The use of pornography in the developed world, primarily Europe and America proves to be common and the Internet provides a unique avenue for a vast quantity and extremely wide range of free pornographic material easily accessible anonymously at any time or place. The anonymity and accessibility of Internet pornography may encourage individuals to engage and explore pornography, who may otherwise not have gone to an adult bookstore or rented an adult video in person (Garlic, 2011). The Internet has also provided the opportunity for people with rare sexual interests to find community groups to discuss and inquire more information regarding their atypical sexual desires as reported by Binik (2014). A social psychological view of Internet porn from Fisher and Barack (2001) suggests that the behaviors may be enhanced for those already drawn to antisocial sexual behaviors as in paraphilias. It is also suggested that individuals may lose awareness of the reality of enactment of antisocial sexual behavior as they have access to such material on the Internet. Doring (2009) discusses a theory attempting to describe the drive for the use of Internet pornography called Triple A Engine. This theory uses three characteristics of online pornography as appealing factors for its use: anonymity, affordability, and accessibility.
Current and Relevant Statistics
A study in Norway was presented in Doring’s article to reveal specifically Internet pornography to be used by 63% of males and 14% of women at least once previously. Although other forms of porn are viewed in addition to Internet porn, such as magazines and video films, the study reported around 50% of those using pornography had last used within the previous 12 months. This study also reports pornography to be used more frequently by younger individuals, and homosexual/bisexual men and women. However, it appears that women are underreporting their experiences with internet pornography because this data conflicts that of the recent survey that show that one in every three women watch pornography in a week (De Cadenet, 2015).The article reports 40% of homosexual and bisexual females claimed to use online pornography compared to 12% of heterosexual females (Traen, Nilsen & Stigum, 2006). However, cybersex addition has not been found to be influenced by sexual contacts and relationship (Laier, Pekal & Brand, 2014).
William A. Fisher provides information from intense research in the 1980’s regarding X-rated materials in the U.S. to estimate an $8 billion dollar industry of misogyny per year. For instance, a report in the Psychology of Women Quarterly and the U.S. Attorney General’s Commission reported violent pornography to be the most prevalent form of sexually explicit material. Child pornography sales were speculated at $1 billion a year of sexually explicit media in the U.S. According to Fisher and Barack (2001), Canada’s national newspaper reported that 3.8 million Canadians visited an Internet sex site in October of 2000 and estimated that 25% of all Canadian males visited a sexuality Internet site an average of 4 different days within a one-month period.
A Contextual View
A study identifying some motivations for Internet pornography use found four main factors contributing to its use as mood management, fantasy, relationship, and habitual use. Males showed far stronger motivations than females. Also, the study reported those with more erotophilic tendencies were more motivated to use Internet pornography for all four motivations, than those with eroticphobic tendencies (Paul & Shim, 2008). Further evidence indicates that those with social anxiety tend to use pornography more to fulfill social and sexual needs (Fagan, 2004).
Wright (2013) has developed a model that explains how exposure to sexual media can impact sexual behavior. The model refers to a formulated script that includes the concept of acquisition, activation, and application of ideas learned and formulated from viewing online sexual media. When researching the effects of the scripts formulated by individuals who engage in Internet pornography, results of risky behaviors associated with consumption of pornography included having sex with multiple partners, engaging in paid sex, and experiences of extramarital sex (Wright & Randall, 2012).
Authors, Gagnon and Simon (2005) pioneered the concept of the sexual scripts which they included in their book Sexual Conduct: The Social Sources of Human Sexuality. A chapter was devoted to pornography and sexual scripts and the importance of those scripts in shaping women’s sexuality. The pornography’s portrayal of multiple sexual partnerships provided women with a new sexual script suggesting the possibility of having more partners. The research supported the idea that internet porn viewing was positively associated with the number of sexual partners. It appears that this phenomenon has been potentiated by the availability of mobile apps that make it easier.
A longitudinal study among newlywed couples in the Netherlands reports the link between sexually explicit Internet material use and relationship quality appears to work both ways, but only for husbands. In other words, husbands in poor relationships use more sexually explicit Internet material and the more use of this material among husbands leads to poorer relationships. Overall, the use of sexually explicit Internet material has more negative than positive consequences for husbands and wives in the general population (Muusses, Kerkhof & Finkenauer, 2015).
Similarly, internet pornography has negative consequences on LGBT community. Research indicates that gays and bisexuals establish their first relationships in chat rooms, and this is linked to the increase of HIV/STIs within the community (Grov, Breslow, Newcomb, Rosenberger & Bauermeister, 2014). In another study that investigated the frequency of internet pornography among gays and bisexuals, 99% reported viewing pornography for at least 60 minutes per week (Stein, Silvera, Hagerty & Marmor, 2012).
An article by R.M. Galatzer-Levy (2012) suggests that the viewing of Internet pornography for the purpose of adolescent masturbation brings about the concern that the adolescent is not in fact using his or her own fantasies for the purpose of arousal, but instead being aroused by the content viewed leaving an absence of self created fantasies. The concern being that after time there is a flight from meaning about the process of sexual fantasies and self arousal and therefore difficulty in actual sexual interaction.
