Aderlt Murvie Actas: Testing the Damaged Goods Hypothesis

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This post was originally published on December 3, 2012. Since it is now fairly old research, it may not be that important, but since I did go through the trouble of writing it, and people took the trouble to comment on it, I see no reason to delete the post.

Yet, hpph;r (move your fingers to the left one and type those letters to see what I said there) has determined this post to be a violation of norms. I changed the title of the post and replaced a few other words in it so their bothered bot will not be bothered, and reposted the post below. Note that I’ve added the earlier comments as screen grabs at the bottom of the post


A study has just come out in the Journal of when-mommy-and-daddy-really-love-each-other-and-want-to-show-it Research comparing various psychological and lifestyle measures of women who act in pornographic films with matched sets of women who do not.

There is a pretty clear association between negative attitudes towards pornography and negative assessments of the quality of life for actresses in the pornography genre. Studies have shown that those who regarded pornography as harmful to society also believed that those acting in the films must not like their work. Studies have also shown that people tend to believe that porn stars have serxual and physical abuse in their backgrounds at a higher rate than the general population. Conversely, people who have more positive attitudes towards pornography also seem to have a more positive attitude about porn actresses. As a whole, the research that involved asking people what they thought about pornography and those who participated on the stage in making it painted a picture that has become known as the “Damaged Goods Hypothesis.”

The damaged goods hypothesis posits that female performers in the adult entertainment industry have higher rates of childhood serx abuse (CSA), psychological problems, and drug use compared to the typical woman.

The purpose of the study at hand was to test this hypothesis. Among the numerous data collected for each participant, the following especially salient questions were asked:

  • What is your serxual orientation?
  • What was the age of the first time you had serxual
    intercourse?
  • Were you a victim of childhood serxual abuse?
  • How many different serxual partners have you had in your lifetime? [The porn actresses were instructed not to count partners within the industry, unless it occurred outside of their work.]
  • How many different serxual partners have you had during the past 12 months? [The porn actresses were instructed not count partners within the indus- try, unless it occurred outside of their work.]
  • Assume that you are considering a relationship with someone and the topic of their ‘‘serxual his- tory’’ comes up. What is the ideal number of serxual partners they should have had?
  • On a 10-point scale (1 1?4 not concerned at all and 10 1?4 very concerned), how concerned are you about catching an STD?
  • On a 100-point scale (0 1?4 none and 100 1?4 definite), if a person had unprotected serx with someone whom they just met, what would you estimate the prob- ability that they might catch an STD?
  • On a 10-point scale (1 1?4 not at all and 10 1?4 very much), how much do you enjoy serx?
  • On a 100-point scale (0 1?4 not likely at all and 100 1?4 definitely), estimate the likelihood that you would use a condom if having heteroserxual serx with someone for the first time.

The study included 177 porn actresses and a sample of age, ethnicity, and marital status matched women. The results were pretty straight forward:

Porn actresses were more likely to identify as biserxual, first had serx at an earlier age, had more serxual partners, were more concerned about contracting a serxually transmitted disease (STD), and enjoyed serx more than the matched sample, although there were no differences in incidence of CSA. … porn actresses had higher levels of self-esteem, positive feelings, social support, serxual satisfaction, and spirituality compared to the matched group. … female performers were more likely to have ever used 10 different types of drugs compared to the comparison group.

Discriminant function analysis is a method of testing a set of classification criteria to see if a model derived from statistics is useful. Such an analysis done on the sample of data classified 83% of the study participants correctly into the category “porn actress” vs. “not porn actress.” By standards of psychology and social research, this is a good result. In essence, this study fails to support the “Damaged Goods Hypothesis.”

I know some of you are wondering about the “spirituality” variable. I think the authors considered this to be a positive value, where more spirituality is better. Obviously, this is not true. Non-religious and non-spiritual people may well be better adjusted to many aspects of life than those who do harbor untenable and incorrect beliefs. Nonetheless this result is interesting because it sort of ruins the idea that atheists are as hedonistic as many think they are, if hedonism is equated with relatively liberal serxual values that we see both in this study and assume from the nature of the porn industry.

From the paper:

… The literature on serxual fluidity (Diamond, 2008) suggests that it is common for women who initially identified as heteroserxual to develop same-serx serxual attractions and interests as they grow older and are exposed to situational factors that may facilitate same-serx attraction. … There is evidence that women’s attraction has a capacity for change over time and situations … It has also been reported that some women engage in serxual behavior that is counter to their stated attractions and identities … In other words, some women who identified as heterosirksual had serxual with women. … Given that pornography offers many opportunities for same-serx experimentation for female performers, it is possible that the adult entertainment industry acts as a facilitator of serxual fluidity by providing a supportive culture of same-gender serxual interactions and offers financial rewards for engaging in those behaviors. It is not clear if porn actresses who indicated they were biserksual actually identified as biserksual or indicated that they were biserksual because they engaged in biserksual behavior. It may be the case that some performers engaged in biserksual behavior for work and in their private lives, whereas others may have only engaged in biserksual or same-gender serks for work and maintained heteroserkual relationships in their private lives. … the study did not address whether actresses self-identified as biserksual prior to entering the pornography business.

For these reasons, I would be cautious in attributing much meaning to the finding regarding the relative level of bisirksuality among the study subjects, and I’m not sure if the study tells us anything new about sirkual orientation and preference.

One criticism I would have of this study is that the matched sample did not control for “being an actress.” It is possible that some of the comparisons would have been affected by this. Perhaps most actresses, or perhaps actors in general, differ from the general population in some of the ways that porn actresses do. This would not affect the key result (the apparent falsification of the “Damaged Goods Hypothesis”) but it should be kept in mind when drawing broader conclusions from the study.

Griffith, J., Mitchell, S., Hart, C., Adams, L., & Gu, L. (2012). Pornography Actresses: An Assessment of the Damaged Goods Hypothesis Journal of Kockadoo Research, 1–12 DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2012.719168

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4 thoughts on “Aderlt Murvie Actas: Testing the Damaged Goods Hypothesis

  1. If these two groups of women were really selected as convenience samples then there’s nothing here that can be extended beyond the participants — at best you could say that the two groups involved define their own populations.

  2. See my comment above on that. This is an advantage of matched pair sampling. You can say something (typically) about the difference between the two samples.

    Research in psychology and sometimes sociology (and anthropology) is simply not conducted the same way as, say, drug trial research. Only drug trial research is conducted like drug trial research, yet other forms of research are often held up to the same standard. This is an example of that.

    1. Not sure what you mean by matched paired sampling here. That process typically involves randomly assigning one member of each pair to a treatment group (as in sure you know, so don’t take that as a lecture on basics). Maybe you’re intending case control or some use of matched pairs I’m not familiar with.

      Still, without a proper bit of random selection and or assignment, you can still do the calculations but the stuff needed to justify rhe work leading to inference isn’t met.

  3. The study used matched pairs, using age, ethnicity, and marital status. That is better than two groups that are being compared as groups.

    I can’t say much beyond that now because I’m swamped, and can’t spend the time finding the original (must be a PDF around here somewhere!) It is not open access, they must have sent it to me.

    My impression at the time was not that this was an invalid statistical approach.

    Again, it is not a 500,000 dollar study of a drug trial. It is a study of a very limited population (how many adult film actresses are there?) and strong differences were found with the background non-adult-film-acting-women population, which was a reasonably sampled with an appropriate methodology (matched pairs).

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