3 minute read

3-Decade-Old Porn Experiment Reveals Why We’re All Messed Up

Last Updated: July 28, 2020

Matt Fradd

Matt Fradd is the author of Delivered: True Stories of Men and Woman Who Turned from Porn to Purity. After experiencing a profound conversion at World Youth Day in Rome in 2000, Matt has worked through full-time lay ministry in Australia, Ireland, Canada, and Texas. He has served as an apologist for Catholic Answers and has traveled all over the world, speaking to tens of thousands of teens and young adults. He and his wife Cameron have four children and live in North Georgia.

One of the big problems with doing research about the effect of video pornography on people is it’s hard to find a control group. Not too long ago a researcher from the University of Montreal wanted to study the effect of pornography on men, but he said when he was looking for a control group of men in their 20s who had never consumed porn, he actually couldn’t find anyone.

But there was a study that was done in the mid-80s, before the dawn of the World Wide Web, and the results are fascinating.

Dr. Dolf Zillmann and Dr. Jennings Bryant took 80 male and 80 female participants and broke them into three roughly equal groups. In a lab setting, each group watched about five hours of media spread out over a six week period.

  • The first subgroup they called the No Exposure control group. They were shown just regular broadcast media.
  • The next was called the Intermediate Exposure group. Half of the media they consumed was regular stuff and the other half was pornographic movies.
  • The last subgroup was called the Massive Exposure group. All five hours of media they saw over that six-week stretch was pornographic.

At the end of the experiment they asked the participants questions. I’ll mention just five discoveries.

1. Less Sexual Satisfaction

Participants from the Massive Exposure group reported less sexual satisfaction with their partners since starting the experiment. They noticed how they were now rating their partner’s physical appearance, their affection, their sexual performance.

2. More Attraction to Casual Sex

Those exposed to more porn showed a greater attraction to casual sex. When asked questions related to their desire for marriage or having children or even staying faithful to your marriage partner, the Massive Exposure group was more likely to devalue these things.

3. Less Support for Women’s Rights

Participants from the Massive Exposure group also showed a loss of support for women’s rights. Participants were asked, “Do you support women’s rights?” Look at the results. 71% of the No Exposure group said yes, compared to 25% of the Massive Exposure group. Remember, the Massive Exposure group included both men and women—so even women exposed to porn were showing a drop in support for women’s rights.

4. Desensitized to Violence

Those exposed to more porn also showed a desensitization to sexual violence. Participants in all 3 groups were given a story about a man who rapes a female hitchhiker and were asked to recommend prison sentences for the rapist. Males in the Massive Exposure group recommended a sentence nearly half that recommended by the No Exposure group. Now, keep in mind, the pornography these people watched was not particularly violent porn, but those who viewed it still tended to trivialize rape more.

5. Less Likely to Want to Protect Minors from Porn

Those in the Massive Exposure group were far less likely to think minors should be protected from porn. 84% of the No Exposure group said minors should be protected, but only 37% of the Massive Exposure group said the same—a well over 50% drop.

“Massive Exposure” No Longer Massive

Think about it: back in the 80s, five hours of porn videos spread out over six weeks was called the Massive Exposure group. Today we might call that the Friday Afternoon group.

I think this experiment conducted 30 years ago offers a powerful lesson to men and women. I’m not here advocating for censorship. That’s another conversation for another day. Instead, we should think about how our media consumption impacts our values and live in wisdom.

  • Do you want to be a man or woman who really enjoys your sexual partner without the nagging comparison to porn videos you’ve seen?
  • Do you want to be someone who connects intimacy to sex, not just seeing sex as a cheap thrill?
  • Do you want to be someone who really honors and cherishes women, seeing them as persons to be given equal protection and rights as men?
  • Do you want to be a man or women who takes seriously the injustices women endure today through rape and abuse and trafficking?
  • Do you want to a person who thinks children today shouldn’t be sexualized?

If so, then let’s be wise media consumers and let’s warn people about the corrosive effects of porn on the mind.

Learn more in the free e-book called Your Brain on Porn.

DOWNLOAD YOUR BRAIN ON PORN .

yourbrainonporn-spread

* Sources: Dolf Zillmann and Jennings Bryant, “Effects of massive exposure to pornography,” in Pornography and Sexual Aggression (New York: Academic Press, 1984); Dolf Zillmann and Jennings Bryant, “Shifting preferences in pornography consumption,” Communication Research 13 (1986); 560-578, Dolf Zillmann and Jennings Bryant, “Pornography’s impact on sexual satisfaction,” Journal of Applied Social Psychology 18 (1988): 438–453, Dolf Zillmann and Jennings Bryant, “Effects of Prolonged Consumption of Pornography on Family Values,” Journal of Family Issues 9 (1988): 518-544.

  • Comments on: 3-Decade-Old Porn Experiment Reveals Why We’re All Messed Up
    1. I disagree with this. on

      I completely disagree with this article and can provide alternatives to the porn theory of why people feel this way.

      1) The women in porn are very attractive and are on average 50 pounds less than the average women in America. Yes that is an actual fact. That is why there is less satisfaction. Period end of statement. I am sorry but America has gotten fatter and fatter. When you see someone who is fit and attractive but go home to someone who is not fit and attractive, well guess what? You will be less sexually satisfied. Guess what too? It is there right to not be satisfied. It is their right. This same argument is what the Christians used to justify slavery. “Well the slaves are okay with their live so slavery is okay.” Christians sought to push their ideas of what was okay on how slaves lived. Well guess what? It was decidedly NOT okay how they lived. Pushing your ideas of what is acceptable is not okay and it is not conducive with free will. Show the people all that is out there and let them choose. That is really what fundamentalist Christians don’t want. They don’t want true choice. They want the choice that leads a person to conform..

