Men and women maintain different patterns of pornography use and cybersex use and have differing chances of suffering related declines in the ability to form intimate relationships, according to new findings from a team of Israeli and French researchers.
Current research indicates that men affected by various forms of sex addiction have symptoms that differ considerably from the symptoms typically found in women with sex addiction. In a study published in March 2015 in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, researchers from Israel’s University of Ariel and France’s University Paris Diderot focused on gender differences associated with cybersex consumption and level of craving for pornography use. The researchers also assessed the gender-specific effects of cybersex consumption and pornography use on men’s and women’s abilities to form intimate bonds.
Pornography and Sex Addiction
Broadly speaking, the term pornography applies to any media that depict sexual acts or is intended to produce sexual arousal. However, specific definitions of pornography vary, and not all jurisdictions in the U.S. use the same guidelines to distinguish pornographic material from non-pornographic material. Pornography consumption does not necessarily lead to sex addiction, and many adults view pornographic material without experiencing substantial harm. However, excessive or dysfunctional pornography use is one manifestation of sex addiction, which typically includes symptoms such as an inability to limit the amount of time devoted to sexual acts or sexual thought/fantasies, the use of sexual acts or sexual thoughts/fantasies to avoid coping with everyday problems and exposure to serious personal, social or work-related harm as a result of dysfunctional involvement in sexual acts or sexual thoughts/fantasies.
Current evidence from a team of German researchers indicates that people who consume excessive amounts of pornography may inadvertently trigger lasting, harmful changes in brain function. This is crucially important, since such an alteration in brain function acts as one of the known indicators of all types of diagnosable, non-substance-based behavioral addictions. Doctors can test for the presence of pornography-related sex addiction with screening tools that include the Pornography Craving Questionnaire, which measures the strength of the urge to view pornographic material.
Cybersex and Sex Addiction
The term cybersex applies to any form of sexual expression (including pornography) that relies on modern-day Internet technology. As is true with pornography in general, cybersex involvement does not necessarily lead to the onset of sex addiction. However, as with pornography in general, some cybersex users develop symptoms that indicate the presence of sexually addicted behavior. Cybersex addiction screening tools include the Internet Sex Screening Test, the Cyber-Pornography Use Inventory and the Cybersex Addiction Test.
Are There Gender Differences?
In the study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, the University of Ariel and University Paris Diderot researchers used a project involving 197 men and 75 women to help determine if there are gender-based differences in problematic cybersex consumption and pornography use. Participants in both groups were typically in their mid- to late 20s and frequented Internet sites that feature pornographic material. Each man and woman took the Cybersex Addiction Test, as well as the Pornography Craving Questionnaire. In addition, each man and woman took a questionnaire designed to gauge the ability to engage in functional intimate relationships with others.
After reviewing the results of the three tests, the researchers concluded that men involved in cybersex and pornography use engage in cybersex consumption substantially more often than their female counterparts. They also concluded that men involved in cybersex and pornography use have a significantly higher average craving for pornography consumption than their female counterparts. In addition, the researchers concluded that men involved in cybersex and pornography use are more likely to experience difficulty establishing intimate relationships than their female counterparts.
The researchers found that, regardless of gender, people who frequently engage in cybersex have an overall higher level of involvement in pornography consumption, as well as increased chances of experiencing problems when trying to form intimate bonds with others. Conversely, they also found that people who experience difficulties forming intimate bonds and have high levels of craving for pornography predictably have a high level of involvement in cybersex consumption.
The study’s authors believe that their findings support previously identified differences in the ways in which sex addiction manifests in men and women. Examples of these differences include a tendency among women to experience overlapping symptoms of sex addiction and love addiction (which may or may not have a physical component).