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There is considerable debate about the potential harmful impacts of pornography exposure and viewing among men. The current literature suggests that heterosexual men’s use of pornography may be associated with negative attitudes and behaviour toward women. However, little research has experimentally examined exposure to different types of nonviolent pornography, using a range of outcome variables, and differentiating effects for women generally versus the porn actress. In the current study, 82 undergraduate men were randomly assigned to one of three conditions (degrading, erotica, or control); within each condition they were randomly assigned to watch one of two approximately 10-minute clips: degrading pornography (i.e., nonviolent, debasing, dehumanizing), erotic pornography (i.e., non-degrading, nonviolent, consensual), or a news clip as a control condition. After watching the clip, measures of subjective sexual arousal, objectification of the specific woman in the clip, essentialism of women, ambivalent sexism, and discrimination against a fictitious woman were completed. Exposure to erotica (vs. degrading) generated less objectification of the porn actress; exposure to erotica (vs. control) also generated the greatest discrimination toward the fictitious woman, although the omnibus for the latter was non-significant. Exposure to degrading pornography (vs. erotica or control) generated the strongest hostile sexist beliefs and the greatest amount of objectification of the woman in the clip. Thus, pornography use may not be generally harmful or harmless, but the effect of pornography exposure may depend on the type of pornography and the specific outcome. Implications for debates about the potential negative impact of pornography exposure are discussed.

Key Words

Discrimination, erotica, impact, objectification, pornography exposure, sexism


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