Porn Sex versus Real Sex

Porn Sex vs. Real Sex: How Sexually Explicit Material Shapes Our Understanding of Sexual Anatomy, Physiology, and Behaviour – Cassandra Hesse & Cory L. Pedersen

Young people’s exposure to sexually explicit material has become a concern as the Internet gains prominence and is reported to be the most common source of pornography consumption. The plethora of research on the effects of pornography among young people has generated an excessive amount of conflicting results and inconsistent data (Lo & Wei, 2005). Several European researchers have concluded that pornography exposure is not associated with risky sexual behaviors, but has shown to positively enhance sexual knowledge, perceptions of sexual intercourse, and overall well-being (Hald & Malamuth, 2008). Conversely, North American studies reveal that regular pornography consumption is associated with greater engagement in high-risk sexual behaviors, more sexual partners, and lower age of first intercourse (Braun-Courville & Rojas, 2008; Morgan, 2011). Of special note to the present investigation is evidence indicating that adolescents and young adults have limited knowledge of foundational aspects of sexual reproduction, such as anatomy and physiology, despite 95% of youth between the ages of 13 and 18 years being exposed to some type of legitimate sexual education (Ammerman et al., 1992).

Given that the association between pornography consumption and sexual behavior is varied, the purpose of this study was to investigate whether frequency of pornography consumption contributes to unrealistic beliefs about sexual intercourse, sexual relationships, and human anatomy among university students. Specifically, it was hypothesized that more frequent pornography consumers would show less understanding of various aspects of “real life” sexual intercourse and confusion about the structure and function of male and female anatomy relative to low consumers.

Regression analyses indicate that frequency of exposure does play a role in the understanding of typical sexual behaviors and the understanding of anatomy and physiology among men and women – specifically, that greater consumers showed better understanding than non-consumers. Interestingly though, male consumers (who admit to consuming more pornography than females), scored lower on an anatomy questionnaire – indicating gender differences in the impact of pornography exposure on expectations of anatomy and physiology. Finally, results are in conjunction with previous research indicating a self-reported positive effect from pornography consumption among both males and females.

Poster presented at the Western Psychological Association convention, Long Beach CA, 2016 and article published in the journal, Sexuality and Culture, doi: 10.1007/s12119-017-9413-2