey Article United States
41. Traeen et al. (2014) Adults M CS Survey Article United States
42. Tylka (2014) Adults M CS Survey Article United States
43. Carvalheira, Træen, and Stulhofer (2015) Adults M CS Survey Article Portugal, Croatia, Norway
44. Kvalem et al. (2015) Adults M CS Survey Article Norway
45. Muusses et al. (2015) Adults M, F L Survey Article Netherlands
46. Rasmussen et al. (2015) Adults M, F CS Survey Article United States
47. Sun: Germany (2016) Adults M, F CS Survey Article Germany
48. Sun: Korea (2016) Adults M, F CS Survey Article Korea
49. Sun: United States (2016) Adults M, F CS Survey Article United States
50. Willoughby et al. (2016) Adults M, F CS Survey Article United States
aM=Male, F =Female. bAlthough females and males may have both been sampled, results for each sex were not always reported. cCS =Cross-sectional,
L=Longitudinal. dGeneral Social Survey; analysis followed Doran and Price (2014)
Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association 11
Pornography and Satisfaction P. J. Wright et al.
Table 2 Measures of Satisfactiona,b
Study by Year Relational Satisfaction Sexual Satisfaction Body Satisfaction
General
Self Satisfaction
Sexual Self
Satisfaction
1. Dermer and Pyszczynski
(1978)
Love for partner Partner’s sexual receptivity
2. Weaver et al. (1984) Partner’s sexual appeal
3. Zillmann and Bryant (1988) Sexual happiness
4. Kenrick et al. (1989) Love for partner Partner’s sexual
attractiveness
——
5. Amelang and Pielke (1992),
Study 1
Love for partner Partner’s sexual receptivity
6. Amelang and Pielke (1992),
Study 2
Love for partner Partner’s sexual receptivity;
passionate love
——
7. Duggan and McCreary
(2004)
——Muscularitysatisfaction
8. Morrison et al. (2004) Genital satisfaction Sexual self-esteem
9. Deloy (2006) Aection; autonomy;
conict management;
equality; intimacy
Sexual activity satisfaction
10. Morrison et al. (2006) Body and genital
satisfaction
Sexual self-esteem
11. Dellner (2008) Relationship assessment Sexual inventory
12. Hosley et al. (2008) Marital satisfaction — — —
13. Daneback et al. (2009) — — — Habitual
self-perceptions
14. Peter and Valkenburg
(2009)
—Sexualsatisfaction
15. Minarcik (2010) Sexual satisfaction
12 Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association
P. J. Wright et al. Pornography and Satisfaction
Table 2 Continued
Study by Year Relational Satisfaction Sexual Satisfaction Body Satisfaction
General
Self Satisfaction
Sexual Self
Satisfaction
16. Stulhofer et al. (2010) Relational intimacy Sexual life satisfaction,
sexual boredom
——
17. Bridges and Moroko (2011) Relationship satisfaction Sexual satisfaction
18. Hill (2011) Body image, shame, shape;
genital satisfaction
——
19. Maddox et al. (2011) Dedication; relational
adjustment
Sexual satisfaction
20. Morgan (2011) Relationship satisfaction Sexual satisfaction
21. Rowell (2011) Sexual satisfaction Body attitudes
22. Johnston (2012) Relationship satisfaction Sexual satisfaction
23. Lambert et al. (2012), Study 1 Relational commitment
24. Lambert et al. (2012), Study 3 Relational commitment
25. Lambert et al. (2012), Study 5 Relational commitment
26. Stulhofer et al. (2012) Relational intimacy — — —
27. Vandenbosch and Eggermont
(2012)
Appearance ideals
28. Burnham (2013) Bodily attitudes Sexual self-esteem
29. Emmers-Sommer et al. (2013) Relational commitment
30. Poulsen et al. (2013) Relationship satisfaction Sexual quality
31. Stana (2013) Body self-consciousness Sexual self-esteem
32. Traeen and Daneback (2013) Sexual satisfaction
33. Vandenbosch and Eggermont
(2013)
Appearance ideals
34. Brown (2014) Sexual satisfaction
35. Doornwaard et al. (2014) Sexual experience
satisfaction
Physical self-esteem
Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association 13
Pornography and Satisfaction P. J. Wright et al.
Table 2 Continued
Study by Year Relational Satisfaction Sexual Satisfaction Body Satisfaction
General
Self Satisfaction
Sexual Self
Satisfaction
36. Kvalem et al. (2014) Genital satisfaction Sexual self-esteem
37. Laier et al. (2014) Sexual satisfaction
38. Peter and Valkenburg (2014) Body, stomach, breast or
penis satisfaction
——
39. Smith et al. (2014) Marital happiness
40. Szymanski and
Stewart-Richardson (2014)
Dyadic adjustment quality Sexual satisfaction
41. Traeen et al. (2014) — — — — Sexual self-esteem
42. Tylka (2014) Romantic attachment Body fat and muscularity
satisfaction; body
appreciation
——
43. Carvalheira et al. (2015) Relationship intimacy Sexual boredom
44. Kvalem et al. (2015) Sexual relationship
self-esteem
——Sexualpartner
self-esteem
45. Muusses et al. (2015) Dyadic adjustment quality Sexual satisfaction
46. Rasmussen et al. (2015) Self-esteem
47. Sun: Germany (2016) Sexual satisfaction Genital satisfaction
48. Sun: Korea (2016) Sexual satisfaction Genital satisfaction
49. Sun et al. (2016a, 2016b):
United States (2016)
Sexual satisfaction Genital satisfaction
50. Willoughby et al. (2016) Relationship satisfaction
aHyphens (— ) indicate that the study either did not measure or report applicable results for that particular category of satisfaction. be titles in the table reect the
variable namesused in each study with the goal of facilitating readers’ ability to locate the variables in the original report. Because the title of a variableandtheactual
phenomenon measured by its items can dier, we used the content of the items, not the variable name chosen by the study author, when deciding which variables
were applicable.
