Individuals who often look at photographs of semi-naked women and other forms of soft-core pornography may become desensitized to such images, hold more negative attitudes toward women, and endorse myths about rape, suggests a new study.

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Frequent viewers of soft-core pornography may have less positive attitudes toward women, researchers suggest.

Study co-author Dr. Simon Duff, of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, and colleagues recently presented their findings at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Forensic Psychology (DFP), held in Brighton, U.K.

According to the researchers, previous studies on exposure to hard-core pornography have shown that viewers may be more likely to be involved in sexual offending, sexual deviance, have greater acceptance of rape myths, and have more negative attitudes toward intimate relationships.

However, the team points out that there has been little research on the effects of soft-core pornography on thinking and behavior.

Dr. Duff and colleagues explain that individuals are often exposed to soft-core pornography, such as images of women wearing lingerie for advertising campaigns or pictures of semi-naked women in newspapers.

With this in mind, the team says it is surprising that more research into the effects of soft-core pornography has not been conducted.

For their study, the researchers enrolled 143 participants of an average age of 19 years, of whom around 46 percent were male.

The team set out to investigate how frequency of exposure to soft-core pornography involving images of women – determined by self-reported exposure across different types of media – influences three areas:

  • Sensitivity to soft-core pornographic images
  • Attitudes toward women
  • Acceptance of rape myths.

Compared with participants who had lower exposure to soft-core pornography, those with frequent exposure were less likely to describe the images as pornographic, demonstrating desensitization to the images.

What is more, participants who were desensitized to soft-core pornography were less likely to have positive attitudes toward women and more likely to uphold rape myths.

The researchers admit their findings cannot prove cause and effect, so they are unable to conclude that frequent exposure to soft-core pornography alters attitudes toward women.

“For example, it might be that people who do not hold positive attitudes towards women then seek out soft-core pornography,” notes Dr. Duff.

“However, ” he adds, “there is a relationship between frequency of exposure to soft-core pornography and attitudes towards women and that warrants further exploration.”

If such a link is confirmed, the authors say that increased media regulation and censorship of soft-core pornography involving women could help tackle the problem.

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