WOMEN

Porn Use Impacts Sexual Behavior Less Than You Might Think, Says Study

04/25/2013 07:35 pm ET
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We hear a lot about how the age of easily-accessible Internet porn is hurting and shaping our sex lives. But according to new research, we may have given pornography's influence a bit too much credit.

The study, conducted in the Netherlands, surveyed 4,600 men and women between 15 and 25 about their pornography use and preferences as well as their sexual experiences. Eighty-eight percent of the young men surveyed had seen pornography over the past year, compared to 45 percent of the women. Participants were specifically asked about "risky" or "adventurous" sexual activities, reported HealthDay. The researchers found that only 0.3 percent to 4 percent of these risky sexual behaviors were connected to porn use.

According to NBC News, the sexual behaviors participants reported were split into three general categories: adventurous sex, partner experience and transactional sex. "Adventurous sex" included things like sleeping with someone who the person met online, "partner experience" covered number of partners and one-night stands and "transactional sex" was anything that involved payment. Watching porn more was associated with engaging in these behaviors, but only slightly so.

"Pornography is not as big and bad a wolf as we thought it was, and maybe we should focus on other factors. It explains a portion of sexual behavior, but it is modest," Gert Martin Hald, a clinical psychologist at the University of Copenhagen and the study's lead author, told HealthDay.

Past research has found that porn has a larger impact on relationships and sex -- specifically for women. A June 2012 study showed that young women had lower self-esteem and were less satisfied with their romantic relationships when their male significant others watched porn frequently. And a 2011 New York Magazine feature claimed that frequent viewers of sexually explicit media (predominantly men) were "detaching from their partners."

This most recent study, which was published on April 25th online in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, also found that certain personality traits were associated with a penchant for taking sexual risks. Men and women who displayed "sensation-seeking" personalities (i.e. people who are motivated to have new and unusual experiences) were unsurprisingly more likely to be sexually adventurous, seeking new experiences in the bedroom. Hald also told NBC News that factors like socioeconomic status, upbringing and education also impact an individual's later sexual actions. So essentially, porn does have a (small) impact on our later attitudes and behaviors, but so do many other things.

Whether these results would hold in the United States, where sexual education is often woefully ineffective and prostitution is illegal, is a question for future research. "I think that the social and sexual context of viewing pornography impacts the association between pornography and the sexual behavioral outcomes studied," Hald told NBC News.

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