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Is Porn’s Bad Reputation Overstated?

The effects of pornography on its viewers may not be as negative as widely thought, according to new research from the University of Montreal.

The study, which looks at the impact of porn on men, finds that the images do not change men’s perception of women and do not impact their relationships. (The research is being funded by the Quebec-based Interdisciplinary Research Center on Family Violence and Violence Against Women).

“Those who could not live out their fantasy in real life with their partner simply set aside the fantasy,” says Simon Louis Lajeunesse, the professor overseeing the study. “The fantasy is broken in the real world and men don't want their partner to look like a porn star.”

The study is likely to have its detractors. It’s still in the early stages (Lajeunesse has only

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interviewed 20 heterosexual university students) and relies heavily on the honesty of its subject’s responses. To date, though, not one subject has shown a pathological sexuality, it reports.

“In fact, all of their sexual practices were quite conventional,” says Lajeunesse.

Beyond the psychological effects of porn, the research gives a good look at the changing consumption habits of adult entertainment consumers.

The study found that 90 percent of pornography today is consumed via the Internet. Only 10 percent of the respondents said they got materials from video stores.

That’s consistent with what adult entertainment companies have found. Large studios, such as Vivid and Digital Playground, are focusing as heavily on their online offerings as they are on big budget releases these days. And porn’s top actresses all have pay sites to take advantage of online demand – most charging $30 per month for access.

More frequently, though, people are bypassing pay sites and drifting toward porn-oriented “YouTube” knock offs, which offer a blend of pirated material and homemade films uploaded by exhibitionists.

The rise of these sites is widely credited as one of the chief reasons for the sharp decline in porn DVD sales.

The study did show longer periods of engagement with adult entertainment than previously thought. Lajeunesse says single men, on average, watch pornography three times a week for 40 minutes. Those who are in committed relationships watch an average of 1.7 times per week for 20 minutes.

Adult film companies assume a much shorter viewing period.

"The average person only watches an adult video for 6 minutes,” says Katy Zvolerin, a spokesperson for Adam & Eve.

The study determined that boys begin to seek out pornographic material at the age of 10. Lajeunesse initially had hoped to conduct the research with men in their twenties who had never seen porn. “We couldn’t find any,” he says.

Lajeunesse believes the early findings of the study cast significant doubt on the common perception that pornography dramatically changes the sexual behavior of those who view it.

“If pornography had the impact that many claim it has, you would just have to show heterosexual films to a homosexual to change his sexual orientation,” he says.