Thursday, February 6, 2020

Users with nonproblematic low-frequency pornography use are around 68–73% of all users, nonproblematic high-frequency pornography users are approx 19–29% & problematic high-frequency users are around 3–8% of the total

Bőthe B, Tóth-Király I, Potenza MN, et al. High-Frequency Pornography Use May Not Always Be Problematic. J Sex Med 2020;XX:XXX–XXX.

Background  Previously, variable-centered analytic approaches showed positive, weak-to-moderate associations between frequency of pornography use (FPU) and problematic pornography use (PPU). However, person-centered studies are sparse in the literature, and these could provide insight into whether there are individuals who use pornography frequently and do not experience problems or whether there are individuals with comparable high-frequency use who differ on reported experiencing of negative consequences.

Aim  The aims of the present study were (i) to identify profiles of pornography use based on FPU and PPU by applying a person-centered analytic approach and (ii) to examine whether the identified profiles could be distinguished based on theoretically relevant demographic and psychological constructs.

Methods  Latent profile analyses were conducted on 3 nonclinical samples recruited from general websites and a pornography site (study 1: N = 14,006; study 2: N = 483; study 3: N = 672).

Results  Results were consistent across all studies. 3 distinct pornography-use profiles emerged: nonproblematic low-frequency pornography use (68–73% of individuals), nonproblematic high-frequency pornography use (19–29% of individuals), and problematic high-frequency use (3–8% of individuals). Nonproblematic and problematic high-frequency-use groups showed differences in several constructs (ie, hypersexuality, depressive symptoms, boredom susceptibility, self-esteem, uncomfortable feelings regarding pornography, and basic psychological needs).

Clinical Translation  FPU should not be considered as a sufficient or reliable indicator of PPU because the number of people with nonproblematic high-frequency use was 3–6 times higher than that with problematic high-frequency use. These results suggest that individuals with PPU use pornography frequently; however, FPU may not always be problematic.

Strengths & Limitations  Self-report cross-sectional methods have possible biases that should be considered when interpreting findings (eg, underreporting or overreporting). However, the present research included 3 studies and involved large community samples and visitors of a pornography website. The present study is the first that empirically investigated pornography-use profiles with a wide range of correlates using both severity of PPU and FPU as profile indicators on specific and general samples.

Conclusion  The present study is a first step in the differentiated examination of pornography-use profiles, taking into consideration both PPU and FPU, and it provides a foundation for further clinical and large-scale studies. Different psychological mechanisms may underlie the development and maintenance of FPU with or without PPU, suggesting different treatment approaches. Therefore, the present results may guide clinical work when considering reasons for seeking treatment for PPU.

Check also Lewczuk, K., Glica, A., Nowakowska, I., et al. Evaluating Pornography Problems Due to Moral Incongruence Model. J Sex Med 2020;17:300–311.

The War on Porn Is Back: Conservatives hope to renew their old alliance with radical feminists

The War on Porn Is Back: Conservatives hope to renew their old alliance with radical feminists. Katherine Mangu-Ward. Mar 2020 issue.

"If you want better men by any standard, there is every reason to regard ubiquitous pornography as an obstacle," declared New York Times columnist Ross Douthat in a 2018 column bluntly headlined "Let's Ban Porn."

In this, as in many things, Douthat was ahead of the conservative intellectual curve by a year or two. And in this, as in many things, he was dangerously wrong.

In due course, Douthat has been joined by the folks at the Christian journal First Things, who have taken up the anti-pornography banner as part of their peculiar subvariant of a resurgent interest in nationalism among traditionalist conservatives. In last year's manifesto, "Against the Dead Consensus," a clutch of First Things friends and familiars reject "economic libertarianism" and "the soulless society of individual affluence" and add that they "respectfully decline to join with those who would resurrect warmed-over Reaganism." Which makes it all the more disconcerting when they turn around and immediately kneel before the scolding ghost of Ed Meese.

As attorney general, Meese sought to deliver on Reagan's 1987 threat to "purveyors" of obscene material that the "industry's days are numbered." It was Meese who pulled together the first National Obscenity Enforcement Unit. (One surprising and familiar name also crops up in the tale: then–assistant attorney general and recent Libertarian Party vice presidential pick William F. Weld, who was given the task of bringing together various agencies for the task force.)

