Sexual Desire and Subjective Distress among Pornography Consumers


pornography, professional help, sexual desire


Clients are increasingly seeking professional help related to pornography viewing in the digital age. Given distress is a key reason clients seek help, the purpose of this study was to identify variables associated with it. Drawing from recent literature, we examined the roles of solitary sexual desire, moral incongruence, feelings of dysregulation, and shame-proneness in predicting subjective distress among consumers. Surveys were administered through Amazon Mechanical Turk to US adults (n = 559). Structural equation models supported moderated mediation, where the positive relationship between sexual desire and subjective distress was fully mediated by feelings of dysregulation, and the relationship between sexual desire and feelings of dysregulation was moderated by moral incongruence. Moral incongruence was the largest direct predictor of subjective distress, while shame-proneness was not significantly associated with it. This study points to targets for intervention research, reinforces findings that values play an integral role in how individuals interpret their viewing and whether they feel distressed, and suggests that values may impact how individuals interpret their sexual desire. Implications for practitioners are discussed, including the need for person-in-environment assessment and more holistic care than has traditionally been proposed in the sex addiction field.

Original Publication Citation

Brian A. Droubay, Kevin Shafer & Robert P. Butters (2020) Sexual Desire and Subjective Distress among Pornography Consumers, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 46:8, 773-792.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor