Psychology and pornography: some reflections

Barker, Meg (2014). Psychology and pornography: some reflections. Porn Studies, 1(1-2) pp. 120–126.



This paper provides a brief overview of mainstream psychological research on pornography, which has mainly focused on determining the effects of pornography on human attitudes and behaviour and the possible mechanisms for these effects. The methodological problems with such research are well known in the field of porn studies. Rather than using this as a reason simply to dismiss the contribution of psychology, attention to methods and analyses may be one thing that psychology can particularly offer to work in this area going forward. Just as it is important that we recognize that we are studying pornographies (plural), there are a number of psychologies beyond the classic experimental behaviourist psychology with which people are generally familiar. This paper will argue that critical and applied psychologies, in particular, have much to contribute, with their ability to analyze the ways in which pornographies, sex and gender are constructed, and to hold on to the lived experiences of those engaging with pornographies. Like the rather more conventional forms of experimental psychology, critical and applied psychologies have the potential to offer a useful ‘signal jam’ to polarized debates in this area.

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