Meese's bill of grievances against the relatively constrained pornography of his day—which he credited in a speech to a report from a federal Commission on Pornography convened the previous year—will sound alarmingly familiar to readers of Douthat and First Things. He asserts "that violence, far from being an altogether separate category of pornography, is involved with almost all of it; that there are empirically verifiable connections between pornography and violent sex-related crimes; that the pornography industry is a brutal one that exploits and often ruins the lives of its 'performers' as well as its consumers, and that the 'performers' often include abused children and people plied with hard drugs; that whether or not it is directly imitated by those who consume it, pornography has a deleterious effect on what its consumers view as normal and healthy."

The effort was, in some sense, successful. By 1990, the Department of Justice had managed to use obscenity statutes to force seven national porn distributors out of business. But the decades that followed were boom times for porn as the industry moved into new forms of distribution, so the success was far from permanent.

In a rare moment of sanity in 2011, the Justice Department shuttered what had come to be known as the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, resulting in the delightful Politico headline "Holder accused of neglecting porn" and a harrumph from peeved conservatives, who vowed to reverse the Obama administration's decision as soon as they could.

In December, four Republican congressmen wrote a letter to Attorney General William Barr asking his Justice Department to do just that by prioritizing obscenity prosecutions.

"The Internet and other evolving technologies are fueling the explosion of obscene pornography by making it more accessible and visceral," they wrote. "This explosion in pornography coincides with an increase in violence towards women and an increase in the volume of human trafficking as well as child pornography. Victims are not limited to those directly exploited, however, and include society writ large."

Like herpes, the war on porn flares up when the body politic is compromised or stressed. Both in the 1980s and today, cherry-picked social science write-ups purposely conflate "addicts" and users, assert connections between porn and violence at a time of increasing porn consumption and decreasing violence, and offer terrifying but unsubstantiated stories about brain damage and erectile dysfunction in the nation's young men. Such coverage fuels the porn panic even as the predicted hairy-palmed decline of the U.S. fails to materialize.

The proposed crackdown fits nicely with the nationalist agenda, which is focused—as nationalists tend to be—on purity. As has too often been the case historically, a campaign for moral purity can slide awfully smoothly into efforts to preserve ethnic purity, as Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown documents in her cover story on the current panic over Asian-run massage parlors.

In his 1987 speech, Meese was careful to limn the distinction between pornography and obscenity, acknowledging that only the latter is subject to prosecution per the Supreme Court's clear instruction.

By contrast, at the end of 2019, Reason's Damon Root was compelled to publish a basic explainer about the First Amendment protections afforded to material that fails the three-pronged Miller test of obscenity. Too many would-be porn banners have simply ignored the legal guardrails the Court provided.

The porn-banning conservatives, though newly impatient with their former allies on the libertarian side of the spectrum, are often the same folks who were quite recently willing to fight bans on smoking, extra-large sodas, and trans fats to the death, and who would never entertain a return to alcohol prohibition.

There are people on the left, of course, who would forbid porn along with the rest of that list and much more as well, and Catholic writer Sohrab Ahmari would happily make common cause with them: "Conservatives must partner with anti-porn feminists. We won't agree on everything, but imagine how powerful such an alliance could be," he tweeted in December.

The utterly unfunny joke, of course, is that we don't need to imagine such an alliance. It was indeed a powerful force in 1980s politics, with rhetoric crafted by feminists Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon furnishing talking points for Reagan and Meese. In 1984, legislation defining pornography as a violation of women's civil rights was passed with the support of conservatives on the Indianapolis city council and signed into law by a Republican mayor. (It was later struck down in the courts.)

Conservative firebrand Phyllis Schlafly borrowed from Dworkin in her 1987 book Pornography's Victims: "Those who become addicted crave more and more bizarre and more perverted pornography, and become more callous toward their victims. Pornography changes the perceptions and attitudes of men toward women, individually and collectively, and desensitizes men so that what was once repulsive and unthinkable eventually becomes not only acceptable but desirable. What was once fantasy becomes reality. Thus conditioned and stimulated by pornography, the user seeks a victim."

