Homo Consumericus

The nature and nurture of consumption

Are Porn Actresses “Damaged Goods”?

Porn actresses: Higher self-esteem and better quality of life!

In the long-standing debate regarding pornography, those in the anti-porn camp have often proclaimed that porn actresses are “double whammy” victims of sexual aggression (cf. Catherine MacKinnon’s work). Supposedly not only are women degraded, assaulted, and exploited in the porno industry but also many (if not most) of them were victims of childhood sexual abuse. As such, porn actresses are depicted as “damaged goods,” more likely to succumb to substance abuse and to suffer from psychological problems among numerous other ills. In today’s post, I discuss some of the key findings of a recent study that tested this premise. I owe a thank you to Dr. Diana Fleischman whose tweet alerted me to this fascinating study.

Of relevance, I have tackled various porn-related issues in several of my previous posts including whether pornography is detrimental or beneficial to its users, whether it is possible to teach men to prefer “positive erotica” more so than hardcore porn, and sperm motility coupled with the proverbial “money shot”. Those interested in detailed discussions of the evolutionary roots of pornography are invited to read my books The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption, and The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature. Finally, please check out my 2008 article in which I investigated the advertised waist-to-hip ratios of online female escorts across 48 countries.

Returning to today’s topic, in a forthcoming paper published in the Journal of Sex Research and authored by James D. Griffith, Sharon Mitchell, Christian L. Hart, Lea T. Adams, and Lucy L. Gu, the “Damaged Goods” hypothesis is empirically tested. The researchers administered a survey to 177 porn actresses and a matched sample of equal size of non-porn women recruited at various locations (e.g., at a university or an airport). The matching was based on three key demographic variables: age, ethnicity, and marital status. The questionnaire assessed sexual behaviors and attitudes (10 items), self-esteem (Rosenberg’s 10-item scale), the World Health Organization’s metrics to capture quality of life dimensions including physical, psychological, social, environmental, and spiritual components, and finally several instruments to gauge alcohol and substance use. The data analytic objective was to then establish whether the two samples differed on their scores across these various collected measures.

Here are some of the key findings (I am highlighting only those that are most pertinent to the “Damaged Goods” hypothesis):

(1) The two samples did not differ in terms of their likelihood of having been victims of childhood sexual abuse (36.2% and 29.3% across the porn and matched samples; difference was not statistically significant).

(2) Porn actresses yielded higher self-esteem scores than their matched counterparts (p < .001).

(3) On all quality of life dimensions that yielded a statistically significant effect, porn actresses scored higher than their matched counterparts: Sexual satisfaction (p < .05), positive feelings (p < .01), social support (p < .05), and spirituality (p < .001).

(4) While the two groups did not differ on their alcohol use scores, porn actresses were more likely to have tried each of the following ten different substances within their lifetimes: marijuana, hallucinogens, ecstasy, cocaine, heroin, other opiates, methamphetamine, tranquilizers, barbiturates, and other sedatives.  Six of the p-values were less than .001, two were less than .01, and two were less than .05. 

(5) In terms of the extent of use of the various substances/drugs in the past six months, only one yielded a statistically significant effect. Specifically, porn actresses were more likely to have used marijuana (p < .05).

Incidentally, porn actresses started having sex at an earlier age, and had many more sexual partners in their lifetime (porn partners are excluded from this count).

Bottom line: Other than the fact that porn actresses are more likely to have tried a wide range of drugs (possibly a manifestation of a “party” lifestyle), the “Damaged Goods” hypothesis is firmly rejected. If anything, porn actresses scored higher on self-esteem and several quality of life measures!

As a means of perhaps preempting some likely comments, please note that my reporting the findings of this study does not imply that I am a pornographer or that I am a supporter of this career choice! ☺

Please consider following me on Twitter (@GadSaad).

 

Source for Image:

http://bit.ly/SRufqc

 

Gad Saad is Professor of Marketing at Concordia University and author of The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption and The Consuming Instinct.

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