Sex Roles

, Volume 66, Issue 7–8, pp 427–439 | Cite as

Pornography, Individual Differences in Risk and Men’s Acceptance of Violence Against Women in a Representative Sample

  • Neil M. MalamuthEmail author
  • Gert Martin Hald
  • Mary Koss
Original Article


Based on the Confluence Model of Sexual Aggression, we hypothesized that individual differences in risk for sexual aggression moderate the association between pornography use and attitudes supporting violence against women. This hypothesis was in keeping with the findings of a recent meta-analysis which indicated such a positive association between porn use and attitudes. However, in this meta-analysis there was also a high degree of heterogeneity among studies, suggesting the existence of crucial moderating variables. Unfortunately, the available literature included in this meta-analysis did not enable identifying the basis for such moderation. To fully test our hypothesis of individual differences moderation and related hypotheses requires a representative sample. Fortunately, a unique nationally representative sample of U.S. men in any form of post-high school education that we obtained in 1984–85 enabled testing our predictions. Participants had anonymously completed questionnaires that included items pertaining to pornography use, attitudes about violence against women, and other measures assessing risk factors highlighted by the Confluence Model. As predicted, while we found an overall positive association between pornography consumption and attitudes, further examination showed that it was moderated by individual differences. More specifically, as predicted this association was found to be largely due to men at relatively high risk for sexually aggression who were relatively frequent pornography consumers. The findings help resolve inconsistencies in the literature and are in line not only with experimental research on attitudes but also with both experimental and non-experimental studies assessing the relationship between pornography consumption and sexually aggressive behavior.


Pornography Attitudes supporting violence Confluence Model Rape myths 


  1. Abbey, A., Parkhill, M. R., BeShears, R., Clinton-Sherrod, A. M., & Zawacki, T. (2006). Cross-sectional predictors of sexual assault perpetration in a community sample of single African American and Caucasian men. Aggressive Behavior, 32, 54–67. doi: 10.1002/ab.20107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Abbey, A., Jacques-Tiura, A. J., & LeBreton, J. M. (2011). Risk factors for sexual aggression in young men: An expansion of the confluence model. Aggressive Behavior, 37, 450–464. doi: 10.1002/ab.20399.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allen, M., Alessio, D., & Brezgel, K. (1995a). A meta-analysis summarizing the effects of pornography II: Aggression after exposure. Human Communication Research, 22, 256–283. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2958.1995.tb00368.x
  4. Allen, M., Emmers, T., Gebhardt, L., & Giery, M. A. (1995b). Exposure to pornography and acceptance of rape myth. Journal of Communication, 45, 5–25. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.1995.tb00711.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Altman, D. G. (1998). Categorizing continuous variables. In P. Armitage & T. Colton (Eds.), Encyclopedia of biostatistics (pp. 563–567). West Sussex: Wiley.Google Scholar
  6. Altman, D. G. (2005). Categorizing continuous variables. In P. Armitage & T. Colton (Eds.), Encyclopedia of biostatistics (2nd ed., pp. 1–5). West Sussex: Wiley. doi: 10.1002/0470011815.b2a10012.Google Scholar
  7. Bargh, J. A., Raymond, P., Pryor, J. B., & Strack, F. (1995). Attractiveness of the underling: An automatic power-> sex association and its consequences for sexual harassment and aggression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 768–781. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.68.5.768.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Barnes, G., Malamuth, N., & Check, J. (1984). Psychoticism and sexual arousal to rape depictions. Personality and Individual Differences, 5, 273–279. doi: 10.1016/0191-8869(84)90066-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Barron, M., & Kimmel, M. S. (2000). Sexual violence in three pornographic media: Towards a sociological explanation. Journal of Sex Research, 37, 161–169. doi: 10.1080/00224490009552033.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Berkel, L. A., Vandiver, B. J., & Bahner, A. D. (2004). Gender role attitudes, religion, and spirituality as predictors of domestic violence attitudes in white college students. Journal of College Student Development, 45, 119–131. doi: 10.1353/csd.2004.0019.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Boeringer, S. (1994). Pornography and sexual aggression: Associations of violent and nonviolent depictions with rape and rape proclivity. Deviant Behavior: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 15, 289–304. doi: 10.1080/01639625.1994.9967974.Google Scholar
