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Research Study: Mainstream Porn Presents Unrealistic Expectations for Sexual Pleasure

By April 30, 2018 No 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.

Consuming Ecstasy: Representations of Male and Female Orgasm in Mainstream Pornography

Authors: Léa J. Séguin, Carl Rodrigue & Julie Lavigne
Published: June 2017

Peer-Reviewed Journal: The Journal of Sex Research 55(3) (2018) 348–356

Background

Research has demonstrated that the experience of orgasm goes beyond that of a simple physiological reflex. It is highly symbolic, and much personal, interpersonal, sociocultural, and sociopolitical importance has been accorded to it.

While orgasm can be a pleasurable experience, it also can be a great source of difficulty and distress, especially among women, and its absence during partnered sex can lead to relationship difficulties. As evidence of its widespread significance, orgasm often is depicted and/or discussed in various media sources such as magazines (e.g., Cleo, Cosmopolitan), television series (e.g., Seinfeld, Sex and the City, Shameless), self-help books, novels, and pornography. Because repeated exposure to media has been shown to influence individuals’ beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors, including those pertaining to sexuality, it is possible that individuals’ understanding and expectations of orgasm are also shaped by its media representations.

Media depictions of female orgasm, however, are not representative of the experiences of women more generally. For instance, in a nationally representative U.S. sample of men and women between the ages of 18 and 59, only 64% of women, compared to 91% of men, reported orgasm at last sex, and women were more likely to have achieved orgasm during their last sexual encounter if it included a wide variety of sex acts. Further, research consistently has demonstrated that a majority of women are unable to achieve orgasm reliably through vaginal penetration alone, and that additional stimulation is needed. Nonetheless, many women and their partners feel a sense of inadequacy or frustration if female orgasm does not occur during sex.

Past research has shown that exposure to media representations of sexuality can influence individuals’ understanding and expectations surrounding sexual experiences, including orgasm. Therefore, the examination of orgasm depictions in mainstream pornography can provide useful information on the normative aspects of orgasm that may be responsible for the orgasm-related difficulties and distress many men and women experience.

However, depictions of orgasm in pornographic videos have not been investigated to date. Thus, the aim of the present investigation was to examine the ways male and female orgasm are represented in mainstream pornography and to analyze these representations using the theoretical framework of sexual scripts.

Methods

PornHub’s 50 most viewed videos of all time were viewed and coded for the frequency of male and female orgasm, orgasm-inducing sex acts (and whether activity inducing female orgasms included some form of other stimulation), and auditory (verbal, vocal) and visual (bodily) indicators of orgasm. Content analysis was used to code and analyze the data. Results were analyzed in light of sexual script theory and previous orgasm research.

Results

The aim of the present investigation was to examine representations of female and male orgasm in mainstream pornography by coding and analyzing orgasm-inducing sex acts, as well as visual and auditory indicators of orgasm, in highly popular online pornographic videos. Results were analyzed in light of sexual script theory and previous orgasm research.

Only 18.3% of women, compared to 78.0% of men, were shown reaching orgasm. Sex differences in depictions of orgasm, beyond the appearance of semen, were documented. Results support the male performance script as evident in pornographic depictions of orgasm, as well as coital and orgasm imperatives.

As a result, representations of male and female orgasm in mainstream pornography may serve to perpetuate unrealistic beliefs and expectations in relation to female orgasm and male sexual performance.

The full study can be accessed here.

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