Pornography Consumption and Opposition to Affirmative Action for Women: A Prospective Study (2013)
August 21, 2013, doi:10.1177/0361684313498853
Paul J. Wright1⇑
1Department of Telecommunications, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA
Paul J. Wright, Department of Telecommunications, Indiana University, 1229 East 7th St. Bloomington, IN 47405, USA. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Despite the persistence of wage gaps and other indicators of discrimination, many Americans oppose affirmative action for women. Our study investigated a potential source of social influence that has often been hypothesized to reduce compassion and sympathy for women: pornography. National panel data were employed. Data were gathered in 2006, 2008, and 2010 from 190 adults ranging in age from 19 to 88 at baseline. Pornography viewing was indexed via reported consumption of pornographic movies. Attitudes toward affirmative action were indexed via opposition to hiring and promotion practices that favor women. Contrary to a selective-exposure perspective on media use, prior opposition to affirmative action did not predict subsequent pornography viewing. Consistent with a social learning perspective on media effects, prior pornography viewing predicted subsequent opposition to affirmative action even after controlling for prior affirmative action attitudes and a number of other potential confounds. Gender did not moderate this association. Practically, these results suggest that pornography may be a social influence that undermines support for affirmative action programs for women. Theoretically, these results align with the perspective that sexual media activate abstract scripts for social behavior which may be applied to judgments that extend beyond the specific interaction patterns depicted.
New research finds people who watch pornography are less likely to support affirmative action for women.
Should women receive preferential treatment in the workplace? Newly published research suggests your attitude toward that complicated issue may be shaped, in part, by whether you indulge in a specific leisure-time activity: Watching porn.
Writing in the Psychology of Women Quarterly, Indiana University researchers Paul Wright and Michelle Funk report people who admitted to watching pornography were less likely to support affirmative action for women in a subsequent interview.
“Prior studies have found that pornography viewers are more likely to hold a variety of antisocial attitudes towards women.”
That equation held true once a variety of factors that could shape one’s view of the issue (including political ideology and religiosity) were removed from the equation. Furthermore, it applied to women as well as men.
“Practically,” the researchers write, “these results suggest that pornography may be a social influence that undermines support for affirmative action programs for women.”
Wright and Funk used data from the General Social Survey, an ongoing look at behaviors, attitudes, and trends. Specifically, they looked at answers given by the 200 members of a GSS panel, who answered series of questions in 2006, 2008, and 2010.
At the 2008 sessions, nearly 24 percent of the men and 13 percent of the women said they had watched a pornographic film during the previous year. Two years later, as part of a follow-up session, the same people were asked, “Are you for or against preferential hiring and promotion of women?”
The results: “Prior pornographic viewing predicted subsequent opposition to affirmative action for women.” While women in the study (like those in previous research) were more supportive of such programs than men, they, too, were less likely to express approval if they had watched porn.
According to the researchers, this suggests “sexual media activate abstract social scripts, which may then be used to inform opinions about social issues”—particularly issues dealing with gender equality.
But why would watching Debbie Does Dallas dampen support for hiring Heidi, or promoting Paula?
“Pornography often presents women as sexual objects deserving of degradation, and even aggression,” the researchers write. “In alignment with these depictions, prior studies have found that pornography viewers are more likely to hold a variety of antisocial attitudes towards women.”
Obviously, someone who thinks of women in broadly negative terms—or sees them primarily as sex objects—is unlikely to support policies designed to facilitate their success in the work world.
Wright and Funk note that there are pornography producers who create egalitarian fare. They add that they don’t support censorship of pornographic material. Rather, they write, the public needs to be educated about how women are depicted in most pornography, and the possible real-world effects of these depictions.
Their hope is that “increased public awareness of the misogyny in pornography and its antisocial effects will lead to social condemnation, stigmatization, and ultimately reduced production and consumption of such fare.”