Male attitudes toward women often shaped by pornography exposure
In a survey of over 300 undergraduate college males, age 17 to 54 years old, researchers found that the age at which a boy is first exposed to pornography has a direct association with certain sexist attitudes later in life. However, some of the results may surprise you – just as they did the researchers.
Research from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, analyzed how the age of exposure to pornography relates to male conformity to two masculine norms: playboy (defined as sexually promiscuous) and seeking power over women.
The participants in the study were 85% white and 93% heterosexual. The survey asked about their first exposure to pornography, detailing what age they were and whether the exposure was intentional, accidental, or forced. The second half of the survey asked them to respond to questions designed to measure the two established masculine norms.
Although the results showed no significant association between age of exposure and segmenting to the two masculine norms, it did show a different association for each.
“We found that the younger a man was when he first viewed pornography, the more likely he was to want power over women,” says Alyssa Bischmann, a doctoral student at Nebraska. “The older a man was when he first viewed pornography, the more likely he would want to engage in playboy behavior.”
These findings were surprising to the researchers, who had expected both norms to be higher when age of first exposure was younger.
“The most interesting finding from this study was that older age at first exposure predicted greater adherence to the playboy masculine norms,” explains Chrissy Richardson, also of the University of Nebraska. “That finding has sparked many more questions and potential research ideas because it was so unexpected based on what we know about gender role socialization and media exposure.”
Bischmann believes these findings may be due to variables that weren’t examined in the survey, such as religiosity, sexual performance anxiety, negative sexual experiences, or whether their first exposure to pornography was positive or negative. No association was found between nature of exposure and the two masculine norms.
“We were surprised that the type of exposure did not affect whether someone wanted power over women or to engage in playboy behaviors. We had expected that intentional, accidental or forced experiences would have differing outcomes,” says Bischmann.
The researchers believe these findings may help further understanding of the impact pornography has on heterosexual men, extending to various male social and emotional issues as well as the mistreatment of women. Further research needs to be done before any significant conclusions can be made.