Effects of Using Internet Pornography
Positive or negative consequences from viewing Internet pornography may result depending on how the Internet it utilized within varied social contexts that are meant for activities of a sexual nature. The use of Internet pornography can have an effect on sexual attitudes and identities. The immense availability of porn and help of computer technology through the use of the Internet opens up the ability for those people with disabilities that have possibly been part of an excluded group, to now have opportunities to be involved sexually. For instance, blind people can use screen readers to obtain pornographic online stories. Gender relations and the social position and political activism of sexual minorities are affected through this means. More potential positive effects of voluntary viewing of online pornography include increased pleasure, self-acceptance, and the widening of traditional gender roles and sexual scripts. Some reports show positive sexual satisfaction in couple relationships and improved communication. In contrast, an intense preoccupation with online porn can hinder the quality of heterosexual relationships both emotionally and sexually (Muusses, Kerkhof & Finkenauer, 2015).
Some additional adverse effects of Internet pornography may include: the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, development of sexual disorders, facilitation of infidelity toward current life partners, and perhaps sexual victimization. Some risks often mentioned as negative effects of Internet pornography are compulsive or addictive usage patterns, negative role models and even victimization through involvement in illegal online viewing which can then lead to harming others or themselves. Child pornography is a criminal act in almost every developed part of the world. There is also danger that excessive involvement in online pornography may lead to financial problems due to the extent that paid cyber pornography can be consumed. The use of online porn in the workplace can result in impaired performance and ultimately lead to job loss (Eberstadt & Layden, 2010).
There are suspected negative consequences among those that view online pornography that do not view porn excessively or are not involved with illegal or deviant content. This would be considered heterosexual traditional mainstream pornography directed mainly at heterosexual male audiences. These are listed in an article about Internet’s impact on sexuality as follows: 1) online porn may communicate a sexist portrayal of women, 2) unrealistic body images and a standard for sexual performance is communicated, or 3) discounting or undermining traditional values of marriage, family, and monogamy by encouraging sexual freedom, sometimes leading to irresponsible sexual behavior (Doring, 2009).
Treatment approaches for Internet pornography obviously are methods that help reduce the amount of time spent viewing pornography and its effects on the functionality and quality of the individual’s life. One approach that reports a high success rate at the reduction of Internet pornography viewing is a treatment approach, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). This treatment focuses on the processes hypothesized to cause the maladaptive behavior. The participant males were treated in 2009 for eight 1.5-hour sessions with an 85% reduction of their Internet porn viewing and an 83% reduction at follow-up 3 months later. This method also reports increases in quality of life and reduction of OCD and scrupulosity (Twohig & Crosby, 2010). ACT targets six processes that aim to decrease the effects of inner experiences of the undesired behavior (urge to view) and increase the effects of other more desired inner experiences (self-created values to take part in meaningful activities). Inner experiences are reached and through addressing acceptance, diffusion, self as context, being present, values, and committed action.
A social psychological model, The Sexual Behavior Sequence, helps describe an individual’s reactions to their involvement with Internet sexuality. According to the model, sexual stimuli lead to sexual arousal resulting in sexual behavior. The overt sexual behaviors can have positive or negative consequences that will influence the future responses that lead to sexual behavior. The Sexual Behavior Sequence described in Fisher and Barack’s article can be a guide for clinical interventions helping individuals who have problems with self regulating or socially-designated problems with Internet sexuality that cause problematic replacement of sexual activity on the Internet for sexual participation with a partner. In these cases, focus on arousal and cognitive factors that promote dysfunctional behavior might help when attempting to understand the problem and creating an intervention plan. Whether or not the preoccupation with Internet sexually explicit materials are affecting the individuals relationships, finances, or work and whether they are able to anticipate and imagine the individual consequences and stigma by his or her behavior can be determined by evaluating the sexual behavioral sequence.
Conclusively, there is still some debate about whether male and female, as well as transgender individuals experience media sex differently due to the socialization of pornography. The topic of the differences in the effect of pornography on men and women is relevant especially due to the pornographic scripts generally being geared toward a male audience (Sun, Bridges, Johnson & Ezzell, 2016). The similarity confirmed in the number of partners among adult U.S. women was also found among adult U.S. men. Casual sex attitudes for both men and women are strengthened by pornography. The study that attempted to identify the motivation factors for viewing Internet pornography revealed a need to further research to determine whether or not the motivations for viewing sexually explicit materials by the two genders are actually similar. The study suggests that this result is perhaps due to the use of the same factors used for both genders; therefore, future research may consider separate factor analyses on responses from the members of different genders. In regard to transgender, further research will be required to understand the extent to which gays and bisexuals practice certain online behaviors and variation in their sexual repertoires. This is so because literature on these aspects is currently missing (Grov, Breslow, Newcomb, Rosenberger & Bauermeister, 2014).
Although exact motivations for use of pornography are not complete in its research efforts, it has been reported the main reasons for voluntary use are: Curiosity, sexual stimulation, masturbation, and enhancement of sex life with partners, according to Doring’s article. Internet pornography use can lead to sexual liberalism or dissatisfaction with one’s sex life, however, this has been suggested as not necessarily being negative; instead, it might encourage constructive personal development and stimulate opportunities for self exploration.
The complex subject of Internet pornography leaves the need for more research in the area of the implications of its effect on a meso and macro level. Studies that report the effects of online pornography on the sex industry as a whole and the influence Internet pornography has on sexuality and the values and norms in different societies.