Pornography and Casual Sex

Project Abstract

Sexual desire is a complicated construct to study as well as conceptualize. Previous research has examined how an individual's sexual desire may directly relate to factors such as sociosexuality, religiosity, sexual guilt, sexual disgust, and sexual opinions. For example, Hackathorn et al. (2015) found that high religiosity is connected to lower sexual activity and desires as well as more conservative values. They also found that sexual guilt mediates sexual satisfaction in unmarried couples. In another study (Fleishman et al., 2015), men were more likely than women to engage in casual sex and regardless of sexual disgust, men may be more motivated toward casual sex overall. Women that have low levels of disgust were more likely to use Tinder and favor casual sex. Additionally, the study found that unrestricted sociosexuality was correlated with higher motivation for casual sex. Fleishman and colleagues (2015) proposed the possibility that chronic exposure to disgust stimuli could possibly be the driving factor that reduces the sexual arousal capacity of an individual. That is, the consumption of pornography is an indicator of an individual's opinion and likelihood of engaging in casual sexual relationships. Thus sexual desire is an important construct to understand, especially as it relates to an individual's consumption of pornography.

Although women and men are involved in both the production and consumption of pornography (Needy, 2010), women have received less attention than men in the research (Atwood, 2005). Moreover, it is often considered that individuals who do not enjoy pornography are suffering from a sexual dysfunction (Overveld et al., 2013). What we do know about women in relation to pornography is usually behavior based. For example, women consume pornography less, watch at a later age, prefer less hard-core pornography, and are less likely to masturbate while watching it, and that women's, as opposed to men's, perception of pornography as realistic is related to endorsement of casual sex (see Ashton et al., 2018 for a review).

Some of the reasons we know so little about reactions to consuming pornography is due to potentially faulty measurements. Few researchers have been able to agree on the operationalization of desire (Preston & Hill, 1996), but it often measured through physiological measures or through a sexual guilt measure (Overveld et al., 2013). However, physiological measures are incredibly expensive and do not provide the researcher with the subjective component of the desire. That is, a physiological measure can tell us that the individual is physically aroused, but cannot tell us whether the individual interprets that arousal as positive or negative. More importantly, the sexual guilt scale is more directed at contamination concerns (e.g., exposure to another's bodily fluids) than tapping into the emotional aspects of arousal and desire (Overveld et al., 2013). As such, sexual disgust may not be the best by-proxy for a lack of desire.

The current study will attempt to measure the emotional components of arousal following consumption of pornography. Additionally, we will examine the influence of various individual difference variables (e.g., sociosexuality) on one's sexual desire (e.g., arousal).

Funding Type

Research Grant

Academic College

College of Humanities and Fine Arts




Bachelor of Science




Jana Hackathorn, PhD.

Academic College

College of Humanities and Fine Arts

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