14 Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association
P. J. Wright et al. Pornography and Satisfaction
e specic numbers of eect sizes for each moderator test of each satisfaction
comparison are reported in the results section. Moderator analyses were conducted
only when three or more eect sizes for each subgroup being compared were available.
Eect size extraction and correction for measurement error
We reviewed papers for their eect size estimates. In many instances, the Pear-
son correlation coecient, r, between pornography consumption and satisfaction
was reported. Some studies, however, reported an unadjusted odds ratio, tvalue,
and/or Fvalue to represent the relationship between pornography consumption
and satisfaction. In these cases, the eect sizes were transformed into the common
eect size, r.
Measurement error, which attenuates eect sizes, was a study artifact that we
corrected in this meta-analysis (Schmidt & Hunter, 2015). Because attenuation
from measurement error can occur disproportionately across subgroups of studies,
correcting for measurement error is particularly important for moderator anal-
yses. e alpha reliabilities reported in each study were used in the correction
equation. When a reliability coecient was not reported for a measure, the number
of reported items was used in the Spearman-Brown formula to estimate its reliability.
e average number of items of a construct across all studies in the meta-analysis
was used in the Spearman-Brown formula when neither the number of items nor
the reliability was reported. e average number of items and single-item alphas
used to estimate the reliability in the meta-analysis of pornography consumption
and the indicators of interpersonal satisfaction were as follows: pornography con-
sumption (αsingle-item =.71, Mitem =2) and interpersonal satisfaction (αsingle-item =.68,
Mitem =8). e average number of items and single-item alphas for the pornography
consumption and intrapersonal satisfaction meta-analyses were: pornography con-
sumption (αsingle-item =.57, Mitem =4) and intrapersonal satisfaction (αsingle-item =.59,
Mitem =11).
Results
Analytic approach
We used random-eects model meta-analyses to estimate the combined eect of the
corrected correlations extracted from the studies. Random-eects models assume that
the true eect size can vary across studies beyond variance attributable to sampling
error (Anker, Reinhart, & Feeley, 2010; Borenstein, Hedges, Higgins, & Rothstein,
2009; Hedges & Vevea, 1998). e random-eects model estimates the mean of a dis-
tribution of correlations between pornography consumption and satisfaction drawn
from a superpopulation of eect sizes. To test the proposed moderators, subgroup
analyses were undertaken using a mixed-eects model approach. In this approach,
the average correlations within each subgroup are estimated using random-eects
models and a xed-eect model compares the average correlations between or among
dierent subgroups (Table 3).
Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association 15
Pornography and Satisfaction P. J. Wright et al.
Table 3 Uncorrected and Corrected Correlations by Category
Interpersonal Satisfaction Intrapersonal Satisfaction
StudybyYear rrrr
1. Dermer and Pyszczynski (1978) .193 .194
2. Weaver et al. (1984) .287 .294
3. Zillmann and Bryant (1988) .364 .402
4. Kenrick et al. (1989) .250 .261
5. Amelang and Pielke (1992), Study 1 .021 .022
6. Amelang and Pielke (1992), Study 2 .105 .107
7. Duggan and McCreary (2004) .065 .083
8. Morrison et al. (2004) .165 .200
9. Deloy (2006) .180 .190
10. Morrison et al. (2006) .223 .255
11. Dellner (2008) .085 .089
12. Hosley et al. (2008) .125 .125
13. Daneback et al. (2009) .055 .057
14. Peter and Valkenburg (2009) .120 .126
15. Minarcik (2010) .287 .290
16. Stulhofer, Busko, and Landripet
(2010)
.068 .075
17. Bridges and Moroko (2011) .017 .017
18. Hill (2011) .041 .042
19. Maddox et al. (2011) .117 .124
20. Morgan (2011) .130 .130
21. Rowell (2011) .042 .044 .019 .020
22. Johnston (2012) .031 .031
23. Lambert et al. (2012), Study 1 .200 .225
24. Lambert et al. (2012), Study 3 .410 .418
25. Lambert et al. (2012), Study 5 .140 .160
26. Stulhofer et al. (2012) .021 .026
27. Vandenbosch and Eggermont
(2012)
.130 .142
28. Burnham (2013) .218 .259
29. Emmers-Sommer et al. (2013) .009 .010
30. Poulsen et al. (2013) .059 .067
31. Stana (2013) .127 .136
32. Traeen and Daneback (2013) .030 .031
33. Vandenbosch and Eggermont
(2013)
.180 .197
34. Brown (2014) .095 .103
35. Doornwaard et al. (2014) .154 .154 .158 .167
36. Kvalem et al. (2014) .080 .087
37. Laier et al. (2014) .043 .043
16 Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association
P. J. Wright et al. Pornography and Satisfaction
Table 3 Continued
Interpersonal Satisfaction Intrapersonal Satisfaction
Study by Year rrrr
38. Peter and Valkenburg (2014) .073 .086
39. Smith et al. (2014) .050 .050
40. Szymanski and
Stewart-Richardson (2014)
.145 .152
41. Traeen et al. (2014) .090 .093
42. Tylka (2014) .280 .292 .180 .188
43. Carvalheira et al. (2015) .085 .092
44. Kvalem et al. (2015) .080 .084 .020 .022
45. Muusses et al. (2015) .120 .124
46. Rasmussen et al. (2015) .005 .005
47. Sun: Germany (2016) .190 .190 .015 .015
48. Sun: Korea (2016) .140 .140 .045 .045
49. Sun et al. (2016a, 2016b):
United States (2016)
.168 .168 .114 .114
50. Willoughby et al. (2016) .090 .096
Overall association results
Research questions one and two asked about the overall associations between pornog-
raphy consumption and the indicators of interpersonal and intrapersonal satisfaction.
