A new study found age in which men are exposed to pornography can shape their attitude toward women. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Nebraska and was presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.

According to their findings, the nature of the first exposure to pornography can influence men to either be sexually promiscuous or “playboys,” or to seek power over women.

Image Credit: Advantage4Parents
Image Credit: Advantage4Parents

The researchers surveyed more than 300 hundred males to find similar behaviors caused by their exposure to porn. They were somewhat surprised with the results.

First exposure to pornography for most men was accidental

Primarily, the researchers discovered there were two masculine norms dictated by their exposure to porn.

“The goal of our study was to examine how age of first exposure to pornography, and the nature of said first exposure, predicts conformity to two masculine norms: playboy –or sexually promiscuous behavior- and seeking power over women,” said Alyssa Bischmann, a doctoral student at the University of Nebraska, who presented the research, according to a press release from APA.

Bischmann and her colleagues conducted a survey involving 330 undergraduate men between the ages of 17 and 54, at a large Midwestern university. They noted 93 percent of the participants were heterosexual and 85 percent were white.

The participants were required to answer a series of 46 questions designed by the researchers to measure the two masculine norms. The questions were related to their exposure to pornography, particularly, what age they were when they first saw pornography and whether it was intentional, forced, or accidental.

Most first exposures to porn occur accidentally. Image Credit: Getty Images
Most first exposures to porn occur accidentally. Image Credit: Getty Images

The median age of first exposure was 13.37 years of age. The youngest exposure reported was at five years of age, while the latest exposure was at 26, said the researchers. Most men reported their first exposure was accidental (43.5 percent), while 33.4 percent of men said it was intentional, and 17.2 percent claimed it was forced. The remaining participants (6 percent) did not share the nature of that first exposure.

Men who watch porn early in life often don’t enjoy sex in their adulthood

The researchers noted they found a significant association between age of first exposure and compliance to the two masculine norms, although the association was different for each norm.

“We found that the younger a man was when he first viewed pornography, the more likely he was to want power over women,” explained Bischmann. “The older a man was when he first viewed pornography, the more likely he would want to engage in playboy behavior.”

Chrissy Richardson, the co-author of the study from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, said the finding surprised them since the team expected both norms to be higher with a lower first age of exposure.

“The most interesting finding from this study was that older age at first exposure predicted greater adherence to the playboy masculine norms,” said Richardson. “That finding has sparked many more questions and potential research ideas because it was so unexpected based on what we know about gender role socialization and media exposure.”

Richardson was also surprised to find that seeing porn later in life was associated with a promiscuous behavior, such as preferring to change sexual partners frequently. She noted this could be because men who were exposed to porn early usually did not enjoy sex in real life.

Sexual performance anxiety triggers the hormones involved in the "fight or flight" state of mind, according to WebMD. Image Credit: Expertrain
Sexual performance anxiety triggers the hormones involved in the “fight or flight” state of mind, according to WebMD. Image Credit: Expertrain

Richardson explained that these men often have a lot of “performance anxiety” with women in real life, according to BBC. Furthermore, sexual experiences don’t usually go as planned or the way they do in pornography. On the other hand, men who see porn later, enjoy sex in real life more and therefore they could prefer a playboy lifestyle.

‘Porn is not the healthiest thing for men’

The researchers did not take into account how much porn the men watched, the type of porn, or demographic factors like their socioeconomic status. Bischmann suggested that the findings could be related to unexamined factors, such as the participants’ religiosity, negative sexual experiences, sexual performance anxiety or whether their first exposure to pornography was positive or negative.

“We were surprised that the type of exposure did not affect whether someone wanted power over women or to engage in playboy behaviors,” she noted. “We had expected that intentional, accidental or forced exposure would have differing outcomes.”

Overall, the findings prove that pornography has a real impact on heterosexual men, particularly to their views about sex roles. Richardson said she believes porn is not the healthiest thing for men and added that boys and young men need better role models to develop more healthy beliefs about masculinity.

She also said that information could inform the treatment of various social and emotional issues experienced by young heterosexual men who watch pornography.

Source: American Psychological Association