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Individuals oftentimes turn to interpersonal and mass media content to cope and satisfy their sexual needs in absence of offline interpersonal connection. Online dating platforms enable virtual and physical connections between users. The literature on imagined interactions suggests that people may play out these interpersonal scenarios in their minds; however, it is less clear the role sexually explicit media exposure and sexual mediated interactions may serve in facilitating imagined interactions. We conducted a survey to examine U.S. online daters’ relationship preferences, sexually explicit media consumption practices (pornography and sexting), and imagined interactions with potential mates focusing on three primary functions: catharsis, compensation, and sexual fantasy. Results indicate that participants exclusively seeking casual, short-term relationships via online dating platforms were significantly more likely to view pornographic content online and sext with others compared to those interested in romance. We also found that both forms of sexually explicit media were positively related to experiencing imagined interactions for catharsis and sexual fantasy. Implications for research on imagined interactions and online dating are discussed, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.


NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Computers in Human Behavior. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Computers in Human Behavior, volume 126, in 2022.

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This scholarship is part of the Chapman University COVID-19 Archives.



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