Results for these research questions are presented next.
Research question 1: Relational and sexual satisfaction
irty-seven eect sizes were extracted from studies that examined the relationship
between pornography consumption and interpersonal satisfaction. In some studies,
more than one correlation could be extracted. Combining multiple eects from the
same study in a meta-analysis violates the independence of eects assumption and
biases estimates of sampling variance (Cheung & Chen, 2008). In these cases, the
pooled within-study corrected correlation was used as the eect-size estimate, and
the samplewise-adjusted corrected sample sizes used for the weights (see Cheung &
Chan, 2014). e indicators of interpersonal satisfaction in this meta-analysis were
relational and sexual satisfaction. e total sample for this meta-analysis was 46,524,
with an average sample size of 1,257 (Mdn =434) per study. e cumulative eect size
across the cases demonstrated a signicant negative association between pornography
consumption and interpersonal satisfaction, r=−.10, 95% CI [.13, .08], p<.001,
random-eects variance (τ)=.004. e eect sizes in the meta-analysis were hetero-
geneous, Q(36) =52.83, p=.04, I2=31.86, suggesting that the variation across the
correlations may be explained by moderating variables.
We conducted a subgroup analysis to test whether the eect sizes of studies
measuring relational satisfaction diered from studies measuring sexual satisfaction.
Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association 17
Pornography and Satisfaction P. J. Wright et al.
Because some cases reported correlations between pornography consumption and
both relational and sexual satisfaction, the assumption of independence of eect
sizes would be violated if all correlations were used in the subgroup analysis. To
overcome this methodological limitation, the meta-analysis was treated as a two-level
multilevel model, with individual correlations at Level 1 nested within studies at Level
2 (see Cheung, 2014; Field, 2015; Konstantopoulos, 2011). e multilevel model was
specied as yi
0
1(Interpersonal Satisfaction Type) +ui+ei. Relational satis-
faction was coded as “0” and sexual satisfaction was coded as “1” in the regression
model. e results demonstrated that the average eect size of the 24 correlations of
pornography consumption and relational satisfaction (r=−.09, 95% CI [.12, .05])
was not signicantly dierent from the average eect size of the 28 correlations of
pornography consumption and sexual satisfaction (r=−.11, 95% CI [.14, .07]),
β=−.04, SE =.05, p=.32.
Research question 2: Self and body satisfaction
To estimate the relationship between pornography consumption and intrapersonal
satisfaction, we calculated a weighted mean correlation across the 20 eect sizes
extracted from the studies. Body and self satisfaction were the indicators of intraper-
sonal satisfaction. e total sample for this meta-analysis was 12,427, with an average
of 621 (Mdn =575) participants per study. e average eect size of the relationship
between pornography consumption and intrapersonal satisfaction was nonsigni-
cant, r=−.03, 95% CI [.08, .03], p=.401, τ=.015. e test of homogeneity showed
no signicant variance across the correlations, Q(19) =19.34, p=.44, I2=1.76.
e nonsignicant homogeneity test indicated that these studies shared a common
true eect size and no third variables moderate this relationship. Accordingly, no
follow-up subgroup analyses were conducted for this meta-analysis.
Moderation results
Researchquestionsthreethroughsixaskedwhetherassociationsbetweenpornog-
raphy consumption and satisfaction were moderated by other variables. Moderator
tests for the intrapersonal satisfaction variables were not justied due to the non-
signicance of the homogeneity test. Moderator tests for the interpersonal satisfaction
variables were justied, however, and are presented next. Because the results for rela-
tional and sexual satisfaction were empirically indistinguishable, and because doing
so allowed for a more comprehensive analysis of potential moderators, these studies
were grouped into a single pool.1
Research question 3: Sex
Biological sex of the participants was examined as a moderator of the relationship
between pornography consumption and the indicators of interpersonal satisfaction.
e mixed-eects model subgroup analysis indicated that sex was a signicant mod-
erator in the relationship between pornography consumption and interpersonal satis-
faction, Qb=24.82, Zdi =4.98, p<.001. e mean correlation for men (r=−.13, 95%
18 Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association
P. J. Wright et al. Pornography and Satisfaction
CI [.16, .10], k=29), which was signicant, was signicantly dierent from the
nonsignicant average correlation for women (r=−.01, 95% CI [.05, .02], k=22).
