What science says about pornography and couples

The anti-erotica forces have been trying to use “science” to preach their moralistic crusade.   But mixing the opinions of moralism and the facts of science leads to bad morals and bad science.

This study published this year in “Current Opinion Psychology” tells what the science says.  It is a compilation of all of the current research, and it also suggests what areas are in need of more research.   Unless you have a subscription to a medical library, you won’t be able to read all of this article, so I will quote relevant passages.

Firstly, the people who are going out to prove how bad pornography is for people are doing bad science.  The previous studies state conclusions that aren’t supported by the facts.

While acknowledging that very few studies had assessed the impact of pornography exposure and relationship processes, Manning nonetheless unequivocally agreed with Zillmann’s conclusions a few years later. Of the limited research focusing on the associations between exposure to pornography and relationship processes within dyads, however, the empirical evidence is not so conclusive, with results suggesting both negative and positive influences of pornography use on romantic relationships

Secondly, studies that are LOOKING for the harm of pornography are not producing accurate results.

The majority of research concerning the effects of pornography on relationships assumes, assesses, and subsequently confirms, that pornography is detrimental to relationships. Adopting a ‘harm focused’ approach at the outset of a study places critical limits on what can be learned about the typical impact of pornography on the couple. The assumption of harm will either confirm or fail to confirm negative effects, and by virtue of not measuring non-negative outcomes will necessarily tell us nothing about the occurrence of neutral or positive effects that may also occur. Harm-focused rationales that underlie such investigations are also at odds with observations reported by persons who live in relationships in which pornography is used, which typically suggest that pornography users and their partners  perceive more relationship benefits than harms associated with pornography use.

Most research has not actually measured the impact on the couple’s love-life – instead, only trying to focus on how the individual FEELS about his own use of pornography.  Since this feeling is determined by the constant harping he hears about how evil pornography is, his feelings are not are good guide to whether or not he has been harmed by his viewing of pornography.

Although it is true that romantic relationships involve individuals, typically two at one time , relationship processes cannot be tested by focusing on the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of one individual. Rather, relationships need to be understood in terms of the mutual influence that exists between these individuals over time . Research therefore needs to focus on the links between pornography consumption by one or both partners (alone and/or jointly) on interpersonal processes and relationship outcomes, preferably over time, to best document the negative, neutral, and positive associations of pornography consumption within the dyad.

Finally, the couple research that is being done shows that the effect on porn on relationships is pretty complex, but to simplify it, couples in which the female has not been taught to despise her husband for porn viewing find that their relationship improves – but if the church is trying to enforce an unnatural ascetism on the couple, then the relationship is harmed.

Correlational research by Daneback et al. found that couples in which one partner used pornography reported higher levels of ‘dysfunction’ and a slightly elevated ‘erotic climate’; couples in which both used pornography, though not necessarily together, reported relatively low levels of ‘dysfunction’ and a greater ‘erotic climate’; and couples that did not use pornography at all had average scores on these two clusters of variables. Other correlational studies involving intact dyads have noted that the frequency of men’s pornography use may be associated with lower sexual and relationship fulfilment among couple members while frequency of women’s pornography use may be associated with increased sexual and relational fulfilment among couple members. Taken together with non-dyadic studies of perceived impacts of pornography on the couple relationship, such findings suggest that pornography use can have a range of possible effects on the relationship that are not exclusively negative.

In short, the harm of pornography does not come from the viewing of pornography, but rather from the unnatural expectations placed upon men by the puritans in the church.