The Relationship Between Pornography Use and Sexual Offending: A Review of Current Findings and Future Directions

Linden B Loutzenhiser, Fordham University


Despite over 50 years of research, limited evidence exists regarding a connection between pornography and sexual offending, which individuals are most likely to be affected by pornography, and the broader implications of this relationship (if one exists). Prior meta-analyses have included a range of different methodologies but have not isolated the effects of pornography in sex offender samples (Ferguson & Hartley, 2020; Oddone-Paolucci et al., 2000; Wright et al., 2016). This meta-analysis aimed to address this limitation by explicitly examining this purported relationship in samples of admitted or convicted sex offenders. Additionally, this meta-analysis aimed to include several potentially relevant moderator variables that may elucidate the relationship between pornography and sex offending. A systematic search of the empirical literature was conducted using several databases (e.g., PsychINFO, PsychNET, ProQuest, and PubMed/MEDLINE) and Boolean search terms related to pornography use and sex offending. Abstracts were screened for inclusion criteria and appropriate studies were full text reviewed for inclusion. The present study utilized standards from the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement to ensure appropriate reporting for meta-analysis (Moher et al., 2009). This included coding by two independent raters to assess reliability. The coding procedure demonstrated heterogeneity across studies in the identification of the sex offender group (i.e., self-reported versus convicted), the control group (i.e., community versus general offender), and pornography outcomes. As a result, several aspects of pornography use were unable to be explored due to only a small number of studies reporting any data or studies reporting insufficient data (e.g., only reporting the mean and group size, without standard deviation).Using Robust Variance Estimation, the present study found few significant effects and small effect sizes when examining the composite effect and moderator analyses for the relationship between pornography use and sex offending, which is consistent with past research (Ferguson & Hartley, 2009; Murrin & Laws, 2009; Wright et al., 2016). The composite model demonstrated a small, insignificant effect for the relationship between pornography use and sex offending. A limited number of moderator analyses were conducted due to few studies including the necessary information to draw meaningful comparisons and showed that consideration of sex offender age group (e.g., adolescent versus adult) and identification of sex offenders (e.g., self-reported versus convicted) may be important for future research. The current review recommends increased use of psychometrically strong instruments to measure pornography use and sex offending behavior, as well as utilizing the Confluence Model framework to measure individual differences when comparing sex offender and control groups. This meta-analysis expands on previous conclusions by systematically isolating the relationship between pornography and sex offending (i.e., sex offender groups compared with control groups) and informing the methodology of future research through consideration of standardized measures in assessing pornography use, sex offending, and the relevant individual difference factors that may elucidate this relationship.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology|Criminology|Behavioral psychology

Recommended Citation

Loutzenhiser, Linden B, "The Relationship Between Pornography Use and Sexual Offending: A Review of Current Findings and Future Directions" (2021). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28647488.