The Prevalence of Sexually Explicit Material on a Christian Campus

Anna O'Dell
Andrea Christener
Elise Kline

Huntington University


Sexually explicit material has grown in all areas of media: television, books, movies, and on the Internet. In this study, sexually explicit material is defined as any material that is used directly for the purpose of sexual arousal. To test the effects of environment, we measured the prevalence of sexually explicit material within a Christian university campus. Our hypothesis was that the level of sexual material would be lower compared to other universities due to high moral values and that men would have a higher frequency than females in regards to sexually explicit material usage. The variables within our study were depth of faith in an individual, frequency of sexual material viewed, romantic relationship questions, rankings of sexually explicit material, and whether an individual believed they have lost control of their usage of sexually explicit material. We found that the use of sexually explicit material was high in frequency and that morality did not affect that frequency, which opposes our hypothesis. There was significance in gender influencing the frequency of use, which was in line with our hypothesis.


Sexually explicit material, especially pornography, has grown exponentially in popularity with all age groups and has many different influences on people ranging from the way that they treat their significant other, to trouble socializing with others, and to addiction or the loss of control of their behavior (Peter & Valkenburg, 2011). The issue of sexually explicit material affects men and women as well as the young and the old. Religiosity does not necessarily impact the use of sexually explicit material (Morgan, 2011).

This study examined how gender, morality, romantic relationship status, and type of material affect the frequency of use. The assumption regarding sexual explicit material would be that individuals that have a religious background would have less experience with it and a decreased desire to view sexually explicit material. The assumption that is made regarding sexually explicit material in a romantic relationship is that the relationship will or could suffer due to the participation with such material. The assumption regarding male or female is that men would have a higher frequency with sexual explicit material, not only regarding length of time, but also type and degree of usage (Bale, 2011).

Sexually explicit material has been discussed in many churches and the issue has especially been linked to the Catholic Church, along with homosexuality. This issue has become more prominent because it is affected by secularization, movement away from traditional beliefs that are taught within churches, and an emphasis on personal faith growth (Vanderbeke, 2012). It could be expected that many individuals who partake in sexually explicit material and belong to a church would feel guilt, cognitive dissonance, shifting their principles to justify their desire, and less likely to admit their wrongdoing. Are they watching sexually explicit material and hiding it, or is their moral obligation keeping them from partaking in the material (Goodson, McCormick & Evans, 2000; Levert, 2007)?

Individuals are getting married later in life and in some cases not getting married at all; therefore sexual intercourse in the traditional setting is changed or affected. Individuals who are not married would then have to find other ways to release their sexual tensions such as masturbation, in which sexually explicit material could be present. This is a trend that has changed and evolved over the years and could be the explanation as to why sexually explicit material has been and continues to be on the rise. Again this is a response to secularization, where individuals are more career focused than spiritually focused. In the church the belief is to get married young and to have children relatively quick. This is what the church traditionally teaches; when secularization rises those teachings are no longer in the forefront. This could correlate with higher levels of sexually explicit material and sexual interactions even within the church, launching a new trend because surrounding value changes spill into the church (Hunt & Kraus, 2009; Peter & Valkenburg, 2006; Owens, Behun, Manning & Reid, 2012).

Another question that goes along with the impact on a relationship due to sexually explicit material was whether or not the material was intentionally sought or if it was an accidental incident (Jae Woong, Deungwhan, & Paul, 2007). Another issue is the amount of time spent participating in consuming the material and also the degree in which it is taking place (Bale, 2011). An example of this would be if a male is playing a video game where sexual intercourse is taking place between his avatar and another female avatar, which may be seen as acceptable by his partner. However, if he is watching hard porn for several hours at night and masturbating, his partner could see that as unacceptable and mostly likely cause problems in their relationship. 

