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SEM & Self-Esteem

The Influence of Sexually Explicit Material on Body Image and Self-Esteem – Kaylee Skoda & Cory L. Pedersen


Previous research has found that images depicted in the mainstream media have a negative influence on self-esteem,
particularly among women. With the ease of accessibility and distribution of sexually explicit material (SEM) in recent years,
due largely to the rise of the Internet, it has been postulated that consumers of SEM may experience reduced self-esteem
in an effect similar to that found in research on exposure to mainstream media imagery. This experimental investigation
explored whether exposure to SEM influenced self-esteem in consumers and whether this effect was comparable with that
of exposure to mainstream media. Male and female participants were randomly assigned to no imagery, mainstream media
imagery, or SEM imagery conditions and asked to report levels of overall global self-esteem, as well as levels of body-specific
and genital-specific self-esteem. Mean scores were significantly lower for female participants relative to males overall, but
exposure to SEM imagery revealed a significant negative effect on body-specific and genital-specific self-esteem among men
only. Implications and limitations of these findings are discussed.

Article published in the journal, Sexualization, Media, & Society, doi: 10.1177/2158244019857341

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