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Introduction to the Issue of Pornography

Pornography Intervention - A Training Resource
By Jim Messina, Ph.D., CCMHC, NCC, DCMHS-T


Pornography: A Public Health Problem?  On May 30, 2017, Arthur L. Caplan, PhD, posted commentary on MedScape with a talk on video and written comments. This presentation was timely to say the least in that we had just recently completed the Pornography Training Resource on Dr Caplan captures the spirit and tone of professional journal articles on Compulsive Use of Pornography and makes a case for involvement of the healthcare community in addressing this issue.

See it at:

Why Focus on Pornography?

The concern about the use and impact of pornography falls within the responsibility of how each family transmits sexual values and expectations. As a number of experts have cautioned, if the first conversation about sex that you have with your children is the result of discovering their Internet use, then you have not done your job as a parent.


Pornography is value laden and as such should be viewed through the lens of each family’s value structure, just as we raise our children to deal with the many other challenges they will confront. It is at this point that our role as mental health professionals takes on greater clarity; not to stem the tide of pornography – we simply cannot, but to help families prepare their children for the endless stream of sexual messages which permeate our world, some more invasive than others. As we seek to help families avoid or cope with abuse, so we must help them raise children in a world that seems to change with unprecedented regularity. We then have the gift of preventing problems and not just treating them 

(from: The Pornography Question by David S. Ribner, 2014).

What are Pornography Websites?

  • In 2008, the company Hitwise catalogued 40,634 websites that distributed pornography (Tancer, 2008).
  • According to the research by two neuroscientists, Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, in 2010, out of the one million most trafficked websites in the world, 42,337 are sex-related sites (Ogasa & Gaddam, 2011).
  • Free websites comprise between 70-80% of the adult material online, typically used as “bait” for pay websites, guiding viewers to premium pay services (Zook, 2007).
  • A conservative estimate places 32% of adult membership websites and 58% of free adult websites outside the United States (Zook, 2007).
  • 90% of free porn websites and nearly 100% of pay porn websites buy their material rather than create it themselves (Zook, 2007).
  • In 2009, the Media Research Center (MRC) examined the most popular YouTube searches for the word “porn,” yielding 330,000 results. The study reported on the top 157 videos, all with one million views or more.
  • Two-thirds of the videos advertise themselves as being actual pornography.
  • Many videos feature clips from actual porn movies, interviews with porn stars, advertisements for porn sites, and phone sex lines.
  • Profanity is commonplace in the titles and comments for the videos.

There are suggestions of sex with computers, virtual reality sex, sex in multiplayer online video games and the merging of pornography with independent cinema are thing of the future. Perhaps two decades from now the seemingly immovable Internet as the go-to porn distribution tool will be as dead and buried as VHS (Nielsen & Kiss, 2015).

Percentage of Men and Women Viewing Pornography

After an analysis of 400 million web searches from July 2009 to July 2010, researchers concluded (Proven Men Ministries, 2014):

According to a survey conducted by the Barna Group in the U.S. in 2014:

The following percentages of men say they view pornography at least once a month:

  • 18-30-year-olds, 79%
  • 31-49-year-olds, 67%
  • 50-68-year-olds, 49%


The following percentages of men say they view pornography at least several times a week:

  • 18-30-year-olds, 63%
  • 31-49-year-olds, 38%
  • 50-68-year-olds, 25%


The following percentages of women say they view pornography at least once a month:

  • 18-30-year-olds, 76%
  • 31-49-year-olds, 16%
  • 50-68-year-olds, 4%


The following percentages of women say they view pornography at least several times a week:

  • 18-30-year-olds, 21%
  • 31-49-year-olds, 5%
  • 50-68-year-olds, 0%
  • 55% of married men say they watch porn at least once a month, compared to 70% of not married men.
  • 25% of married women say they watch porn at least once a month, compared to 16% of not married women (Proven Men Ministries, 2014).