  12. Bogaert, A. F. (2001). Personality, individual differences, and preferences for the sexual media. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 30, 29–53. doi: 10.1023/A:1026416723291.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Boislard, P. M., Poulin, F., Kiesner, J., & Dishion, T. (2009). A longitudinal examination of risky sexual behaviors among Canadian and Italian adolescents: Considering individual, parental, and friend characteristics. Journal of Behavioral Development., 33, 265–276. doi: 10.1177/0165025408098036.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bridges, A., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., Sun, C., & Liberman, R. (2010). Aggression and sexual behavior in best-selling pornography videos: A content analysis update. Violence Against Women, 16, 1065–1085.Google Scholar
  15. Brown, J. D., & L’Engle, K. L. (2009). X-rated: Sexual attitudes and behaviors associated with U.S. early adolescents’ exposure to sexually explicit media. Communication Research, 36, 129. doi: 10.1177/0093650208326465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Brownmiller, S. (1975). Against our will: Men, women and rape. New York: Ballantine.Google Scholar
  17. Burt, M. (1980). Cultural myths and supports for rape. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38, 217–230. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.38.2.217.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Check, J. V. (1985). The hostility toward women scale. Dissertation Abstracts International, 45(12B, Pt. 1), 3993.Google Scholar
  19. Check, J. V. P., & Guloien, T. H. (1989). Reported proclivity for coercive sex following repeated exposure to sexually violent pornography, non-violent dehumanising pornography, and erotica. In D. Zillmann & J. Bryant (Eds.), Pornography: Research advances and policy considerations (pp. 159–184). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  20. Coopersmith, J. C. (2000). Pornography, video, and the Internet. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 19, 27–34. doi: 10.1109/44.828561.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Coopersmith, J. C. (2006). Does your mother know what you really do? The changing nature and image of computer-based pornography. History and Technology, 22, 1–25. doi: 10.1080/07341510500508610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Coopersmith, J. C. (2008). Do-it-yourself pornography—The democratization of pornography. In J. Gernzfurthner, G. Friesinger, & D. Fabry (Eds.), prOnnovation? Pornography and technological innovation (pp. 48–55). San Francisco: Re/Search.Google Scholar
  23. Cowan, G., & Dunn, K. (1994). What themes in pornography lead to perceptions of the degradation of women. Journal of Sex Research, 31, 11–21. doi: 10.1080/00224499409551726.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dean, K., & Malamuth, N. (1997). Characteristics of men who aggress sexually and of men who imagine aggressing: Risk and moderating variables. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 449–455. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.72.2.449.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. DeGue, S., DiLillo, D., & Scalora, M. (2010). Are all perpetrators alike? Comparing risk factors for sexual coercion and aggression. Sexual Abuse: Journal of Research and Treatment., 22, 402–426. doi: 10.1177/1079063210372140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Dietz, P. E., & Sears, A. E. (1988). Pornography and obscenity sold in ‘adult bookstores’: A survey of 5132 books, magazines, and films in four American cities. Journal of Law Reform, 21, 7–46.Google Scholar
  27. Elliott, D. S., & Morse, B. J. (1989). Delinquency and drug use as risk factors in teenage sexual activity. Youth and Society, 21, 32–60. doi: 10.1177/0044118X89021001002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ellis, L. (1988). Theories of rape. New York: Spectrum.Google Scholar
  29. Flood, M. (2009). The harms of pornography exposure among children and young people. Child Abuse Review, 6, 384–400. doi: 10.1002/car.1092.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gangestad, S. W., & Simpson, J. A. (2000). The evolution of human mating: Trade-offs and strategic pluralism. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23, 573–644. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X0000337X.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Geen, R. (2001). Human aggression (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Open University.Google Scholar
  32. Glascock, J. (2005). Degrading content and character sex: Accounting for men and women’s differential reactions to pornography. Communication Reports, 18, 43–53. doi: 10.1080/08934210500084230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Greene, P. L., & Davis, K. C. (2011). Latent profiles of risk among a community sample of men: Implications for sexual aggression. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26, 1463–1477. doi: 10.1177/0886260510369138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hald, G. M. (2007). Pornography consumption—A study of prevalence rates, consumption patterns, and effects. Århus: Fællestrykkeriet for Sundhedsvidenskab, Aarhus Universitet.Google Scholar
