For as long as men have viewed pornography, women have asked, “Why?” Now they may be asking, “Why not?”

While some women express concern about male pornography use, others are simply curious. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of women themselves are viewing pornography both with a partner and without.

Some women in committed relationships fear that a partner’s porn use may be indicative of relationship dissatisfaction or a desire to stray. But in reality, a man’s use of pornography most often has less to do with his partner directly (though it may affect them), and more to do with his own innate characteristics and desires. And today, increasing numbers of women are finding their own reasons to purchase, view and explore their own sexual fantasies through pornography.

Here are five things you may or may not know about sex and porn:

#1 Men are more visually stimulated than women.

A 2004 Center for Behavioral Neuroscience study confirmed a long-held belief that men are more stimulated by visual cues than women. Our amygdala, the area of the human brain that controls emotion and motivation, is more highly activated in men when viewing sexual images than women viewing the same content. Men are overall more attuned to visual imagery than women.

This neurobiological difference between men and women has an evolutionary basis. Researchers speculate that human evolution offered men who could more readily identify sexually receptive females through visual cues a better chance of having sex and passing on their genetic code.

Women, on the other hand, are emotionally hard-wired toward selective partner choice. This essential trait likely evolved to ensure that the chosen male sexual partner would remain engaged beyond the sexual act to help mother and child through the challenges of pregnancy, birth and child-rearing. Research tells us that unlike image-driven males, women appear more natively attracted to the complex characteristics of physical strength, health, social status, emotional stability and loyalty.

#2 Unattached men prefer sex to love.

Perhaps driven by similar biological mechanisms, men appear to have an innate capacity to partake in casual sexual experiences involving little or no emotional attachment, whereas healthy adult women are much more likely to seek and enjoy sex within the context of an intimate or emotional connection.

To this point, a 2010 James Madison University study found that young men prefer casual sexual hook-ups and dating to relationships, while most of their female peers preferred some kind of ongoing relationship over casual sex. Unsurprisingly, young men seem to favor independence over commitment, fearing that a woman will require some form of relationship commitment as a prerequisite to casual sex.

Women, on the other hand, expressed concern that an intense sexual relationship would lead to unintended emotional attachments to an unavailable or unwilling relationship partner.

A 2008 study from Durham University reached similar conclusions. Most men in the study experienced higher self-confidence and a sense of well-being after a one-night stand, whereas nearly half the women reported having negative feelings afterward.

#3 Men like sex!

While certainly not the case for all men or all women, studies suggest that men tend to have a stronger sexual drive. In general, men tend to think about sex, masturbate and orgasm more often than women.

A Florida State University research study indicated that approximately 66% of adult men said they masturbated regularly, compared to 40% of women. In terms of relationship sexuality, 75% of men in a primary relationship reported that they always have an orgasm when having partner sex, compared to only 26% of the women.

#4 Pornography was designed for men but things are changing!

As the porn industry itself evolved through the creation and distribution of explicit visual images with little focus on emotions or storyline, it makes sense that few women were previously aroused or interested in “traditional” porn. Many women found “traditional porn” to be more offensive than stimulating.

Until very recently, most pornography has been aimed toward a primarily male audience, and men continue to be the largest consumers of online, print and video porn. However, in the past few years, women too have increasingly been using porn to explore their sexuality and the porn industry is responding by selectively marketing the types of story lines, foreplay and intimacy that are more likely to stimulate women.

The difference in past rates of pornography use between men and women may also be related to the fact that the types of content women find sexually arousing tends to be more complex and varied than the type that stimulates men.

Northwestern University researchers recently reported that while exclusively straight men are aroused by watching women have sex with men and/or other women, and exclusively gay men are turned on solely viewing male-on-male sex, women’s bodies most often reacted equally to male-female and male-male and female-female sex. This result most likely evolves from the fact that women’s sexual desire is more often about context and emotional bonding (think “chick flick” or romance novel) than strict visual stimulation or even orgasm as a focused goal.

#5 Porn with purpose.

A recent Florida State University survey found that men tend to have more frequent and varied sexual fantasies than women. Viewing a wide range of porn images and experiences likely allows some men to passively experience sexual acts that they could not or would not choose to act out in real time.

Other men prefer viewing porn to sharing their most intimate fantasies and desires with a partner fearing shame, judgment or outright rejection. Still others concerned about issues related to “size” or “performance” seek out porn as an emotionally “safe” option to being in relationship. The Internet, with its endless variety of sexual content and imagery has become the perfect place to safely play out sexual fantasy with or without a willing partner.

The Dark Side of Porn: Escalation and Addiction

Most stable men (and women) enjoy pornography without unduly sacrificing relationship intimacy or becoming addicted to the reliable emotional intensity it offers. However, an estimated 3% to 5% of men (there is no reliable research as yet on women) end up losing time and deferring important life priorities to abusing the porn experience, becoming dependent or addicted to the emotional distraction and escape offered via sexual intensity and compulsive masturbation. Sadly, others can escalate from simple porn use to lives filled with lies, online or live affairs and/or the viewing of bizarre or illegal imagery. This is the face of sexual addiction.

XXX and Beyond

Pornography in America is today viewed as both devil and goddess, mostly depending on the experience and beliefs of the individual watching, but the reality of its use lies mostly in the middle. In truth, sexual desire is deeply personal and somewhat different for each individual no matter his or her sex. Some women like porn at least as much as the average man, while some men would rather watch a good ball game. Clearly the Internet-dominated past two decades have wrought a sea change in the average person’s access to intensely stimulating sexual content and experience. This reality cannot be undone nor should it go unexamined.

Our culture’s escalating access to explicit pornography has already and irrevocably changed how many view relationships, fidelity, intimacy and even sex itself. For some, porn offers an emotionally expansive, playful and educational experience, while for others it is merely a convenient, if two-dimensional, means to an end. And for a sad few, porn can become an addictive beast fraught with obsession and secrecy. Much like alcohol, manufactured drugs, refined sugar and other distilled pleasurable human experiences, our current involvement and experience with porn merely reflects the sum of who we are as individuals and as a culture.

is the author of three books on sexual addiction and Founding Director of the premiere sex addiction treatment program, The Sexual Recovery Institute. He is Director of Sexual Disorders Services at The Ranch and Promises Treatment Centers. These centers serve individuals seeking sexual addiction treatment, love addiction treatment, and porn addiction help. Specifically, the Centers for Relationship and Sexual Recovery at The Ranch (CRSR) offer specialized intimacy, sex and relationship addiction treatment for both men and women in gender-specific, gender-separate treatment and living environments.

Follow Robert on Twitter @RobWeissMSW

 


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Mental Health Social (February 24, 2012)

From Psych Central's website:
PsychCentral (February 24, 2012)

From Psych Central's website:
PsychCentral (February 24, 2012)

Addiction Australia (February 28, 2012)






    Last reviewed: 6 Sep 2012

APA Reference
Weiss LCSW, R. (2012). What’s Up with Porn?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 30, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex/2012/02/what%e2%80%99s-up-with-porn/

 

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