A 2016 review of the research in the field reported that:

  • About 46% of US men and 16% of women watch porn in a given week
  • Between 6% and 28% of male porn users describe their habit as "problematic"
  • Many ex­users report impressive benefits like better sleep, clearer skin and more confidence
  • Boys are starting to regularly use porn at an increasingly earlier age, 15 for the youngest in one survey thus it is vital to educate teens explaining that  pornography may not accurately depict  sex  and relationships
  • Study after study shows that self­identified porn addicts are not watching more porn than other people, but have moral values that conflict with their use (Wilson, 2016).

So who are these Pornography viewers?

According to data taken from Internet users who took part in the General Social Survey for the year 2000 (Stack, Wasserman & Kern, 2004), the following are predictors of online pornography use:

  • Men are 54.3% more likely to look at porn than females
  • Those who are happily married are 61% less likely to look at porn
  • Those who are politically more liberal are 19% more likely to look at porn
  • Those who had ever committed adultery are 218% more likely to look at porn
  • Those who had ever engaged in paid sex are 270% more likely to look at porn
  • Those with teen children are 45% less likely to look at porn.


In a study which sought to determine whether right-wing authoritarian tendencies were traits common to Christian and non-Christian males who were Internet pornography compulsives found that:

  • Christian compulsives did not appear to demonstrate more right-wing authoritarian tendencies than non-Christian compulsives
  • The results ruled out that right-wing authoritarianism has a role in leading men to become pornography compulsives (Levert, 2007)


Developmentally speaking, when a young man reaches the age of puberty, the strength of his newly developed sexual drive typically exceeds his ability to control it and research suggests that those who use Sexually Explicit Materials (SEM) on the Internet tend to have lower degrees of social integration, conduct (behavior) problems, a higher incidence of depressive symptoms and a decreased emotional bonding with their caregivers. It is advised that when dealing with youth who are addicted to internet porn, that they be helped to develop a healthy and positive attitude about their own sexuality so that they can help them view their normal sex drive and impulses as a God given energy that should be channeled toward the Other and others, not an enemy to be feared, fought or extinguished (Reinert, 2012).


In 2013 a study (Foubert, 2013) was done to study the relationships between intrinsic and extrinsic religiosity, reasons for using Internet pornography, frequency of using Internet pornography during the last year, and the degree to which participants believed they were both confident in their efficacy and were willing to intervene to help prevent a sexual assault from occurring.

An extrinsic orientation is a measure of utilitarian motives for religious behavior, such as

  • attending church to achieve social standing in the community
  • to pray in order to be happy.

An intrinsic orientation is characterized by

  • living out one's religion by attending church
  • reading about one's faith
  • joining Bible study groups
  • keeping one’s religious beliefs central to a whole approach to life

Their findings were:

  • Men's extrinsic religiosity was positively correlated with their use of Internet pornography and negatively correlated with willingness to intervene as a bystander.
  • Men's intrinsic religiosity was negatively correlated with how many reasons they had for using pornography and negatively correlated with their use of pornography.
  • Women's extrinsic religiosity negatively correlated with their bystander efficacy.
  • Women's intrinsic religiosity was negatively correlated with their reasons for using pornography and their use of pornography
  • Women's use of pornography was negatively correlated with bystander efficacy.


A 2014 study (Willoughby, Carroll, Nelson & Padilla-Walker, 2014) explored how

  • pornography use
  • acceptance
  • sexual behavior within a relationship

might offer insight into emerging adults’ development.

Results suggested clear gender differences in both pornography use and acceptance patterns.

  • High male pornography use tended to be associated with high engagement in sex within a relationship and was associated with elevated risk-taking behaviours
  • High female pornography use was not associated with engagement in sexual behaviors within a relationship and was general associated with negative mental health outcomes(Willoughby, Carroll, Nelson & Padilla-Walker, 2014).


