Porn won’t ruin your sex life

May 3, 2013 - 06:08

We shouldn’t worry that porn affects young people’s sex lives, new study concludes.

88 percent of the men and 45 percent of the women in the study said they had viewed porn in the past 12 month.

Is porn harmless, or should it be banned because the images of people copulating have a negative effect on young people’s sexuality?

A team of Danish and Dutch scientists have now contributed with a scientific angle on this debate, which usually focuses on religious and political arguments.

Unlike many of these arguments, the scientific contribution to the debate is not clear-cut.

”Our study shows that we shouldn’t worry too much that young people end up with a special type of sexual behaviour if they watch porn,” says Associate Professor Gert Martin Hald, of the Department of Public Health, Copenhagen University. He is the lead author of the article ‘Does wiewing explain doing?’, published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.

“Sure, porn affects young people’s behaviour, but only to a modest extent. Many other factors are involved too.”

No link between porn and number of sex partners

This was an online cross-sectional survey study with 4,600 Dutch youths aged between 15 and 25.

Our study shows that we shouldn’t worry too much that young people end up with a special type of sexual behaviour if they watch porn.
Gert Martin Hald

“Our study is different from previous studies of the link between porn and sexual behaviour. These studies looked at whether there is a link that that increases the risk of sexual aggression or sexually transmitted diseases,” says Hald.

“We focused on some of the more common sexual behaviours such as sexual debut age, whether the participants have had a one-night stand and the number of sexual partners.”

The survey revealed some perhaps rather surprising points about these phenomena:

“We found no link at all with the male participants when we adjusted for other factors such as age and personality traits,” he says.

“With the women we found a link, but it is modest and therefore only explains a tiny part – 0.3 percent – of the differences in these patterns of sexual behaviour. So our study does not confirm the myth that people who watch a lot of porn also have many sex partners.”

Adventurous porn consumers

The survey also showed that people who watch porn are more likely to:

  • Be more sexually adventurous, for instance by having sex with a partner of the same gender or by having group sex.
  • Have paid or received money for sexual services.

Facts

The study revealed that:

  • 88 percent of the men
  • and 45 percent of the women

had viewed porn in the past 12 months, either online, in magazines, videos or in other media.

The men primarily watched hard-core porn where the genitals were in clear view. The women were more into soft-core porn.

“But keep in mind that the link is relatively modest and can explain between one and four percent of the differences in these types of sexual behaviour.”

Gay people perhaps overrepresented

The researcher is aware that the study does not provide a definitive answer to the question of how porn affects young people, because the sample may not be fully representative of the population.

When recruiting participants for the study, the researchers advertised at universities and colleges and on various websites. But they made an extra effort to target gay sites to ensure that gays and lesbians were represented in the study too. This may have affected the outcome.

”We cannot generalise based on this sample, partly because we specifically targeted gay sites. It’s therefore better to consider this study as a piece in the grand puzzle of how porn affects sexual behaviour. This piece should be regarded in conjunction with the other pieces and cannot represent the grand puzzle on its own.”

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Read the Danish version of this article at videnskab.dk

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Translated by
Dann Vinther

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