Let's use porn to change sexual behaviour

June 30, 2012 - 05:00

Research has shown a correlation between use of pornographic material and in-bed behaviour. By working together with the porn industry it might be possible to influence people in a good, health-promoting way, says Norwegian researcher.

(Illustration photo: Colourbox)

A new study of pornography consumption and sexual behaviour in Norway shows that heterosexual men who use pornography while masturbating are more likely to have had numerous sex partners, and to have experience with anal sex.

"People are affected by the pornography they consume, and there is a link between behaviour and what people watch," says the study’s main author, Bente Træen, of the University of Tromsø.

She adds that this is a chicken-or-egg problem – we don’t know if porn has a direct causal effect on one’s behavior. But pornography ”demonstrates all the sexual things one can do to a partner, and it’s quite possible that many try out some of them.”

Make a difference – by using porn

Træen found that for homosexual men, there seems to be a correlation between frequent use of pornography and unprotected sex.

"Our findings show that we ought to explore methods to promote safe sex. And if we can use pornographic movies to do so, then I think that's the right way to go."

She explains that it is difficult to reach consumers of pornography with traditional methods such as awareness campaigns. By working with the porn industry, one can instead implement safe sex in their productions.

"We can normalise the use of condoms and show how people 'negotiate' about safe sex [before they sleep together]," she says. "Seeing how people do this can be important for both heterosexuals and homosexuals, I think, because there are really no role models here."

Træen says she is discussing this with American colleagues who have contacts in the porn industry, so a bridge between the camps of academia and porn might indeed be built, however improbable that might sound.

Heterosexual women and porn

Træen found in her research that almost every heterosexual man has used pornography at least once, and that they use porn about 40 percent of the time they masturbate. Heterosexual women, on the other hand, have a much more modest consumption pattern.

"I think heterosexual women still are influenced by the traditional conception of a proper woman being a pure woman, someone who doesn't have sex unless its purpose is to express love or to have children. So consumption of pornography is still seen as something that is immoral or forbidden."

About two-thirds of all heterosexual women in the study said they have watched or consumed pornography, but usually not to masturbate – the surveyed women said they would only use pornography 12 percent of the time they do so.

This suggests that when heterosexual women consume pornography, they usually do it in the company of their partner.

Bente Træen of the University of Tromsø. (Photo: UiT)

Træen and her colleagues also found that lesbian or bisexual women use pornography more often than heterosexual women.

"Lesbian women use porn almost as much as heterosexual men," she says.

Masturbation frequency

Homosexual and bisexual men are in a league of their own regarding their masturbation frequency, according to the study.

They masturbate, on average, 6.6 times per week – significantly more than the 3.8 of heterosexual men.

“This might be because sex just for the sake of pleasure is more accepted in gay communities, or that they generally are more interested in sex,” says the researcher.

Lesbian women also have a higher masturbation frequency than their heterosexual counterparts.

Lesbian or bisexual women masturbate 4.4 times per week, on average, while heterosexual women are the least active of all respondents, at 2.8.

Træen adds that her study is based on responses from over 2,000 people, but less than five percent of these were gay, lesbian or bisexual. These samples were therefore quite small.

Basic research on sexual behaviour

Norwegian studies of sexual behaviour and pornography in particular are internationally regarded as pioneering. Little research has been done on these topics, partly because few are willing to fund the studies. For once, sex does not sell.

"Pornography research is in its infant stage," says Træen. "It's very difficult to get funding for research on sexuality, unless it's somehow related to sexual assault, abortion or sexual transmittable infections."

But basic research on sexual behaviour is important, Træen says, to prepare for the day when we have an epidemic at our feet. “We need to know more about our sexual behaviour."

Country

Follow ScienceNordic on