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How Does Porn Impact Women?

Whether consumers, porn performers, or partners of consumers, countless women report being negatively affected by porn’s influence in their lives.

Porn can impact women in a variety of ways. Whether consumers, porn performers, or partners of consumers, countless women report being negatively affected by porn’s influence in their lives.

Here are just a few of the ways porn can harm women.

A 2020 study found that an estimated 60.2% of women report consuming porn in the past month. With a majority of women consuming porn, research indicates that they experience many of the same negative effects as male porn consumers.Solano, I., Eaton, N. R., & O'Leary, K. D. (2020). Pornography Consumption, Modality and Function in a Large Internet Sample. Journal of sex research, 57(1), 92–103. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2018.1532488COPY 

Related: How Porn Can Hurt a Consumer’s Partner

For example, research shows that consuming porn can negatively impact women’s mental health, self-esteem, “sexpectations,” and even sexual functioning.Brown, C. C., Durtschi, J. A., Carroll, J. S., & Willoughby, B. J. (2017). Understanding and predicting classes of college students who use pornography. Computers in Human Behavior, 66, 114-121. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2016.09.008COPY Koletić G. (2017). Longitudinal associations between the use of sexually explicit material and adolescents' attitudes and behaviors: A narrative review of studies. Journal of adolescence, 57, 119–133. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2017.04.006COPY Bőthe, B., Tóth-Király, I., Griffiths, M. D., Potenza, M. N., Orosz, G., & Demetrovics, Z. (2021). Are sexual functioning problems associated with frequent pornography use and/or problematic pornography use? Results from a large community survey including males and females. Addictive Behaviors, 112, 106603. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2020.106603COPY 

But women can still be negatively affected by porn, even if they’re not consuming it themselves. Female partners of male porn consumers, for example, also report negative effects, such as lower self-esteem, worse relationship quality, and less sexual satisfaction.Stewart, D. N., & Szymanski, D. M. (2012). Young adult women’s reports of their male romantic partner’s pornography use as a correlate of their self-esteem, relationship quality, and sexual satisfaction. Sex Roles, 67(5), 257-271. doi:10.1007/s11199-012-0164-0COPY 

Fast Facts

Research also shows that women whose partners consume porn experience more psychological distress, feel more objectified, have poorer body image, and are even more likely to develop eating disorder symptoms.Szymanski, D. M., Feltman, C. E., & Dunn, T. L. (2015). Male partners’ perceived pornography use and Women’s relational and psychological health: The roles of trust, attitudes, and investment. Sex Roles, 73(5), 187-199. doi:10.1007/s11199-015-0518-5COPY Wright, P. J., & Tokunaga, R. S. (2018). Women's perceptions of their male partners’ pornography consumption and relational, sexual, self, and body satisfaction: Toward a theoretical model.42(1), 55-73. doi:10.1080/23808985.2017.1412802COPY Tylka, T. L., & Kroon Van Diest, A. M. (2015). You Looking at Her “Hot” Body May Not be “Cool” for Me: Integrating Male Partners’ Pornography Use into Objectification Theory for Women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 39(1), 67–84. https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684314521784COPY 

Related: How Porn Can Distort Consumers’ Understanding of Healthy Sex

Women can also be harmed in the making of porn. Mistreatment and abuse of performers in the porn industry are unfortunately common, with many performers reporting that they have been exploited, dehumanized, or even trafficked in the industry.Donevan, M. (2021). “In this industry, you're no longer human”: An exploratory study of women’s experiences in pornography production in Sweden. Dignity: A Journal of Analysis of Exploitation and Violence. 6(3) doi:10.23860/dignity.2021.06.03.01COPY 

See also How Porn Can Fuel Sex Trafficking.

Researchers analyzing the content of pornography videos have found that at least 1 in 3 and as many as 9 in 10 porn videos show violence or aggression—and that women are the targets about 97% of the time.Fritz, N., Malic, V., Paul, B., & Zhou, Y. (2020). A descriptive analysis of the types, targets, and relative frequency of aggression in mainstream pornography. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 49(8), 3041-3053. doi:10.1007/s10508-020-01773-0COPY 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. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801210382866COPY 

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It’s no secret that porn plays a role in normalizing violence against women. In fact, research shows that porn consumers are:

  • more likely to sexually objectify and dehumanize women
  • more likely to express an intent to rape
  • less likely to intervene during a sexual assault
  • more likely to support violence against women
  • more likely to commit actual acts of sexual violenceZhou, Y., Liu, T., Yan, Y., & Paul, B. (2021). Pornography use, two forms of dehumanization, and sexual aggression: Attitudes vs. behaviors. J.Sex Marital Ther., , 1-20. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2021.1923598COPY Foubert, J. D., Brosi, M. W., & Bannon, R. S. (2011). Pornography viewing among fraternity men: Effects on bystander intervention, rape myth acceptance and behavioral intent to commit sexual assault.18(4), 212-231. doi:10.1080/10720162.2011.625552COPY Wright, P. J., & Tokunaga, R. S. (2016). Men's Objectifying Media Consumption, Objectification of Women, and Attitudes Supportive of Violence Against Women. Archives of sexual behavior, 45(4), 955–964. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-015-0644-8COPY Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., & Kraus, A. (2016). A meta-analysis of pornography consumption and actual acts of sexual aggression in general population studies. Journal of Communication, 66(1), 183-205. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/jcom.12201COPY 

Related: How Porn Can Misrepresent and Fetishize LGBTQ+ Individuals and Relationships

While some people view porn simply as a “guy issue,” that couldn’t be further from reality. Porn can harm women in many ways.

It’s time to stand up for women and consider before consuming.

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