Menus Subscribe Search
porn-digital-keyboard

(PHOTO: DENCG/SHUTTERSTOCK)

Porn Viewing Impacts Attitudes on Women in Workplace

• September 16, 2013 • 4:00 AM

(PHOTO: DENCG/SHUTTERSTOCK)

New research finds people who watch pornography are less likely to support affirmative action for women.

Should women receive preferential treatment in the workplace? Newly published research suggests your attitude toward that complicated issue may be shaped, in part, by whether you indulge in a specific leisure-time activity: Watching porn.

Writing in the Psychology of Women Quarterly, Indiana University researchers Paul Wright and Michelle Funk report people who admitted to watching pornography were less likely to support affirmative action for women in a subsequent interview.

“Prior studies have found that pornography viewers are more likely to hold a variety of antisocial attitudes towards women.”

That equation held true once a variety of factors that could shape one’s view of the issue (including political ideology and religiosity) were removed from the equation. Furthermore, it applied to women as well as men.

“Practically,” the researchers write, “these results suggest that pornography may be a social influence that undermines support for affirmative action programs for women.”

Wright and Funk used data from the General Social Survey, an ongoing look at behaviors, attitudes, and trends. Specifically, they looked at answers given by the 200 members of a GSS panel, who answered series of questions in 2006, 2008, and 2010.

At the 2008 sessions, nearly 24 percent of the men and 13 percent of the women said they had watched a pornographic film during the previous year. Two years later, as part of a follow-up session, the same people were asked, “Are you for or against preferential hiring and promotion of women?”

The results: “Prior pornographic viewing predicted subsequent opposition to affirmative action for women.” While women in the study (like those in previous research) were more supportive of such programs than men, they, too, were less likely to express approval if they had watched porn.

According to the researchers, this suggests “sexual media activate abstract social scripts, which may then be used to inform opinions about social issues”—particularly issues dealing with gender equality.

But why would watching Debbie Does Dallas dampen support for hiring Heidi, or promoting Paula?

“Pornography often presents women as sexual objects deserving of degradation, and even aggression,” the researchers write. “In alignment with these depictions, prior studies have found that pornography viewers are more likely to hold a variety of antisocial attitudes towards women.”

Obviously, someone who thinks of women in broadly negative terms—or sees them primarily as sex objects—is unlikely to support policies designed to facilitate their success in the work world.

Wright and Funk note that there are pornography producers who create egalitarian fare. They add that they don’t support censorship of pornographic material. Rather, they write, the public needs to be educated about how women are depicted in most pornography, and the possible real-world effects of these depictions.

Their hope is that “increased public awareness of the misogyny in pornography and its antisocial effects will lead to social condemnation, stigmatization, and ultimately reduced production and consumption of such fare.”

Tom Jacobs
Staff writer Tom Jacobs is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years experience at daily newspapers. He has served as a staff writer for The Los Angeles Daily News and the Santa Barbara News-Press. His work has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Ventura County Star.

More From Tom Jacobs

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

September 2 • 2:00 AM

Introducing the New Issue of ‘Pacific Standard’

The science of self-control, the rise of biblical counseling, why middle school doesn’t have to suck, and more in our September/October 2014 print issue.


September 1 • 1:00 PM

Television and Overeating: What We Watch Matters

New research finds fast-moving programming leads to mindless overeating.



September 1 • 6:00 AM

Why Someone Named Monty Iceman Sold Doogie Howser’s Estate

How unusual names, under certain circumstances, can lead to success.



August 29 • 4:00 PM

The Hidden Costs of Tobacco Debt

Even when taxpayers aren’t explicitly on the hook, tobacco bonds can cost states and local governments money. Here’s how.


August 29 • 2:00 PM

Why Don’t Men and Women Wear the Same Gender-Neutral Bathing Suits?

They used to in the 1920s.


August 29 • 11:48 AM

Your Brain Decides Whether to Trust Someone in Milliseconds

We can determine trustworthiness even when we’re only subliminally aware of the other person.


