Young exposure associated with need for power over women, older with promiscuity, study says
WASHINGTON — The age at which a boy is first exposed to pornography is significantly associated with certain sexist attitudes later in life, but not necessarily in the way people might think, according to research presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.
“The goal of our study was to examine how age of first exposure to pornography, and the nature of said first exposure, predicts conformity to two masculine norms: playboy — or sexually promiscuous behavior — and seeking power over women,” said Alyssa Bischmann, a doctoral student at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, who presented the research.
Bischmann and her colleagues surveyed 330 undergraduate men, age 17 to 54 years old, at a large Midwestern university. Participants were 85 percent white and primarily heterosexual (93 percent). They were asked about their first exposure to pornography — specifically, what age they were when it happened and whether it was intentional, accidental or forced. Participants then were asked to respond to a series of 46 questions designed to measure the two masculine norms.
Among the group, the average age of first exposure was 13.37 years of age with the youngest exposure as early as 5 and the latest older than 26. More men indicated their first exposure was accidental (43.5 percent) than intentional (33.4 percent) or forced (17.2 percent). Six percent did not indicate the nature of the exposure.
While the researchers did find a significant association between age of first exposure and adherence to the two masculine norms, the association was different for each.
“We found that the younger a man was when he first viewed pornography, the more likely he was to want power over women,” Bischmann said. “The older a man was when he first viewed pornography, the more likely he would want to engage in playboy behavior.”
This finding was surprising, according to co-author Chrissy Richardson, MA, also from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, because the researchers had expected both norms to be higher with a lower first age of exposure.
“The most interesting finding from this study was that older age at first exposure predicted greater adherence to the playboy masculine norms. That finding has sparked many more questions and potential research ideas because it was so unexpected based on what we know about gender role socialization and media exposure,” said Richardson.
Bischmann suspects that the findings may be related to unexamined variables, such as the participants’ religiosity, sexual performance anxiety, negative sexual experiences or whether the first exposure experience was positive or negative. More research needs to be done, she said.
It also did not matter how the participants were exposed, as the researchers found no significant association between the nature of the exposure and attitudes.
“We were surprised that the type of exposure did not affect whether someone wanted power over women or to engage in playboy behaviors. We had expected that intentional, accidental or forced experiences would have differing outcomes,” said Bischmann.
The findings provide further evidence that pornography viewing has a real impact on heterosexual men, especially with regard to their views about sex roles, according to Richardson. Knowing more about the relationship between men’s pornography use and beliefs about women might assist sexual assault prevention efforts, especially among young boys who may have been exposed to pornography at an early age. This information could also inform the treatment of various emotional and social issues experienced by young heterosexual men who view pornography, she said.
Session 1163: “Age and Experience of First Exposure to Pornography: Relations to Masculine Norms,” Poster Session, Thursday, Aug. 3, 11-11:50 a.m. EDT, Halls D and E, Level 2, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Pl., N.W., Washington, D.C.
Presentations are available from the APA Public Affairs Office.
Alyssa Bischmann can be contacted by email or by phone at (402) 472-1482.
Christina Richardson can be contacted by email or by phone at (410) 913-0969.
The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes nearly 115,700 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.
Age and Experience of First Exposure to Pornography: Relations to Masculine Norms
Research has demonstrated that the majority of men in the U.S. view pornography and that greater consumption of pornography is related to stronger adherence to traditional masculine norms, such as playboy behavior (i.e., sexual promiscuity) and valuing power over women (Kraus & Rosenberg, 2014; Mikorsi & Syzmanski, 2016; Tylka, 2014). Additionally, younger age at first exposure to pornography has been associated with greater current pornography consumption (Hald, 2006). The goal of the present study was to examine how age of first exposure to pornography and the nature of said first exposure (e.g., intentional, accidental, or forced) predicts conformity to two masculine norms: playboy behavior and seeking power over women.
It was hypothesized that age of first exposure will predict adherence to the masculine norms of playboy behavior and seeking power over women. In addition, it was hypothesized that there significant differences in adherence to those same masculine norms will emerge between participants reporting that their first exposure to pornography was intentional, accidental, or forced.
Participants (N = 330) were undergraduate men at a large, Midwestern university, ranging in age from 17-54 years (M = 20.65, SD = 3.06). Participants predominantly identified as White (84.9%) and heterosexual (92.6). After providing informed consent, participants completed the study online.
Age of exposure and experience. Two items were used to assess age of first exposure to pornography and whether the exposure was intentional, accidental, or forced. For this sample, the average age of first exposure was 13.37 years (SD=2.43), with 43.5% of participants indicating that their first exposure was accidental, 33.4% indicating it was intentional exposure, and 17.2% indicating it was forced exposure.
Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory-46 (CMNI-46). The CMNI-46 assesses adherence to traditional masculine characteristics. The measure consists of 46 items with a 4-point Likert-type response format (0=strongly disagree to 3=strongly agree). Only two subscales were used in the current analyses: Power over Women and Playboy. For this sample, the internal consistency reliabilities for the subscales were high ( = .81 ).
Results of two single regression analyses indicated that age of first exposure significantly predicted adherence to both the Power over Women masculine norm (F(1, 311) = 6.656, p < .01) and the Playboy masculine norm (F(1, 311) = 6.835, p < .01). Results of two one-way ANOVAs indicated no significant differences in adherence to the two masculine norms between participants grouped by the nature of their first exposure to pornography (i.e., intentional, accidental, or forced).
Results indicated that lower age of first exposure to pornography predicted higher adherence to both the Power over Women and the Playboy masculine norms. Additionally, regardless of the nature of the men’s first exposure to pornography (i.e., intentional, accidental, or forced), participants adhered equally to the Power over Women and the Playboy masculine norm. Various explanations may exist to understand these relationships, but the results show the importance of discussing age of exposure in clinical settings with men. Limitations and future directions will be presented.