21 June 2019
Comment on Park, B., et al. Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports Behav. Sci. 2016, 6, 17

In August 2017, Behavioral Sciences published the article [1], which includes a case study of three individuals in the US Navy. The paper underwent our usual editorial process, including peer review, and was accepted for publication. Since then, we have received a number of complaints from a single individual claiming that the paper is seriously flawed and calling for withdrawal of the article. In this comment we wish to reiterate that the correct procedures were followed in the handling of the manuscript and to publicly counter some of the claims. The Committee for Publication Ethics (COPE) considered some of these issues and we are grateful for their advice and cooperation. We also wish to thank the authors for their cooperation.

One serious claim levelled against the paper was that the required consent was not sought from the three individuals featured in the case studies presented. According to the instructions for authors posted on the Behavioral Sciences website, informed consent should be obtained for case studies where there is any risk that individuals could be identified. When asked to confirm this point, the authors verified that consent had been obtained for two individuals and that for the third not enough details were shared in the paper to require consent. The editorial office has seen redacted copies of the consent form used and is satisfied with the authors’ explanation.

Another issue was that the academic editor of the article was not aware that he was making a final decision to accept article [1] for publication. Behavioral Sciences uses a standard template to invite editors to make the final decision to accept manuscripts, which was also done in this case. Since the complaint, the original academic editor has informed us that he was not aware that this was his role for the paper. We re-evaluated the peer review process made the decision that the manuscript should not be removed for this reason. In the published Correction [2], the academic editor information has been amended.

Numerous claims about conflicts of interest of the authors were made in relation to [1]. Only one non-financial conflict of interest was found to be substantiated and the paper has been updated [2].

Consequently, MDPI has updated its instructions for authors to provide more clarity about informed consent issues and to better guide authors in this area. Our requirements and policies have not changed and we continue to follow the guidelines provided by COPE.

We believe that the dispute surrounding this paper arose from a difference of opinion in terms of the treatment of individuals using high levels of pornography, and was not motivated by genuine concerns about the editorial work around the paper [3]. Our view is that the correct way to deal with such a dispute is by presenting arguments and counter-arguments in a peer-reviewed, scientific context where all conflicts of interest from both parties are properly disclosed. Personal criticism does not have a place in this context and attempts to shut down those with opposing views by removing their work from the literature is not the correct approach. We know that the majority of authors and readers approach research in a constructive and engaged way and we wish to advocate this approach for the benefit of the research community as a whole.


[1] Park, B.Y.; Wilson, G.; Berger, J.; Christman, M.; Reina, B.; Bishop, F.; Klam, W.P.; Doan, A.P. Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports. Behav. Sci. 2016, 6, 17.

[2] Park, B.Y. et al.; Correction: Park, B.Y., et al. Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports Sci. 2016, 6, 17. Behav. Sci. 2018, 8, 55.

[3] Marcus, A. "Journal corrects, but will not retract, controversial paper on internet porn". Retraction Watch. Available online: https://retractionwatch.com/2018/06/13/journal-corrects-but-will-not-retract-controversial-paper-on-internet-porn/ (accessed on 13 June 2018) and https://web.archive.org/web/20180913124808/https://retractionwatch.com/2018/06/13/journal-corrects-but-will-not-retract-controversial-paper-on-internet-porn/ (archived on 13 September 2018).

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