August 29 • 10:00 AM

True Darwinism Is All About Chance

Though the rich sometimes forget, Darwin knew that nature frequently rolls the dice.


August 29 • 8:00 AM

Why Our Molecular Make-Up Can’t Explain Who We Are

Our genes only tell a portion of the story.


August 29 • 6:00 AM

Strange Situations: Attachment Theory and Sexual Assault on College Campuses

When college women leave home, does attachment behavior make them more vulnerable to campus rape?


August 29 • 4:00 AM

Forgive Your Philandering Partner—and Pay the Price

New research finds people who forgive an unfaithful romantic partner are considered weaker and less competent than those who ended the relationship.


August 28 • 4:00 PM

Some Natural-Looking Zoo Exhibits May Be Even Worse Than the Old Concrete Ones

They’re often designed for you, the paying visitor, and not the animals who have to inhabit them.


August 28 • 2:00 PM

What I Learned From Debating Science With Trolls

“Don’t feed the trolls” is sound advice, but occasionally ignoring it can lead to rewards.


August 28 • 12:00 PM

The Ice Bucket Challenge’s Meme Money

The ALS Association has raised nearly $100 million over the past month, 50 times what it raised in the same period last year. How will that money be spent, and how can non-profit executives make a windfall last?


August 28 • 11:56 AM

Outlawing Water Conflict: California Legislators Confront Risky Groundwater Loophole

California, where ambitious agriculture sucks up 80 percent of the state’s developed water, is no stranger to water wrangles. Now one of the worst droughts in state history is pushing legislators to reckon with its unwieldy water laws, especially one major oversight: California has been the only Western state without groundwater regulation—but now that looks set to change.


August 28 • 11:38 AM

Young, Undocumented, and Invisible

While young migrant workers struggle under poor working conditions, U.S. policy has done little to help.


August 28 • 10:00 AM

The Five Words You Never Want to Hear From Your Doctor

“Sometimes people just get pains.”


August 28 • 8:00 AM

Why I’m Not Sharing My Coke

Andy Warhol, algorithms, and a bunch of popular names printed on soda cans.


August 28 • 6:00 AM

Can Outdoor Art Revitalize Outdoor Advertising?

That art you’ve been seeing at bus stations and billboards—it’s serving a purpose beyond just promoting local museums.


August 28 • 4:00 AM

Linguistic Analysis Reveals Research Fraud

An examination of papers by the discredited Diederik Stapel finds linguistic differences between his legitimate and fraudulent studies.


August 28 • 2:00 AM

Poverty and Geography: The Myth of Racial Segregation

Migration, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality (not to mention class), can be a poverty-buster.


August 27 • 4:00 PM

The ‘Non-Lethal’ Flash-Bang Grenades Used in Ferguson Can Actually Be Quite Lethal

A journalist says he was singed by a flash-bang fired by St. Louis County police trying to disperse a crowd, raising questions about how to use these military-style devices safely and appropriately.


August 27 • 2:00 PM

Do Better Looking People Have Better Personalities Too?

An experiment on users of the dating site OKCupid found that members judge both looks and personality by looks alone.


August 27 • 12:00 PM

Love Can Make You Stronger

A new study links oxytocin, the hormone most commonly associated with social bonding, and the one that your body produces during an orgasm, with muscle regeneration.


Follow us


Subscribe Now

Your Brain Decides Whether to Trust Someone in Milliseconds

We can determine trustworthiness even when we’re only subliminally aware of the other person.

Young, Undocumented, and Invisible

While young migrant workers struggle under poor working conditions, U.S. policy has done little to help.

Education, Interrupted

When it comes to educational access, young Syrian refugees are becoming a “lost generation.”

No, Smartphone-Loss Anxiety Disorder Isn’t Real

But people are anxious about losing their phones, even if they don’t do much to protect them.

Being a Couch Potato: Not So Bad After All?

For those who feel guilty about watching TV, a new study provides redemption.

The Big One

One third of the United States federal budget for fighting wildfires goes toward one percent of such fires. September/October 2014 big-one-fires-final

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.