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Study seeks a broad perspective on internet pornography


22 May 2013

Emily Harkness: "Research on the use of internet pornography by Australian adults is very limited despite it becoming increasingly mainstream."
Emily Harkness: "Research on the use of internet pornography by Australian adults is very limited despite it becoming increasingly mainstream."

University of Sydney research into the little-studied area of internet pornography aims to provide an up-to-date insight into a part of Australia's contemporary sex life.

"Research on the use of internet pornography by Australian adults is very limited despite it becoming an increasingly mainstream form of media in western society," said Emily Harkness, a doctoral candidate in the School of Psychology.

"Importantly a large proportion of the research hasn't looked at internet pornography as a separate entity; however we know the internet to be a powerful form of media due to its highly accessible, anonymous and affordable nature. It has tended to focus on pornography's association with negative behaviours, typically examining adolescent populations," said Harkness.

"I am encouraging adult users to take part but also people who have never viewed pornography. These non-viewers can provide us with a control group, used as a standard of comparison, to help make this an accurate, representative study."

In 2007, in the most recent survey of its kind, an estimated $2 billion was spent on legal pornography in Australia. While there are no recent figures for pornography use in Australia, in 2008 a national and representative survey in America found that 23.5 percent of adult Americans had viewed pornography in the previous year.

Previous research has suggested that the majority of women view pornography as a shared activity in the company of their male partner, often as a result of that partner introducing them to it.

"To get a more accurate idea of sexual online activity by adult Australians we are asking Australian residents over 18 to take part in a two-part survey. The first part asks about sexual attitudes and behaviours and the second focuses on safe sex," Harkness said.

The study will provide information on how pornography use relates to sexual behaviours and sexual expectations. It also aims to provide a window into how couples use pornography including associations with sexual communication and intimacy and how it might relate to different stages in their relationship.


Participate in the survey. The survey closes at the end of July 2013.


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