      2) People have always been attracted to casual sex. Religion tries to teach you to suppress your sexual urges when the reality is that biologically you are predisposed to a very hardwired sex drive. The research on this is quite conclusive if you want to read it and not ignore it because of fundamentalism. When God made the sexual desire region of the brain 2.5 times larger in a man than in a woman — that is telling. When he pumped us with 10 times more testosterone — that is very telling. Now why would God set us up for sex and then turn around say no, no no….. dont have a desire for it? It doesn’t make sense at all.

      3) Of course there is a less desire for women’s right because people see the hypocrisy in it all!!!! When you look at porn you start to realize —- there are TONS of women doing it. It just isnt a few women. There are tens of billions of pictures made by hundreds of millions of women. Then there are webcam girls, strippers, escorts, massage girls, and homemade porn. It is all hypocrisy because NO ONE holds women accountable for anything they do. Want no porn? Well that is simple. Women dont do it. Just say no. It is that simple. But you want to know the harsh reality? Hookers rather make $300 an hour having sex than working 9 to 5. That is what it boils down to. Women have always used their attractiveness to get what they want. Heck, the bible is full of examples of this —- yet we ignore those parts of the bible as if they dont count today. Well I hate to say —- Delilah is alive and well in the year 2015!

      4) Lets start talking about the huge number of false rape allegations. 86% of rape accusations never even make it to trial because of a LACK OF EVIDENCE. Also, at the end of the day, a woman can say yes, no, yes, no in the same sentence and no matter what you do, it is still rape. Then, they can sit around for weeks and months and decades and not do anything about it and then one day decide they were raped. Rape is a much more complex subject than just believing a woman is a victim all the time. If you doubt this, go revisit the girl in SC who led the entire state on a 1,000 person manhunt for the fake rapist she created in her head because she was skipping school to go have sex with her older lover. Real men’s lives were destroyed by this. But no, again, we never talk about the responsibility of a woman to do the right thing do we? I can give many more examples of false accusations if you wish. They day those women are made sex offenders for live for trying to destroy a man’s life with sex is the day I really start to care about the entire rape issue. Also, dont even get me started on the rape culture accusations in America because not one statistic supports this. Not one real tangible statistic supports it at all.

      5. Protect minors from porn? Who are you people kidding and what dream world do you live in? Minors seek out porn and do their own porn!!! Heck, this week it was reported that over 100 eight graders in one school were all sexting each other. I can send you this article if you wish. Fundamentalist Christians again just dont like the fact that minors are interested in sex. You must conform to some puritanical notion of the world that has never existed. That is what this is really about.

      This article is terribly frustrating to me and it does not even begin to really talk about these things in a truthful manner. It is just a little house on the prairie view of the world.

      Reply
      • JeremiahP on

        Just say no to drugs, @I_Disagree. Your logic is completely disjointed and incomprehensbile. Kids didn’t have sex in the wild west nearly as much as they do now, and I assure you that much less puritanical views existed back then. The sex slave industry is alive and well, and people are continually abused in the sex trade and in the porn industry alike, which heavily overlaps in many places in the world, yes even in mainstream America. Porn is evil because it comes from the same lascivious spirit as sex slavery and prostitution, both of which are rife with abuse of women. I assure you that those women are not manipulating others in their trade, and wish they could get out of it. Most women after having been abused for years in the porn industry, when interviewed, wish that they were never in that industry. Look it up. It damages those women beyond belief.

      • Luke Gilkerson on

        So, men watch porn because other women are fat? That’s an odd statement for a number of reasons. (1) Why focus on weight at all? Why not focus on bra size, for instance? The average porn star’s bust size is only 34B, whereas the average American woman’s bra size is much bigger: 34DD. Why not focus on other factors beyond a woman’s control: race, age, height? Why does it all boil down to weight for you? There are disproportionate numbers of women in porn who are young and white—and yet women can’t change their race or age. Why not base it on the types of sexual acts seen in porn? The top gaining terms for porn in the U.S. have nothing to do with weight but are terms like “lesbian,” “stem mom,” “teen,” “cartoon,” “step sister,” “mom,” etc. Why don’t these factors go into you in-depth analysis of the problem? (2) You seem to be basing it on those who “go home” to someone who is unfit and overweight. Exactly how many men does this describe? The percentage of men who have never been married are at an all time high and they consume porn at higher rates than married men.

        You really lost me on the slavery connection. Can you help me out a little more here? This study wasn’t performed by Christians with a vendetta but a couple university professors who were deliberately showing people porn. How were they they trying to promote a Christian agenda?

        In many of your comments you are confusing what the study found about people’s preferences with something else entirely. For instance, when people desire to protect minors from porn, this is not based on what they think is possible in the pre-Internet 1980s but simply what they think is ideal for society. Whether or not minors seek out porn is irrelevant to the responses the people gave on their exit interview. Similarly, false rape allegations have nothing to do with the responses given by the participants—it is merely looking at what the participants believe and how porn viewing has impacted that.

        You seem to agree that porn viewing impacts one’s support of women’s rights, so at least you don’t ignore the evidence there.

    2. Anna on

      Thank You, Mr. Fradd for sharing these videos. They are so needed treasures in times like these. May you and your family be surrounded with the love joy and peace of our Saviour, Jesus.
      Anna from Hungary

      Reply

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