A new study has found a strong link between people’s porn habits and their likelihood of divorce in the United States. Previous studies have concluded that watching pornography can lead to marital problems, but few have measured those effects over an extended time period, reports Science.
Using data from the 2006-2014 General Social Survey, the new study was able to track the effects of watching sexually explicit films over the course of a marriage. Researchers found that respondents who started watching X-rated movies after getting married were far more likely to get divorced during the course of the survey.
Men who started watching porn saw their likelihood of divorce rise from 5% to 10%. For women, starting a porn habit was even more disastrous for their marriage; their divorce rates spiked from 6% to 18%.
The study was presented at the 2016 American Sociological Association’s annual meeting. It was not peer reviewed, but raised “no major methodological flags,” according to psychologist and pornography expert Ana Bridges.
It seems self-evident that a spouse’s choice to watch sexually explicit content is a symptom of a lack of intimacy. However, the researchers behind the study see their findings not as a result of marital problems, but as the cause of them. Samuel Perry, the study’s author and a sociologist at the University of Oklahoma, said, “We’re pretty confident, based on the statistical analysis that we did. We are nearing where we can say there’s a directional effect.”
Married women who stopped watching porn were just as unlikely to divorce as those who had never watched porn at all. This finding helped lead Perry and his team to think that porn causes marital discord, not the other way around.
The study was unable to look at similar statistics for men, as the majority of husbands had been watching porn since before they were married and very few stopped after their nuptials.
So, should a couple with relationship troubles give up watching porn to save their marriage? Not necessarily. The study found that older couples and religious persons were in fact less likely to get divorced after watching sexually explicit films.
Moreover, the researchers aren’t interested in policing porn habits. “My colleague and I are trying to report what we think are interesting and relevant results,” said Perry. He added that they aren’t trying to “contribute to a moral crusade against porn use.”