Gwen Coulson and Dr. Scott Braithwaite, Department of Psychology
With the advent of the internet the availability, anonymity, and affordability of pornography has substantially increased (Cooper, 1998). Furthermore, content analyses have revealed that various types of pornographic material frequently present sex as casually occurring between acquaintances (Brosius, Weaver, & Staab, 1993) and often portray sexual violence as pleasurable (Bridges, Wosnitzer, Scharrer, Sun, & Liberman, 2010). Considering previous research has revealed many associations between pornography use and risky sexual behaviors, as well as many associations between pornography and casual sexual attitudes, we sought to expand current investigations through application of a meditational model, enabling us to test loosening sexual attitudes as the mediator between frequency of pornography use and risky sexual behaviors.
We hypothesized three studies, each building off the previous study to support our prediction that loosening sexual attitudes would prove to be a strong mediator between exposure to pornography and risky sexual attitudes. Adding to the widely documented association between pornography use and risky sexual behaviors, for Study 1 we sought to reaffirm previous research and add to the existing evidence, specifically by analyzing the association between frequency of pornography use and hooking up. The purpose of Study 2 was to analyze the desire for future relationships among individuals engaging in hook ups. Our main assertion focused on the idea that people engaging in hook ups seldom do so because they are trying to start a lasting relationship, but rather, because they are looking for a “one night stand.” Study 3 was designed to build on the findings from Study 1 and Study 2 by bringing the evidence together to focus on loosening sexual attitudes as a potential mediator between pornography and risky sexual behaviors.
For all three studies data was taken from a larger database at Florida State University. A separate sample with multiple points of data collection was used for each study. Permission to use the data was granted by Frank D. Fincham and was part of Project Relate, a larger study focused on analyzing families across the lifespan. Variables included frequency of pornography exposure, frequency of hook ups and types of sexual behaviors occurring during hook ups, as well as the desire for future relationship commitment in individuals engaging in hook ups. To assess sexual attitudes items four through six of the revised Sociosexual Orientation Inventory targeting the domain of sociosexual attitudes were used (SOI–R; Penke & Asendorpf, 2008). Results revealed significant associations between pornography use and hooking up. In addition, desire for future relationship commitment was not strongly associated with hooking up. Last, using structural equation modeling (SEM) we found casual sexual attitudes a strong mediator between pornography use and risky sexual behaviors.
Although alternative explanations, such as individuals who view pornography and engage in risky sexual behaviors may be more sexual or have higher needs for sensation (Brown & L’Engle, 2009), we hope from this analysis that research will continue to delve into the impact sexual cognitions (also described as sexual scripts) formed through viewing pornography have on the risky sexual behaviors of college students. Future plans for this research include a manuscript submitted for publication and presentations at academic conferences.
- Bridges, A. J., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., Sun, C., & Liberman, R. (2010). Aggression and sexual behavior in best-selling pornography videos: A content analysis update. Violence Against Women, 16(10), 1065-1085. doi:10.1177/1077801210382866
- Brosius, H., Weaver, J. B., & Staab, J. F. (1993). Exploring the social and sexual ‘reality’ of contemporary pornography. Journal of Sex Research, 30(2), 161-170. doi:10.1080/00224499309551697
- Brown, J. D., & L’Engle, K. L. (2009). X-rated: Sexual attitudes and behaviors associated with U.S. early adolescents’ exposure to sexually explicit media. Communication Research, 36(1), 129- 151. doi:10.1177/0093650208326465
- Cooper, A. (1998). Sexuality and the internet: Surfing into the new millennium. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 1(2), 187-193. doi:10.1089/cpb.1998.1.187
- Penke, L., & Asendorpf, J. B. (2008). Beyond global sociosexual orientations: A more differentiated look at sociosexuality and its effects on courtship and romantic relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1113-1135. doi:10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.113