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There is an understudied, meaningful distinction between high frequency of pornography use and the subjective feeling that this behavior is out of control. We examined whether the quality of a couple's relationship and sex life can strengthen or weaken the association between frequency of Internet pornography use and perceived lack of control over this behavior. In a sample of 1036 participants, results showed that frequency of pornography use was more strongly associated with feeling out of control when relationship and sexual satisfaction were lower. Findings suggest that couple dissatisfaction puts the individual at risk of reporting out-of-control pornography use.
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Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy
ISSN: 0092-623X (Print) 1521-0715 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/usmt20
When Pornography Use Feels Out of Control:
TheModeration Effect of Relationship and Sexual
Satisfaction.
Marie-Ève Daspe, Marie-Pier Vaillancourt-Morel, Yvan Lussier, Stéphane
Sabourin & Anik Ferron
To cite this article: Marie-Ève Daspe, Marie-Pier Vaillancourt-Morel, Yvan Lussier, Stéphane
Sabourin & Anik Ferron (2017): When Pornography Use Feels Out of Control: TheModeration
Effect of Relationship and Sexual Satisfaction., Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, DOI:
10.1080/0092623X.2017.1405301
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2017.1405301
Accepted author version posted online: 27
Dec 2017.
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When pornography use feels out of control: The moderation effect of relationship and sexual
satisfaction.
Marie-Ève Daspe, University of Southern California
Marie-Pier Vaillancourt-Morel, Université de Montréal
Yvan Lussier, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières
Stéphane Sabourin, Université Laval
Anik Ferron, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Marie-Ève Daspe, Department of
Psychology, University of Southern California, 3260 South McClintock Ave., Los Angeles,
California, USA 90089-1061. Email: md_134@usc.edu.
Abstract
There is an understudied, meaningful distinction between high frequency of pornography
use and the subjective feeling that this behavior is out of control. We examined whether the
quality of a couple‟s relationship and sex life can strengthen or weaken the association between
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2
frequency of Internet pornography use and perceived lack of control over this behavior. In a
sample of 1036 participants, results showed that frequency of pornography use was more
strongly associated with feeling out of control when relationship and sexual satisfaction were
lower. Findings suggest that couple dissatisfaction puts the individual at risk of reporting out-of-
control pornography use.
Keywords: Pornography, Out-of-control sexual behaviors; Compulsive sexual behaviors,
Relationship satisfaction, Sexual satisfaction.
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Pornography use is now common, even among individuals involved in a romantic
relationship where opportunities for mutual sexual gratification are available (Bridges &
Morokoff, 2011). In some contexts, pornography use can be a healthy, recreational, and positive
sexual activity that promotes a permissive climate, open sexual communication, and satisfaction
(Daneback, Træen, & Månsson, 2009; Kohut, Fisher, & Campbell, 2017; Poulsen, Busby, &
Galovan, 2013). In others, this behavior is accompanied by psychological distress and a
perceived lack of control over one‟s consumption (Grubbs, Stauner, Exline, Pargament, &
Lindberg, 2015; Harper & Hodgins, 2016; Vaillancourt-Morel et al., 2017). Interestingly, recent
empirical evidence suggests that perceived control over pornography use is a key issue with
respect to the psychological and relational consequences of this behavior (Blais-Lecours,
Vaillancourt-Morel, Sabourin, & Godbout, 2016; Harper & Hodgins, 2016). Providing a more
accurate portrait of the context that prevents or promotes the development of an out-of-control
use of pornography is crucial for prevention and intervention efforts that target the needs of such
a specific group of problematic pornography users. The current study examines whether the
relational context, namely the quality of a couple‟s relationship and sex life, provides a certain
level of immunity against the association between frequency of use and feeling out of control
over Internet pornography use.
Perceived Lack of Control over Pornography Use
A proportion of 17% of Internet pornography users are estimated to have an out-of-
control or compulsive use (Cooper, Delmonico, & Burg, 2000). Problematic or compulsive
Internet pornography use refers to a difficulty controlling a strong urge, even in inappropriate
moments, and trouble stopping or decreasing this behavior (Griffiths, 2012; Kraus, Voon, &
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Potenza, 2016). Thus, compulsive pornography use is not restricted to high frequency use but
also includes a pattern of out-of-control sexual fantasies, urges, or behaviors sometimes
referred to as “Internet sex addiction” (Griffiths, 2012). The distinction between frequency of use
and feelings of control over pornography use is important. The frequency of pornography use
constitutes an objective marker of behavioral engagement. Perceived compulsion, on the other
hand, refers to a subjective feeling of inability to control one‟s own consumption, regardless of
its actual frequency (Grubbs, Volk, Exline, & Pargament, 2015). There is variability in the
reported association between frequency of use and perceived compulsivity to pornography, with
studies showing weak (.18; Grubbs, Stauner, et al., 2015; Grubbs, Volk, et al., 2015) to strong
correlations (.50; Blais-Lecours et al., 2016). Individuals can therefore spend a lot of time
consuming pornography while still feeling in control, whereas others might have a limited
consumption but perceive their behaviors as compulsive.