Douthat has noted that porn is "a product," which he helpfully defines as "something made and distributed and sold, and therefore subject to regulation and restriction if we so desire."

"We are rightfully skeptical of government overreach, but I think we take that skepticism so far that we're skeptical of even using political power when we have it for ends that we think are valuable," Hillbilly Elegy author and conservative golden boy J.D. Vance explained in a podcast episode taped following a July conference on national conservatism that brought together the new movement's leading lights. "And I do think that we have to get over that, and we have to recognize that when people entrust us with political power to solve problems we should at least try to solve them." Suffice it to say that in political rhetoric, as in pornography, everything before the but should be ignored.

To do as Ahmari wishes and "fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good" will not eliminate vice, nor will it eliminate the production and consumption of porn. As with all prohibitions, a ban would discourage generally law-abiding and nonproblematic users while driving more committed or addicted users to darker places to find what they want. Meanwhile, more committed producers, taking on more risk, would likely produce more outré content. The new war on porn is a dangerous symptom of a recurring delusion on both the left and the right that men can be reshaped by the state into better versions of themselves.

Check also Pornography Use: What Do Cross-Cultural Patterns Tell Us? David L. Rowland, Dudbeth Uribe. In: Cultural Differences and the Practice of Sexual Medicine pp 317-334. January 28 2020.

And Behind Closed Doors: Individual and Joint Pornography Use Among Romantic Couples. Brian J. Willoughby & Nathan D. Leonhardt. The Journal of Sex Research, Volume 57, 2020 - Issue 1, Pages 77-91.

The Prevalence of Paraphilic Interests in the Czech Population: Preference, Arousal, the Use of Pornography, Fantasy, and Behavior. Klára Bártová et al. The Journal of Sex Research, Jan 9 2020.

Life: Seen as more satisfying, more meaningful, & characterized to a greater extent by more intense positive & negative emotions when reflecting on life in general than when reflecting on daily life in real time

Global reports of well-being overestimate aggregated daily states of well-being. David B. Newman,Norbert Schwarz &Arthur A. Stone. The Journal of Positive Psychology , Feb 5 2020.

ABSTRACT: Researchers can characterize people’s well-being by asking them to provide global evaluations of large parts of their life at one time or by obtaining repeated assessments during their daily lives. Global evaluations are reconstructions that are influenced by peak, recent, and frequently occurring states, whereas daily reports reflect naturally occurring variations in daily life. The present research compared the averages of individual global evaluations and corresponding aggregated daily states from an ordinary two-week period and used a range of well-being measures (life satisfaction, meaning in life, and affect) and related constructs (searching for meaning in life and nostalgia). Across all measures, global reports were significantly higher than aggregated daily states. That is, life is considered more satisfying, more meaningful, and is characterized to a greater extent by more intense positive and negative emotions when reflecting on life in general than when reflecting on daily life in real time.

KEYWORDS: Well-being, daily diary, ecological validity, global evaluations, emotion

Watching eyes do not stop dogs stealing food: evidence against a general risk-aversion hypothesis for the watching-eye effect

Watching eyes do not stop dogs stealing food: evidence against a general risk-aversion hypothesis for the watching-eye effect. Patrick Neilands, Rebecca Hassall, Frederique Derks, Amalia P. M. Bastos & Alex H. Taylor. Scientific Reports volume 10, Article number: 1153. January 24 2020.

Abstract: The presence of pictures of eyes reduces antisocial behaviour in humans. It has been suggested that this ‘watching-eye’ effect is the result of a uniquely human sensitivity to reputation-management cues. However, an alternative explanation is that humans are less likely to carry out risky behaviour in general when they feel like they are being watched. This risk-aversion hypothesis predicts that other animals should also show the watching-eye effect because many animals behave more cautiously when being observed. Dogs are an ideal species to test between these hypotheses because they behave in a risk-averse manner when being watched and attend specifically to eyes when assessing humans’ attentional states. Here, we examined if dogs were slower to steal food in the presence of pictures of eyes compared to flowers. Dogs showed no difference in the latency to steal food between the two conditions. This finding shows that dogs are not sensitive to watching-eyes and is not consistent with a risk-aversion hypothesis for the watching-eye effect.


