REALity June 2019

Marriage and Pornography

Viewers of pornography claim that it is a harmless passtime as there are no victims.  This is incorrect.  There are many harms caused by pornography and one of the major harms is its effect on marriage.  Roughly 55% to 70% of men and 30% to 40% of women under the age of 40 report viewing pornography in a given year.  Younger generations, particularly those who access the internet during adolescence, show the greatest increase in the use of pornography over the past few decades.  Pornography is not a victimless activity since its use portends significant, detrimental, social effects on marriage, causing an even more troubled society.  The considerable harm caused to marriage by pornography includes the following:

Marital Dissatisfaction

Pornography undermines marital relations and distresses wives because husbands report loving their spouses less after long periods of looking at (and desiring) women depicted in pornography.  Dr. Samuel Perry of the University of Oklahoma reported that frequency of viewing pornography was the second strongest predictor of poor marital quality in subsequent years.

Harmful Impact on Wives

In many cases, the wives of pornography users develop deep psychological wounds, commonly reporting feelings of betrayal, loss, mistrust, devastation, and anger in response to the discovery or disclosure of a partner’s pornographic, online sexual activity.

Wives can begin to feel unattractive or sexually inadequate and may become severely depressed when they realize their husbands view pornography.  The distress level in wives goes beyond mere discomfort and may be so high as to require clinical treatment for trauma.

Viewers of pornography assign increased importance to sexual relations without emotional involvement, and, consequently, wives experience decreased intimacy with their husbands.

Emotional Separation of the Married Partners

The emotional distance fostered by pornography and “cybersex” (interactive computer contact with another regarding pornographic sexual issues) can often be just as damaging to the relationship as real-life infidelity.  Both men and women tend to put online sexual activity in the same category as having an affair.  The estrangement between spouses wrought by pornography can have tangible consequences as well.  When the viewing of pornography rises to the level of addiction, 40% of “sex addicts” lose their spouses, 58% suffer considerable financial losses, and about a third lose their jobs.

In a study of the effects of “cybersex”, researchers found that more than half of those engaged in “cybersex” had lost interest in sexual intercourse, while one third of their partners had lost interest as well.  In one fifth of the couples, both husband and wife or both partners had a significantly decreased interest in sexual intercourse.  Stated differently, this study showed that only one third of couples maintained an interest in sexual relations with one another when one partner was engaged in “cybersex” (voyeurism).

Prolonged exposure to pornography also fosters dissatisfaction with, and even distaste for, a spouse’s affection.  Cynical attitudes regarding love begin to emerge and “superior sexual pleasures are thought attainable without affection toward partners.”  These consequences hold for both men and women who have had prolonged exposure to pornography, with the decline in sexual happiness being primarily due to the growing dissatisfaction with the spouse’s normal sexual behaviour.

Pornography users increasingly see the institution of marriage as sexually confining, have diminished belief in the importance of marital faithfulness, and have increasing doubts about the value of marriage as an essential social institution, and further doubts about its future viability.  All this naturally diminishes the importance for them of having good family relations in their own families.

Increased Infidelity in the Marriage

Dolf Zillmann of the University of Alabama, in one study of adolescents, shows that the steady use of pornography frequently leads to abandonment of fidelity to their girlfriends.  Steven Stack of Wayne State University and colleagues later showed that pornography use increased the marital infidelity rate by more than 300%.  Another study found a strong correlation between viewing internet pornography and sexually permissive behaviour.  Stack’s study found that internet pornography use is 3.7 times greater among those who procure sexual relations with a prostitute than among those who do not.

“Cybersex” pornography also leads to much higher levels of infidelity among women.  Women who engaged in “cybersex” had about 40% more offline sexual partners than women who did not engage in cybersex.

Separation and Divorce

Inevitably, addiction to pornography is a contributor to separation and divorce.  A longitudinal study, conducted by Dr. Samuel Perry and Dr. Cyrus Schleifer of the University of Oklahoma, found that the likelihood of divorce roughly doubles for men and women who begin pornography use.  According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 68% of divorce cases involved one party meeting a new paramour over the internet, 56% involved “one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites,” 47% involved “spending excessive time on the computer”, and 33% involved spending excessive time in chat rooms (a commonly sexualized forum).  Cybersex, which often takes place in these chat rooms, was a major factor in separation and divorce.  In over 22% of the couples observed, the spouse was no longer living with the “cybersex” addict, and in many of the other cases, spouses were seriously considering leaving the marriage or relationship.

References for the studies referred to above are available on request.