Does porn affect a women's experiences with a man?

New research has explored the association between pornography and intimate partner experiences among heterosexual women. The results reveal that there is a complex relationship between the two.

This latest study published in the Journal of Women’s Health reveals that thinking of pornographic material during intimate experiences with a heterosexual partner among women may give rise to insecurities about appearences and thus reduces the enjoyment of the intimate acts. The study is titled, “Pornography and Heterosexual Women’s Intimate Experiences with a Partner.”

Image Credit: ninefotostudio / Shutterstock
Image Credit: ninefotostudio / Shutterstock

The authors write that pornographic material these days are “characterized by discordant images of sexual pleasure and aggression” and are becoming part of the sexual lives of heterosexual women. They add that there have been no studies that look at the effects of these materials on a woman’s actual sexual encounters with her partner.

This was a collaborative study where researchers Jennifer Johnson, from Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond), Matthew Ezzell, from James Madison University (Harrisonburg, VA), Ana Bridges from University of Arkansas (Fayetteville), and Chyng Sun from New York University (New York City) came together.

The team looked at 706 heterosexual American women aged between 18 and 29 years and found that less than half of them used it for masturbating. They answered an online survey by SurveyMonkey. The team noted that 83 percent of the participants had seen pornographic material. Around 43.5 percent used it for masturbation. Around half of these women use it for masturbation once or less number of times per month.

Women who were more accustomed to using porn for masturbation further were more likely to have a “heightened recall of pornographic images,” “heightened reliance on pornography for achieving and maintaining arousal,” and a “preference for pornography consumption over sex with a partner”.

These women had an activation of a pornographic script in their thought processes while they were actually having sex, found the researchers. This activation of the sexual script in their thoughts, also led to “higher rates of insecurities about their appearance and diminished enjoyment of intimate acts such as kissing or caressing during sex with a partner.”

The authors write about sexual scripting saying, “more frequent viewing of media, particularly highly stimulating images, for longer periods of time and with purpose will have higher activation in the minds of particular types of viewers, thus increasing the role that the pornographic script will influence behaviour.”

The women were asked questions such as “(1) When I am having sex with a partner, the images from pornography come into my head; (2) When I am having sex with a partner, I intentionally think about images from pornography to maintain my excitement; and (3) Using pornography to masturbate is more exciting than having sex with a partner.” The authors write, “Each item was answered on a 5-point Likert scale, from 1 (never) to 5 (always). Cronbach's alpha for the scale was 0.81.”

According to Dr. Susan G. Kornstein, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Women’s Health, Executive Director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Women’s Health, Richmond, and President of the Academy of Women’s Health, “Dr. Johnson and colleagues demonstrate a clear difference between the role of pornography in sexual experiences of women compared to men. Whereas the relationship tends to be more direct in young heterosexual men, and just viewing pornographic material is associated with reduced sexual intimacy and satisfaction, women make the material part of their personal sexual experience and carry the pornographic script into their intimate partner experiences.”

They write that pornographic scripting is easily activated in men who consume more pornography than women. The team wrote, “There was no relationship between pornography consumption and feelings of self-confidence or insecurities about appearance among men.” The researchers warn that pornography viewing is associated with “decrease in the use of condoms,” and also “associated with nearly a sevenfold over time increase in the odds of having engaged in casual sex for unhappy individuals.” They write that watching pornography creates “sex-related cognitions in memory” in adolescents and more they watch these materials, more they would believe that real life experiences are similar to what they are watching leading to “unrealistic attitudes about sex and misleading attitudes toward relationships.”

The authors concluded, “pornography consumption may relate to female consumers' sexual experiences indirectly,” and “may not improve heterosexual women's sexual experiences with a partner.” They add, “health care providers and educators should be equally attentive of the role of pornography in the lives of both heterosexual men and women, although in different ways.”

Source: Pornography and Heterosexual Women's Intimate Experiences with a Partner, Jennifer A. Johnson, Matthew B. Ezzell, Ana J. Bridges, and Chyng F. Sun.Journal of Women's Health. http://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2018.7006, https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/jwh.2018.7006

Dr. Ananya Mandal

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Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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