The Influence of Pornography on Romantic Relationships of Emerging Adults

The Influence of Pornography on Romantic Relationships of Emerging Adults

Bonnie Young-Petersen (Brigham Young University, USA) and Brian J. Willoughby (Brigham Young University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1063-6.ch008
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Scholars have studied emerging adults and pornography extensively, but to date there is no research on how pornography influences how emerging adults approach and act in relationships. The purpose of this chapter is to explore the nature of pornography use among emerging adults, as well as to look at the relationship between pornography use and pornography-related relational anxiety among emerging adults. The authors describe existing research on pornography and emerging adults, introduce their own study, and explain the results and implications.
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Researchers have been drawn to the study of emerging adulthood since Dr. Jeffrey Arnett introduced the term almost twenty years ago (Arnett, 2000). Emerging adulthood, defined as the stage from the late teens through the twenties, has attracted scholars because of the distinct relational patterns of today’s emerging adults. Scholars have noted how this cohort differs in attachment patterns (Umemura, Lacinova, & Macek, 2014), ideas about marriage (Willoughby & Hall, 2015), technology use (Swanson & Walker, 2015), and religiosity (Salas-Wright, Vaughn, & Maynard, 2014). While extensive research explores multiple aspects of emerging adult life, scholars have paid special attention to the changing romantic relationship and sexuality patterns of this group (Perry & Longest, 2018; Stanley, Rhoades, & Fincham, 2011; Willoughby, Hall, & Luczak, 2013; Lefkowitz & Gillen, 2006). This particular study examines pornography use patterns of emerging adults as well as how pornography influences attitudes and feelings experienced in emerging adult romantic relationships.Similar to the recent prevalence of research on emerging adults, sexuality scholars have increasingly studied the effects of pornography on its consumers. The Internet boom in the western world increased the accessibility and use of pornography around the same time Arnett articulated his ideas about a new pre-adulthood phase (Young, 2008). Today’s emerging adults are part of a unique cohort that has had essentially unlimited access to high-speed pornography and are some of the most frequent consumers of pornography (Traen, Nilsen, & Stigum, 2006; Stack, Wasserman, & Kern, 2004; Coyne, Padilla- Walker, & Howard, 2013; Carroll et al., 2008). Yet to date, scholarship on how emerging adult romantic relationships are influenced by pornography use is limited. In this chapter, the authors will look at connections between emerging adult pornography use and processes in romantic relationships. More specifically, our chapter will address the following questions: What is the nature of pornography use among emerging adults? What is the relationship between pornography use and pornography-related anxiety in emerging adult romantic relationships?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Hookup: A brief, uncommitted sexual encounter involving kissing to intercourse without an understood promise of a continued relationship.

Religiosity: In this study, religiosity was measured by self-reports of religious importance and religious affiliations. “Religious” individuals were those who scored high on religious importance and also identified with an organized religion, while those who were “not religious” either did not identify with a religious affiliation or did belong to a religion but did not consider their religion personally important. Sexual Script Theory: Rooted in the widely used script theory, which teaches that human behavior is dictated by patterns called “scripts” that individuals “act out” due to exposure and conditioning. Sexual scripts are culturally available messages that define what ‘counts’ as sex, or how to act during a sexual encounter.

Social Learning Theory: States that individuals learn not only by their own experiences, but also through the observation of others’ behaviors.

Compulsive Pornography Use: In this study, compulsive pornography use was measured by combining the pornography compulsion scale (translated from the sexual compulsion scale) with weekly or daily use. Those who scored above the median for compulsive pornography use and also reported using pornography daily or weekly were considered to be “compulsive” pornography users.

Emerging Adulthood: The stage from the late teens through the twenties, encompassing 18 to 30-year-olds.

Pornography: S exually explicit words, images, or videos that have the intent to arouse the user.

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