Sexually explicit material also impacts relationships in expectations of a partner's performance within sexual interactions, such as oral or anal sex, and the creativity and stamina that goes along with those actions. In both men and women who consume sexually explicit material, their sexual expectations have been shown to be loftier than those of men and women who do not take part in sexually explicit material. Additionally, men and women who are in relationships with partners who are exposed to pornography have also reported having low self-esteem and higher self-consciousness in intimate areas compared to those who are in relationships with individuals who do not participate in viewing pornography (Morgan, 2011).

One study found that men and women are both aroused by sexually explicit material in that they both responded to the stimuli and had the greatest response when sexual intercourse was taking place rather than pictures or literature (Peter & Valkenburg, 2011; Vanderbeke, 2012). It has been shown that women desire intimacy and connection, which means they are more likely to participate in an activity involving pornography with the significant partner to enhance the environment and the experience. Men are drawn more to the physical gratification and sexual arousal that is being heightened throughout the course of watching pornography (Morgan, 2011).

Research has examined the use of sexually explicit material and the damage that it can do to an individual's relationship, their mental and emotional expectations, and how damaging it can be spiritually. In researching the prevalence of sexually explicit material, it was expected that findings would show that men had a higher frequency of use of sexually explicit material then females. We also hypothesized that the degree of sexual material on a Christian campus would be relatively low or non-existent due to high moral values.

This topic is significant because sexually explicit material has grown in all areas of media: television, books, and movies and on the Internet. It is hard to correct an issue that is ignored or has little information about it available. Therefore it was hoped that through this research the conversation about sexually explicit material would become more comfortable and less taboo within our university and our Christian community. It is a subject that cannot be ignored any longer because it is a reality; this study examined how prevalent that reality is on campus.

The variable that was of most interest was the depth of faith, referring to whether or not the participants would consider themselves a practicing Christian or not. Another variable was frequency of use, referring to how often the participants intentionally searched for sexual material such as once a day, once a month, etc. Relationship status was of slight importance to the study although not the main focus at this point.

The study examined two main research questions with the first being that males would have a higher frequency than females of intentionally searching for sexual explicit material. In this research question, the independent variable would be gender, with the dependent variable being frequency of use. The second is that the deeper an individual's level of faith is, the lower the level of intentionality or frequency would be. Therefore, if individuals are practicing Christians the assumption would be that they would not intentionally be searching for sexually explicit material. In this research question, religion is the independent variable, with intentionality being the dependent variable.



The sample population was all undergraduate students with different declared majors at a small Mid-Western Christian University.


The researchers developed a survey and edited it several times to improve the order, flow, and wording of the questions. A pilot study was conducted in class but the reliability and validity was unknown, and it was primarily used for feedback on the survey instrument. The survey was focused on personal faith aspect in each individual's life and use, if any, of sexually explicit material. The researchers also included a question about whether or not the participant was in a romantic relationship or not. The estimate of how many participants who received the survey was about 1,200. A total of 276 responses were received of which 241 were complete.


In testing the hypothesis, the researchers sent out an email to all of the students on campus two times, one week apart, with the link to the survey (see Appendix A) on SurveyMonkey, which protected the subjects and the need for all information to be kept confidential. The researchers wanted the respondents to feel comfortable and private taking the survey knowing their answers could in no way be connected to their name.  

Extra credit was offered as an incentive between the professor and the students and we had no knowledge of who gave or received extra credit. A disclaimer was included at the beginning of the survey in order to assure participants that the researchers would not know who they were or the answers they gave (see Appendix A). SurveyMonkey logged the results from each participant who took the survey. The researchers studied each of the sections to compare, develop conclusions, and speculate on implications from the research.


Analysis of data was conducted using SPSS to run T-Tests and Correlation Coefficients. The two areas of anticipated significant findings were gender and frequency and also morality and frequency. Going back to the original hypothesis, it was anticipated that males would have a higher frequency than females. It was also anticipated that practicing Christians would have a lower frequency than non-practicing Christians due to a higher level of conflicting morality.

A significant correlation at the 0.01 level between males and females (Table 1) revealed that males did have a higher frequency of use of sexually explicit material (see Table 2). Therefore our hypothesis was supported. We did not find a significant correlation between the level of practicing Christians and the intentional use of sexually explicit material through using a correlation, which showed the degree of religiosity of an individual had no correlation with frequency of use of sexually explicit material (see Table 2). See also Charts 1-3 in Appendix B.

