Internet Pornography Use in the Context of External and Internal Religiosity

By Baltazar, Alina; Helm, Herbert W., Jr. et al. | Journal of Psychology and Theology, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview
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Internet Pornography Use in the Context of External and Internal Religiosity


Baltazar, Alina, Helm, Herbert W., Jr., McBride, Duane, Hopkins, Gary, Stevens, John V., Jr., Journal of Psychology and Theology


Past studies have demonstrated an inverse relationship between religiosity and such problem behaviors as crime, delinquency, alcoholism, and substance use. Religiosity may be a protective factor against problem behaviors. Recently, a new problematic behavior has emerged, Internet pornography. Popular Christian literature has suggested that Internet pornography use is common among Christians. However, there have been few research studies examining this issue in Christian populations. This study examined the extent of Internet pornography use among 751 males and females who were attending a conservative Christian university, perceived consequences and benefits of viewing, and the relationship between internal, external and quest religiosity and Internet pornography use. Findings suggest that the majority of males had some involvement in Internet pornography, but regular viewing was significantly lower than has been found in the general population. Internal and external religiosity showed only a weak, though statistically significant, inverse relationship with regular Internet pornography use.

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The Internet has become an increasingly important part of modern life. The Internet can have a number of positive attributes, such as maintaining contact with friends, as well as accessing educational, financial, health, religious, and other information. Along with the Internet's positive attributes, it can also increase the severity and frequency of many current psychosocial problems, including sexually compulsive behavior that may be expressed by viewing Internet pornography (Cooper, Delmonico, Griffin-Shelley, & Mathy, 2004). This easy access to Internet pornography can put the user at risk of sex addiction with all of its associated problems (Cooper, 2002).

Researchers have studied the Internet pornography (also known as cyberporn) phenomenon in different ways, including its relationship with religiosity. Findings have focused on the extent of use and whether religiosity is a protective factor concerning the use of Internet pornography. Findings have been mixed, with some Christian and popular media sources indicating Christians have high use rates of Internet pornography (Statistics and information on pornography, 2007; Evangelicals are addicted to porn, 2007), with the research literature also mixed as to the role of religiosity as a protective factor against Internet pornography use (Abell, Steenbergh, & Boivin, 2006). What has not been studied is whether dimensions of individual religion (external, internal, and quest) have a relationship to the use of Internet pornography.

This study explored the extent of Internet pornography use among men and women attending a conservative Christian University, the perceived benefits and consequences of viewing Internet pornography, the motivation for viewing and the relationship between internal, external, and quest measures of religiosity with Internet pornography viewing. A major goal of this study was to investigate if one or more of various dimensions of individual religiosity have more of a protective factor against the use of Internet pornography.

While the Internet is used to peruse a wide variety of subjects, the most viewed topic on the Internet is sexually explicit material (Cooper, 2004). Researchers have found that there are over 100,000 websites featuring several different kinds of sexual content (Carnes, 2001; Cooper, Boies, Maheu, & Greenfield, 2001). Visits to Internet pornography sites have been increasing over the years with the most popular sites reporting 50 million hits (Worden, 2001). The majority of Internet pornography users appear to do so on a more recreational basis with 43% spending less than one hour per week and 6-10% using more compulsively, spending six hours or more per week engaged in Internet pornography (Cooper, Putnam, Plancho, & Boies, 1999; Cooper, Morahan-Martin, Mathy, & Maheu, 2002; Weisskirch & Murphy, 2004).

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