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 19 • 4:00 PM

In Your Own Words: What It’s Like to Get Sued Over Past Debts

Some describe their surprise when they were sued after falling behind on medical and credit card bills.



September 19 • 1:26 PM

For Charitable Products, Sex Doesn’t Sell

Sexy women may turn heads, but for pro-social and charitable products, they won’t change minds.


September 19 • 12:00 PM

Carbon Taxes Really Do Work

A new study shows that taxing carbon dioxide emissions could actually work to reduce greenhouse gases without any negative effects on employment and revenues.


September 19 • 10:00 AM

Why the Poor Remain Poor

A follow-up to “How Being Poor Makes You Poor.”


September 19 • 9:03 AM

Why Science Won’t Defeat Ebola

While science will certainly help, winning the battle against Ebola is a social challenge.


September 19 • 8:00 AM

Burrito Treason in the Lone Star State

Did Meatless Mondays bring down Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples?


September 19 • 7:31 AM

Savor Good Times, Get Through the Bad Ones—With Categories

Ticking off a category of things to do can feel like progress or a fun time coming to an end.


September 19 • 6:00 AM

The Most Untouchable Man in Sports

How the head of the governing body for the world’s most popular sport freely wields his wildly incompetent power.


September 19 • 4:00 AM

The Danger of Dining With an Overweight Companion

There’s a good chance you’ll eat more unhealthy food.



September 18 • 4:00 PM

Racial Disparity in Imprisonment Inspires White People to Be Even More Tough on Crime

White Americans are more comfortable with punitive and harsh policing and sentencing when they imagine that the people being policed and put in prison are black.



September 18 • 2:00 PM

The Wages of Millions Are Being Seized to Pay Past Debts

A new study provides the first-ever tally of how many employees lose up to a quarter of their paychecks over debts like unpaid credit card or medical bills and student loans.


September 18 • 12:00 PM

When Counterfeit and Contaminated Drugs Are Deadly

The cost and the crackdown, worldwide.


September 18 • 10:00 AM

How Do You Make a Living, Molly Crabapple?

Noah Davis talks to Molly Crapabble about Michelangelo, the Medicis, and the tension between making art and making money.


September 18 • 9:00 AM

Um, Why Are These Professors Creeping on My Facebook Page?

The ethics of student-teacher “intimacy”—on campus and on social media.


September 18 • 8:00 AM

Welcome to the Economy Economy

With the recent introduction of Apple Pay, the Silicon Valley giant is promising to remake how we interact with money. Could iCoin be next?



September 18 • 6:09 AM

How to Build a Better Election

Elimination-style voting is harder to fiddle with than majority rule.


September 18 • 6:00 AM

Homeless on Purpose

The latest entry in a series of interviews about subculture in America.


September 18 • 4:00 AM

Why Original Artworks Move Us More Than Reproductions

Researchers present evidence that hand-created artworks convey an almost magical sense of the artist’s essence.


September 17 • 4:00 PM

Why Gun Control Groups Have Moved Away From an Assault Weapons Ban

A decade after the ban expired, gun control groups say that focusing on other policies will save more American lives.


September 17 • 2:00 PM

Can You Make Two People Like Each Other Just By Telling Them That They Should?

OKCupid manipulates user data in an attempt to find out.


September 17 • 12:00 PM

Understanding ISIL Messaging Through Behavioral Science

By generating propaganda that taps into individuals’ emotional and cognitive states, ISIL is better able motivate people to join their jihad.


Follow us


For Charitable Products, Sex Doesn’t Sell

Sexy women may turn heads, but for pro-social and charitable products, they won't change minds.

Carbon Taxes Really Do Work

A new study shows that taxing carbon dioxide emissions could actually work to reduce greenhouse gases without any negative effects on employment and revenues.

Savor Good Times, Get Through the Bad Ones—With Categories

Ticking off a category of things to do can feel like progress or a fun time coming to an end.

How to Build a Better Election

Elimination-style voting is harder to fiddle with than majority rule.

Do Conspiracy Theorists Feed on Unsuspecting Internet Trolls?

Not literally, but debunkers and satirists do fuel conspiracy theorists' appetites.

The Big One

One in three drivers in Brooklyn's Park Slope—at certain times of day—is just looking for parking. The same goes for drivers in Manhattan's SoHo. September/October 2014 new-big-one-3

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