Research

Neural correlates of sexual cue reactivity in individuals with and without compulsive sexual behaviours

contains extensive research archives. You can find these via The Main Research Page, which starts with an overview of current research. At the very bottom of that page you can find links to categories of studies, such as Pornography and Adolescents, Porn Use & Sex Addiction, and Internet Addiction.

Critiques of Questionable & Misleading Studies/Debunking Propaganda Pieces addresses some of the field’s more dubious porn research and claims in lay articles.

Here you can learn about the medical diagnosis suitable for porn and sex addicts proposed for inclusion in the upcoming edition of the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), as well as the position of the American Society for Addiction Medicine (addiction healthcare professionals and researchers). This was then published by the WHO in June 2018. It is now going through the process of adoption by member countries.

Useful research

For convenience here are useful lists of studies on porn’s effects.

1) Porn/sex addiction? This page lists every neuroscience-based study (MRI, fMRI, EEG, neuropsychological, hormonal) published of porn users & sex addicts. All but one of the 57 studies provide support for the addiction model. Their findings mirror the neurological findings reported in substance addiction studies.

2) The real experts’ opinions on porn/sex addiction? This list contains 32 recent literature reviews & commentaries by some of the top neuroscientists in the world. All support the addiction model.

3) Signs of addiction and escalation to more extreme material? Over 60 studies reporting findings consistent with escalation of porn use (tolerance), habituation to porn, and even withdrawal symptoms (all signs and symptoms associated with addiction). Additional page with 15 studies reporting withdrawal symptoms in porn users.

4) Debunking the unsupported talking point that “high sexual desire” explains away porn or sex addiction: At least 30 studies falsify the claim that sex & porn addicts “just have high sexual desire”.

5) Porn and sexual problems? This list contains over 40 studies linking porn use/porn addiction to sexual problems and lower arousal to sexual stimuli. The first 7 studies in the list demonstrate causation, as participants eliminated porn use and healed chronic sexual dysfunctions.

6) Over 80 studies link porn use to less sexual and relationship satisfaction. As far as we know all studies involving males have reported more porn use linked to poorer outcomes. This applies to either sexual or relationship satisfaction. While a few studies report little effect of women’s porn use on women’s sexual and relationship satisfaction, many do report negative effects: Porn studies involving female subjects: Negative effects on arousal, sexual satisfaction, and relationships

7) Porn use affecting emotional and mental health? Over 85 studies link porn use to poorer mental-emotional health & poorer cognitive outcomes.

Porn affects beliefs, attitudes and behaviors

8) Porn use affecting beliefs, attitudes and behaviors? Check out individual studies: over 40 studies link porn use to “un-egalitarian attitudes” toward women and sexist views – or the summary from this 2016 meta-analysis  of 135 studies – Media and Sexualization: State of Empirical Research, 1995–2015. Excerpt:

The goal of this review was to synthesize empirical investigations testing effects of media sexualization. The focus was on research published in peer-reviewed, English-language journals between 1995 and 2015. A total of 109 publications that contained 135 studies were reviewed. The findings provided consistent evidence that both laboratory exposure and regular, everyday exposure to this content are directly associated with a range of consequences, including higher levels of body dissatisfaction, greater self-objectification, greater support of sexist beliefs and of adversarial sexual beliefs, and greater tolerance of sexual violence toward women. Moreover, experimental exposure to this content leads both women and men to have a diminished view of women’s competence, morality, and humanity.

Porn use and sexual aggression, coercion and violence

9) What about sexual aggression and porn use? Another meta-analysis: A Meta‐Analysis of Pornography Consumption and Actual Acts of Sexual Aggression in General Population Studies (2015). Excerpt:

22 studies from 7 different countries were analyzed. Consumption was associated with sexual aggression in the United States and internationally, among males and females, and in cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. Associations were stronger for verbal than physical sexual aggression, although both were significant. The general pattern of results suggested that violent content may be an exacerbating factor.

“But hasn’t porn use reduced rape rates?” No, rape rates have been rising in recent years: “Rape rates are on the rise, so ignore the pro-porn propaganda.” See this page for over 100 studies linking porn use to sexual aggression, coercion & violence, and an extensive critique of the often-repeated assertion that an increased availability of porn has resulted in decreased rape rates.

Porn and adolescents

10) What about the porn use and adolescents? Check out this list of over 280 adolescent studies, or these reviews of the literature: review#1, review2, review#3, review#4, review#5, review#6, review#7, review#8, review#9, review#10, review#11, review#12, review#13, review#14, review#15, review #16. From the conclusion of this 2012 review of the research – The Impact of Internet Pornography on Adolescents: A Review of the Research:

Increased access to the Internet by adolescents has created unprecedented opportunities for sexual education, learning, and growth. Conversely, the risk of harm that is evident in the literature has led researchers to investigate adolescent exposure to online pornography in an effort to elucidate these relationships. Collectively, these studies suggest that youth who consume pornography may develop unrealistic sexual values and beliefs. Among the findings, higher levels of permissive sexual attitudes, sexual preoccupation, and earlier sexual experimentation have been correlated with more frequent consumption of pornography…. Nevertheless, consistent findings have emerged linking adolescent use of pornography that depicts violence with increased degrees of sexually aggressive behavior.

The literature does indicate some correlation between adolescents’ use of pornography and self-concept. Girls report feeling physically inferior to the women they view in pornographic material, while boys fear they may not be as virile or able to perform as the men in these media. Adolescents also report that their use of pornography decreased as their self-confidence and social development increase. Additionally, research suggests that adolescents who use pornography, especially that found on the Internet, have lower degrees of social integration, increases in conduct problems, higher levels of delinquent behavior, higher incidence of depressive symptoms, and decreased emotional bonding with caregivers.

Negative outcomes

11) Aren’t all studies correlative? Nope: Over 90 studies demonstrating internet use & porn use causing negative outcomes & symptoms, and brain changes

Agnotolgy & Propaganda

See Questionable & Misleading Studies for highly publicized papers that are not what they claim to be. For a debunking of nearly every naysayer talking point and cherry-picked study see this extensive critique: Debunking “Why Are We Still So Worried About Wat­­ching Porn?”, by Marty Klein, Taylor Kohut, and Nicole Prause (2018). A primer of how to recognize biased articles: They cite Prause et al., 2015 (falsely claiming it debunks porn addiction), while omitting over 50 neurological studies supporting porn addiction.

For easy to understand presentations addressing many of the myths propagated by pro-porn researchers or bloggers, see 2 excellent videos by Gabe Deem: PORN MYTHS – The Truth Behind Addiction And Sexual Dysfunctions, and “Porn Playbook: Deny, Disinform and Defame“.

The following talks (on vimeo) were presented at the 2018 NCOSE conference: “People Recognize Porn-Science Propaganda When They See It”, by Jacob Hess (overview of tactics employed by “astroturfers” who deny the possible negative effects of porn use), and “Porn Research: Fact or Fiction?”, by Gary Wilson (the truth behind 5 studies propagandists cite to support their claims that porn addiction doesn’t exist or that porn use is largely beneficial).