Table 1

Group Statistics


What is your gender?



Std. Deviation

Std. Error Mean

If so, how frequently have you searched for and used sexually explicit material?











Independent Samples Test


Levene's Test for Equality of Variances

t-test for Equality of Means





Sig. (2-tailed)

Mean Difference

Std. Error Difference

95% Confidence Interval of the Difference



If so, how frequently have you searched for and used sexually explicit material?

Equal variances assumed










Equal variances not assumed










Table 2



Would you consider yourself a practicing Christian?

If so, how frequently have you searched for and used sexually explicit material?

Would you consider yourself a practicing Christian?

Pearson Correlation



Sig. (2-tailed)






If so, how frequently have you searched for and used sexually explicit material?

Pearson Correlation



Sig. (2-tailed)







This study attempted to uncover any relationships between intentionally searching for sexually explicit material and gender as well as morality on the Christian campus of Huntington University. What was discovered was that gender may impact the frequency of searching multiple times for sexually explicit material. The measurements for frequency included once a day, once a week, once a month, multiple times a day, multiple times a week, and multiple times a month with once a month (30% of 82 respondents) and once a week being the highest (23% of 82 respondents). Previous studies have shown that males tend to more frequently search for sexually explicit material and this was again continued in this study. Gender could affect frequency because males tend to be more visual than females and focused on the physical pleasure.

Another finding that was discovered was that respondents professed to being practicing Christians as well as believing that searching for sexually explicit material was wrong. However, those two factors did not affect the frequency of searching for sexually explicit material. This finding implies that respondents who say they practice Christianity and believe searching for sexually explicit material do not necessarily translate their beliefs into action. In regards to this study's hypothesis, it was discovered that what a person believes is not something that is necessarily lived out. For a Christian campus, it would seem that this would be considered hypocritical behavior in the student body. However, respondents did admit that although searching for sexually explicit material was not affected by their faith, it did affect their faith.

One view of college is being a time of exploring different things and discovering "who you are" as an individual, which may have impacted the decision to search for sexually explicit material and continue searching. Even with Internet restrictions on a Christian campus, it is clear from the results that students are able to or can gain access to sexually explicit material easily. This action can be conducted in secret and tends to be a taboo subject, so the widespread use of sexually explicit material may indicate a need for the Christian community to talk about these issues in the open. There was no regard for age or religious background in regards to sexually explicit material being used, and it is likely that if one stumbles on it, they are much more likely to repeat it.

There were a few limitations in regards to the study and one of the primary of those limitations was the failure, due to time constraints, to conduct a comparative study on a secular campus. It would also be beneficial for the results from one Christian campus to be compared to another Christian campus. A change in the survey would be to require participants to answer every question instead of allowing them the ability to leave certain questions blank. One other limitation would be in the wording and direction of the questions, which might have suggested judgment on the part of the researchers. The last limitation would be in defining sexually explicit material because it is a general term and is subject to personal opinion. These were unintended consequences that were discovered through feedback and contemplation of the researchers after the survey was closed.

As is usually the case, it would be beneficial to collect more results and conduct more research in this area not only for society in general but also for the Christian community. If there had been enough time, comparative studies with two secular universities and another Christian campus would provide valuable information on differences and similarities considering the search for sexually explicit material. Although part of the hypothesis was upheld pertaining to gender differences and frequency, the surprising finding was that even though students professed to be practicing Christians and believed that searching for sexually explicit material is wrong, the frequency of search was still high and seemingly not affected by morality.


Bale, C. (2011). Rauch or romance? Framing and interpreting the relationship between sexualized culture and young people's sexual health. Sex Education, 11(3), 303-313. doi: 10.1080/14681811.2011.590088

Goodson, P., McCormick, D., & Evans, A. (2000). Sex on the internet: College students' emotional arousal when viewing sexually explicit material on-line. Journal of Sex Education & Therapy, 25(4), 252-260

Hunt, S.A., & Kraus, S. W. (2009). Exploring the relationship between erotic disruptions during latency period and the use of sexually explicit material, online sexual behaviors, and sexual dysfunctions in young adulthood. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 16(41), 79-100.

