Net neutrality: a lack of association between pornography exposure and sexual functioning and well-being

Charig, Ruth (2017) Net neutrality: a lack of association between pornography exposure and sexual functioning and well-being. DClinPsy thesis, University of Lincoln.

29723 DCP_1617_RPV_4240573_14998806_Research Portfolio Final Version.1.pdf
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Introduction: Since the advent of the internet, individuals have unprecedented access to accessible, anonymous and affordable online sexual content (Cooper, 1998). The literature has highlighted strongly held assumptions about the harmful influence of online sexually explicit material (oSEM) on a number of variables important for psychological health and functioning. These include: sexual behaviour, body image, non-egalitarian gender roles and relationship satisfaction. The veracity of these conclusions is limited by the methodological shortcomings and ideological perspectives inherent in the study designs. Despite this growing body of research, there is still little known about the processes that underlie the relationships between oSEM-use and psychosocial outcomes. This hinders the formation or validation of theories relating to sexual media effects. Aims: This project aimed to examine the impact of oSEM-use on body image, sexual satisfaction, sexist attitudes and mental well-being. We examined the role of perceived realism (the degree to which the sexual portrayals in oSEM are perceived as realistic) and the extent to which this mediated the relationship between oSEM-use and these variables. Finally, the role of family communication about sex, and whether this moderated the function of perceived realism was assessed. The purpose was to establish a moderated mediation model of oSEM effects and enhance the theoretical understanding of the influence of oSEM. In addition, we examined whether a cohort, whom we termed “Generation Sex” were more susceptible to the possible effects of oSEM. This cohort, aged between 18 and 24, will have developed through adolescence coinciding with this proliferation of online pornography.
Design: This study used a cross-sectional, quantitative, questionnaire-based design.
Method: Participants (n=272) were sampled opportunistically through social media and poster advertisement. The data was collected using an online survey. Participants were asked to provide information about their sexual experience, behaviour and use of oSEM. They also completed seven validated self-report measures: Perceived Realism, New Sexual Satisfaction Sale Short Form (NSSS-S), Body Areas Satisfaction Scale (BASS), Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale (WEMWBS),
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Ambivalent Sexism Inventory Short Form (ASI-SF), Ambivalence Towards Men Inventory Short Form (AMI-SF) and the Family Communication Sex Quotient (FCSQ).
Results: 84.6% of the sample reported to have used oSEM in the last three months. Correlational analysis revealed no associations between (1) oSEM-use and (2) body satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, mental well-being, sexist attitudes and family communication about sex. A significant indirect effect of oSEM-use on ambivalent sexism, mediated by perceived realism, b = .005, 95% BCa CI [.001, .010], p = .023, and a significant indirect effect of oSEM-use on ambivalent sexism toward men, mediated by perceived realism, b = .004, 95% BCa CI [.001, .009], p = .036, was shown, both with a small effect size. This relationship was not moderated by family communication about sex. No group differences between “Generation Sex” and “non-Generation Sex” (aged 25 and over) were revealed.
Discussion: This study demonstrated no significant relationships between oSEM and the psychosocial outcomes under investigation. The small indirect effect through perceived realism suggests that for those who perceive oSEM to be more realistic, may also hold more sexist attitudes towards both women and men. This provides tentative support to theories of media effects which suggest the influence of differential susceptibility characteristics (in this case, perceived realism) which might underlie why some individuals may be more vulnerable to the effects of media than others. However, the very small effect sizes and absence of significant correlations between oSEM-use and the tested variables conflict with the extant literature. This provides an interesting challenge to the dominant discourses surrounding the influence of oSEM.

Keywords:online sexually explicit material, satisfaction, well-being, sexist attitudes, perceived realism, media effects
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C800 Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
ID Code:29723
Deposited On:23 Nov 2017 12:41

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