Associations between relational sexual behaviour, pornography use, and pornography acceptance among US college students

Brian J. Willoughby
Jason S. Carroll
Larry J. Nelson
Laura M. Padilla-Walker, Brigham Young University


Pornography use among emerging adults in the USA has increased in recent decades, as has the acceptance of such consumption. While previous research has linked pornography use to both positive and negative outcomes in emerging adult populations, few studies have investigated how attitudes toward pornography may alter these associations, or how examining pornography use together with other sexual behaviours may offer unique insights into the outcomes associated with pornography use. Using a sample of 792 emerging adults, the present study explored how the combined examination of pornography use, acceptance, and sexual behaviour within a relationship might offer insight into emerging adults’ development. Results suggested clear gender differences in both pornography use and acceptance patterns. High male pornography use tended to be associated with high engagement in sex within a relationship and was associated with elevated risk-taking behaviours. High female pornography use was not associated with engagement in sexual behaviours within a relationship and was general associated with negative mental health outcomes.