Office of the Provost

Community profile: Dr. Matt Ezzell


Matt EzzellDr. Matt Ezzell is Associate Professor of Sociology at JMU. In his research, Dr. Ezzell seeks to identify and elucidate meso-theories that connect micro-interactions and experiences to macro/structural considerations of inequality. Underlying all of his work is the symbolic interactionist understanding that interpersonal interaction, the doings-together of human social agents, is built on and off of shared symbolic meanings that are interpreted and negotiated through human interaction in context. Dr. Ezzell has studied identity work and stigma management among collegiate female rugby players, identity and inequality in a substance abuse treatment program, the importance of linguistic and cultural practices in the reproduction of inequality, patterns of and resistance to interpersonal violence, and, most recently, the growing power of sexualized media as an agent of gender and sexual socialization for young people.

Dr. Ezzell’s current research, engaged with a multi-disciplinary research team, examines pornography, sexuality, attitudes, and behaviors through survey and interview data. The “global pornography online survey” has been administered in 9 countries – the United States, England, Holland, Italy, Germany, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore – to over 8,000 participants. Based on the United States data, his research team – primarily Drs. Chyng Sun (New York University), Ana Bridges (University of Arkansas), and Jennifer Johnson (Virginia Commonwealth University) – and Dr. Ezzell have published two papers (with several more papers currently under review or in preparation) that analyze male and female pornography users’ patterns of consumption, the sexual scripts they acquire and apply, and their attitudes and experiences related to sex, sexual activity, and sexuality. For male respondents, we found nearly ubiquitous rates of exposure (98%) by age 17 and active consumption (89.1%) by college, with almost half of our respondents (48.7%) reporting first exposures prior to the age of 13. For female respondents, patterns of exposure by age 17 (84.5%) and first exposure by age 13 (24%) were similarly high, yet less than half (47%) of female respondent were active consumers. Still, the biggest gendered difference fell along the lines of frequency of consumption: whereas the majority (72%) of male respondents reported consuming pornography daily or several times a week, only 1.6% of female respondents reported that rate of consumption.

The results of the team’s research are sobering. They found that the more pornography young men or women consume, the more likely they are to prefer pornography to sex with a partner, the more likely they are to conjure images of pornography during sex with a partner in order to maintain excitement, and the more likely they are to replicate sex acts seen in pornography during sex with a partner. Further, the research team found that the more pornography a man watches the less likely he is to enjoy sexually intimate behaviors (e.g., kissing, cuddling, etc.), the more likely he is to experience sexual anxiety, and the more likely he is to sexually objectify women in public.

Dr. Sun and Dr. Ezzell have also analyzed data from in-depth interviews with male pornography consumers. Their first paper from this data, which analyzes men’s identity work in relation to a particular sexual practice common within mainstream pornography, has just been published. Dr. Sun and Dr. Ezzell found that male consumers tend to make sense of the pornographic sexual script through the lens of domination and degradation, that they tend to find that lens exciting, and that that script shapes their sexual desires and real world sexual practices with women.

Finally, Dr. Ezzell has a related, but smaller-scale, interview-based project underway. When research from around the globe indicates that upwards of 90% of young men are active pornography consumers, the experiences and accounts of “refusers” – men who, for any reason, make the active choice not to consume pornography – beg to be analyzed. He has conducted seventeen in-depth, semi-structured interviews with “refusers” to date and is currently in the process of data analysis.

Published: Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Last Updated: Thursday, January 4, 2018

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