Previous studies have presented mixed findings when it comes to the relationship between religion and pornography use. Overall, religiosity has been associated with both an increase and a decrease in problematic pornography viewing. Researchers Borgogna and colleagues propose that this discrepancy in findings might be explained by the interfering effects of two constructs: scrupulosity and self-compassion.
Scrupulosity is characterized by over-concern with adhering to religious standards – in other words, “pathological guilt/obsession with religious perfectionism.” The researchers suggest that scrupulosity might explain why religious individuals tend to experience heightened distress in association with their use of pornography. They explain, “individuals who hold themselves to extremely high religious standards may be the most susceptible to perceiving their pornography viewing as problematic.”
Self-compassion, on the other hand, is characterized by a positive attitude towards oneself and acceptance of the self without judgment. Since many religions teach self-compassion, researchers suggest that this trait might explain why religion is in part negatively related to problematic pornography viewing. The authors say, “These men may be likely to accept and move past perceived transgressions rather than ruminating and engaging in highly self-critical behaviors that might paradoxically increase pornography viewing.”