Research question 4: Year
We used the year the study was disseminated as a moderator of the relationship
between pornography consumption and the indicators of interpersonal satisfaction.
Study year was treated as a continuous variable in a maximum-likelihood metaregres-
sion. e goal of this test was to see if the strength and/or direction of the association
changed as studies became more recent. Because the eect size drawn from the (GSS;
Smith et al., 2014) reected data aggregated across four decades, we excluded it from
this analysis. e results of the metaregression demonstrated that year was not a
signicant moderator for the associations between pornography consumption and
interpersonal satisfaction (β=.03, SE =.002, p=.86).
Research question 5: Method
e method of the study was also explored as a potential moderator of the relationship
between pornography consumption and the indicators of interpersonal satisfaction.
Method was not a signicant moderator, Qb(2) =0.62, Zdi =0.79, p=.73. e mean
eect of studies using cross-sectional survey designs (r=−.10, 95% CI [.13, .07],
k=26) was not signicantly dierent from longitudinal survey designs (r=−.14, 95%
CI [.23, .04], k=3) or experimental designs (r=−.12, 95% CI [.21, .03], k=8).2
Research question 6: Publication status
We examined the possibility that results from unpublished papers diered from pub-
lished papers by testing whether report type was a moderator. We categorized cases
into either an unpublished paper or published paper group. e subgroup analysis
for the relationship between pornography consumption and the indicators of inter-
personal satisfaction was not signicant, Qb=0.29, Zdi =0.54, p=.59. e average
correlation of the six unpublished studies (r=−.09, 95% CI [.16, .01]) was not sig-
nicantly dierent from the mean correlation of the 31 published studies (r=−.11,
95% CI [.14, .08]). Rosenthal’s fail-safe N,ametricofhowmanystudieswithnull
ndings must be included to make the overall correlation nonsignicant, was 3,228.
e association between eect size and its standard error, represented by Begg and
Mazumdar’s rank correlation, was nonsignicant, Kendall’s τ=−.21, p=.06. In sum,
publication bias was not a signicant concern.
Discussion
is paper presented results from meta-analyses of survey and experimental studies
on pornography consumption and sexual and relational satisfaction (summarized as
interpersonal outcomes) and body and self satisfaction (summarized as intrapersonal
outcomes). In an overall, combined-sample analysis of relational and sexual satisfac-
tion studies, the consumption of p ornography was associated with lower interpersonal
satisfaction. Analyzes broken down by interpersonal satisfaction type indicated that
Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association 19
Pornography and Satisfaction P. J. Wright et al.
associations between pornography consumption and sexual satisfaction and pornog-
raphy consumption and relational satisfaction were indistinguishable, leading to the
grouping of these studies together into a single pool.
Associations between pornography consumption and interpersonal satisfaction
did not vary by publication status, year of release, or method. Consuming pornog-
raphy was associated with lower interpersonal satisfaction in results from published
and unpublished studies, regardless of the year the study was circulated, and regard-
less of the method. Sex was a signicant moderator in a mixed-eects model subgroup
analysis, however, and only the negative correlation for males was signicant.
As with the interpersonal results, analyses broken down by intrapersonal satisfac-
tion type indicated that associations between pornography consumption and body
satisfaction and pornography consumption and self satisfaction were indistinguish-
able, supporting the grouping of these studies together into a single pool. Analysis of
these intrapersonally oriented results indicated a negative, but null, overall relation-
ship and a homogeneity among the eect sizes. us, no further moderator analysis
was undertaken.
Several inferences can be drawn from these results. First, contrary to the state-
ments of consumers when asked directly about how pornography has positively
impacted them (Hald & Malamuth, 2008; Mulya & Hald, 2014), it seems unlikely that
an increase in the frequency and intensity of consumption would, on the average,
lead to a corresponding increase in satisfaction with oneself or one’s sexual or roman-
tic relationships. e results of the studies analyzed in the present paper, whose
designs seem less likely to trigger defensive and rationalizing responses, suggest
thatwomenssatisfactionwouldonaveragebeunaectedwhilemenssexualand
relational satisfaction would on the average be adversely aected.
Second, we can infer from the lack of a moderating eect for year that increasing
access to pornography in general and extreme pornography in particular has not
on average resulted in larger detrimental eects on consumers’ satisfaction. is
does not mean that an increase in access opportunities or a shi toward more
violent and dehumanizing content preferences would not adversely aect a partic-
ular consumer. It means only that the increased availability of pornography (both
standard and extreme) does not appear in and of itself to have changed the nature of
pornography-satisfaction associations. ird, we can infer that a publication bias has
not aected research on pornography and satisfaction.