The latency to approach the food was recorded in both the ‘Go’ and ‘Leave’ trials. Latency was timed from the point that the owner gave the command until the dog had eaten the food. An additional coder, blind to condition, coded the approach latency for 40% of the sample. The high intra-class correlation (ICC = 0.99) indicates excellent levels of agreement between coders. To analyse the data, we constructed several mixed-effects Bayesian ANOVA models. The factors included in these models were Trial Type (Leave vs Go), Condition (Eye vs Flower), and a Trial Type*Condition interaction. Due to the repeated-measures aspect of the design (all dogs took part in both a ‘Go’ and ‘Leave’ trial), participant was included as a random effect in all models. Each model was compared to a null model, which only contained participant as a random effect. Additionally, an analysis of effects was carried out to determine the inclusion BF for each individual factor. Inclusion BFs are calculated by comparing the fit of models containing the factor against the fit of models not containing that factor. BFincl > 3 indicate that including a factor substantially increases model fit while BFincl < 0.333 indicates a factor substantially decreases model fit. Each model was constructed with objective priors of prior width (r) = 1 for fixed effects and r = 0.5 for random effects.
As the extent to which humans attended to images of eyes appeared to affect their likelihood of showing the watching-eye effect21, we re-ran this analysis but included the proportion of time that the dogs looked at the picture as a covariate for each model. Each model was compared to a null model which contained participant as a random effect and proportion of time looking at the picture as a covariate. Again, models were constructed with objective priors of r = 1 for fixed effects and r = 0.5 for random effects.
Additionally, in order to specifically get at our comparison of interest, we compared the ‘Leave’ latency in both conditions after adjusting for differences in individual dogs’ approach speed. This adjustment was made by subtracting the ‘Go’ latency from the ‘Leave’. If the dogs display the watching-eye effect, we would predict that the adjusted latency would be higher in the eyes condition than in the flowers condition. Comparisons between the adjusted ‘Leave’ latencies were analysed using a Bayesian independent-samples t-test. The prior distribution for the alternative hypothesis was a Cauchy half-distribution, centred on an effect size of 0, with r = 0.707. All analyses were carried out using JASP (JASP team, 2019.) This study design was pre-registered ( It should be noted using the Go trial as a baseline to adjust the dogs’ Leave latencies meant it was necessary to have the owners give the ‘Go’ command on the same trial. Whilst this means that it is impossible to fully disentangle the effect of the command on the dogs’ latency to approach food from order effect, we concluded that the extreme implausibility that dogs would approach food slower on a 2nd trial after being able to take it without punishment in the previous trials made this a worthwhile trade-off.

Preparation hypothesis: Women’s indiscriminate genital responses do not indicate or necessarily promote sexual interest & motivation, but rather prepare the vaginal lumen for possible sexual activity & therefore prevent injuries

The Empirical Status of the Preparation Hypothesis: Explicating Women’s Genital Responses to Sexual Stimuli in the Laboratory. Martin L. Lalumière, Megan L. Sawatsky, Samantha J. Dawson & Kelly D. Suschinsky. Archives of Sexual Behavior, February 5 2020.

Abstract: Research conducted in our laboratory and in other laboratories has revealed that (1) women’s genital responses to visual and auditory stimuli are strongly affected by the presence of sexual cues, but that (2) specific sexual cues (e.g., gender of actors, the presence of sexual violence) often have little impact on the magnitude of the responses—that is, similar genital responses are observed to very different sexual stimuli. In addition, (3) women’s genital responses do not strongly correspond with self-reported sexual partner and activity preferences, or (4) with self-reported sexual arousal during the presentation of sexual stimuli. Taken together, these facts represent a puzzle, especially considering that men’s genital responses are highly affected by specific sexual cues and strongly correspond to stated preferences and self-reported sexual arousal. One hypothesis to explain female low cue-specificity and low concordance (relative to men) is the preparation hypothesis: Women’s indiscriminate genital responses serve a protective function. That is, they do not indicate or necessarily promote sexual interest and motivation, but rather prepare the vaginal lumen for possible sexual activity and therefore prevent injuries that may occur as a result of penetration. We review evidence for and against this hypothesis. We conclude that the evidence is favorable but not entirely convincing, and more work is required to reach a firm conclusion. We offer directions for future research.

