Few things are truly universal. But while people across the world speak different languages, eat different foods and even feel different emotions, millions across the world watch porn. Despite being so widely consumed, porn is maligned as the source of society’s ills. It’s even been labelled a public health hazard by politicians in Utah.
Porn has transformed over the past few decades, due to the availability of the internet and faster web connections. It is also becoming more
immersive than ever before. Take virtual reality. Earlier this year, researchers from Newcastle University in the UK pointed out that VR changes the experience of porn from detached observer to protagonist. They warned that this has the potential to blur the line between reality and fantasy, perhaps damaging relationships and encouraging harmful behaviour.
But what does the evidence actually say about how porn may or may not be affecting people? Can research provide any answers? The truth is that it is a difficult question for scientists to
study. The nature of porn dictates that researchers must either rely on people self-reporting their porn habits, or show it to them in laboratory settings that are unnatural. (And no doubt, slightly awkward, too.)
That said, there is a growing body of literature that can provide hints. BBC Future reviewed what researchers have concluded so far:
The fundamental question surrounding porn – which resurfaces every time a violent crime involves the perpetrator’s porn use – is whether it has the power to encourage, normalise or even trigger acts of rape and sexual violence.
This possibility has been explored for decades. In the 1970s, for example, Berl Kutchinsky, a professor of criminology at the University of Copenhagen, measured sex crimes in Denmark, Sweden and Germany as they legalized porn in the late 60s and early 70s. He found no correlation between a rise in crime and decriminalisation – and infact, some types of sex crime fell during this period, including rape and child molestation.
In 1995, a meta-analysis of 24 studies, involving more than 4,000 participants, measured the average correlation between porn use and the beliefs people hold around rape and sexual assault. The studies all used the “rape myth” scale, which measures a person’s beliefs by asking them to rate how much they agree with statements including: “A woman who goes to the home or apartment of a man on their first date implies that she is willing to have sex”.
Those who watched porn accepted more rape myths compared to a control group, but only in the experimental studies. Non-experimental studies – which relied on participants reporting information – showed no correlation. So, the findings were somewhat inconclusive.
What is a ‘normal’ sex life?
The many reasons that people are having less sex The ultimate guide to sex and gender However, in recent years, porn has been accused of becoming increasingly violent. A veteran porn star said in a recent documentary about porn that, in the 1990s, it constituted “making love on a bed,” and having “lovey dovey sex”. But in 2010, researchers analysed more than 300 porn scenes and found that 88% contained physical aggression.
Most of the perpetrators were male, and their targets female, and the latter’s most common response to aggression was to show pleasure or respond neutrally.
So what does the more recent research say? One review of more than 80 studies in 2009 concluded that evidence of a causal link between porn use and violence is slim, and any findings proving a connection are often exaggerated by the media and politicians. “It is time to discard the hypothesis that pornography contributes to increased sexual assault behaviour,” wrote the authors.
Neil Malamuth at the University of California, Los Angeles has carried out numerous studies examining porn and sexual violence, including one involving 300 men, and concluded that men who are already sexually aggressive and consume a lot of sexually aggressive pornography are more likely to commit a sexually aggressive act. But he argues that porn isn’t the cause of sexual violence. In 2013, he told BBC Radio 4 that porn consumption can be compared to alcohol, suggesting that it isn’t inherently dangerous, but can be for those who have other risk factors.
BRAIN AND BODY
Watching porn could shrink a part of the brain linked to pleasure, according to a study from 2014. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin looked at the brains of more than 60 men while they looked at porn graphic images, and quizzed them on their porn-watching habits.
The found that the striatum, a part of the brain that makes up the reward system, was smaller in those who watched a lot of porn – meaning they might require more graphic material to get aroused. But the researchers couldn't conclude if respondents with smaller striatums were driven to watch more porn, or if their frequent porn- watching had caused it to shrink – although they “assume” the latter is the case.
Further down the body, erectile dysfunction is often blamed on desensitisation cause by watching porn – but there is a lack of research to support this. In fact, watching porn could actually help sexual arousal, according to researchers from UCLA and Concordia University , who found that men who watched the most porn report feeling more. Please Join Our Forum Today For More Updates, Click here
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