  35. Hald, G. M., & Malamuth, N. M, (in preparation). Experimental effects of exposure to pornography: The moderating effect of personality in a random sample of Danish men.Google Scholar
  36. Hald, G. M., Malamuth, N. M., & Yuen, C. (2010). Pornography and attitudes supporting violence against women: Revisiting the relationship in nonexperimental studies. Aggressive Behavior, 36, 14–20. doi: 10.1002/ab.20328.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hall, G. C. N., Teten, A. L., DeGarmo, D. S., Sue, S., & Kari, A. (2005). Ethnicity, culture, and sexual aggression: Risk and protective factors. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73, 830–840. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.73.5.830.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hall, G. C. N., DeGarmo, D. S., Eap, S., Teten, A. L., & Sue, S. (2006). Initiation, desistance, and persistence of men’s sexual coercion. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74, 732–742. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.74.4.732.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kingston, D. A., Federoff, P., Firestone, P., Curry, S., & Bradford, J. M. (2008). Pornography use and sexual aggression: The impact of frequency and type of pornography use on recidivism among sexual offenders. Aggressive Behavior, 34, 341–351. doi: 10.1002/ab.20250 Google Scholar
  40. Kingston, D. A., Malamuth, N. M., Federoff, P., & Marshall, W. L. (2009). The importance of individual differences in pornography use: Theoretical perspectives and implications for treating sexual offenders. Journal of Sex Research, 46, 216–232. doi: 10.1080/00224490902747701.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kjellgren, C., Priebe, G., Göran Svedin, C., & Langstrom, N. (2010). Sexually coercive behavior in male youth: Population survey of general and specific risk factors. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 1161–1169. doi: 10.1007/s10508-009-9572-9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Knight, R. A., & Sims-Knight, J. E. (2003). The developmental antecedents of sexual coercion against women: Testing alternative hypotheses with structural equation modeling. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 989, 72–85. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2003.tb07294.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Koss, M. P., Gidycz, C. A., & Wisniewski, N. (1987). The scope of rape: Incidence and prevalence of sexual aggression and victimization in a national sample of higher education students. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55, 162–170. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.55.2.162.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lanis, K., & Covell, K. (1995). Images of women in advertisements: Effects on attitudes related to sexual aggression. Sex Roles, 32, 639–649. doi: 10.1007/BF01544216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lim, S., & Howard, R. (1998). Antecedents of sexual and non-sexual aggression in young Singaporean men. Personality and Individual Differences, 25, 1163–1182. doi: 10.1016/S0191-8869(98)00101-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lo, V., & Ran, W. (2005). Exposure to Internet pornography and Taiwanese adolescents’ sexist attitudes and behaviors and. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 49, 221–237. doi: 10.1207/s15506878jobem4902_5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Lonsway, K. A., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (1995). Attitudinal antecedents of rape myth acceptance: A theoretical and empirical reexamination. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 704–711. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.68.4.704.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Malamuth, N. M. (1983). Factors associated with rape as predictors of laboratory aggression against females. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 432–442. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.45.2.432.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Malamuth, N. M. (1986). Predictors of naturalistic sexual aggression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 953–962. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.50.5.953.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Malamuth, N. M. (2003). Criminal and non-criminal sexual aggressors: Integrating psychopathy in a hierarchical-mediational confluence model. In R. A. Prentky, E. Janus, & M. Seto (Eds.), Understanding and managing sexually coercive behavior. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (pp. 33–58). New York: New York Academcy of Sciences. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2003.tb07292.x.