Sexual Chemosignals: Evidence that Men Process Olfactory Signals of Women’s Sexual Arousal

Sexual Chemosignals: Evidence that Men Process Olfactory Signals of Women’s Sexual Arousal. Arnaud Wisman & Ilan Shrira. Archives of Sexual Behavior, February 5 2020.

Abstract: Research suggests that humans can communicate emotional states (e.g., fear, sadness) via chemosignals. However, thus far little is known about whether sexual arousal can also be conveyed through chemosignals and how these signals might influence the receiver. In three experiments, and a subsequent mini meta-analysis, support was found for the hypothesis that men can process the scent of sexually aroused women and that exposure to these sexual chemosignals affect the subsequent perceptions and sexual motivation of men. Specifically, Experiment 1 revealed that men evaluate the axillary sweat of sexually aroused women as more attractive, compared to the scent of the same women when not sexually aroused. In addition, Experiment 2 showed that exposure to sexual chemosignals increased the men’s sexual arousal. Experiment 3 found support for the thesis that exposure to sexual chemosignals would increase sexual motivation. As predicted, men devoted greater attention to and showed greater interest in mating with women who displayed sexual cues (e.g., scantily dressed, in seductive poses). By contrast, exposure to the sexual chemosignals did not alter males’ attention and mating interest toward women who displayed no sexual cues. It is discussed how sexual chemosignals may function as an additional channel in the communication of sexual interest and how contextual factors can influence the dynamics of human sexual communication.