erearemanyimportantquestionsthatremainunaddressedbytheextantlit-
erature. As one example, too few studies included mechanism tests for any type of
mediational meta-analysis. Mediation tests are needed to evaluate the appropriateness
of the theories that have been proposed (e.g., Gagnon & Simon, 2005; O’Neil et al.,
1986; Rusbult, Martz, & Agnew, 1998; Suls et al., 2002). Future studies could address
whether and which particular social comparison dynamics (e.g., upward compar-
isons to partners’ physical beauty, performance, eagerness, readiness, receptiveness,
adventurousness) help to explain associations between men’s pornography consump-
tion and lower interpersonal satisfaction (Doran & Price, 2014; Kenrick et al., 1989;
20 Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association
P. J. Wright et al. Pornography and Satisfaction
Lambert et al., 2012; Muusses et al., 2015; Peter & Valkenburg, 2009; Poulsen et al.,
2013; Zillmann & Bryant, 1988). Future studies could also explore whether there
are particular masculine sexual scripts (e.g., for multiple partners or for youthful
partners) that trigger feelings of dissatisfaction in men when they view pornogra-
phy (Brooks, 1995; Malamuth, 1996). ey could also test whether there is veracity
to hypotheses derived from the investment model of commitment that pornogra-
phy consumption reduces men’s interpersonal satisfaction by priming the option of a
better relationship, inspiring the pursuit of extrarelational encounters, and supplant-
ing partnered sex (Doran & Price, 2014; Lambert et al., 2012; Muusses et al., 2015;
Poulsen et al., 2013). Future studies could also examine whether using pornography
leads to interpersonal conicts and corresponding reductions in interpersonal satis-
faction, as gender role conict theory would predict (Brooks, 1995; Doran & Price,
2014; Szymanski & Stewart-Richardson, 2014).
Additional moderation analysis is also needed. at the average associations
between women’s satisfaction and pornography consumption were not signi-
cant does not mean that certain subsets of women less frequently studied are not
impacted, for example. Perhaps women who aspire to hyperfemininity but view the
performances in pornography as unattainable are aected (Vandenbosch, 2015). It
is conceivable that only women with precarious self and body esteem are impacted
(Doornwaard et al., 2014). It may be the case that solitary consumption adversely
aects the relationships of women as much as men but is rarer and thus harder to
detect with conventional sampling procedures (Daneback et al., 2009). It may also
be the case that dehumanizing, aggressive, gender-rigid content impacts women
in addition to men, but women’s consumption is more infrequent and therefore
less likely to impact associations generated from entire samples (Sun, Wright, &
Steen, 2015). is may also explain why the average interpersonal association was
signicant for men but not for women.
e discussions of several authors also suggested a need for comparative analyses
by sexual orientation, particularly among men (Duggan & McCreary, 2004; Kvalem
et al., 2015; Peter & Valkenburg, 2014; Szymanski & Stewart-Richardson, 2014; Traeen
& Daneback, 2013; Vandenbosch & Eggermont, 2013). Reasons cited were dieren-
tial levels of pornography consumption, masturbation to pornography, acceptance
of pornography, use of pornography for orientation validation, concern over body
image, and ascriptions of masculinity to muscularity. Discussion of additional poten-
tial moderators can be found in Wright (2011, 2014) and Wright and Bae (2016).
Conclusion
To conclude, the present meta-analysis addressed a classic question in the com-
munication literature: Is there an association between pornography consumption
and satisfaction? Although many questions about possible mediating mechanisms
and contingent eects remain, the study provided several important answers. First,
there appears to be no overall or global association between women’s pornography
Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association 21
Pornography and Satisfaction P. J. Wright et al.
consumptionandtheelementsofsatisfactionstudiedbyresearcherstodate.If
womenssatisfactioninthesedomainsispositivelyornegativelyaected,itisforcer-
tain subgroups less frequently studied or under circumstances not yet identied. Men
as a group, on the other hand, do demonstrate lower sexual and relational satisfaction
(but apparently not self and body satisfaction) as a function of their pornography
consumption. While there may be a reciprocal element to these dynamics (i.e., lower
sexual and relational satisfaction leading to pornography consumption), the conver-
genceofresultsacrosscross-sectionalsurvey,longitudinalsurvey,andexperimental
results points to an overall negative eect of pornography on men’s sexual and
relational satisfaction.
Notes
1 We also conducted four random-eects model meta-analyses on the relationships between
pornography consumption and relational, sexual, body, and sexual self-esteem satisfaction
independently (data for general self-esteem indicators were available from only two studies
so no independent meta-analysis was conducted). e cumulative correlations between
pornography consumption and relational satisfaction (r=−.09, 95% CI -.12, .05], k=24,
Q(23) =47.49, p=.002) and sexual satisfaction (r=−.11, 95% CI [.14, .07], k=28,
Q(27) =31.74, p=.24) were signicant, but pornography consumption was related to
neither body satisfaction (r=−.02, 95% CI [.08, .05], k=16, Q(15) =15.29, p=.43) nor
sexual self-esteem satisfaction (r=.04, 95% CI [.08, .16], k=7, Q(6) =10.87, p=.09).
e ndings from the moderator tests, where there were enough studies to conduct them,
paralleled the main analyses presented in the results section. ese results are available as a
supplemental online table.