  51. Malamuth, N., & Check, J. V. (1981). The effects of mass media exposure on acceptance of violence against women: A field experiment. Journal of Research in Personality, 15, 436–446. doi: 10.1016/0092-6566(81)90040-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Malamuth, N. M., & Check, J. V. (1983). Sexual arousal to rape depictions: Individual differences. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 92, 55–67. doi: 10.1037//0021-843X.92.1.55.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Malamuth, N. M., & Check, J. V. (1985). The effects of aggressive pornography on beliefs in rape myths: Individual differences. Journal of Research in Personality, 19, 299–320. doi: 10.1016/0092-6566(85)90021-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Malamuth, N. M., & Spinner, B. (1980). A longitudinal content analysis of sexual violence in the best-selling erotic magazines. Journal of Sex Research, 16, 226–237. doi: 10.1080/00224498009551079.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Malamuth, N. M., Haber, S., & Feshbach, S. (1980). Testing hypotheses regarding rape: Exposure to sexual violence, sex differences, and the “normality” of rapists. Journal of Research in Personality, 14, 121–137. doi: 10.1016/0092-6566(80)90045-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Malamuth, N. M., Sockloskie, R., Koss, M., & Tanaka, J. (1991). The characteristics of aggressors against women: Testing a model using a national sample of college students. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 59, 670–681. doi: 10.1037//0022-006X.59.5.670.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Malamuth, N. M., Linz, D., Heavey, C. L., Barnes, G., & Acker, M. (1995). Using the confluence model of sexual aggression to predict men’s conflict with women: A 10-year follow-up study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 353–369. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.69.2.353.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Malamuth, N. M., Addison, T., & Koss, M. (2000). Pornography and sexual aggression: Are there reliable effects and can we understand them? Annual Review of Sex Research, 11, 26–91.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Martin, A. F., Vergeles, M. R., Acevedim, V. O., Sanchez, A., & Visa, S. L. (2005). The involvement in sexual coercive behaviors of Spanish college men: Prevalence and risk factors. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 20, 872–891. doi: 10.1177/0886260505276834.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. McKenzie-Mohr, D., & Zanna, M. (1990). Treating women as sexual objects: Look at the (Gender Schematic) male who viewed pornography. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 16, 296308. McKenzie-Mohr0146-16721622961990 doi: 10.1177/0146167290162010.
  61. Milburn, M. A., Mather, R., & Conrad, S. D. (2000). The effects of viewing R-rated movie scenes that objectify women on perceptions of date rape. Sex Roles, 43, 645–664. doi: 10.1023/A:1007152507914.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Murnen, S., Wright, C., & Gretchen, K. (2002). If “boys will be boys,” then girls will be victims? A meta-analytic review of the research that relates masculine ideology to sexual aggression. Sex Roles, 46, 359–375. doi: 10.1023/A:1020488928736.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Newcomb, M. D., & Bentler, P. M. (1988). Consequences of adolescent drug use: Impact on the lives of young adults. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  64. Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2009). Adolescents’ exposure to sexually explicit internet material and notions of women as sex objects: Assessing causality and underlying processes. Journal of Communication, 59, 407–433. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2009.01422.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Schatzel-Murphy, E. A., Harris, D. A., Knight, R. A., & Milburn, M. A. (2009). Sexual coercion in men and women: Similar behaviors, different predictors. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 974–986. doi: 10.1007/s10508-009-9481-y.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Scott, J. E., & Cuvelier, S. J. (1993). Violence and sexual violence in pornography: Is it really increasing? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 22, 357–370. doi: 10.1007/BF01542124.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Seto, M. C., Maric, A., & Barbaree, H. E. (2001). The role of pornography in the etiology of sexual aggression. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 6, 35–53. doi: 10.1016/S1359-1789(99)00007-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Shim, J. W., Lee, S., & Paul, B. (2007). Who responds to unsolicited sexually explicit materials on the Internet? The role of individual differences. