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"I Imagine the Male Isn't in the Video and It Is Me:" a Mixed Methods Study of Internet Pornography, Masculinity, and Sexual Aggression in Emerging Adulthood

Christina Richardson, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Research on Internet pornography has consistently found that men are more likely to view mainstream porn than women and that most men view pornography. Additionally, mainstream porn content has been found to portray highly stereotyped views of gender with men in positions of dominance over women and men engaging in aggression toward women. Despite the consistent finding that pornography is a gendered phenomenon, there is little research exploring the connection between masculinity and pornography use. Furthermore, research on the effects of pornography use on sexual aggression has been mixed, with some findings indicating that men who view porn are more likely to endorse attitudes supportive of and actually engage in aggression toward women. However, other studies report no such connection. Sexual Script Theory and the 3A Model (Acquisition, Activation, and Application) posit that men learn sexual scripts and behavior from sexual media and are more likely to internalize and enact the sexual behaviors depicted in pornography if certain individual and content variables are present, such as high levels of arousal and the degree of correspondence between porn and men's existing beliefs. The current dissertation aimed to examine this theory through a mixed-methods investigation of men's arousal to different types of porn content and experience of masculinity as important predictors of sexual aggression perpetration. Specifically, this dissertation hypothesized that adherence to masculine norms and gender role conflict/stress would moderate the relation between arousal to porn content and perpetration of sexual aggression, such that stronger adherence to masculine norms and more gender role conflict/stress would strengthen the relationship and predict more sexual aggression. A total 338 college-aged, heterosexual, cisgender men completed quantitative measures of the aforementioned constructs, and 149 participants with comparable demographic characteristics completed open-ended survey items about their subjective experiences with those same constructs. Arousal to Specialized porn content was found to be a significant predictor of sexual aggression perpetration, but adherence to masculine norms and gender role conflict/stress did not act as moderators as hypothesized. Qualitative results provide information about male pornography users' arousal to pornography, experience of masculinity within pornography, and perceived impact of pornography on their lives. The current study's limitation and implications for future research and psychological practice are discussed.

Subject Area

Sexuality|Psychology|Gender studies

Recommended Citation

Richardson, Christina, ""I Imagine the Male Isn't in the Video and It Is Me:" a Mixed Methods Study of Internet Pornography, Masculinity, and Sexual Aggression in Emerging Adulthood" (2019). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI13427075.