In looking at women who are either Internet Pornography Users (IPU) or Non-Internet Pornography Users (NIPU) a study in 2014 found:

  • IPU women rated pornographic pictures as more arousing and reported greater craving due to pornographic picture presentation compared with NIPU women
  • Craving, sexual arousal rating of pictures, sensitivity to sexual excitation, problematic sexual behavior, and severity of psychological symptoms predicted tendencies toward cybersex addiction in women IPU
  • Being in a relationship, number of sexual contacts, satisfaction with sexual contacts, and use of interactive cybersex were not associated with cybersex addiction

These results are in line with those reported for heterosexual males in previous studies (Laier, Pekal, & Brand, 2014).


The Confluence Model of sexual aggression states that pornography use, thought to promote sexual coercion of women through presentation of submissive female imagery, works in conjunction with sexual promiscuity (SP) and hostile masculinity (HM), proposed sexual aggression risk factors, to produce anti-woman sexual aggression. This survey replicated results of previous Confluence Model research, such that

  • men who were high in hostile masculinity (HM) and sexual promiscuity (SP) were more likely to report sexual coercion when they frequently, rather than infrequently, used pornography
  • Hostile masculinity (HM) and sexual promiscuity (SP) together were strong predictors of consumption of violent sexual media, in comparison to non-violent sexual media, which suggests that men at high risk of sexual aggression consume different types of sexual material than men at low risk.
  • Further, individual differences in sex drive were found to account for the effects previously attributed to pornography use in statistical tests of the Confluence Model. In the light of third variable considerations, these findings warrant a careful reappraisal of the Confluence Model’s assertion that pornography use is a causal determinant of anti-woman sexual aggression.


A 2015 analysis of the impact of parental socializing of children to religion found that:

  • Parents pornography consumption is negatively associated with the time parents spend talking or reading about religion with their children
  • This influences parents’ religious socialization of their children and how this effect might vary across mothers and fathers
  • These parental interactions demonstrate that pornography consumption diminishes the positive effects of other religious factors on time spent religiously socializing one’s children
  • These effects apply primarily to fathers.
  • Findings suggest that increased pornography consumption itself might threaten the transmission of religious heritage from parents (and particularly fathers) to children (Perry, 2015)


Since research has demonstrated that the excessive use of pornography has negative effects on psychological, emotional, and social well-being a 2015 study looked at:

  • The role of shame and negative spirituality in the fostering and exacerbation of a pornography addiction
  • Need for a spiritually integrated therapy as an alternative treatment modality to address pornography addiction (Chisholm & Call, 2015).


Recognizing that Internet pornography consumption has increased, resulting in functioning and psychological problems a 2015 study of college student examined what variables affect Internet pornography use, one of the variables being religion. The college students completed questions on Internet Pornography use and religion:

  • About 64 % had viewed internet pornography
  • 26 % currently viewed internet pornography, at a rate of 74 min per week
  • Internet pornography use interfered with their relationship with God and spirituality
  • Religious individuals were less likely to ever or currently view internet pornography
  • Intrinsic and extrinsic religiosity and alignment of spiritual values were associated with ever viewing internet pornography
  • Results suggest that religiosity matters in internet pornography use (Short, Kasper & Wetterneck, 2015).

What are People Looking on the Internet?

After an analysis of 400 million web searches from July 2009 to July 2010, researchers concluded (Ogasa & Gaddam, 2011):

  • 13% of all searches were for erotic content
  • The most popular category of sexual searches was “youth”
  • 35 of the top searched sexual interests account for 90% of all erotic searches— meaning that people’s search curiosities “are clustered together into a relatively small set of common interests.”
  • By and large, men prefer images and graphic sex sites; women prefer erotic stories and romance sites.


