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Most Australians view porn but few report ill effects: new research

27 July 2016
Is there a mismatch between concerns about the genre and the experiences of consumers?

Most Australians have viewed pornography but few report any ill effects, a new report in The Journal of Sex Research reveals.

Most men (84pc) and about half of women (54pc) reported that they had ever looked at pornographic material, with three-quarters of these men (76pc) and one third of these women (41pc) having viewed pornography in the past year.

The finding is based on a national survey of 20,000 Australians conducted between October 2012 and November 2013 as part of the Second Australian Study of Health and Relationships.

Among both men and women, those more likely to view pornography had greater sexual experience and inclination – more recent sexual partners, recent masturbation, and anal sex experience – compared to people less likely to use pornography – being older, and having a religion.

This pattern of association is consistent with other research reporting an association with sexual proclivity and both internet pornography and general pornography use.

Few respondents said they were addicted to pornography (men 4pc, women 1pc), and of those who said they were addicted, about half said using pornography had had a bad effect on them. Overall, a substantial minority of respondents (12pc) reported a bad effect from pornography.

Looking at pornographic material appears to be reasonably common in Australia, with adverse effects reported by a small minority.
Professor Chris Rissel

“Looking at pornographic material appears to be reasonably common in Australia, with adverse effects reported by a small minority,” said University of Sydney’s Professor Chris Rissel, the study’s lead author.

“Very few respondents who had looked at pornography agreed with the statement that they were addicted to pornography. Given the prominence of public debates about the addictive nature of pornography, this finding suggests a mismatch between concerns about the genre and the experiences of consumers.

“Among those respondents who did nominate an addictive relationship, about half agreed that pornography had had a bad effect on them, which raises a question about how respondents interpreted the word ‘addicted’ in this context.”

Fast facts

  • Most respondents (men, 90pc; women, 79pc) agreed or strongly agreed that pornography could enhance the pleasure of masturbation
  • A substantial minority of respondents (men, 42pc; women, 49pc) agreed or strongly agreed that pornography degrades women shown in it
  • One third of respondents (men, 30pc; women, 37pc) agreed or strongly agreed that pornography degrades men shown in it
  • A majority of respondents (men, 66pc; women, 54pc) agreed or strongly agreed that pornography can improve sexual relations among adults.

The survey was conducted between October 2012 and November 2013 using computer-assisted telephone interviews with a representative sample of 20,094 Australian residents aged 16 to 69 years from all states and territories.

The study was funded by The National Health and Medical Research Council.

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