Newswise – A major international study led by a Canadian psychologist sheds light on a hidden phenomenon: how problematic pornography use affects people in different parts of the world, regardless of gender and sexual orientation.

Published In the journal Addiction, the study stands out because, among the 82,000 people studied in 42 countries, it examines groups that have often been overlooked in the past, including women and people who don’t fit traditional gender categories.

In their findings, which are largely based on surveys and questionnaires, said the UdeM assistant professor of psychology Beata Bőthe and her colleagues focus on what experts call “problematic pornography use,” or PPU, in which people cannot control their use of pornography.

This abuse begins to have serious negative effects on their lives, including loss of employment or significant hardship. Importantly, the study makes it clear that feeling guilty about consuming pornography does not necessarily mean that someone is actually a problem user.

Up to 94% of adults

“A lot of people watch pornography,” said Bőthe, whose 79 co-authors include members of the magazine International Sex Survey Consortium in the USA, China, Europe and other parts of the world.

“In North America, Europe and Australia, 70 to 94 percent of adults have consumed pornography at some point in their lives. “We used to know that men can often become problematic pornography consumers, but there was little information about how women and people of different gender identities are affected, nor how this problem affects people based on their sexual orientation.”

Their study is one of the first studies of pornography to include a wide range of people and take into account different genders and the people they are attracted to. When examining the data, Bőthe and her co-researchers used special analysis tools to measure how serious these people’s problem with pornography might be.

They found that just over 3 percent may have a real problem with pornography. Men appeared to have more problems compared to women, but the study found no major differences depending on whether people were heterosexual, gay, bisexual, or had other sexual orientations. And comparatively few people who may have a problem with pornography ever seek help.

“Our research shows that problematic pornography use is more common than many might think and affects a wide range of people,” Bőthe said. “It shows that although many have problems, not many seek help. This is important because it suggests that more work needs to be done to understand and support those affected.”

Many options for consumption

There are all kinds of sexually explicit content available online, most of it free. These include:

  • Videos and films. These are perhaps the most common forms of pornography, depicting various types of sexual activities in video format. These can range from amateur recordings to professional productions.
  • Pictures and photographs. This includes still images, which can be either photographs or digitally created works of art, depicting nudity or sexual acts.
  • Erotic stories and literature. These written materials describe sexual scenarios and fantasies and can be found on websites and online forums.
  • Live cam shows. It involves live streaming of sexual acts or erotic performances by individuals or groups, often giving viewers the opportunity to interact with the performers.
  • Virtual reality (VR) and interactive content. Today, advanced technologies are being used to create immersive and interactive pornographic experiences, often using VR headsets.
  • Chat rooms and forums. These platforms enable sexually explicit conversations and exchanges, and sometimes the sharing of personal sexual content.
  • Animated and Hentai content. This includes animated pornography, often with fantasy or exaggerated scenarios, including a subgenre called “hentai,” which is a form of Japanese anime and manga pornography.

“We haven’t measured what type of porn people watch, so we don’t know whether the materials viewed are consistent with a person’s sexual orientation,” Bőthe said. “But we can say that there is no difference in PPU between people of different sexual orientations and that men report PPU more often than women or people of different genders.”

In some cultures, although porn is widespread, it is still considered taboo, and that can make women shy away from it than men, she added.

Young people, particularly those who grew up with easy internet access, generally consume more online porn than older generations who did not have such easy access in their formative years. And while most people use porn for sexual gratification, others do it out of curiosity, for educational purposes, or as a means to explore their sexuality.

Influenced by other factors

People who identify as transgender or non-binary may have specific preferences that differ from those of cisgender people, the study says. For these people, the way they consume porn can be influenced by factors such as the pursuit of representation or exploration of gender and sexual identity.

“And although sexual minority individuals may watch porn more often than their heterosexual peers – because they may have a harder time finding romantic or sexual partners or because they use porn to learn about their sexuality – They don’t report more problems with it. “They have less porn use than their heterosexual peers,” Bőthe said.

Overall, she concluded: “It is important to recognize that these patterns are influenced by a complex interplay of personal, societal and cultural factors and can vary widely within groups. And the perception and impact of pornography consumption can vary greatly between individuals within these groups.”

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