Jae Woong, S., Deungwhan, L., & Paul, B. (2007). Who responds to unsolicited sexually explicit materials on the internet? The role of individual differences. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 10(1), 71-79.

Levert, N. (2007). A comparison of Christian and non-Christian males, authoritarianism and their relationship to internet pornography addiction/compulsion. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 14(2), 145-166. doi: 10.1080/10720160701354771

Morgan, E. M. (2011). Associations  between young adults'' use of sexually explicit materials and their sexual preferences, behaviors, and satisfaction. Journal of Sex Research, 48(6), 520-530. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2010.543960

Owens, E. W., Behun, R. J., Manning, J. C., & Reid, R. C. (2012). The Impact of Internet Pornography on Adolescents: A Review of the Research. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 19(1/2), 99-122. doi:10.1080/10720162.2012.660431

Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P.M. (2006). Adolescents' exposure to sexually explicit online material and recreational attitudes towards sex. Journal of Communication, 56(4), 639-660. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2006.00313.x

Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P.M. (2011). The influence of sexually explicit internet material and peers on stereotypical beliefs about women's sexual roles: Similarities and differences between adolescents and adults. Cyberpsyholgy, Behavior & Social Networking, 14(9), 511-517. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2010.0189

Vanderbeke, D. (2012). Fanny hill, or: What's so exciting about mossy mounts? Style, 46(3/4), 439-460.


Appendix A

This was the email message we proposed to send out along with the survey link, however we determined to leave our names out of the research and have our professor send it out for us. The disclaimer used at the beginning of the survey is also included.


"Good morning! Our names are Elise, Andrea, and Anna and we are students in Applied Research Methods in need of assistance for our research project. The topic we are researching is the Prevalence of Sexually Explicit Material on a Christian Campus.
Even if you haven't searched for sexually explicit material, we would appreciate your participation.

It will only take between five and fifteen minutes to complete.

The survey will close on Friday March 14, 2014.

Since this topic is very sensitive, we want to do our best to keep anonymity and confidentiality for students who choose to participate. Thank you for your help!"


"All answers submitted will be kept confidential and anonymous to researchers. We will NOT know your answers to the survey and your responses will ALWAYS stay anonymous."


These are questions from each portion of the total survey.


  • What is your gender?
    • Female
    • Male

Sexually Explicit Material

  • Have you ever intentionally searched for sexually explicit material?
  • No
  • Yes
  • If so, how frequently have you searched for and used sexually explicit material?
    • Once a day
    • Once a week
    • Once a month
    • Multiple times daily
    • Multiple times a week
    • Multiple times a month
    • Other (please specify)

Sexually Explicit Material and Romantic Relationships

  • Has your search and use of sexually explicit material impacted your relationship?
    • No
    • Neutral
    • Yes

Sexually Explicit Material and Faith

  • Would you consider yourself a practicing Christian?
    • No
    • Sometimes
    • Yes
  • Has your faith impacted your decision to search for and use sexually explicit material?
    • No
    • Somewhat
    • Neutral
    • More So
    • Yes

Personal Reflection

  • Do you personally believe your use of sexually explicit material is wrong?
    • No
    • Yes


Appendix B

These charts indicate the portion of the results found to be most interesting. Chart 1 and Chart 2 show the number of students who consider themselves practicing Christians and Chart 2 shows the frequency of using sexually explicit material. Those two charts support the finding that morals do not affect frequency of using sexually explicit material, which is broken down in Table 1. Chart 3 shows the number of individuals divided by gender and can be viewed in relation to Chart 2 regarding frequency of using sexually explicit material. The finding here was that although more females answered the survey, men searched for sexually explicit material more frequently.

Chart 1

Chart 2

Chart 3



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