Sexually Explicit Media Use by Sexual Identity: A Comparative Analysis of Gay, Bisexual, and Heterosexual Men in the United States

Arch Sex Behav. 2017 Aug;46(6):1763-1776. doi: 10.1007/s10508-016-0837-9. Epub 2016 Oct 5.


Advances in production and distribution of sexually explicit media (SEM) online have resulted in widespread use among men. Limited research has compared contexts of use and behaviors viewed in Internet SEM by sexual identity. The current study examined differences in recent SEM use (past 6 months) by sexual identity among an ethnically diverse sample of 821 men who completed an online survey in 2015. Both gay and bisexual men reported significantly more frequent use of Internet SEM compared to heterosexual men. Although most participants reported viewing SEM at home (on a computer, tablet, or smartphone), significantly more gay men reported SEM use at a sex party or commercial sex venue than either heterosexual or bisexual men. Sexual identity predicted viewing of high-risk and protective behaviors in separate logistic regression models. Specifically, compared to heterosexual men, gay and bisexual men had increased odds of viewing condomless anal sex (gay OR 5.20, 95 % CI 3.35-8.09; bisexual OR 3.99, 95 % CI 2.24-7.10) and anal sex with a condom (gay OR 3.93, 95 % CI 2.64-5.83; bisexual OR 4.59, 95 % CI 2.78-7.57). Compared to gay men, heterosexual and bisexual men had increased odds of viewing condomless vaginal sex (heterosexual OR 27.08, 95 % CI 15.25-48.07; bisexual OR 5.59, 95 % CI 3.81-8.21) and vaginal sex with a condom (heterosexual OR 7.90, 95 % CI 5.19-12.03; bisexual OR 4.97, 95 % CI 3.32-7.44). There was also evidence of identity discrepant SEM viewing as 20.7 % of heterosexual-identified men reported viewing male same-sex behavior and 55.0 % of gay-identified men reported viewing heterosexual behavior. Findings suggest the importance of assessing SEM use across media types and contexts and have implications for research to address the potential influence of SEM on sexual behavior (e.g., investigate associations between viewing condomless vaginal sex and engaging in high-risk encounters with female partners).

Keywords: Internet; Pornography; Sexual identity; Sexual orientation; Sexually explicit media.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Communications Media*
  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data
  • Erotica*
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sex Work
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexual Partners
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities*
  • Sexuality*
  • United States