September 5, 2016 12:04 pm

Reality check: Is watching porn killing your happy marriage?

Researchers from Florida State University studied how sexual frequency affects people’s gut feelings about their partners, which could ultimately determine whether you will be dissatisfied with your relationship.

A A

Turning to porn to spice things up in the bedroom? A troubling new study is warning that married couples who start turning to porn are twice as likely to end up divorced within years compared to their peers who stay away from X-rated content.

New research out of the University of Oklahoma suggests that the introduction of porn could cause tension and increase insecurities in an otherwise happy marriage. But porn doesn’t seem to make an unhappy marriage “any worse” than it already is, the scientists behind the salacious study say.

Story continues below

It all depends on how couples are watching the content, according to the study’s lead author, Dr. Samuel Perry.

“People who don’t really connect their sex life to religious or other moral values may simply see porn as something that gets either one or both partners in the mood. As long as both partners are in agreement about its use, it doesn’t seem to be that damaging,” Perry said.

“A problem arises when there isn’t agreement about porn use, or when one partner becomes hurt by another partner’s use,” he told Global News.

READ MORE: Why do women orgasm? Scientists shed light on the evolutionary mystery

Women, for example, could feel insecure about their partner’s reliance on porn. She may wonder why she isn’t good enough or why he needs to watch it. The problem is worse if partners are watching it alone and masturbating, he said.

Perry’s findings are based on longitudinal data from the General Social Survey in the U.S. The study had about 2,000 Americns check in every two years from 2006 to 2014 on a series of issues, including marital happiness and porn consumption.

Perry zeroed in on study respondents who started watching porn or gave it up within those timeframes. Turns out, those who never looked at porn but then started increased their risk of divorce, while those who quit watching fared better.

The effect was stronger for women for some reason, Perry said, noting that this “surprised” him. Their probability of divorce went from six per cent to 18 per cent if they took up porn.

READ MORE: Having sex is all about quality, not quantity, Canadian study says

In previous research, porn tampered with men’s relationships more. This is probably because men tend to watch it more often and when they’re alone, whereas women use it as a tool during lovemaking, Perry said.

In this case, Perry suggests that women’s reliance on porn could be a “greater signal of other things going wrong in the relationship” for them.

“Men, for example, could look at porn even when they’re totally fine with the relationship, simply because they’d always looked at porn before and it’s a habit. If women turn to porn in the marriage, it may indicate that they’re dissatisfied sexually or otherwise, and on the way to divorce. But that’s really speculation,” Perry told Global News.

(It’s important to note two details: while the data relied on about 2,000 respondents, Perry teased out only those who started to watch porn or stopped watching it during the study years. He concedes the sample size is small.

READ MORE: Are you lying to yourself about how much sex you need in your relationship?

Perry is also a member of the religious faculty at the Oklahoma university. In his study, he found that those who were religious and took up porn didn’t face any turmoil in their marriages. He suggests that religion could have a “protective effect on marriage, even in the face of pornography.”

READ MORE: The 6 most common regrets men and women have after sex

He promises he isn’t on a “moral crusade” and that he scrutinized the data heavily to stay neutral.

Perry presented his findings at the end of August at the American Sociological Association, but they haven’t been peer-reviewed or published yet.)

Sex and relationship expert, Dr. Jess O’Reilly, says porn can be “scary and controversial.”

“When you have sexual athletes and superstars performing sex acts that in many cases are beyond capacity for everyday people, we feel insecure and we can be hard on ourselves” she told Global News.

Lovers can feel inadequate stacked next to porn, or partners could find porn offers an easier release than being intimate.

READ MORE: Booty call or friends with benefits? How men, women differ on casual sex

But with her clients, O’Reilly uses it as a tool to enhance relationship intimacy and to get couples to talk about their likes, dislikes and fantasies.

“If you see it as something that will ruin your relationship, it will do that. With the couples I work with, as long as they’re honest about it and not sneaking away in the middle of the night, it has neutral to positive effects,” she said.

Dr. Oren Amitay, a registered psychologist who teaches sex psychology, said that he recommends it as “foreplay” for couples he counsels, too.

“They watch it together, have an open dialogue about it, and develop ideas on what they want to do,” he said. But talking it through is key so one partner doesn’t feel uncomfortable, he said.

READ MORE: A spreadsheet of excuses? Here’s why married couples stop having sex

Amitay said the study can’t explain why couples who watch porn end up in divorce – there could be many more variables at play.

“It’s such a complicated issue and these blanket statements worry me. We don’t know how they’re watching it and how they’re communicating about it,” he told Global News.

Read Perry’s full findings here.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Report an error

Comments

Want to discuss? Please read our Commenting Policy first.