General Discussion

The present studies provide support for the hypothesis that men are sensitive to olfactory signals of sexual arousal released by women. Overall, Experiments 1–3 and a subsequent mini meta-analysis found that men evaluated the scent of sexually aroused women as relatively more attractive. Experiment 2 showed that these sexual chemosignals increased men’s self-reported sexual arousal. Finally, Experiment 3 found support for the hypothesis that the sexual chemosignals increased men’s attention to and interest in women who displayed sexual cues. Specifically, men spent relatively more time looking at women who displayed sexual cues, and were more motivated to mate with them. Taken together, the current findings are among the first to show that that women’s sexual arousal led to the release of a distinctive scent that increases men’s sexual motivation.
These findings are consistent with numerous studies, showing that emotional states (e.g., fear, disgust, sadness) produce olfactory signals that orient nearby recipients to the immediate environment and sensitize them to emotionally consistent cues (de Groot et al., 2012; Gelstein et al., 2011; Pause, 2012; Zhou & Chen, 2008). Sexual arousal in particular is both socially and fitness-relevant states, and there are clear interpersonal benefits to its communication for both the sender and the recipient, such as the signaling and detection of mating opportunities, as well as synchronizing mating behavior between partners (Schaller, Park, & Kenrick, 2007). The current research expands on the existing literature by showing that olfactory messages may serve as an additional channel of communication between humans, and in relevant mating contexts, sexual chemosignals may be released along with corresponding visual and auditory expressions of sexual interest to produce a stronger overall signal.
Interestingly, recent research by Hoffmann (2019) also found support for the thesis that men can process the scent of sexually aroused women. Specifically, men were exposed to axillary sweat (collected from women who were sexually aroused vs. not aroused) while the men listened to erotic stories, and the findings showed that the sexual scents elicited greater genital arousal in the men. However, this effect was only detected in response to female scents collected during the luteal phase of their cycle, but not their follicular phase. In contrast to the current studies, Hoffmann (2019) did not find an effect of female scent on men’s self-reported sexual arousal and sexual interest. Those results may have diverged from the findings reported here because of several procedural differences between the two research paradigms. Notably, in our experiments, the scent samples were collected and presented to recipients under different conditions. For instance, the female scent donors in our studies briefly exercised at the start of the experiment to create a similar base rate of physiological arousal in both conditions, in order to control for physiological arousal that is also elevated during sexual arousal. Additionally, in Experiments 2 and 3, men’s sexual arousal was assessed after exposing them to a block of multiple scent samples from either scent condition, rather than each time after exposure to one scent sample. Finally, the current experiments did not present male recipients with any additional sexual stimuli (i.e., an erotic story) in conjunction with the chemosensory primes (Hoffmann, 2019). Whether or not any of these factors contributed to the different findings is an important empirical question that deserves future investigation.
Most studies have examined emotional chemosignals secreted by the axillary regions because they are dense with apocrine glands that produce sweat in response to activation of the sympathetic nervous system (de Groot, Semin, & Smeets, 2014). However, apart from perspiration, there are other volatile body fluids (e.g., urine, sperm, lacrimal fluid) that likely play roles in olfactory signaling (Pause, 2012). For instance, research has shown that exposure to scents from the vulvar area (collected during the periovulatory phase) can increase testosterone secretion and sexual interest in men (Cerda-Molina et al., 2013). In light of the current findings, it would therefore be worth testing whether women’s sexual arousal level moderates men’s responses to scents from the vulvar area.
Additionally, it would be interesting to examine the influence of the context in which men are exposed to female scents. For example, as mentioned earlier, some research paradigms have primed a sexual context when exposing recipients to the scent stimuli (Alves-Oliveira et al., 2018; Hoffmann, 2019). That is, male scent recipients listened to an erotic story or watched audiovisual stimuli (Alves-Oliveira et al., 2018) during exposure to the scents, before measuring the men’s sexual arousal. Thus, men’s reactions to the sexual scents in these studies were always a product of both the olfactory and audiovisual stimuli. In contrast, our experiments showed that the olfactory stimuli alone can elicit a sexual response in recipients, in the absence of a conceptually similar prime in a different sensory modality. Although our findings highlight that sexual chemosignals alone can prime male sexual motivation, it is unclear whether additional sexual priming via different sensory modalities can elicit stronger sexual responses in men. Thus, future research may wish to further investigate the role of priming multiple sensory modalities on how recipients are influenced by sexual chemosignals.
The current research is not without limitations. Although the indices of sexual arousal and sexual motivation used in Experiments 2 and 3 established that men respond to female chemosignals, future work would do well to examine a wider range of measurements of subjective and physiological sexual arousal (e.g., Ciardha, Attard-Johnson, & Bindemann, 2018; Janssen, Prause, & Geer, 2007; Kukkonen, Binik, Amsel, & Carrier, 2007; Laws, 2009; McPhail et al., 2019). In addition, while our studies did not take the donors’ menstrual cycle into account, the recent findings of Hoffmann (2019) highlight that there is scope to further investigate the interaction between menstrual cycle phase and women’s axillary chemosignals, and the influence of these signals on male sexual arousal (see Hoffmann, 2019, for a full discussion of the results). Additionally, future research in chemosignal research would benefit from considering procedural differences in order to understand which factors tend to enhance and mitigate the effects of sexual chemosignals on recipients (Pause, 2012). Moreover, it is perhaps worth considering how sexual arousal chemosignals interact with individual factors we did not specifically examine, such as testosterone levels (Gangestad, Thornhill, & Garver-Apgar, 2010; Thornhill & Gangestad, 1999), or individual differences in disgust sensitivity (Haidt, McCauley, & Rozin, 1994; Stevenson, Case, & Oaten, 2011). Finally, future work could include a wider range of measures to monitor the emotions of the scent donors and the scent recipients during the experiment (de Groot et al., 2015b; Mitchell, DiBartolo, Brown, & Barlow, 1998).
Consistent with the growing evidence that emotional states can be communicated through scent, our findings provide evidence that humans can signal and process olfactory signals of sexual arousal. Importantly, the results showed that perceiving these sexual chemosignals alters the scent receiver’s sexual arousal and their interest and preference for potential mates. Informed by the present findings, we can envision a dynamic exchange of olfactory signals that, combined with corresponding visual and auditory expressions, are communicated between men and women during mating encounters. These encounters may thus entail more than meets the eye and we hope that the current findings encourage further research to examine the role of sexual olfactory signals in human communication.