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Porn use is linked to lower sexual performance for men, but higher sexual performance for women, study finds

Frequent porn use is linked to different sexual outcomes for young men and women, according to new research published in the journal. Psychological Medicine. The longitudinal study, one of the largest of its kind, indicates that a higher frequency of porn use is associated with a worse sex life among men. But the opposite seems to be the case among women.

“Research investigating the impact of pornography on the sexuality of young men and women basically falls into two categories: (i) some scholars argue that the use of pornography sets unattainable standards of sexual comparison and generates anxiety about sexual performance while (ii) other scholars argue that pornography can be a source of sexual inspiration and, in fact, could be used to become a better sexual partner,” explained study authors Nicolas Sommet and Jacques Berent, professor of the University of Lausanne and professor at the University of Geneva, respectively.

“Untangling these two opposing views is difficult, mainly because many of the existing studies use small sample sizes and cross-sectional designs, which impedes our ability to draw reliable conclusions from the literature. Therefore, we were interested in clarifying the association between porn use and sexual performance in men and women, conducting a large-scale study that followed tens of thousands of participants over the course of three years.”

The researchers conducted a three-wave longitudinal study that included annual assessments of the frequency of pornography use, sexual self-competence, and sexual functioning. “We collaborated with one of the most popular French YouTubers at the time of the research and were able to collect responses from more than 100,000 young men and women,” Sommet and Berent explained. The first wave of the survey recruited 101,572 French-speaking men and women from five different countries, including 8,608 heterosexual couples. A total of 21,898 participants completed all three waves.

The researchers found that more frequent porn use was associated with lower sexual performance for men, but higher sexual performance for women.

“We found that the more men watch porn, the more they report having doubts about their sexual performance, the more they report having sexual problems (eg, in terms of sexual desire, erection, biological functioning), and, for heterosexual couples, the more your female partner report being sexually dissatisfied,” Sommet and Berent told PsyPost.

“We found the reverse trend for women: the more women watch porn, the greater their feelings of sexual competence, the fewer their number of sexual problems, and, for heterosexual couples, the more satisfied they are. your male partner it depends on certain aspects of their sexuality (eg, the quality of sexual exchanges).”

This was true even after the researchers controlled for variables such as age, education, nationality, sexual orientation, number of lifetime sexual partners, relationship status, relationship length, frequency of masturbation, frequency of sexual intercourse, knowledge about sexuality and social relationships. attractive.

“Importantly, these gender differences were also observed over time (i.e., an increase in porn use over time is associated with a reduction in sexual performance for men and an improvement for women), which which increases the plausibility (but not the certainty) that there is a causal link between porn consumption and one’s sexual performance,” Sommet and Berent told PsyPost.

The finding that women who use porn tend to have better sexual performance is in line with an earlier study, which examined 2,433 women from the United States and Hungary. But Sommet and Berent cautioned that the effect should not be exaggerated.

“Despite the fact that the associations between porn use and sexual performance for both men and women were strong (that is, in clear and consistent directions), the overall size of these associations was often modest,” the researchers explained. “This means that, contrary to some popular belief, porn cannot be seen as the main culprit for sexual problems among men, and it cannot be seen as some kind of sexual cure-all for women.”

The average age of the sample was 21.45 years and the majority of the participants identified as heterosexual. “An important caveat is that our study focused on the effect of heteronormative pornography, among heterosexual men and women; Further studies are needed to investigate the effect of non-heteronormative pornography on non-cisgender and/or non-heterosexual people,” the researchers said.

“We think that, overall, our findings can be seen as revealing the irony that porn, which is a male-dominated industry targeting a male-dominated audience, is linked to the erosion of quality of sex life. of men and the improvement of the sexual life of women”, concluded Sommet and Berent.

The study, “Porn Use and Sexual Performance of Men and Women: Evidence from a Large Longitudinal Sample,” was published on February 9, 2022.