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What Your Porn-Watching Habits Say About You

What Your Porn-Watching Habits Say About You: George Marks / Stringer

George Marks / Stringer

As someone who has spent the last 10 years of her life studying male sexuality, I can say without hesitation there’s never a dull day in the lab. In recent years, with the increasing acceptance of porn viewing as a normative sexual behavior, I’ve noticed a corresponding trend of men who are concerned about their personal use. Thankfully, a new study from Kansas State University offers some science-based facts to give a bit of perspective on things.

The study included 457 college students as participants, 97% of whom were aged 18 to 25. Study participants were recruited from an introductory human development class and were offered course credit for completing an online survey.

The survey asked about their pornography habits, including how often they had viewed porn in the last 12 months, their pornography acceptance (i.e., whether they thought porn is an acceptable way to express a person’s sexuality), their reasons for watching it, their religiosity and demographic variables including relationship status, age and gender.

From the study findings, three types of pornography users emerged: Porn Abstainers, who seldom looked at porn, but would do so out of curiosity about the kinds of sex other people are having; Complex Porn Users, who typically watched porn one or two days per week, and did so to gain a sense of excitement and to expand their sexual horizons; and Auto-Erotic Porn Users, who sound a bit like futuristic robots, who would watch porn a few times a month or less, primarily as a means to an end.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Complex Porn Users and Auto-Erotic Porn Users both thought porn was more acceptable than Porn Abstainers. Porn Abstainers also reported being more religious than individuals in the other two categories. This all makes sense, considering how previous research has shown that greater religiosity is correlated with less acceptance and consumption of pornography.

Interestingly, students who were in a relationship, engaged or married (51% of the sample), compared with those who were single, were more likely to be Auto-Erotic Porn Users than Abstainers. This speaks to our need for sexual variety as human beings, even when we have a regular sex partner.

If you’re intrigued to know exactly what other people around the world are watching, I’d recommend checking out the wealth of data provided by Pornhub’s Year In Review, the biggest insights of which Playboy breaks down here.

But going back to the original question of whether your porn habits are normal: Since there aren’t any concrete guidelines for me to base this on (I’ve discussed previously for Hard Science how sex addiction isn’t a recognized medical disorder,) my best advice would be to look at whether your porn viewing is causing you impairment, distress or harm. If you find you’ve been locking yourself in your bedroom, not eating or seeing your friends and family—or the light of day—this is probably a cause for concern.

But I’m willing to bet that your reasons for doing so have little to do with the porn you’re watching, and more to do with other stressful things going on in your life. And if it’s the content that you’re worried about, don’t forget that there’s nothing wrong with liking kinky sex.

I’ll discuss more of what so-called porn addiction is really about in a future column, but for now, when it comes to pornography, the key thing to know is that, like many things we enjoy in life, there’s no harm, no foul in moderation.


Debra W. Soh is a sex writer and sexual neuroscientist at York University in Toronto. She has written for Harper’s, The Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, The Globe and Mail, The Los Angeles Times and many others. Follow her on Twitter: @debra_soh.


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