Although no well-validated model of out-of-control pornography use has yet been
proposed (Ley, Prause, & Finn, 2014; Montgomery-Graham, Kohut, Fisher, & Campbell, 2015),
compulsivity with respect to Internet pornography use is associated with negative sexual and
psychosocial outcomes (Harper & Hodgins, 2016; Vaillancourt-Morel et al., 2017). In addition,
Grubbs, Stauner et al. (2015) observed that perceived addiction is associated with psychological
distress over and above time spent engaging in Internet pornography. The authors concluded that
the subjective perception of one‟s pornography use is particularly meaningful and that an
exclusive attention to frequency of use is insufficient. We further argue that, because frequency
of use and perception of control over pornography use are different but related constructs, there
is a need to better understand the factors influencing the strength of their association. The current
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study focuses on relationship and sexual satisfaction, two key aspects of the relational context
that are likely to magnify or minimize the connection between frequency of use and subjective
perception of control toward pornography consumption.
The Role of the Relational and Sexual Context
In studies examining Internet pornography use among community-based samples
(Cooper et al., 2000; Schwartz & Southern, 2000; Vaillancourt-Morel et al., 2017), 56-57% of
compulsive users were involved in a romantic relationship. These rates raise an important
question: What causes some Internet pornography users with steady partners to fall into a
downward spiral of perceived or actual lack of control over pornography use?
Relationship distress and dissatisfaction with one‟s sex life are significant predictors of
pornography use (Muusses, Kerkhof, & Finkenauer, 2015; Peter & Valkenburg, 2009; Stack,
Wasserman, & Kern, 2004; Willoughby, Carroll, Busby, & Brown, 2016). In addition,
compulsive sexual behaviors, although not limited to pornography, are thought to be partly
related to situational stressors and dysfunctional coping with negative emotions and distress.
Coleman (1991) argues that compulsive sexual behaviors constitute a coping mechanism
designed to reduce or avoid anxiety and distress. Similarly, Cooper, Putnam, Planchon, and
Boies (1999) suggests that individuals who have difficulty dealing with stress and negative
emotions are more at risk of developing compulsive online sexual behaviors when facing
stressful situations. Low relationship quality and sexual dissatisfaction constitute potential
sources of distress that could lead some users to feel that they are losing control over their
pornography use. As a result of interpersonal stress and insecurities induced by relationship and
sexual dissatisfactions, some individuals may turn to Internet pornography as a dysfunctional
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way of avoiding or being distracted from negative emotions. The moderating role of romantic
relationship factors in the association between frequency of use and perceived control over
pornography use has not, however, been explored.
When examining the associations between frequency of use, control over pornography
use, and relationship factors, several potential confounds need to be addressed. Regarding
gender, studies have shown that pornography use is higher among men than women (Petersen &
Hyde, 2010) and that men are overrepresented among samples of compulsive users
(Vaillancourt-Morel et al., 2017; Wetterneck, Burgess, Short, Smith, & Cervantes, 2012).
However, the association between frequency of pornography use and compulsive sexual
behaviors is present in both women and men (Blais-Lecours et al., 2016; Klein, Rettenberger, &
Briken, 2014). Regarding cohabitation status, most studies on pornography use have focused
primarily on a specific relationship type (e.g., newlywed couples; Muusses et al., 2015;
committed heterosexual couples; Bridges & Morokoff, 2011) or controlled for relationship status
(Carroll et al., 2008) without examining between-status disparities. In the current study, we
examined the impact of cohabitation status (i.e. cohabiting and married individuals vs. those who
do not live with their partner) because excessive use of Internet pornography might be more
likely to occur when partners do not live together and have more opportunity to engage in these
behaviors, without fears of being caught. Similarly, having children might influence various
aspects of pornography use, such as frequency and efforts to prevent children from being in
contact with pornographic material. Finally, given the association between relationship length
and both relationship and sexual satisfaction (Hadden, Smith, & Webster, 2014; Schmiedeberg &
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Schröder, 2016), its potential implication to the interplay between frequency of use, control over
pornography use, and relationship factors deserves attention.
Overview of the Current Study
Using a large sample of adults involved in a romantic relationship, the current study
explored whether low relationship quality and sexual dissatisfaction strengthen or weaken the
association between frequency of Internet pornography use and perceived lack of control over
this behavior. First, we hypothesized a positive association between frequency of Internet
pornography use and perceived lack of control over Internet pornography. We expected,
however, that this association would be moderated by relationship and sexual satisfaction. More
specifically, we hypothesized that individuals reporting lower relationship and sexual satisfaction
would show a steeper increase in perceived lack of control associated with higher frequency of
Internet pornography use. In contrast, we expected that the association between frequency and
perceived lack of control over Internet pornography use would be weaker in individuals with
high relationship and sexual satisfaction. This study also controls for the potential influence of
various confounds, namely gender, cohabitation status, parenthood, and length of the
relationship. Although we expected the mean level of frequency of use and perceived lack of
control over pornography to vary according to these factors, we hypothesized that the moderation
effect of relationship and sexual satisfaction on the association between these constructs would
hold across gender, cohabitation status, parenthood, and length of the relationship.
