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Pornography Enthusiasts Are Less Misogynistic Than the Average American Man

New research finds that attendees at an adult expo are more likely to respect working mothers.
A general view of the 2012 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 20th, 2012, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

A general view of the 2012 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 20th, 2012, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Does regular viewing of pornography inspire sexist attitudes? The debate has been raging for decades, but a consensus remains elusive.

The latest evidence comes in the form of a new study that compares "porn superfans" with a representative sample of American males. It finds that the two groups' attitudes toward gender equality are pretty much the same.

The researchers did find one point of divergence, on the idea that women who work can also be good mothers. Pornography devotees were far more likely than the general male public to agree with that non-sexist sentiment.

"Our results call into question some of the claims that porn consumption fosters de facto negative and hostile attitudes towards women," writes a research team led by sociologist Crystal Jackson of John Jay College–City University of New York. The team's work is published in the journal Sociological Review.

Members of the research team attended the 2017 Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas, an annual event where participants have an opportunity to meet their favorite adult film stars face-to-face. The researchers enlisted 294 attendees, all men, to fill out a survey, in which they responded to various statements about gender equality.

Their answers were compared to those of 863 male Americans who participated in the 2016 General Social Survey, which has been tracking the attitudes of Americans on a biannual basis since 1972. The two groups were very similar in their mix of ethnicities, but the Expo attendees were, on average, several years younger than their GSS counterparts.

Comparing the two groups' answers, the researchers found one major point of agreement, and one of disagreement.

"Compared with the national average, porn superfans were just as likely to disagree with the statement that it is much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home, and the woman takes care of the home and family," they write.

In addition, "AEE attendees were over three times more likely to endorse the idea that working mothers can establish as warm and secure relationships with their children as mothers who do not work."

"Thus, results indicate that, compared with the national average, porn superfans are just as likely—or in the case of working women's mothering ability, more likely—to hold gender egalitarian beliefs," they researchers conclude. The finding suggests that "porn cultures do not strengthen a hegemonic masculinity entirely predicated on negative attitudes toward women, as porn critics fear."

This is welcome news, given other recent research showing that pornography consumption is rising. While it's entirely possible that X-rated content shapes young people's views on sexuality in a problematic way, this study adds to the evidence that it does not necessarily turn men into misogynists.