MONTREAL—Initial results from new research being conducted at the University of Montreal’s School of Social Work suggest that the viewing of pornography by young males does not have the negative side effects that many observers claim.
"The objective of my work is to observe the impact of pornography on the sexuality of men, and how it shapes their perception of men and women," says Simon Louis Lajeunesse, a postdoctoral student and professor at the School of Social Work. "We started our research seeking men in their twenties who had never consumed pornography. We couldn't find any."
Thus far, Lajeunesse has recruited and interviewed 20 heterosexual male university students who consume pornography. "They shared their sexual history starting with their first contact with pornography, which was in early adolescence. Not one subject had a pathological sexuality. In fact, all of their sexual practices were quite conventional."
According to a press release issued Monday, “The research concluded that 90 percent of pornography is consumed on the Internet, while 10 percent comes from video stores. On average, single men watch pornography three times a week for 40 minutes. Those who are in committed relationships watch it on average 1.7 times a week for 20 minutes.”
Lajeunesse also found that most boys seek out pornographic material by the age of 10, when they are most sexually curious, and quickly discard what they don't like and find offensive. As adults, he says, they continue to look for content in tune with their image of sexuality, rarely consume pornography as a couple and always choose what they want to watch.
All test subjects said they supported gender equality and felt victimized by rhetoric demonizing pornography, says the press release. "Pornography hasn't changed their perception of women or their relationship which they all want as harmonious and fulfilling as possible," Lajeunesse says. “Those who could not live out their fantasy in real life with their partner simply set aside the fantasy. The fantasy is broken in the real world and men don't want their partner to look like a porn star.”
Despite the limited number of respondents, Lajeunesse feels confident in refuting the perverse effects often attributed to pornography. "Aggressors don't need pornography to be violent” or become an addict, he asserts. “If pornography had the impact that many claim it has,” he said, “you would just have to show heterosexual films to a homosexual to change his sexual orientation."
According to CNET’s Elizabeth Armstrong Moore, however, the study has some obvious flaws. “Beyond its sample population being 20, Lajeunesse is relying on his subjects to report honestly about behavior that, when actually perverse, might rarely be admitted to. Also, there is the question of what should be defined as perverse or deviant. And finally, measuring the effects of porn on sexual behavior before it became so widely available online compared to after seems downright impossible.”
Still, she concludes, “if watching porn is so widespread, and I have every reason to believe it is, Lajeunesse may have a point about its effects being over-hyped, unless we are all closet basket cases. Whether he will ever be able to prove this definitively, though, is unlikely.”
She adds that a study looking at porn’s effect on “women, their sexuality, and how they view their own bodies and the desires of their partners” might very well result in different conclusions.
The research is funded by the Interdisciplinary Research Center on Family Violence and Violence Against Women.