Porn might not have negative effect on how men view other women

Dr Christopher Watkins, Head of Division of Psychology and Forensic Sciences at Abertay

Abertay researchers have made a significant discovery to suggest that watching pornography (porn) may not be as detrimental to how men view romantic partners as widely believed.

Contradicting widespread claims that pornography usage can impact men’s ability to form or sustain relationships, the team from Abertay’s Division of Psychology and Forensic Sciences found that much greater nuance is required when considering the real effect of on relationships, and also the extent to which heterosexual men find other women attractive.

What were the findings of the study?

Researchers set out to test the ‘Coolidge effect’ – a theory that states the introduction of potential new mates increases arousal in males. A controversial TEDx talk on this subject by blogger Gary Wilson – ‘The great porn experiment’ – has been viewed over 14 million times.

Participants in the Abertay study viewed images of porn actresses, either clothed, nude or engaged in sex, and were then asked to rate the attractiveness of other women from a series of stock images, including ‘new’ images they hadn’t seen before and ‘familiar’ images that they had seen at the beginning of the experiment. The findings showed that viewing porno actresses reduced the attractiveness of ‘familiar’ women’s bodies but not their faces.

Importantly, the same body judgement effect was found in heterosexual and homosexual participants, suggesting sexual arousal wasn’t the main reason for the change in rating.

What were Abertay’s thoughts on the study findings?

Lead author Dr Christopher Watkins, Head of Division of Psychology and Forensic Sciences, said:“These findings suggest that while sexual arousal induced via porn plays a role in men’s attractiveness judgements of women, it is far from a ‘stimulus-response’ kinship where some would suggest that watching porn has a negative impact on how men view other women.”

“Future research studies could explore these same effects in women and how porn consumption may influence attractiveness judgements over a long time period, and how the personality traits of the person viewing pornography also matter,” Watkins further said.