Discuss as:

Damaged goods? Nope, porn stars have higher self esteem than other women

Despite the stereotype that porn actresses are "damaged goods," they actually report higher self-esteem, more positive feelings and greater levels of spirituality than other women, a new study finds.

As previous research has shown, the general public tends to have a negative opinion of female porn stars, assuming that they come from desperate backgrounds and are driven to the industry by low self-respect, a history of childhood sex abuse or other psychological factors.

A group of researchers set out to test if there was any truth to these stereotypes. They surveyed 177 female porn stars between 18 and 50 years old (average age of 26) about their sexual behaviors and attitudes, alcohol and drug use, self-esteem and quality of life.

Compared with a control group, the porn actresses were much more likely to be bisexual (67 percent vs. 7 percent). They also started having sex at an earlier age, had more sexual partners in their lifetime (not including partners in their line of work), said they enjoyed sex more and were more concerned about contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Additionally, porn actresses were more likely to have had a problem with alcohol and to report having used 10 different types of drugs in their lifetime. They also reported more marijuana use during the past six months compared with other women.

But the researchers found key differences between porn actresses and other women that contradict the "damaged goods" stereotype. The porn stars were no more likely to have been victims of childhood sex abuse than the control group, the study found. What's more, the porn actresses reported significantly higher sexual satisfaction, positive feelings, social support and spirituality. [6 (Other) Great Things Sex Can Do For You]

"Overall, pornography actresses had higher scores on several psychological dimensions and appear to be as healthy as or healthier than the matched sample," the researchers wrote in a paper published online Nov. 20 in the Journal of Sex Research.

The researchers said the spirituality differences may be associated with the porn stars' high levels of sexual satisfaction, as prior research has found a link between the two. And in turn, the actresses' high sexual satisfaction may be related to their use of pornography as an effective means to express their sexuality.

"In being able to do so, their sexual expression may be a reflection of their belief system regarding sexuality, and that expression may be related to the elevated positive feelings because they have found an acceptable outlet and supportive environment in which they can do what they like to do," wrote the researchers, led by James D. Griffith, of Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.

The actresses surveyed in the study were involved with porn production companies and were sampled through the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles. As the Internet has changed the landscape of pornography, giving many porn actresses the ability to run their own cyberporn sites, the researchers note that their findings cannot be extrapolated to all performers.

Follow LiveScience on Twitter @livescience. We're also on Facebook & Google+.