Method
Participants and Procedure
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Participants were recruited via advertisements on Facebook and local newspapers, and
asked to complete an online survey about pornography use and relationship functioning. The
study was approved by the ethical board of the [Blind for review]. To be included, participants
had to be aged 18 years or older and currently involved in a romantic relationship. The final
analytic sample was composed of 1036 participants (471 men and 565 women). Age ranged from
18 to 55 years with most participants (76.4%, n = 791) aged between 18 and 35 years. Length of
the relationship ranged from less than a month to more than 10 years with 83.9% (n = 868) of the
sample having been in a relationship for more than a year. Most participants (93.2%; n = 961)
reported being in an opposite-sex relationship whereas 6.8% (n = 70) stated being in a same-sex
relationship. Regarding relationship status, 30.1% (n = 311) were dating without cohabiting,
54.3% (n = 561) were cohabiting, and 15.6% (n = 161) were married. A proportion of 34% (n =
350) of the participants had children. The number of children ranged from 1 to more than 7 with
the majority (95.7%, n = 335) having one or two children. Regarding education, 0.6% (n = 6)
had no high school degree, 17.3% (n = 175) had a high school or professional degree, 32.5% (n =
330) had a college degree, 34.0% (n = 345) had an undergraduate degree, and 15.6% (n = 158)
had a graduate degree. Personal annual income ranged from less than $25 000 to more than $95
000 in Canadian currency, with most participants (76.9%, n = 787) earning $55 000 or less.
Measures
Internet pornography use. Various items assessed the use of Internet pornography. One
item asked participants whether they had watched sexual online material (video, webcam,
pictures, etc.) in the past six months (0 = No, 1 = Yes). Participants who answered Yes to this
question were next asked about the frequency of their use of online sexual material. This item
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was rated on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 = Less than once a month to 5 = More than
five times a week. These two items were used to create the frequency variable used in the
analysis, which varied from 0 = no use in the past six months to 5 = More than five times a week.
Then, for descriptive purposes, four items assessed more specifically the frequency of use of
different types of sexual material (pre-recorded videos, chat, direct videos and pictures). Each of
these items were rated on a 4-point Likert scale ranging from 0 = never to 3 = Very often.
Perceived lack of control over pornography use. The following item assessed
impression of control over pornography use: “To what extent do you feel in control of your use
of online sexual material?”. Participants answered on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 =
Completely in control to 5 = Not at all in control.
Relationship satisfaction. A four-item version of the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS;
Sabourin, Valois, & Lussier, 2005; Spanier, 1976) was used to assess relationship satisfaction.
When needed, items were reverse-coded and summed to obtain a global score of relationship
satisfaction. This global score range from 0 to 21 with a higher score indicating higher
satisfaction. Psychometric properties of this four-item version of the DAS have been
demonstrated (Sabourin et al., 2005). In the current study, Cronbach‟s α was .80.
Sexual satisfaction. Sexual satisfaction was assessed using the following item: “With
respect to the past month, to what extend are you satisfied with your sexual life in general?”.
This item was rated on a 6-point Likert scale ranging from 1 = Extremely satisfied to 6 =
Extremely unsatisfied. The item was reverse-coded so that a higher score reflects higher sexual
satisfaction. Previous research has demonstrated the validity of single-item measures to assess
sexual satisfaction (Mark, Herbenick, Fortenberry, Sanders, & Reece, 2014).
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Sociodemographic questionnaire. Items regarding participants‟ sociodemographic
characteristics were used to gather information about gender, length of the relationship, children,
and relationship status. The relationship status variable was dichotomized to compute a
cohabitation status variable (0 = does not live with the partner, 1 = married or cohabitating). The
children variable refers to the absence or presence of children (0 = no child, 1 = at least one
child).
Statistical Analyses
Descriptive and correlational analyses were conducted using SPSS version 20. To handle
missing data on the study variables (ranging from 0.7% for frequency of pornography use to
8.8% for sexual satisfaction), regression analyses were conducted in Mplus version 6.12 using
the full information maximum likelihood estimation method (Muthén & Muthén, 1998-2015).
Examination of the data revealed that all study variables were normally distributed except for
perceived lack of control over pornography use, which was slightly positively skewed.
Regression models were therefore conducted using a method of estimation that is robust to non-
normality (Maximum Likelihood Robust; Yuan & Bentler, 2000). Outliers (5) were found on the
relationship satisfaction variable. Analyses were conducted with and without these outliers.
Because their inclusion did not affect the results, the final analyses are based on all available
data. Gender, length of the relationship, cohabitation status, and children were entered as
covariates in the regression models.
Results
Descriptive and Preliminary Statistics
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A total of 84.5% (n = 875) of participants reported having used Internet pornography in
the past six months (98.1% of men and 73.1% of women). Table 1 presents descriptive statistics
regarding pornography use in the current sample. Results showed that among those who reported
having used online sexual material, 80.3% (n = 371) of men and 25.5% (n = 106) of women have
done so at least once a week. For both men and women, pre-recorded videos were the most
commonly used type of online sexual material.
