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Consuming Porn to Relieve Stress Linked to Developing Problematic Use, Study Says

By November 20, 2020No Comments

There's a vast amount of research on the harmful effects of pornography, and it's important that this information is accessible to the public. Weekly, we highlight a research study that sheds light on the expanding field of academic resources that showcase porn's harms. These studies cover a wide range of topics, from the sociological implications of pornography to the neurological effects of porn-consumption.

The full study can be accessed here.

Why Do People Watch Pornography? The Motivational Basis of Pornography Use

Authors: Beata Bothe, Istvan Toth-Kiraly, Nora Bella, Marc N. Potenza, Zsolt Demetrovics, Gabor Orosz 

Published July 2020

Peer-Reviewed Journal: Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication.

Background

According to the statistics of one of the most popular pornography sites, in 2019 this website was visited around 42 billion times, which means that more than 1,300 searches were conducted every second (Pornhub, 2019). Although some studies facilitate the understanding of the popularity and high prevalence of pornography use (Cooper, 1998; Young, Griffin-Shelley, Cooper, O’mara, & Buchanan, 2000), they do not give a satisfactory answer to the question regarding which motivations may lead to pornography use and different patterns of use.

The conceptualization and measurement of pornography use are diverse (Kohut et al., 2020), and the frequency of pornography use (FPU) has been assessed in most previous research (e.g., Short, Black, Smith, Wetterneck, & Wells, 2012). The frequency of pornography use may inform about the extent of pornography use, whereas the examination of problematic pornography use (PPU) may inform on negative impacts related to use. However, the examination of pornography-use motivations (PUM) may reveal why people use pornographic materials.

Certain motivations may differentiate between types and amounts of engagement with pornography. For example, up to 40%–50% of the variance in alcohol consumption and Internet gaming disorder may be explained by drinking motives and gaming motives, respectively (Király et al., 2015; Kuntsche, 2007). Concurrently examining these aspects of pornography use (i.e., motivations, frequency, and problematic use) may result in a more detailed understanding of pornography-viewing behaviors. Therefore, the present study aimed to examine how pornography-use motivations are associated with the frequency of pornography use and problematic pornography use.

Methods

Although pornography viewing is widespread among Internet users, no scales for measuring pornography use motivations (PUM) have been developed and psychometrically tested for use in general populations. This study aimed to construct a measure that could reliably assess a wide range of pornography-use motivations in nonspecific populations. Self-report data of 3 separate samples (N1 = 772; 51% women, 49% men; N2 = 792, 6% women, 94% men; N3 = 1,082, 50% women, 50% men) were collected and analyzed using confirmatory factor analysis, measurement invariance testing, and structural equation modeling (SEM). The most common pornography-use motivations were identified based on a literature review and qualitative analysis. They included: sexual pleasure, sexual curiosity, emotional distraction or suppression, stress reduction, fantasy, boredom avoidance, lack of sexual satisfaction, and self-exploration. Items were constructed, and confirmatory factor analyses yielded strong psychometric properties.

Further corroborating the structural validity of the Pornography Use Motivations Scale (PUMS), gender-based measurement invariance was tested, and associations of the frequency of pornography use (FPU), problematic pornography use (PPU), and pornography-use motivations (PUM) were examined.

Results

Although how much and how frequently pornography is consumed and relationships between frequency of use and problematic pornography use have been extensively studied, less research has focused on pornography-use motivations, regardless of whether motivations may contribute importantly to the development of adaptive or maladaptive outcomes.

Sexual pleasure has arguably been the most frequently reported motivation for using pornography in prior studies, and this was true in the present study as well. In line with prior studies, sexual pleasure motivation had positive, weak-to-moderate associations with all the other motivations, and men demonstrated higher scores than did women. Sexual pleasure motivation was positively and moderately related to the frequency of pornography use, indicating that using pornography to achieve sexual pleasure may result in more frequent pornography use. However, it also had a positive, but the weak association with problematic pornography use. Previously, sexual pleasure motivation demonstrated strong, positive associations with the frequency of pornography use, whereas it showed nonsignificant or weak-to-moderate associations with problematic online sexual activities (OSA) or hypersexuality.

In line with the previous findings, emotional distraction or suppression, stress reduction, and boredom avoidance as potential motives behind pornography use also appeared in the present study, but with lower frequencies than those for the other motives. Strong associations were observed between emotional distraction or suppression, stress reduction, and boredom avoidance motivations; however, these motivations should not be merged. Boredom is characterized as a low-arousal, slightly unpleasant affect, and stress is characterized as a high-arousal, neutral affect, whereas negative emotions (e.g., being sad, depressed, or angry) are characterized as moderate-arousal, highly unpleasant affects. Thus, these emotions derive from different affective states and may be associated with different outcomes as well.

As for emotional distraction or suppression, similarly to the case in prior studies, it had weak-to-strong positive associations with all the other motivational factors, and men demonstrated higher scores than women. Emotional distraction or suppression motivations were unrelated to the frequency of pornography use but had a positive, weak association with problematic pornography use. This finding was in line with those in previous studies about problematic sexual behaviors and with the self-medication hypothesis; individuals may use pornography to reduce their negative feelings, which in turn may contribute to the severity of problematic pornography use.

Concerning stress reduction, similarly to the case in previous findings, using pornography to relieve stress had moderate-to-strong positive associations with all other motivations, and men demonstrated higher scores than did women. Motivations to reduce stress had positive, weak associations with the frequency of pornography use, and they had the strongest positive associations with problematic pornography use. Stress reduction motivations may contribute similarly or to a higher degree to the development of problematic pornography use as emotional distraction or suppression, in line with a self-medication hypothesis. To summarize, pornography may seem an easily accessible, affordable, seemingly anonymous, and fast way to diminish stress, but it may also generate even more stress as a result of developing problematic pornography use.

Previously, motivations related to boredom avoidance were assessed either with one item as a component of other motivations or not at all in relation to pornography use, even though prior work has suggested that pornography use may be considered as a pleasure-seeking behavior that may eliminate feelings of boredom (Grubbs, Wright, et al., 2019).

According to the present results, boredom avoidance motivations showed positive, weak-to-strong positive associations with all other motivations, and men demonstrated higher scores than did women. It had weak, positive associations with both frequencies of pornography use and severity of problematic pornography use. These results suggest that individuals may use pornography to eliminate their boredom, and this pattern may result in frequent and problematic pornography use.

A question arises whether similar pornography use motivation patterns may be associated with frequency of pornography use and problematic pornography use. From the perspective of the frequency of use, higher levels of sexual pleasure, boredom avoidance, and stress reduction motivations were related to increased frequency of pornography use. These results are in line with findings reporting sexual pleasure as the strongest correlate of the frequency of use. However, the motivational patterns linked to problematic pornography use differed. Stress reduction motivations were the strongest statistical predictors of problematic use, followed by emotional distraction or suppression, boredom-avoidance, fantasy, and sexual pleasure motivations, respectively.

These results are in line with those in previous studies, indicating the importance of certain motivations in problematic pornography use and other related problematic sexual behaviors, such as hypersexuality or problematic online sexual activities. When comparing the motivational patterns underlying problematic use and frequency of use,  emotional distraction or suppression and fantasy motivations were related to problematic use, but not the frequency of use, suggesting that although stress reduction may be the strongest predictor of problematic use, it may not result in problematic use without emotional distraction or suppression and fantasy motivations, although this possibility warrants direct examination. Individuals who use pornography not only to reduce their stress but also to avoid negative feelings, forget about their problems, and escape from the real world may be at elevated risk of developing problematic pornography use.

The full study can be accessed here.

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