Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Jennifer Johnson


In 2008 it was reported that there are approximately 28,258 internet users viewing pornography every second, and that men look at pornography online more than any other subject matter (Eberstadt 2009). Pornography has become a primary tool of sex education for young men (Bowater 2011) with the average age of first exposure being age 11 (Stefan 2012). However, research on viewer understanding and interpretation of the images is scarce. What are boys learning about sexuality as they watch pornography? Do they use pornography as a ‘how-to’ manual expressing a desire to mimic the onscreen act or do they use pornography as a general stimulant expressing a generalized pleasure, interpreting the act in alternative ways? The pro-pornography stance stresses the agency of the viewer, meaning the viewer has the ability to access a broad array of content creating a poly-semiotic or figurative experience. The anti-pornography stance stresses the agency of the industry, meaning the industry pushes a dominant design creating a mono-semiotic or literal experience. The purpose of this study is to look at how viewers of online pornography interpret what they see. By analyzing viewer comments sampled from free pornographic tube sites, this study seeks to understand the extent of viewer agency; do men interpret pornographic images literally or figuratively?


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2013

Included in

Sociology Commons