Table 2 shows correlations, means, and standard deviations for all study variables across
men and women. Results indicated that frequency of pornography use was positively associated
with perceived lack of control for both men and women. Frequency of pornography use was
negatively associated with sexual satisfaction in men. Perceived lack of control was negatively
correlated with relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction in men. Length of the relationship
was negatively associated with frequency of pornography use in women and with relationship
and sexual satisfaction in both men and women. Significant between-gender mean differences
were observed for every study variable (see Table 2), with men showing higher frequency of
pornography use, higher perceived lack of control over pornography use, as well as lower
relationship and sexual satisfaction in comparison to women. Significant mean differences were
also observed according to cohabitation status. Individuals who lived with their partner reported
lower relationship satisfaction than those who lived separately, t(970) = 2.86, p = .003, d = .21,
(M = 15.59, SD = 3.48 for those cohabiting and M = 16.27, SD = 3.12 for those not cohabiting).
Individuals who lived with their partner also reported lower sexual satisfaction, t(941) = 6.18, p
< .001, d = .43 compared to those who lived separately (M = 4.30, SD = 1.50 for those
cohabiting and M = 4.88, SD = 1.22 for those not cohabiting). No significant difference was
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observed for frequency and perceived lack of control over pornography use across cohabitation
status. Regarding parenthood, individuals with children reported lower relationship satisfaction,
t(966) = 5.33, p < .001, d = .37 (M = 14.95, SD = 3.74 for those with children and M = 16.23, SD
= 3.11 for those without children) and lower sexual satisfaction, t(936) = 4.16, p < .001, d = .30
(M = 4.19, SD = 1.63 for those with children and M = 4.63, SD = 1.32 for those without
children). No significant difference was observed for frequency of use and perceived lack of
control over pornography use.
Moderation Effect of Relationship and Sexual Satisfaction
Regression analyses were conducted to examine the association between frequency of use
and perceived lack of control over pornography use, as well as the moderation effect of
relationship and sexual satisfaction. The results are presented in Table 3. In the first model
examining the moderation effect of relationship satisfaction, significant main effects were found
for frequency of pornography use and relationship satisfaction in the prediction of perceived lack
of control over pornography use. Of the control variables, a significant main effect was found for
gender and parenthood. Being a man and having no child was associated with a greater perceived
lack of control over pornography use. Results also suggested a significant interaction between
frequency of use and relationship satisfaction. Test of simple slopes (see figure 1, panel a)
indicated that frequency was positively associated with perceived lack of control over
pornography use for both individuals reporting high (+1 SD above the mean) and low (-1 SD
below the mean) relationship satisfaction. This association was, however, weaker for individuals
reporting high relationship satisfaction. The model explained 34.4% of the variance of perceived
lack of control over pornography use.
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Similar results were observed in the second model examining the moderation effect of
sexual satisfaction (Table 3). Significant main effects were found for frequency of pornography
use and sexual satisfaction. Of the control variables, being a man and having no child were once
again associated with greater perceived lack of control over pornography use. In addition, a
significant interaction between frequency of use and sexual satisfaction was observed. Simple
slopes (Figure 1, panel b) suggested a positive association between frequency and perceived lack
of control over pornography use for both individuals reporting high (+1 SD above the mean) and
low (-1 SD below the mean) sexual satisfaction, with a weaker association for individuals
reporting high sexual satisfaction. The model explained 33.5% of the variance of perceived lack
of control over pornography use.
Moderation Effect of Gender, Cohabitation Status, Length of the Relationship, and
Parenthood.
To further examine the possible influences of gender, cohabitation status, length of the
relationship, and parenthood in the moderation effect of relationship and sexual satisfaction, a
series of three-way interaction models were tested. Specifically, to examine whether gender
moderated the interaction observed between frequency of pornography use and relationship
satisfaction in the prediction of perceived lack of control over pornography use, all possible two-
way and three-way interaction (Frequency of pornography use X Relationship satisfaction X
Gender) were entered to the regression model. Three-way interaction models were also tested for
cohabitation status, length of the relationship, and parenthood. The same strategy was then
applied to regression models investigating the moderating role of sexual satisfaction. All three-
way interactions examined were nonsignificant, indicating that gender, cohabiting status, length
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of the relationship, and parenthood did not moderate the interaction between frequency of use
and relationship and sexual satisfaction in the prediction of perceived lack of control over
pornography use.
Discussion
For most users, pornography is used in a recreational manner without associated
impairment or distress. For some others, however, it may become out of control to the point of
compulsion (Rosser, Noor, & Iantaffi, 2014; Vaillancourt-Morel et al., 2017). The present study
explored under which relational condition pornography use may become out of control. In a
sample of community-based individuals involved in a romantic relationship, the current study is
the first to examine the moderation effect of relationship and sexual satisfaction on the
association between frequency of Internet pornography use and control over pornography use.
The findings suggested a significant, positive association between frequency of use and
perceived lack of control over pornography use. Consistent with our hypotheses, we also found
that this association was moderated by relationship and sexual satisfaction and that these
moderation effects held regardless of gender, cohabitation status, length of the relationship, and
parenthood.
Virtually all men and a great majority of women in the current sample reported having
used Internet pornography in the past six months. This is in line with previous work showing that
Internet pornography use is not restricted to single individuals and that those involved in a
romantic relationship are also likely to engage in this sexual activity (Bridges & Morokoff,
2011). These findings are also consistent with the well-established body of research showing that
men report using pornography more often (Petersen & Hyde, 2010) and have less perceived
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control over their pornography use than women (Vaillancourt-Morel et al., 2017; Wetterneck et
al., 2012). However, despite these differences in mean levels, gender did not significantly
influence the moderation effect of relationship and sexual satisfaction in the association between
frequency of use and perceived lack of control over pornography use. This suggests that these
aspects of the relational context have a similar impact on perceived control over pornography
consumption across men and women. Results also indicated that the current findings can be
generalized across cohabitation status, length of the relationship, and parenthood.