2 Wealsoexaminedwhetherthetypeofpornographymeasurementinthesurveystudies
moderated the relationship between pornography exposure and the indicators of
interpersonal satisfaction. We grouped studies by whether pornography consumption was
measured with a single-item dichotomous measure, a single-item continuous measure, or a
summated scale. e mixed-eects model subgroup analysis showed that pornography
measurement was not a signicant moderator, Qb(2) =3.84, p=.14. e average
correlation of studies where pornography was measured with a single-item dichotomous
measure (r=−.05, 95% CI [.13, .03], k=4) did not signicantly dier from studies that
used single-item continuous (r=−.12, 95% CI [.16, .09], k=21) and multi-item
(r=−.07, 95% CI [.14, .01], k=4) measures.
Supporting Information
Additional supporting information may be found in the online version of this article:
Table S 1 Mean Correlations and Moderator Tests
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Human Communication Research (2017) © 2017 International Communication Association 29
... In addition to examining associations for pornography at the individual level, some research also considers within relational contexts, often finding that pornography use may be associated with decreased couples' sexual and relationship satisfaction as well as decreased commitment (Maas et al., 2018;Oddone-Paolucci et al., 2000;Rasmussen, 2016;Wright et al., 2017). The acquisition, activation, and application model (3AM) indicates that the congruency between media depictions and reality, or the script-situation correspondence, may increase the likelihood of script activation and application (Wright, 2011). ...
... Research related to couples' use of pornography has focused less often on sexual repertoire and more often on sexual and relationship satisfaction, with little attention paid to associations with sexual pleasure (McKee et al., 2021). Meta-analyses and reviews of studies find a small negative association between pornography use and both relationship and sexual satisfaction (Perry, 2020;Wright et al., 2017). Although little research has examined the role of pornography in couples' sexual repertoires, the 3AM framework would suggest that scriptsituation correspondence, or the congruency between media depictions and reality, can strengthen the relationship between pornography consumption and the viewed script's activation and application (Wright, 2011). ...
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Using data from a 2014 U.S. nationally representative probability survey and a 2014 content analysis of 2562 male–female videos from two popular pornographic websites, this study aimed to: (1) compare the prevalence of survey respondents’ event-level sexual behaviors with those depicted in mainstream pornography online videos; (2) compare event-level condom use with condom use prevalence in pornographic videos; (3) compare event-level orgasm with prevalence of orgasms in pornographic videos; and (4) assess whether respondents’ partnered use of pornography was associated with the sexual behaviors in which they report engaging. We found that kissing, male orgasm, female orgasm, and condom use were significantly less prevalent in the pornographic videos than in survey respondents’ most recent sexual experiences. Conversely, penile–anal intercourse and fellatio were significantly more prevalent in the pornographic videos than in participants’ reports of their most recent sexual experience. There were no significant differences between the prevalence of cunnilingus or sex toy use represented in the videos as compared to survey respondents’ reports. Finally, we found that individuals who reported partnered pornography use during their most recent sexual experience were more likely to report having engaged in oral sex, penile–anal intercourse, and sex toy use and were also more likely to report female orgasm during their most recent sexual experience.
... attitude toward pornography, context of porn use, relationship status; Willoughby, Leonhardt, & Augustus, 2020). In this research, we drew on meta-analysis and/or literature reviews suggesting that one of the key moderators might be gender (Vaillancourt-Morel, Daspe, Charbonneau-Lefebvre, Bosisio, & Bergeron, 2019;Wright, Tokunaga, Kraus, & Klann, 2017). Because men and women hold different sexual preferences and gender roles (Petersen & Hyde, 2010;Stewart-Williams & Thomas, 2013), they tend to interpret, internalize, and apply different sexual scripts from porn (heuristics that tell them how to behave sexually; Wright, 2011), which could alter the relation between porn use and their sexual performance. ...
... On the other hand, the existing research reveals that porn can also be a source of threatening upward sexual comparisons, particularly for men (Wright et al., 2021). For instance, the frequency of porn use predicts penis size dissatisfaction among men (whereas it does not predict genitalia/breast dissatisfaction among women; Cranney, 2015; but see Wright et al., 2017), and it predicts performance-related cognitive distraction during sexual activity among men (but not among women; Goldsmith et al., 2017). In the same vein, men watch more hardcore/paraphilic porn and less softcore/mainstream porn than women (Hald, 2006;Hald & Štulhofer, 2016), which may be associated with different sexual comparison processes and sexual outcomes (Leonhardt & Willoughby, 2019). ...
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Background We examined whether young men and women differ in the relation between porn use and sexual performance (sexual self-competence, sexual functioning, and partner-reported sexual satisfaction). Methods We conducted a three-wave longitudinal study (spanning 2015-16-17) that involved a very large number of men and women in their early 20s (100 000 + French-speaking individuals; 4000 + heterosexual couples). Results The results revealed a twofold phenomenon. Among men, a higher frequency of porn use (wave 1) and increased porn use over time (waves 1–3) were associated with lower levels of sexual self-competence, impaired sexual functioning, and decreased partner-reported sexual satisfaction. In contrast, among women, higher and increasing frequencies of porn use were associated with higher levels of sexual self-competence, improved sexual functioning, and enhanced partner-reported sexual satisfaction (for some aspects). Conclusions The findings reveal the irony that porn – a male-dominated industry that targets a male-dominated audience – is associated with the erosion of the quality of men's sex lives and the improvement of women's sex lives.