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 10, 71–79. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2006.9990.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Spence, J. T., Helmreich, R. L., & Holahan, C. K. (1979). The negative and positive components of psychological masculinity and femininity and their relationships to self-reports of neurotic and acting out behaviors. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 1673–1682. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.37.10.1673.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Sun, C., Bridges, A., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., & Liberman, R. (2008). A comparison of male and female directors in popular pornography: What happens when women are at the helm? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 32, 312–325. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.2008.00439.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Taylor, L. D. (2006). College men, their magazines, and sex. Sex Roles, 55, 693–702. doi: 10.1007/s11199-006-9124-x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Turner, E. L., Dobson, J. E., & Pocock, S. J. (2010). Categorisation of continuous risk factors in epidemiological publications: A survey of current practice. Epidemiologic Perspectives & Innovations, 7. doi: 10.1186/1742-5573-7-9.
  73. U.S. Bureau of Statistics. (1990). Statistical abstract of the United States. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  74. U.S. Bureau of Statistics. (2009). Statistical abstract of the United States. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  75. Vega, V., & Malamuth, N. M. (2007). Predicting sexual aggression: The role of pornography in the context of general and specific risk factors. Aggressive Behavior, 33, 104–107. doi: 10.1002/ab.20172.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Wallmyr, G., & Welin, C. (2006). Young people, pornography and sexuality: Sources and attitudes. The Journal of School Nursing, 22, 290–295. doi: 10.1177/10598405060220050801.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Wheeler, J. G., George, W. H., & Dahl, B. J. (2002). Sexually aggressive college males: Empathy as a moderator in the “Confluence Model” of sexual aggression. Personality and Individual Difference, 33, 759–776. doi: 10.1016/S0191-8869(01)00190-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Williams, K. M., Cooper, B. S., Howell, T. M., Yuille, J. C., & Paulhus, D. L. (2009). Inferring sexually deviant behavior from corresponding fantasies: The role of personality and pornography consumption. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 36, 198–222. doi: 10.1177/0093854808327277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Winick, C. (1985). A content analysis of sexually explicit magazines sold in an adult bookstore. Journal of Sex Research, 21, 206–210. doi: 10.1080/00224498509551259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Wright, P. J., Malamuth, N. M., & Donnerstein, E. (2011). Research on sex in the media: What do we know about effects on children and adolescents. In D. Singer & J. Singer (Eds.), Handbook of children and the media (2nd ed.) (pp. 273–302). Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
  81. Ybarra, M. L., & Mitchell, K. (2005). Exposure to Internet pornography among children and adolescents: A national survey. Cyberpsycholoy Behavior, 8, 473–486. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2003.10.012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Ybarra, M. L., Mitchell, K. J., Hamburger, M., Diener-West, M., & Leaf, P. J. (2011). X-rated material and perpetration of sexually aggressive behavior among children and adolescents: Is there a link? Aggressive Behavior, 37, 1–18. doi: 10.1002/ab.20367.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Zillmann, D. (1989). The effects of prolonged consumption of pornography. In D. Zillmann & J. Bryant (Eds.), Pornography: Research advances and policy considerations (pp. 127–158). Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  84. Zurbriggen, E. L. (2000). Social motives and cognitive power–sex associations: Predictors of aggressive sexual behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 559–581. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.78.3.559.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Neil M. Malamuth
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Gert Martin Hald
    • 2
  • Mary Koss
    • 3
  1. 1.Departments of Communication and PsychologyUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.University of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  3. 3.University of ArizonaTusconUSA
  4. 4.Department of CommunicationUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

Personalised recommendations