Problematic Pornography Use Uncommon in Women

About 3% of women have problems with online pornography, according to a recent study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Past research suggests that women spend less time visiting internet porn sites than men do, but both men and women are using porn more frequently nowadays. Online pornography use rates are estimated to be 50%–99% for men and 30%–86% for women. However, less is known about women’s porn consumption.

The researchers recruited 485 German women between the ages of 18 and 77 to complete online questionnaires. The women’s average age was 26 years, and almost three-quarters of them were students.

To assess problematic pornography consumption, the scientists used a version of the short Internet Addiction Test that was “adopted for online sex use (s-IAT-sex).” This tool covered two domains: loss of control/time management and craving/social problems. Higher scores on the s-IAT-sex indicate greater problems with porn.

In addition, the women answered questions about their sexual relationships, past sexual harassment or abuse, age that they first saw pornography, age that they first started consuming porn, and the categories they watched (i.e., “penetrative vaginal sex,” “lesbian porn,” and “bondage.”)

The participants also completed the Trait Sexual Motivation Questionnaire (TSMQ) and rated possible motivations like curiosity, sexual arousal, or distraction.

Overall, 12% of the women did not watch any pornography. Just over half watched less than 30 minutes per week, and about 2% watched over four hours per week. The most reported time was 1.42 hours per day.

About a quarter of the women said they had no problems with pornography, and 70% said they had “low to medium” problems. Three percent were determined to have “highly problematic” use that interfered with their daily lives.

Certain factors were predictive of problematic pornography use, based on s-IAT-sex scores:

Time spent watching porn. “The greater the overall online pornography use, the higher the s-IAT-sex score,” the researchers explained, adding “the overall time spent viewing online pornography and problematic online pornography use are not the same.” In other words, women may spend a lot of time watching pornography, but such use is not necessarily considered problematic. However, women with pornography problems tended to watch more of it.
Watching more pornography types. This finding suggests a habituation effect, the authors said. Over time, women may build a tolerance to certain types of pornography, needing more diverse types to experience the same exciting effects as before.
Number of lifetime partners. The women’s likelihood of problematic pornography use increased with their number of lifetime sexual partners.
Trait sexual motivation. Higher scores on two TSMQ scales – importance of sex and comparison with others – appeared to be linked to problematic pornography use.
Emotion avoidance. Women might have used pornography as a way to cope with negative emotions, like stress and anxiety.
The study results may help clinicians develop therapies for women who struggle with porn use. However, the authors did acknowledge some limitations. For example, the group of problematic porn users was small, and the age range and education levels did not match those of the general population. Also, the women’s mental health was not assessed.

The authors recommended further research on the risk factors for problematic pornography use.


The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Baranowski, Andreas M. PhD, et al.

“Prevalence and Determinants of Problematic Online Pornography Use in a Sample of German Women”

(Full-text. Published online: July 2, 2019)

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