Study Shows Link Between Religiosity, Perceived Porn Addiction

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A new study finds that religious people are more likely to think they are addicted to porn than their secular peers.

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Photo: Gueorgui Tcherednitchenko on Flickr

Religious beliefs are linked to self-perceived porn addiction.

In a forthcoming article in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, Grubbs and colleagues found that people who are more religious are more likely to say that they are addicted to pornography. Religious people were less likely to acknowledge pornography use, but among those who admitted to viewing pornography, religious people did not view pornography more, or less, than the non-religious. However, religious people were more likely to think they are addicted to internet pornography.

Self-Diagnosis

Rather than trying to find an objective definition for addiction to internet pornography, Grubbs and colleagues were primarily interested in perceived addiction and allowed the respondents to self-diagnose. Because sexual addiction is hard to define, if it even exists in any form similar to more physiological forms of addiction, the researchers simply asked respondents whether they considered their use of pornography to be compulsive or addictive.

Who They Studied and What They Asked Them

The study included college students from two non-religious universities and one religious university, as well as a sample of the general American population. Religion was measured with an index that combined what respondents said about the importance of religion/spirituality to them and their answers to questions about frequency of religious activities, such as prayer and reading of religious texts. To measure pornography use, they asked respondents how often they viewed pornography in the last six months and how much time they spend viewing it. The researchers assessed addiction with whether or not respondents agreed to statements such as the following: “I believe I am addicted to internet pornography,” “at times, I try to arrange my schedule so that I will be able to be alone to view pornography,” and “I feel ashamed after viewing pornography online.” The researchers also asked other questions about moral disapproval of pornography, self-control, neuroticism, and other controls.

The Results

The results showed that while religiosity did not predict more viewing among users of pornography, it did make people more likely to say they are addicted to pornography. In summary of their results, the authors stated that religiosity predicted “perceived addiction, above and beyond the contribution made by actual use.” They found that the relationship persisted even when they took other factors such as “neuroticism, self-control, and socially desirable responding” into account. Furthermore, they found that more negative moral attitudes toward pornography use predicted perceived addiction and that this relationship helped to explain the relationship between religiosity and addiction.

While the results did not allow the authors to speak definitively about why religion makes people more likely to think they are addicted to pornography, they suspect it is because of the guilt they experience over actions they consider transgressive of their beliefs and values.

Landon Schnabel is a Ph.D. student in sociology with a minor in gender studies at Indiana University. His research focuses primarily on the intersection of gender and sexuality with religion.

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