The Role of Relationship and Sexual Satisfaction
The current study suggests that the relational context plays a significant role in
magnifying or minimizing the impact of frequency of pornography use on perceived lack of
control over this behavior. First, and consistent with our hypotheses, we observed that
individuals who reported high relationship satisfaction had a weaker association between
frequency of use and perceived lack of control over pornography use. In contrast, for individuals
who reported low relationship satisfaction, frequency of pornography use was accompanied by a
greater feeling of losing control over this behavior. Previous research indicates that relationship
distress is an important stressor that takes a toll on individuals‟ psychological adjustment
(Whisman & Baucom, 2012). Accordingly, and based on theoretical propositions linking
compulsive sexual behaviors to dysfunctional coping strategies (Coleman, 1991; Cooper et al.,
1999), the use of pornography might reflect attempts to deal with stress and negative emotions
that arise from relationship difficulties (Muusses et al., 2015). In this context, the individual
might be more likely to feel that he or she is losing control over some behaviors that aim to
alleviate undesirable emotional states. Moreover, when romantic relationships are suffused with
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high levels of conflict and hostility, pornography might become a more or less conscious way of
expressing anger toward the partner, perhaps especially if pornography use is disapproved of by
the latter, and an attempt to create distance and regulate intimacy (Hall, 2014).
Second, and also consistent with our hypotheses, we found that the positive association
between frequency of use and perceived lack of control over pornography use is stronger in
individuals reporting low sexual satisfaction compared to individuals reporting high sexual
satisfaction. As suggested by others (Kohut et al., 2017; Muusses et al., 2015), when dissatisfied
with their sex life, individuals may use pornography to fulfill sexual needs that are not met in
their romantic relationship, to make their sex life more stimulating, or to replace a partner that is
seen as sexually frustrating or disappointing. In these sexual contexts where the individual
compensates for an unsatisfactory sex life (Olmstead, Negash, Pasley, & Fincham, 2013),
pornography use may become the only source of sexual gratification, making it more difficult to
control consumption. Moreover, lower sexual satisfaction can also be the result of sexual
dysfunctions (Sánchez-Fuentes, Santos-Iglesias, & Sierra, 2014; Velten & Margraf, 2017).
Consequently, an increased consumption might lead to a lack of perceived control over the
impulse to use pornography as an attempt to verify or reassure oneself about his or her sexual
capacities, restore sexual self-esteem, or cope with the distress resulting from sexual difficulties.
In sum, we suggest that the relational and sexual contexts influence the association
between frequency of use and control over pornography use via the meaning ascribed to these
sexual activities and motivations to use pornography. In the context of a fulfilling relationship
and sex life, pornography use might translate into recreational behaviors that are less likely to
become problematic as their frequency increases. In contrast, when the relational context is
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marked by relationship distress and sexual dissatisfaction, pornography use might become a
dysfunctional coping strategy, where out-of-control behaviors may become maladaptive. For
example, pornography might be used as an emotion regulation device to deal with negative
feelings caused by relationship and sexual dissatisfactions (Zillmann, 1988), or to escape, ignore,
or disconnect from the reality of an unsatisfying sex and couple life (Peter & Valkenburg, 2010).
The specific role of the relational context could partly explain the mixed findings reported in the
literature with respect to the positive vs. negative impacts of pornography use (Daneback et al.,
2009; Grubbs, Stauner, et al., 2015; Harper & Hodgins, 2016; Poulsen et al., 2013). However,
future research should aim to identify more directly the meanings, motivations, and attitudes
toward pornography use according to the relational context.
Limitations and Future Directions
The current findings should be interpreted in light of a number of limitations. First, the
study variables were assessed only at one point in time, which prevents any definitive
conclusions regarding causal explanations and direction of effects. Longitudinal research is
needed to establish the directionality of the results and clarify the mechanisms behind these
associations. Second, some constructs examined in the current study were assessed through a
single item. Even if previous research has demonstrated the validity of single-item measures in
sex research (Mark et al., 2014), future studies should aim to replicate these results using well-
validated instruments with sound psychometric properties. Third, the exclusive use of self-
reported measures is subject to shared-method variance and might result in an overestimation of
the associations between the study variables. Fourth, the current study is based on a convenience
sample of participants recruited through advertisement. Future studies using representative
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samples are needed to examine the generalizability of the findings. Fifth, the current survey
gathered data from individuals currently in a relationship, without any information about their
romantic partners. However, a clear picture of the relational context is best captured through the
perspective of both partners, using the couple as the unit of analysis. Future research should use
dyadic data to examine cross-partner effects regarding the associations between frequency of
use, perceived lack of control over pornography use, as well as relationship and sexual
satisfaction. Finally, the current study examined the impact of relationship and sexual
satisfaction on the association between the frequency of use and perceived lack of control over
pornography use, but dissatisfaction is a global, subjective indicator of relationship and sexual
well-being. Thus, the specific dyadic or individual causes of dissatisfaction are unknown. It is
plausible that pornography use itself or problems with intimacy evidenced by problematic
pornography users contribute to relationship and sexual dissatisfaction. Future research is needed
to better understand the negative relationship and sexual context that causes some Internet
pornography users to lose control over their pornography use, as well as the mechanisms
involved in the relation between pornography use and this negative couple context. Longitudinal
research will allow to understand how pornography use and relationship factors are tied and how
their interrelations may lead to problematic pornography use.
