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8 September 2003
Too Much Pornography A Problem
by George Atkinson

Men who view more than six hours of pornography weekly are more likely to describe women in sexualized and feminine terms than are men who view less pornography. They also tend to categorize women in stereotypically traditional feminine gender roles.

That's what Ryan Burns, at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, found when he conducted an on-line survey of 348 male users of pornography. The men were heterosexual and at least 18 years of age.

"The quantity of porn consumed does seem to matter," Burns says.

While other studies have examined the link between porn and men's views about women, little previous research has been done on the effects of prolonged consumption of pornography on attitudes and behaviors, notes Burns. He will present his findings in November at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association in Miami.

"This study supports the theory that pornographic depictions of women as sexual agents are a way that some men develop their concepts about the sexual nature and role of women," Burns says. "This is consistent with the feminist perspective's explanation of the effects of pornography."

The 348 men surveyed were provided with empty text boxes and instructed to type in all of the qualities that came to mind when they thought of a woman. Burns and some undergraduate assistants then controlled for duplicate and semantically identical terms as well as attributes that were mentioned only once. They came up with 190 common attributes used to describe women. Then they evaluated each term on a seven-point scale as to how related or unrelated it was to sex and to masculinity or femininity.

The most popular word used to describe women by the men was "sex" or some variation of the word.

Some of the other popular words used to describe women by the men surveyed included "beautiful," "caring," "emotional," "intellect," "loving," "strength," "soft," "smart," "gentle" and "feminine."

Men who viewed 360 minutes or more of porn each week - what Burns calls the "high consumption group" - "reported higher than average scores than the medium and low consumption group in their description of women in feminine terms. The high consumption group also reported higher levels of endorsement and agreement with traditional conventional attitudes about women."

"In addition," says Burns, "the high consumption group reported the highest average scores in describing women in sexual terms. Men with high levels of habitual consumption of Internet pornography perceive women more sexually, and use more sexually expressive words in their description of women than those with moderate or low levels of consumption."

A total of 104 men were in the high consumption group. Another 110 men, who viewed between 120 and 359 minutes of pornography per week were labeled the medium consumption group and 134 men who saw less than two hours of porn weekly comprised the low consumption group.

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