Self-perceived effects of Internet pornography use, genital appearance satisfaction, and sexual self-esteem among young Scandinavian adults


This study examined the associations among the frequency of viewing Internet pornography, beliefs about how realistically pornography portrays sex, self-perceived effects of one’s pornography use, genital appearance satisfaction, and sexual self-esteem in young adults. Online data were collected from four convenience samples of university students from Norway and Sweden, members of a queer youth organization, and readers of an erotic magazine. Because of cultural similarities and the comparable magnitude and patterns of the bivariate correlations among the samples on the study variables, they were pooled into a single sample (N = 1,274). The majority of men (81.1%) and a minority of women (18.1%) reported at least weekly use of Internet pornography on their personal computers, whereas using a mobile phone or tablet was less common. Most of the participants had sought mainstream pornographic content. Those with a stronger belief in pornographic realism were more likely to perceive the effect of pornography use positively. A hypothesized relationship between self-perceived positive effects of pornography use and a higher level of sexual self-esteem was found for men but not for women. This result was partially due to higher satisfaction with genital appearance among the men who mainly watched mainstream pornography. Genital appearance satisfaction was linked to higher sexual self-esteem for women, but it was not related to the self-perceived effect of pornography use. The results indicate that pornography may expand personal sexual scripts for both men and women, and may have a positive, although modest, influence on the sexual self-esteem of young male adults.

Internet pornography; genital appearance; sexual self-esteem
Author biographies

Ingela Lundin Kvalem

Author photo Ingela Lundin Kvalem, Ph.D. is an associate professor of health psychology at the Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Norway. Her research is focused on two key lines of inquiry: 1) body image and ideals in adolescence and adulthood in relation to sexuality and obesity and 2) evidence-based health interventions.

Bente Træen

Author photo Bente Træen, Ph.D. is a professor in health psychology at the Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Norway. Her research is focused on three key lines of inquiry: 1) sexual risk behavior in adolescence and adulthood, 2) use of pornography, and 3) sexual function and well-being.

Bo Lewin

Author photo Bo Lewin, Ph.D. is professor emeritus in sociology at Uppsala University and has been active in the study of human sexual behavior and sexual beliefs for forty years. He has worked with sexual health issues for the World Health Organization and has been a visiting scholar at the Kinsey Institute.

Aleksandar Štulhofer

Author photo Aleksandar Štulhofer, Ph.D. is professor of sociology and head of the sexology unit at the Department of Sociology, University of Zagreb, Croatia, and affiliated faculty of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. His research interests are adolescent sexual risk taking, epidemiology of sexual health problems, hypersexuality and pornography use, and the role of intimacy in male sexuality.

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