Conclusion
To date, most of the studies have looked at the impact of pornography use, or compulsive
pornography use, on relationship outcomes (see Newstrom & Harris, 2016, for a review of the
scientific documentation). However, this association is most probably bidirectional (Hall, 2014;
Muusses et al., 2015; Peter & Valkenburg, 2009) and the role of the relational context on
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“pornography outcome” has been largely overlooked. The current study sheds some light on how
relationship and sexual dissatisfaction can contribute to the development of problematic
pornography use and suggests that in some cases, out-of-control consumption may be a symptom
of relationship difficulties.
Problematic Internet pornography use is one of the most frequent Internet-related reasons
for seeking mental health services (Mitchell, Becker-Blease, & Finkelhor, 2005). Our results
suggest that it is important for professionals to assess and understand the relational dynamics that
may underlie out-of-control pornography use, regardless of whether the individual seeks
consultation alone or with his or her partner. Professionals should explore and address the
relational and sexual contexts that may influence one‟s out-of-control pornography use, while
also being cautious to avoid blaming the partner for the individual‟s pornography consumption.
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Figure 1. Moderation Effect of Relationship Satisfaction (panel a) and Sexual
Satisfaction (panel b) on the Association between Frequency and Perceived Lack of
Control over Internet Pornography Use.
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Table 1. Descriptive Statistics Regarding Internet Pornography Use by Men and Women.
Men
Women
%
n
%
n
Frequency of use
Not in the past 6 months
1.9
9
27.0
152
Less than once a month
3.4
16
28.2
159
Once or twice a month
15.0
70
25.9
146
Once or twice a week
29.2
136
15.3
86
3 to 5 times a week
26.0
121
2.7
15
More than 5 times a week
24.5
114
0.9
5
Types of online material used a
Pre-recorded videos
93.7
419
92.4
367
Chat
16.1
69
5.8
23
Direct videos
23.5
105
6.3
25
Pictures
61.5
273
34.9
139
a Only among participants who reported having used online sexual material in the past six
months.
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Table 2. Correlation Coefficients for the Study Variables and Mean Differences between Men
and Women.
Men
Women
1
2
3
4
5
M
SD
M
SD
p
1. Frequency of use
-
.29***
-.06
-.12*
-.07
3.47
1.22
1.41
1.16
<
.001
2. Perceived lack of
control
.23***
-
-
.21***
-
.17***
.03
2.41
1.10
1.31
0.70
<
.001
3. Relationship
satisfaction
.08
-.05
-
.50***
-
.20***
15.52
3.37
16.00
3.39
.028
4. Sexual
satisfaction
-.01
-.05
.51***
-
-
.25***
4.35
1.52
4.58
1.38
.017
5. Relationship
length
-.12**
-.01
-
.16***
-
.25***
-
18.70
5.99
16.42
6.22
<
.001
Note. Coefficients for men are above the diagonal and coefficients for women are below the
diagonal.
* p < .05. ** p < .01. *** p < .001.
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Table 3.
Regression
Analyses for the
Moderating Effect
of Relationship
and Sexual
Satisfaction in the
Association
between
Frequency and
Perceived Lack of Control over Internet Pornography Use.
b
SE
β
p
Moderator : Relationship satisfaction
Frequency of pornography use
.20
.02
.30
<.001
Relationship satisfaction
-.04
.01
-.14
<.001
Frequency X relationship satisfaction
-.02
.01
-.08
.002
Gender (1 = Women)
-.66
.08
-.31
<.001
Length of the relationship
.01
.01
.04
.212
Cohabitation status (1 = cohabitation)
-.02
.07
-.01
.812
Children (1 = Yes)
-.15
.06
-.07
.014
Moderator : Sexual satisfaction
Frequency of pornography use
.20
.02
.29
<.001
Sexual satisfaction
-.06
.02
-.08
.006
Frequency X sexual satisfaction
-.04
.01
-.08
.006
Gender (1 = Women)
-.68
.08
-.32
<.001
Length of the relationship
.01
.01
.04
.233
Cohabitation status (1 = cohabitation)
-.03
.07
-.01
.711
Children (1 = Yes)
-.12
.06
-.08
.049
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Internet pornography use (IPU) refers to Internet-based sexually explicit materials that are ultimately used to elicit sexual feelings or thoughts. The accessibility of Internet pornography could lead to excessive exposure to pornographic messages, posing a risk to heavy users’ psychological health. This paper offers a preliminary understanding of the relationship between Internet pornography use and psychological distress among emerging adults and the moderating role of gender in the association. This cross-sectional study has taken a purposive sampling approach to recruit 144 emerging adult pornography users via the online survey method. The results indicated that males reported having more problematic Internet pornography use, and there were no gender differences in psychological distress. Meanwhile, gender is a significant moderator between Internet pornography use and psychological distress. The females were found to be more psychologically affected by their problematic Internet pornography use than the males. Overall, this study has provided a novel finding of the moderating role of gender in problematic Internet pornography use and psychological distress in the Malaysian context. This study also calls for a gender-focused sexual health programme for Malaysian emerging adults. Furthermore, the scores of problematic IPU in this study raise a concern over the effectiveness of current sex education in Malaysia. The scores may highlight the need to provide education targeting Internet pornography use.