... Most people who consume pornography either do not perceive any consequences of their pornography consumption (Malki et al., 2021) or they self-perceive positive consequences of pornography consumption, such as receiving information on how to expand their repertoire of sexual behavior . However, in contrast to consumers' self-perceived consequences of their pornography consumption, many studies report links between pornography consumption and poor sexual health (Leonhardt & Willoughby, 2019;Miller et al., 2019;Wright et al., 2017. Studies on the associations between pornography consumption and one aspect of sexual health, namely, sexual functioning, are scarce, and the existing results are inconclusive (Dwulit & Rzymski, 2019;Grubbs & Gola, 2019). ...
... Therefore, clinicians must evaluate a client's readiness to view pornographic material. Additionally, some other sexual health concerns, such as relationship problems, may contraindicate the use of pornographic material (Miller et al., 2019;Wright et al., 2017). ...
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To date, only a few studies have examined the associations between pornography consumption and sexual functioning. The Acquisition, Activation, Application Model (3AM) indicates that the frequency of pornography consumption and the perceived realism of pornography may influence whether sexual scripts are acquired from viewed pornography. Having sexual scripts that are alternative to their preferred sexual behaviors may help people switch to alternative sexual behavior when sexual problems arise. The current study analyzed whether frequent pornography consumption was associated with greater sexual flexibility and greater sexual functioning. Additionally, the perceived realism of pornography consumption was tested as a moderator of those associations. At an Austrian medical university, an online cross-sectional questionnaire study was conducted among 644 medical students (54% women and 46% men; Mage = 24.1 years, SD = 3.8). The participants were asked about their pornography consumption, partnered sexual activity, sexual flexibility, perceived realism of pornography, and sexual functioning. Manifest path analyses revealed direct and indirect associations between frequent pornography consumption and greater sexual functioning through greater sexual flexibility in women but not in men. Perceived realism did not moderate those associations. In conclusion, our study was in line with previous studies that found no significant associations between men’s pornography consumption and sexual functioning in men. However, some women may expand their sexual scripts and learn new sexual behaviors from pornography consumption, which may help with their sexual functioning.
... A recent meta-analysis of 50 studies provided evidence for a curvilinear association between frequency of pornography use and sexual relationship satisfaction, with detrimental effects to satisfaction occurring only after exceeding a particular threshold of use in men but not women [21]. A recent survey of 1513 young adults in the United States (nearly 62% women) also supported a curvilinear association between greater pornography viewing and decreased sexual satisfaction-this time for both men and women-but the acceleration of the curve was more pronounced for men [8]. ...
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The role of masturbation frequency and pornography use on sexual response during partnered sex has been controversial, the result of mixed and inconsistent findings. However, studies investigating this relationship have often suffered from methodological shortcomings. We investigated the role of masturbation frequency and pornography use on both the occurrence and severity of delayed/inhibited ejaculation (DE), an increasingly common sexual problem among men. We did so in a large (nonclinical) multinational sample of cisgender men (N = 2332; mean age = 40.3, SE = 0.31) within a multivariate context that relied on multiple (and, when possible, standardized) assessments of sexual dysfunctions while controlling for possible confounding variables. Results indicated a weak, inconsistent, and sometimes absent association between the frequency of pornography use and DE symptomology and/or severity. In contrast, both poorer erectile functioning and anxiety/depression represented consistent and strong predictors of DE and, to a lesser extent, DE severity. Other factors, including relationship satisfaction, sexual interest, and masturbation frequency, were significantly though moderately to weakly associated with DE. In conclusion, associations (or sometimes lack thereof) between masturbation frequency, pornography use, and delayed ejaculation are more clearly understood when analyzed in a multivariate context that controls for possible confounding effects.
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Purpose of review The effect of pornography on romantic relationships has been long discussed in popular culture and by researchers. The aim of the current review is to discuss the most recent findings probing the potential effect of pornography consumption on relationship and sexual satisfaction for individuals who are in romantic relationships. Recent findings Currently, there has only been one meta-analysis, which shows that pornography consumption and sexual and relationship satisfaction are negatively related for men but not for women (Hum Commun Res. 43(3):315-43, 6). Potential mediators of this link include a preference for pornographic over partnered sexual excitement, the devaluation of intimate sexual communication, decreased partnered sex due to masturbatory displacement, and upward comparisons between one’s own sex life and sex in pornography. Potential moderators include frequency of consumption and whether pornography use is alone for masturbation or partnered as a coupled sexual enhancement. Summary Future studies examining previously discussed potential moderators and mediators are needed to replicate findings and provide extension to theory directed toward pornography’s effects on romantic relationships. Additional meta-analyses on process and contingency are also needed to further synthesize the research on pornography’s effect on partnered sexual activity. Clinical implications are discussed as related to problematic pornography use.
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Contemporary sexually explicit Internet materials (SEIM) are commonly unrealistic. Following from self-discrepancy theory, we proposed that discrepancies between ideal and actual sexual experiences depicted in SEIM (ideal-actual sexual discrepancy; IASD) may be important in understanding the association between SEIM consumption, sexual satisfaction, and general well-being for heterosexual men. Participants from a general online community ( n = 195) were assessed via an online survey. Path analysis showed that the relationships between SEIM consumption and outcomes were not homogenous across age cohorts. While SEIM consumption and IASD contributed to sexual dissatisfaction for men in their 20s, only IASD had a direct relationship for men in their 30s. Higher IASD accounted for lower sexual satisfaction for men across age cohorts, suggesting that IASD may be a more stable factor as compared to quantity of consumption alone for explaining the negative association between SEIM consumption, sexual satisfaction, and all measured aspects of well-being.
