Exploring Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Consequences for Young Women of Exposure to Sexual Content Online
Research suggests that in romantic heterosexual partnerships, male partners’ pornography use is associated with stronger beliefs that women are sex objects, greater female sexual objectification, lower relationship satisfaction, and lower sexual satisfaction for women. However, there is a lack of research on women’s own use of pornography, and its associated psychological consequences. Research also suggests that women’s social media use is associated with lower self-esteem, greater self-objectification, more negative social comparisons, and lower relationship satisfaction. To date, no research has directly explored the psychological consequences of exposure to sexual content on social media specifically, despite the prevalence of sexual content on social media. This study addressed these gaps by exploring women’s exposure to sexual content online via social media and pornography, as well as the associations of this exposure with both intrapersonal and interpersonal outcomes. Specifically, this online survey study tested associations of amount of exposure to sexual content online with self-objectification, social comparisons, self-esteem, relationship satisfaction, and sexual satisfaction, among a sample of 130 young women living in the U.S. with a mean age of 25.46 (SD = 2.70). Further, this study tested whether self-objectification, social comparisons, and self-esteem mediate associations of exposure to sexual content with relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction. Exposure to pornography was associated with less relationship satisfaction, less sexual satisfaction, higher self-esteem, and more negative social comparisons. Exposure to sexual content on social media was associated with greater sexual satisfaction. Neither exposure to pornography nor exposure to sexual content on social media was associated with self-objectification. Self-esteem, social comparisons. and self-objectification did not mediate associations of exposure to sexual media content with relationship or sexual satisfaction. Future research should explore the unexpected findings that exposure to sexual media content in this study was associated with positive outcomes for sexual satisfaction and self-esteem. Specifically, focusing on how women perceive these images may help explain these patterns. Clinicians should explore their clients’ use of pornography when addressing topics related to sexuality and satisfaction, as there may be some negative consequences for women of using pornography. On the other hand, clinicians should also explore the ways their female clients are internalizing and perceiving sexual content online to explore how viewing these images may serve to enhance sexual experiences and self-esteem.
Social psychology|Clinical psychology|Web Studies
Dorman, Stefanie, "Exploring Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Consequences for Young Women of Exposure to Sexual Content Online" (2019). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI27771575.
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