The Effects of Erotica and Dehumanizing Pornography in an Online Interactive Environment
 
Student Researcher

Sriram Kalyanaraman (PhD Student)
Chad Mahood (MA Student)

Faculty supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar

For a complete report of this research, see:

Mahood, C., Kalyanaraman, S., & Sundar, S. S. (2000, August). The effects of erotica and dehumanizing pornography in an online interactive environment. Paper presented to the Communication Theory & Methodology division at the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), Phoenix, AZ.

Introduction

This study attempted to examine the interaction between low vs. medium vs. high interactivity and erotica vs. dehumanizing pornography and it's relationship to sexual callousness, violence toward women, and sexual conservatism. The dialogue view and the contingency view of interactivity were used as the theoretical frameworks for the study. The dialogue view holds that interactivity creates a feeling of dialogue or mutual discourse between sender and receiver. The contingency view however holds that the initial exchange between the original media source and the receiver affects all later exchanges. Neither the dialogue nor the contingency views of interactivity had been applied to Internet pornography.

Hypotheses

H1: Exposure to dehumanizing pornography should lead to more sexual callousness, more acceptance of violence towards women, and less sexual conservatism than will exposure to erotica pornography.

H2: Subject reaction to the medium interactivity pornographic websites will be stronger than reactions to the low and high interactivity pornographic websites.

H3a: Exposure to highly interactive dehumanizing pornography, as compared with low and medium interactivity, should increase the negative effect and lead to more sexual callousness, more acceptance of violence toward women, and less sexual conservatism.

H3b: Exposure to highly interactive erotica pornography, as compared with low and medium interactivity, should increase the positive effect and lead to less sexual callousness, less acceptance of violence toward women, and more sexual conservatism.

Method

The study employed a fully crossed 3(low vs. medium vs. high interactivity) X 2(erotica vs. dehumanizing pornography) factorial between-participants design. Ninety-five participants were randomly assigned to one of six experimental conditions. Participants in all conditions surfed through a series of pornographic, political, and on-line shopping websites. They were told that three websites had been randomly pulled from the Internet to represent many different types of Internet content. After exposure to the websites, subjects completed a questionnaire dealing with their opinions of each website as well as their own sex role satisfaction, their level of sexual callousness toward women, the level of sexual conservatism, and their level of acceptance of violence toward women.

Results

H1: Partially supported. Participants exposed to dehumanizing pornography reported as being less sexually conservative than the participants exposed to erotica pornography. However, varying the depiction of pornographic portrayals alone did not result in participants' perceptions regarding sexual callousness or acceptance of violence toward women.

H2: Supported. Participants in the medium interactivity pornographic websites had significantly stronger reactions than participants in the low and high interactivity pornographic websites.

H3a: Partially supported. Participants exposed to highly interactive dehumanizing pornography had significantly more acceptance of violence towards women than participants in the low and medium interactive dehumanizing pornographic websites.

H3b: Partially supported. Participants in the highly interactive erotica pornography rated the positive effects of erotica pornography and less acceptance of violence toward women as significantly higher than the participants in the low and medium interactive erotica pornographic websites.

Conclusion

Findings in this study would seem to support prior research into the effects of traditional pornography. Interactivity, acting as a formal feature served to boost the hedonic valence of both types of pornography. Pornographic images that dehumanize women led to more negative attitudes toward women, but this effect is often times contingent upon the level of interactivity surrounding the displayed content. After exposure to dehumanizing images, all subjects adopted more liberal beliefs concerning sex, but greater interaction caused them also to foster more of a male-oriented satisfaction with their sex role.

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at sss12@psu.edu or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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Media Effects Research Lab at College of Communications, Penn State University