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Does watching porn make you more sexist? Depends if you’re a gentleman, study says

After watching hardcore pornography, jerks get more sexist and hostile, while agreeable gents viewing the same material remain agreeable: That's the gist of a new study that explores how consuming porn may affect heterosexual men's attitudes towards women.

In their new paper published in the Journal of Communication, researchers from UCLA and the University of Copenhagen found that exposure to porn only reinforces sexist attitudes among a subgroup of heterosexual men.

They asked 200 Danish men and women aged 18 to 30 about their past pornography consumption. They also looked at their personalities, namely how agreeable they are. (According to the authors, a person low in agreeableness holds more "antagonism, coldness, hostility, suspiciousness, disagreeability, unfriendliness and self-interest.")

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The researchers then showed the 200 respondents porn in a laboratory, afterward measuring their responses to various sexist attitudes. Only the men with low levels of "agreeableness" showed a rise in hostile sexist beliefs after viewing the kinky footage, and even then, it was only a modest rise.

"The study shows the importance of individual differences in research on pornography and underscores that effects of pornography on attitudes may not be the same for everyone," lead author Gert Martin Hald, an associate professor in the department of public health at the University of Copenhagen, said in a release. "The study is important because it may help nuance the view of effects of porn and enable us to better understand for whom adverse effects of porn are most likely and the mechanisms by which such effects occur. This could be used in prevention, education, or clinical interventions."

In research published this spring, this same professor found that porn may not influence teens' sexual behaviour as severely as is often thought.

In this study, the researchers surveyed 4,600 young people aged 15 to 25 in the Netherlands. They asked them about how much porn they watched, their number of sexual partners, whether they'd experienced one-night stands, exchanged money for sex or participated in "adventurous sex" – think threesomes. They also tried to determine how sexually confident, assertive and "sensation-seeking" their respondents were.

The researchers concluded that their subjects' personal dispositions turned out to be a greater influence on their sex lives than the amount of porn they ingested.

Despite the recent findings, some experts still worry about what young women and men may be internalizing as the norm for their sexual experiences thanks to the prevalence of hardcore pornography.

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