A study of a list of zip codes associated with all credit card subscriptions for a top adult entertainment seller for about two years, 2006-2008 (Edleman, 2009) found:

There were higher percentages of subscriptions to porn sites in zip codes that…

  • Are more urban than rural
  • Have experienced an increase in higher than average household income
  • Have a greater density of young people (age 15-24)
  • Have a higher proportion of people with undergraduate degrees
  • Have higher measures of social capital (i.e. more people who donate blood, engage in volunteer activities, or participate in community projects)
  • Have enacted conservative legislation on sexuality (such as “defense of marriage” amendments) or have conservative positions on religion, gender roles, and sexuality


There were lower percentages of subscriptions to porn sites in zip codes that:

  • Have experienced an increase in marriage rates and divorce rates
  • Have a higher percentage of graduate degrees
  • Have experienced a higher percentage increase of elderly people (65+) (Edleman, 2009)  


There was no significant statistical increase or decrease in subscriptions to porn sites based on:

  • Voting for the 2004 presidential elections
  • Regions where more people report regularly attending religious services. However, in such regions, a statistically significant smaller proportion of subscriptions are initiated on Sunday, compared with other regions (Edleman, 2009)
  • The average visitor to a pornographic website spends 6.5 minutes per visit (Tancer, 2008).
  • About 80-90% of Internet porn users only access free material, whether it be samples of pay material, illegally copied versions of pay material, or amateur material (Doran, 2008).
  • In 2008, an estimated 3 million Americans purchased pornography online, paying an average of $60 per month (Doran, 2008).


A 2014 study examined how people tend to perceive socially undesirable media, such as pornography, as having a more negative effect on others than on themselves when the media is described and utilized as “instructional pornography.” This study examined how this phenomenon, called the third-person effect, manifests when the pornography has positive connotations, as with instructional pornography. Participants were asked to rate how instructional adult films would affect them, their partner, and other people.

  • Unlike non-instructional pornography, participants perceived instructional pornography as having a positive effect
  • Participants perceived other men and women as more positively affected by informational pornography than themselves
  • Participants perceived themselves as more positively affected than their closest friend
  • Participants with partners reported that they and their partner would be equally positively affected by instructional pornography (Pariera, 2014).


A 2016 report on the comparison of legal cases concerning Child Pronography and Child Sexual Molestation found that:

  • Fifty-five percent of legal cases in which child pornography was either investigated or eventually discovered involved a “dual offender,” defined in the study as those child pornography offenders who possessed child pornography and sexually victimized or attempted to sexually victimize children
  • In forty percent of legal cases, evidence of child molestation and child pornography possession were both discovered during the course of the investigation; the other fifteen percent of the cases involved dual offenders who had attempted to sexually victimize children by soliciting undercover investigators who posed online as minors
  • Fifty-five percent of the legal cases in which investigators uncovered a dual offender began as allegations of child sexual victimization (Pisegna, 2016).

Pornography Has Gone Mobile

After an analysis of more than one million hits to Google’s mobile search sites in 2006, adult queries were demonstrated to be the most popular query category, with more than 1 in 5 searches being for pornography (Doran, 2008).


When 1,521 smartphone owners in the UK. ages 18 and older were surveyed, 24% admitted to having pornographic material on their mobile handset. Of these, 84% of those who were involved in a romantic relationship said their partner did not know about the porn on their handset (CovenantEyes, 2015).


In 2012, 43.8% of adult industry executives and stakeholders believed mobile devices would become consumers’ primary porn-viewing devices (XBIZ Research, 2012).


According to Juniper Research, by 2017, a quarter of a billion people are expected to be accessing mobile adult content from their phones or tablets, an increase of more than 30% from 2013. Mobile adult videochat alone will have a compound annual growth rate of 25% (Juniper Research, 2013).

Nearly 1 in 5 searches made from mobile devices are for pornography. Furthermore, 24% of smartphone owners have porn on their handset, and of these, 84% said their romantic partners did not know about it (Eldred, 2012).

Teens and young adults in particular, use smartphones, and are therefore at a higher risk of Internet misuse on their mobile devices. One study found that 51% of 18-34-year-olds own smartphones. Meanwhile, 49% of teens use the Internet on a mobile device (Eldred, 2012).

Reference for this section are at: REFERENCES on this site