Our goal at Truth about Porn is to equip the public with up-to-date research surrounding the harmful effects of pornography. Many myths and misunderstandings surround this controversial topic, and we hope to provide a place for people to gather accurate information.
Our aim is unique, we make our best effort to be academically accurate yet still hope to carry information to the wider public. Although we focus on peer-reviewed research to ensure academic accuracy, we have also included citations from non-peer reviewed works, as they often explain things in an easier way for the non-academically trained reader to understand.
In many ways, pornography research is still in its infancy, and as a result, much of the research surrounding pornography is still inconclusive. For that reason, we will consistently be updating the website to reflect the current state of the research. We welcome any suggestions for research articles, whether they are new, or whether they are older articles that have not yet been included.
About Our Research
A wide spectrum of pornography use exists, and only a small subset of pornography users report a compulsive pattern of behavior. This qualification for compulsive pornography use is important because the majority of known brain research focuses on this small subset of compulsive pornography users, meaning the brain research may not be generalizable to all pornography users. This is still a matter of debate, and requires future research. Regardless of whether pornography is categorized as an addiction, compulsion, or habit, it is important to recognize that this small portion of the population who deal with heavy pornography use often deal with a sense of hopelessness and powerlessness in stopping their pornography use. In addition to the research and available neuroscience involving this subset of compulsive users, this section includes individual outcomes from mental and emotional health, as these outcomes seem connected with the feeling of powerlessness and hopelessness that can accompany heavy pornography use.
Perhaps the widest influence pornography has on the general public is its potential to influence expectations surrounding sexuality. The sexual expectations informed by pornography use likely in turn influence the way pornography users interact in relationships. Research suggests that popular pornographic videos do not accurately portray sexuality in a committed couple relationship, with much of pornographic content being filled with aggression and non-normative sexual acts. Up to this point, research on how pornography use influences couple sexuality has been mixed, with some studies suggesting that it can increase arousal and provide ideas to “spice up” the relationship. Other work has suggested that it can harm the relationship through objectification and being a detriment to intimacy. Although more research needs to be done on the subject, it seems pornography may enhance sexual outcomes in the short-term, but the script portrayed in the content seems adverse to long-term couple sexuality.
The section seeks to explore some of the potential broader impacts of pornography. Topics include general usage trends, sexual violence, child pornography, and information about the pornography industry. Although the research in this area is limited, there are enough stories that have come out of people who have been connected to these issues that we believe their voices are valuable in better understanding these topics. Although many factors are involved in wider societal trends, such the perpetration of sexual violence, enough evidence has shown a link between pornography use and these wider societal trends that a closer examination of how these factors intertwine is warranted. For this section in particular, we advise caution in interpreting the statements, as much of the evidence does not come from peer-reviewed scientific study. Despite the difficulty in conducting reliable research on these topics, we hope to hear more voices about the potential connection between pornography use and these sensitive topics.
To better understand what the research is really saying, a basic understanding of research terminology will be helpful in detecting the accuracy of claims made from research. Listed below are the basic types of research. Understanding the difference between these types of research should help readers better understand how to interpret the results from the reported studies.
Readers, may notice that each of these types of studies has limitations, showing that it can be difficult to conclusively prove something with any of these types of studies. Although any study on its own cannot conclusively prove something, the best thing to look for is a variety of different types of studies that consistently show the same thing. This type of replication can give us better confidence in the accuracy of the results.
This is research that is conducted at one point in time, meaning that those who participated in the research were not followed over time.
Although cross-sectional research can be very helpful in showing that there is a connection between two factors (e.g. pornography use and impulsivity), cross-sectional research cannot show whether one causes the other. For example, if a cross-sectional study were to show that pornography use and impulsivity are correlated (related to each other), the study would not prove that pornography use causes impulsivity. Another explanation could be that people who are impulsive are simply more likely to look at pornography. Cross-sectional research is useful, but should be interpreted with caution because many explanations can be offered for the connection between two factors.
Experimental research is research that actually can test causality.
An example of this would be randomly assigning participants to be shown pornography, and randomly assigning other participants to be shown something non-pornographic. Both groups would then either fill out a questionnaire or perform a certain task shortly following either being exposed to either pornography, or the other video. This type of research is particularly strong, as it is the only kind of research that can claim causality. However, experiments also have weaknesses, as they are usually only able to be performed on a small number of participants, and the possibility exists the effects from the experiment are only found short-term rather than long-term.As readers, you may notice that each of these types of studies has limitations, showing that it can be difficult to conclusively prove something with any of these types of studies. Although any study on its own cannot conclusively prove something, the best thing to look for is a variety of different types of studies that consistently show the same thing. This type of replication can give us better confidence in the accuracy of the results.
Longitudinal research is when a group of participants in the research are followed over a period of time.
This is stronger than cross-sectional research because it can show change over time. For example, research might show that those who are using pornography more often are more likely to objectify women a year later. However, for this example, longitudinal research still cannot show that pornography use causes people to objectify women because other factors can be part of the explanation for change that takes place over a year. Although longitudinal research is typically stronger than cross-sectional research, it still has limitations.
Several sources included in the database did not go and conduct their own research.
Many research articles attempt to review the current findings on a subject and then develop a theory for what should be expected to be found in future research based upon what we know now. For example, because brain research on pornography is relatively new, several theoretical articles have suggested the ways in which pornography may act as an addiction. Although all of these connection have not been shown in original research, these theoretical articles give researchers ideas of ways to test whether pornography use functions similarly to other addictions.