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Have you ever wondered why you are attracted to a certain type of person? Or, why your relationships often follow the same pattern? How does sexual desire relate to romantic love? How does sexual activity change as you age? This short guide to romantic love and sexuality can help you answer these and other questions for yourself! This guide can help you think through your romantic relationships and your sexual experiences based on clear explanations of recent research. You will find information that can help you understand more about how romantic love begins, grows, and either succeeds or fails as you age. The guide also addresses sexuality because it is intertwined with romantic love. The first chapter addresses evolutionary pressures that many researchers use to explain the origins of romantic love. Following this discussion are chapters on the influence of families on your romances, the stages of these relationships, sexuality, aging, and the impact of love on health. Each chapter explores a topic by reviewing recent research, summarizing key information, and posing questions for you to consider. When relevant, I share my own experiences.
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One of the most consistent findings in content analyses of popular, commonly consumed pornography is the near absence of condoms. A recent meta-analysis found that pornography use is associated with an increased likelihood of condomless sex, but the studies available for analysis rarely included measures of potential cognitive mediators underlying the association. Following the sexual script acquisition, activation, application model (3AM) of mediated sexual socialization and the differential susceptibility to media effects model (DSMM), the present study examined whether linkages between pornography use and condomless sex are mediated by perceived similarity to actors in pornography and heightened perceptions of pornography's utility and social realism. Social realism and similarity mediated the association between pornography consumption frequency and condomless sex in simple mediation models, but only social realism remained significant in a parallel process model inclusive of all three mediators.
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Most pornography research has examined negative consequences of use among heterosexual men. Scant research has explored the benefits of using pornography among women, though research does indicate several potential benefits, including increased sexual self-esteem, sexual knowledge, and sexual communication. Research suggests that women may maximize these benefits when they perceive pornography to be authentic. To more fully understand the importance and perceptions of authenticity in pornography, we analyzed qualitative interviews with 24 women in the U.S. who reported recent pornography use. Ages ranged from 22 to 53 (M = 30.33, SD = 6.91), 62.5% were white, and most (79.2%) reported a sexual identity other than heterosexual. Thematic analyses indicated that authenticity was important for most women’s enjoyment of pornography, partially via its utility in reducing guilt and emotional labor (i.e., the work needed to enjoy or believe the content). Furthermore, women’s intersectional identities, such as race and sexual orientation, influenced their experiences of guilt and emotional labor. Finally, women determined authenticity within pornography in three primary ways: analyzing appearance, performance, and intimacy. Results suggest research, clinical, and educational opportunities to support women’s sexual exploration and pleasure via engagement with pornography.
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Background and aims Pornography use has become increasingly common. Studies have shown that individuals who use sexually explicit materials (SEMs) report negative effects (Schneider, 2000b). However, Bridges (2008b) found that couples who use SEM together have higher relationship satisfaction than those who use SEM independently. A further investigation into various types of SEM use in relationships may highlight how SEM is related to various areas of couple satisfaction. Thus, the purpose of the current study is to examine the impact of SEM use related to different relationship dynamics. Methods The current study included a college and Internet sample of 296 participants divided into groups based upon the SEM use in relationships (i.e., SEM alone, SEM use with partner, and no SEM use). Results There were significant differences between groups in relationship satisfaction [F(2, 252) = 3.69, p = .026], intimacy [F(2, 252) = 7.95, p = <.001], and commitment [F(2, 252) = 5.30, p = .006]. Post-hoc analyses revealed additional differences in relationship satisfaction [t(174) = 2.13, p = .035] and intimacy [t(174) = 2.76, p = .006] based on the frequency of SEM use. Discussion Further exploration of the SEM use function in couples will provide greater understanding of its role in romantic relationships.
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Using matched, heterosexual couple data from the Relationship Evaluation Questionnaire (RELATE; n = 326 couples), an adapted common-fate approach was used to examine both common and unique attributes of husbands' and wives' acceptance of pornography and sexual satisfaction as well as husbands' and wives' pornography use. It was expected that spouses' unique as well as shared variance of pornography acceptance would be significantly associated with husbands' and wives' levels of personal pornography use and that these use patterns would be significantly associated with husbands' and wives' unique as well as shared variance of sexual satisfaction. It was also expected that pornography use would significantly mediate the relationship between pornography acceptance and sexual satisfaction. Results indicated that the shared variance of pornography acceptance was positively associated with both spouses' pornography use and that spouses' pornography use was negatively associated with their own sexual satisfaction. Wives' pornography use was found to be positively associated with the couple's shared variance of sexual satisfaction, but pornography use did not significantly mediate the relationship between pornography acceptance and sexual satisfaction. These findings emphasize the complexity of pornography use in couple relationships and the importance of studying pornography acceptance and use as a coupling dynamic within marriages rather than just an individual behavior.
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