Chapter
In this chapter, I want to argue for the end of sex robots. I will problematise the use of the term “sexSex, sex/gender” that is associated with them and push back against attempts to dilute the meanings of sexSex, sex/gender to include anything. Initially, I considered a better description for these objects to be masturbation robots, but they function as a form of pornography, making them porn robots: pornographic representations of women and girls. As I will argue, it is a mistake to attribute sexSex, sex/gender to them as objects and the arguments I set out in this chapter also apply to porn dolls.
Thesis
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Approximately 40% of U.S. women in married or cohabitating heterosexual relationships have a partner who uses pornography more than once a month. Some studies demonstrate a negative association between the frequency of male partners’ pornography use (PU) and women’s sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction, while others find no association. These mixed findings may be due to moderating influences of women’s religiosity, attitudes, and diverse meanings given to PU (e.g. addiction, gendered norm, inspiration), which have not been adequately studied. The current study included a sample of 625 women (mean age=44, diverse SES, 86% White), recruited through a Qualtrics research panel, who were married or cohabitating with a man who had used pornography in the prior 3 months. Study aims were to investigate (1) pornography-related distress, attitudes and meanings given to a partner’s PU, (2) the relationship between perceived frequency of partners’ solitary PU (PFREQ) and women’s pornography-related distress, relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction, (3) contributions of attitude and religiosity (commitment and conservatism) to distress and satisfaction, and (4) associations among attitudes, religiosity and meanings, and among meanings, distress and satisfaction. Self-report measures included the Partner’s Pornography Use Scale, Pornography Distress Scale, Couples Satisfaction Index, Global Measure of Sexual Satisfaction, Multidimensional Religious Ideology Scale, Religious Commitment Inventory, Biblical Literalism Measure, Pornography Meaning Scales, and an item measuring attitudes towards pornography. Participants endorsed a range of PFREQ (median frequency=1-2 times/week) and attitudes (28% negative, 34% neutral, 38% positive). Partial correlations and multiple regressions, controlling for demographic variables and COVID-19-related stress, indicated that higher PFREQ was significantly associated with women’s higher pornography-related distress, lower relationship satisfaction, and lower sexual satisfaction. Attitude and PFREQ made independent contributions to distress and satisfaction. Negative attitude amplified the negative association between PFREQ and relationship satisfaction, and religious conservatism amplified the positive association between PFREQ and pornography-related distress. Findings support and extend previous research regarding the associations of higher PFREQ and negative attitude with greater distress and lower relationship and sexual satisfaction, the contribution of religiosity to greater distress, and the role of meanings of infidelity, sin, addiction and inadequacy in predicting greater distress and lower satisfaction.
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The authors present the results of a 15-year review of research on the effects of pornography on couple relationships, including intimacy. This review includes 26 empirically-based studies that were conducted between 2000 and 2016. This research topic has mostly been approached from an exploratory and descriptive perspective. Criticisms of the literature center on the lack of attention paid to the theoretical level of analysis and the unit of observation. The difficulty researchers have with defining “pornography” affects the measures used to assess pornography’s effects on couple relationships and limits the external validity of results. Findings indicate that there are both positive and negative effects of pornography use within committed relationships. These effects appear to be mediated largely by communication between both partners. Research with attention to a consistent theoretical level of analysis and unit of observation is needed to more fully understand the impact of pornography use on a couple’s relationship. Recommendations for future research are provided.
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The current study adopted a participant-informed, “bottom-up,” qualitative approach to identifying perceived effects of pornography on the couple relationship. A large sample (N = 430) of men and women in heterosexual relationships in which pornography was used by at least one partner was recruited through online (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and offline (e.g., newspapers, radio, etc.) sources. Participants responded to open-ended questions regarding perceived consequences of pornography use for each couple member and for their relationship in the context of an online survey. In the current sample of respondents, “no negative effects” was the most commonly reported impact of pornography use. Among remaining responses, positive perceived effects of pornography use on couple members and their relationship (e.g., improved sexual communication, more sexual experimentation, enhanced sexual comfort) were reported frequently; negative perceived effects of pornography (e.g., unrealistic expectations, decreased sexual interest in partner, increased insecurity) were also reported, albeit with considerably less frequency. The results of this work suggest new research directions that require more systematic attention.
