This digital age has seen a rapid increase in watching pornography for single people, married couples and those in a serious relationship. About 23 million people in Canada watch porn, 70% are men between the ages of 18 and 24 years of age. There has been stories in the media about the addictive effect of porn and about some boyfriends demanding that their girlfriends act like the porn stars, thus objectifying their partner. Studies have confirmed that the majority of young men and less than half of young women think that it is alright to watch sexually explicit material.
In a recent research study, Spencer B. Olmstead with his colleagues, found out that most of the college students think that pornography should be used in romantic relationships. In their study, 70.8% of men and 45.5% of women said that they watch porn; while just 22.3% of men and 26.3% of women said that there is no role for pornography in romantic relationships.
Men and women disagree on two questions when it comes to watching porn: the way it is watched (in private, with a sexual partner, in groups), and number of times it is watched. In his 2008 book, Guyland, Michael Kimmel reported that young men watch porn for different reasons than older men; also young men may watch porn with their peers. He writes: “young guys tend to like the extreme stuff, the double penetrations and even the humiliating scenes. They will watch it together with guys and often make fun of the women in the scenes.” However, older men who have more experience watch porn alone or with a partner; they prefer scenes “where the women look like they are filled with desire and experience pleasure.”
A study, called the Olmstead study, discovered that women are more concerned with how many times porn is consumed than with whom it is watched. Men think that porn has no negative consequences, instead it has positive ones.
In a review of multiple studies, Nathaniel Lambert and others, report that women who have partners who watch porn on a regular basis, will see porn as a threat to their relationship and its stability, and will think less of their partners. In contrast, studies show that young men and young women found that the sexually explicit material will help them in exploring their sexuality and adding to their bed activities.
So, is watching pornography is as harmless? In what follows, three studies which reveal that porn has a great impact on relationships will be explored.
1. Relationships free of porn are stronger and have a low rate of infidelity.
In a study of both men and women in a relationship, and which ages ranged between 18 and 34, Amanda Maddox with her colleagues, found out that relationships in which both partners do not watch porn are stronger. The study researched dedication in a relationship, interpersonal commitment, levels of negative communication, sexual satisfaction, infidelity, and relationship adjustment. In it, 76.8% of men and 34.6% of women looked at porn alone, and 44.8% viewed it with partners. It was discovered that those who did not watch porn at all, were more committed to the relationship, had a lower level of negative communication, were more sexually satisfied, and their relationship adjustment was higher. The rate of infidelity of these people was half of those who were watching porn alone or with their partners. The people who were watching sexually explicit material with their partners were more dedicated and sexually satisfied than those who were watching alone.
2. Watching porn decreases the level of commitment in a relationship.
Researchers have found that watching porn will make you think of the potential sexual partners you may have instead of being dedicated only to the person you’re involved with. It will also lead to forgetting about your partner who will be lying in bed next to you, and think about a fantasy person you never and will never meet.
In order to shed more light on the issue, Nathaniel Lambert, Sesen Negash, and other researchers conducted 5 separate experiments. In the first experiment, the participants were aged between 17 and 26, and were in a relationship which ranged between three years and two months. The participants were asked about their porn consumption. Then, the level of commitment to the relationship was measured. It was found that watching porn had lowered the level of commitment for both men and women, and more especially for men.
In the second experiment, independent observers were given videos in which couples were performing an interactive task to watch. In the videos, one partner had to draw something while being blind folded, and the other partner had to give instructions. Among the ones who observed, porn users showed a lower level of commitment.
The third experiment included only those who watched porn. Half the group abstained from watching porn for three whole weeks, while the other half was allowed to watch porn but had they give up their favorite food. In the end of the three weeks, those who stopped watching porn were showing more commitment to their relationship.
The last two experiments were focusing on the likelihood of potential infidelity and infidelity itself. It was shown in the first experiment that those who watched porn had a higher probability of engaging in flirting or more with other than their partner; the second experiment showed the higher probability for cheating and hooking up with others for people who watched porn.
3. Fantasy alternatives leading to cheating in the real world.
In one other study, Nathaniel Lambert, Andrea Mariea Gwinn, and others tried to explore the nature of the fantasy alternatives offered by porn. Two possibilities were suggested: the first was that seeing attractive partners on screen who were sexually available may make the person think of the other possible partners; the second was that porn could make the idea of having more than one sexual partner more appealing, and that would lower his or her commitment to the actual partner.
Those possibly were both made sure of in their research.
In one study, it was found that the people who were thinking about porn which was previously watched, reported as to have better alternatives to their partner in their current relationships that those who did not watch porn. Another study showed that watching porn for a long time would make the possibility of cheating higher, thus making the level of infidelity higher.
In addition to that, the team of researchers found out that thinking about other possible partners and having the impulse to act upon those alternatives was so different and separate from the dissatisfaction faced in the current relationship. This means that, although one may be very satisfied from the current relationship, the idea of having another relationship as satisfying or more may be the trigger for cheating.
In the end, pornography is not as harmless as people think. It has been shown that porn may do much harm to a romantic relationship and decrease real intimacy. You may want to think of that if you are accustomed to watching porn or if you have no problem seeing your partner watch it.