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Study Shows How Porn Can Complicate Women’s Relationship With Sex

In a sexual encounter, if a woman starts to think about the porn she’s watched, she may feel insecure about her performance. That’s when the enjoyment of the whole experience can be lessened.

By February 23, 2022No Comments
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There is a growing body of research linking higher porn consumption with decreased sexual satisfaction.

Most of the research on sexual satisfaction and porn focuses on men, seeing as men tend to consume porn at higher rates than women. This is compounded by the growing number of porn-induced erectile dysfunction cases and researchers’ search for answers.

More recently, as the numbers of women consuming porn have increased, some researchers have turned their attention to understanding the female experience with porn and sex.

In late 2019, a new study was published on this topic, and its findings may be surprising to those who think porn increases libido.Johnson, J. A., Ezzell, M. B., Bridges, A. J., & Sun, C. F. (2019). Pornography and Heterosexual Women's Intimate Experiences with a Partner. Journal of Women's Health, 28(9), 1254-1265. https://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2018.7006 COPY 

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Porn’s effects on women

For the purposes of their study, the researchers asked a few questions: How does porn consumption relate to heterosexual women’s thoughts and feelings during sex with a partner? Do women who consume porn activate those pornographic images or scripts during sex? Does porn affect the way women feel about themselves and their bodies during sex?

Here’s what they found.

Related: How Porn Is More Violently Dehumanizing And Sexually Objectifying To Women Than Ever

After surveying over 700 women in the US between the ages of 18-29, researchers found that 83% said they had seen pornography before, 43.5% said they use porn for arousal, and half of those women said they only consume porn about once a month. More than half of the women surveyed said they never use porn for sexual purposes. Only 0.7% reported daily consumption. The researchers’ concluded that young women seem to either incorporate porn into their sexual practice or avoid it.

Given what is known about porn being overwhelmingly aggressive toward womenBridges, 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:10.1177/1077801210382866COPY 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. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01773-0COPY  and how porn can play into self-esteem and body image issues,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  the researchers hypothesized that porn would negatively affect women’s sexual experiences.

So what were the results?

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Surprising results

After analyzing the survey results, researchers found a few interesting yet concerning things.Johnson, J. A., Ezzell, M. B., Bridges, A. J., & Sun, C. F. (2019). Pornography and Heterosexual Women's Intimate Experiences with a Partner. Journal of Women's Health, 28(9), 1254-1265. https://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2018.7006 COPY 

First, women who consumed porn more often were more likely to think about porn during sex with a real-life partner, and more likely to need to conjure those images in order to become adequately aroused. Not only that, but they were also more likely to prefer watching porn to actually having sex. Doesn’t sound very sex-positive, does it?

Next, researchers were surprised to find that there didn’t seem to be a direct link between watching porn and feeling insecure about sex. Instead, there was an indirect link between thinking about porn during sex and insecurities. So what’s the difference? It’s pretty subtle, but pretty important.

Related: What You Won’t See On Porn Sites: Where To Go For The Best Sex Tips

Basically, in a sexual encounter, if a woman starts to think about the porn she’s watched, she may start to feel insecure about her body or her performance. That’s likely when the enjoyment of the whole experience is lessened.

The more porn a woman watches, the more she thinks about porn during sex and relies on thoughts of porn to stay in the mood.

The more she thinks about porn during sex, the more she may feel insecure about her appearance during sex, and may start to lose enjoyment in real-life intimate parts of sex like kissing or caressing—the parts porn cuts out. It doesn’t sound like a very enjoyable cycle, does it?

The researchers didn’t think so either. Despite the porn industry’s claims that porn is sex positive and helps people become more sexually satisfied, the researchers of this study concluded that it doesn’t look like porn consumption improves a woman’s sexual experiences with a partner.

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Why this matters

Sexual satisfaction is a big deal to people in relationships—and women are no exception to that. But what happens when porn is added to a woman’s sex life?

Consider the high levels of violence in porn. The majority is perpetrated by men against women. Now consider how porn plays an increasing role in sexual exploration and education for young people. Those roles, attitudes, and behaviors can influence their real-life future experiences.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 Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2016). Adolescents and pornography: A review of 20 years of research.53(4-5), 509-531. doi:10.1080/00224499.2016.1143441COPY 

Yet some studies show that women say porn has been a positive influence in their lives.Hald, G. M., & Malamuth, N. M. (2008). Self-perceived effects of pornography consumption. Archives of sexual behavior, 37(4), 614–625. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-007-9212-1COPY  In other studies, researchers suggest that pornography consumption can negatively affect women’s sex lives and sense of self-esteem. Sun, C. F., Wright, P., & Steffen, N. (2017). German Heterosexual Women’s Pornography Consumption and Sexual Behavior. Sexualization, Media, & Society. https://doi.org/10.1177/2374623817698113COPY Dawson, K., Nic Gabhainn, S., Willis, M., & MacNeela, P. (2021). Development of a Measure to Assess What Young Heterosexual Adults Say They Learn About Sex from Pornography. Archives of Sexual Behavior. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-021-02059-9 COPY  And yet other studies show no conclusive relationship between porn and a woman’s body dissatisfaction.Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2014). Does exposure to sexually explicit Internet material increase body dissatisfaction? A longitudinal study. Computers in Human Behavior, 36, 297-307. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.03.071 COPY  How can there be so many competing results, and which is accurate?

Related: How Porn Can Influence What You Think Is Sexually Arousing

To start, it’s perfectly normal for studies to show differing results. Depending on the methods used, the populations studied, and any number of factors, it’s no surprise when a few studies don’t match more established patterns. Based on the wider field of research, it’s clear porn itself should be treated with caution. It isn’t a harmless wellness trend that you can try out and decide whether or not it’s for you—research clearly shows that, overwhelmingly, it’s toxic to consumers, relationships, and society.

As new research emerges, it will likely encourage more research. The conclusions in this study show that consuming more porn and then thinking about that porn can seriously disrupt a woman’s sex life.

Is watching truly worth it? According to the facts and personal accounts, it might not be.