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Background and aims The phenomenon of Internet pornography (IP) addiction is gainingincreasing attention in the popular media and psychological research. What has not been tested empirically is how frequency and amount ofIP use, along with other individual characteristics, are related tosymptoms of IP addiction. Methods 105 female and 86 male university students (mean age 21) from Calgary,Canada, were administered measures of IP use, psychosocial functioning (anxiety and depression, life and relationship satisfaction), addictivepropensities, and addictive IP use. Results Men reported earlier age of exposure and more frequent current IP use than women. Individuals not in relationships reported more frequent use than those in relationships. Frequency of IP use wasnot generally correlated with psychosocial functioning but was significantly positively correlated with level of IP addiction. Higher level of IP addiction was associated with poorer psychosocial functioning and problematic alcohol, cannabis, gambling and, in particular, video game use. A curvilinear association was found between frequency of IP use and level of addiction such that daily or greater IP use was associated with a sharp rise in addictive IP scores. Discussion The failure to find a strong significant relationship between IP use and general psychosocial functioning suggests that the overall effect of IP use is not necessarily harmful in and of itself. Addictiveuse of IP, which is associated with poorer psychosocial functioning, emerges when people begin to use IP daily.
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Aims: To review the evidence base for classifying compulsive sexual behavior (CSB) as a non-substance or 'behavioral' addiction. Methods: Data from multiple domains (e.g. epidemiological, phenomenological, clinical, biological) are reviewed and considered with respect to data from substance and gambling addictions. Results: Overlapping features exist between CSB and substance use disorders. Common neurotransmitter systems may contribute to CSB and substance use disorders, and recent neuroimaging studies highlight similarities relating to craving and attentional biases. Similar pharmacological and psychotherapeutic treatments may be applicable to CSB and substance addictions, although considerable gaps in knowledge currently exist. Conclusions: Despite the growing body of research linking compulsive sexual behavior (CSB) to substance addictions, significant gaps in understanding continue to complicate classification of CSB as an addiction.
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Pornography has been a major source of public concern for decades. In recent years, apprehension about the deleterious impact of pornography on romantic and marital relationships has joined a list of previously asserted harms, including claimed associations of pornography with communism, organized crime, aggression against women, and sex addiction. The current research systematically sampled public discourse in the media concerning the impact of pornography on the couple relationship and compared media assertions and conclusions with available evidence of academic research in this area. Magazine features, newspaper articles, and Internet postings mentioning the impact of pornography on heterosexual couples were systematically sampled and analyzed with Thematic Analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Five prominent themes emerged in media discussions of the impact of pornography on relationships: (1) pornography addiction; (2) pornography is good for sexual relationships; (3) pornography use is a form of adultery; (4) partner's pornography use makes one feel inadequate; and (5) pornography use changes expectations about sexual behaviour. Academic research was then reviewed that addressed these identified themes. Two of five identified popular media themes were in accord with the academic literature. The extent to which popular media and academic research are having the same discussions and reaching the same, or different, conclusions was explored, and we discuss implications for future research.
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Introduction Although findings concerning sexual outcomes associated with cyberpornography use are mixed, viewing explicit sexual content online is becoming a common activity for an increasing number of individuals. Aim To investigate heterogeneity in cyberpornography-related sexual outcomes by examining a theoretically and clinically based model suggesting that individuals who spend time viewing online pornography form three distinct profiles (recreational, at-risk, and compulsive) and to examine whether these profiles were associated with sexual well-being, sex, and interpersonal context of pornography use. Methods The present cluster-analytic study was conducted using a convenience sample of 830 adults who completed online self-reported measurements of cyberpornography use and sexual well-being, which included sexual satisfaction, compulsivity, avoidance, and dysfunction. Main Outcomes Measures Dimensions of cyberpornography use were assessed using the Cyber Pornography Use Inventory. Sexual well-being measurements included the Global Measure of Sexual Satisfaction, the Sexual Compulsivity Scale, the Sexual Avoidance Subscale, and the Arizona Sexual Experiences Scale. Results Cluster analyses indicated three distinct profiles: recreational (75.5%), highly distressed non-compulsive (12.7%), and compulsive (11.8%). Recreational users reported higher sexual satisfaction and lower sexual compulsivity, avoidance, and dysfunction, whereas users with a compulsive profile presented lower sexual satisfaction and dysfunction and higher sexual compulsivity and avoidance. Highly distressed less active users were sexually less satisfied and reported less sexual compulsivity and more sexual dysfunction and avoidance. A larger proportion of women and of dyadic users was found among recreational users, whereas solitary users were more likely to be in the highly distressed less active profile and men were more likely to be in the compulsive profile. Conclusion This pattern of results confirms the existence of recreational and compulsive profiles but also demonstrates the existence of an important subgroup of not particularly active, yet highly distressed consumers. Cyberpornography users represent a heterogeneous population, in which each subgroup is associated with specific sexual outcomes.
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Using pornography through the Internet is now a common activity even if associated sexual outcomes, including sexual satisfaction, are highly variable. The present study tested a two-step sequential mediation model whereby cyberpornography time use is related to sexual satisfaction through the association with, in a first step, perceived addiction to cyberpornography (i.e., perceived compulsivity, effort to access, and distress toward pornography) and with, in a second step, sexual functioning problems (i.e., sexual dysfunction, compulsion, and avoidance). These differential associations were also examined across gender using model invariance across men and women. A sample of 832 adults from the community completed self-report online questionnaires. Results indicated that 51 percent of women and 90 percent of men reported viewing pornography through the Internet. Path analyses showed indirect complex associations in which cyberpornography time use is associated with sexual dissatisfaction through perceived addiction and sexual functioning problems. These patterns of associations held for both men and women.