The great porn experiment V2.0: sexual arousal reduces the salience of familiar women when heterosexual men judge their attractiveness

Jordan Sculley, Christopher D. Watkins*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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    Abstract

    Pornography has become widely accessible in recent years due to its integration with the Internet, generating social scientific and moralistic debate on potential “media effects,” given correlations between consumption and various sexual traits and behaviors. One popular public debate (Wilson, 2012) claimed that exposure to Internet pornography has addictive qualities that could impact men’s sexual relationships, underpinned by the “Coolidge effect,” where males are sexually motivated by the presence of novel mates. As claims about Internet and sexual addictions are scientifically controversial, we provide a direct experimental test of his proposal. Adapting a paradigm used to examine “Coolidge-like” effects in men, we examined the extent to which exposure to images of pornographic actresses altered men’s attractiveness ratings of (1) familiar faces/bodies on second viewing and (2) familiar versus novel women’s faces/bodies. Independent of slideshow content (pornographic versus clothed versions of same actress), heterosexual men were less attracted to familiar bodies, and homosexual men were less attracted to familiar women (faces and bodies), suggesting that mere visual exposure to attractive women moderated men’s preferences. However, consistent with one of our preregistered predictions, heterosexual but not homosexual men’s preferences for familiar versus novel women were moderated by slideshow content such that familiar women were less salient on the attractiveness dimension compared to novel women when sexual arousal was greater (pornographic versus clothed slideshows). In sum, our findings demonstrate that visual exposure/sexual arousal moderates attractiveness perceptions, albeit that much greater nuance is required considering earlier claims.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3071-3082
    Number of pages12
    JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
    Volume51
    Issue number6
    Early online date5 Jul 2022
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022

    Keywords

    • Internet pornography
    • Sexual arousal
    • Face perception
    • Coolidge effect

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