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For Your Marriage

Marriage Today covers current trends and research pertaining to marriage and family life in today's world.

Does Pornography Affect Men’s Decision Whether to Marry?

For some men between the ages of 18 and 35, pornography may be a “substitute” to getting married, according to a study published by the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn.

Authors Michael Malcolm of the University of West Chester and George Naufal of Timberlake Consultants summarize their findings in the paper’s abstract: “We show that increased Internet usage is negatively associated with marriage formation. Pornography consumption specifically has an even stronger effect. Instrumental variables and a number of robustness checks suggest that the effect is causal.”

Malcolm and Naufal used data from the General Social Survey taken in 2000, 2002 and 2004, and looked at the male demographic aged 18 to 35 for the study.

The study notes that the proportion of men between ages 25 and 34 who have never been married is six times higher than it was in 1970. For those between 35 and 44 years old, the increase is more than four times. The study mentions the open question of whether pre-marital sexual experiences, including pornography, have become a substitute for marriage.

“We assert that increasing ease of accessing pornography is an important factor underlying the decline in marriage formation and stability,” wrote the study’s authors. Interestingly, the study notes that “using the Internet to look at religious websites is positively associated with marriage probability, even controlling for attendance at religious services.” The authors wrote that this supports their conclusion that pornography might negatively impact men’s decision to marry.

The Christian Post reported the findings in a recent article and interviewed various experts for their take on the study.

Steve Harris, program director of Couple and Family Therapy at the University of Minnesota said, “It certainly gives us something to think about. Does porn use delay or prevent marriage initiation? My guess is it may play a part, but it is a part of an overall changed social milieu that is more sexually oriented than what we had 30 to 40 years ago.” He added that “it might be difficult to draw causal lines between the variables.”

Patrick A. Trueman, president of the anti-pornography group Morality in Media, said, “Research has shown for some time that porn use in marriage destroys the marital bond, but now we can see that porn use destroys even the desire to get married.”

Harris said when pornography is a “regular feature” in an individual’s behavior that “most couples struggle” as a result. “It has a negative impact on emotional intimacy, contributes to a consumer mentality regarding one’s sexual relationship, and raises questions about fidelity and trust in even very strong relationships,” he said.

Last year, Psychology of Popular Media Culture published separate research that analyzed a possible link between pornography use and adultery. Other studies have looked at the negative impact of technology overuse and marriage, including one featured on For Your Marriage here.

About the author
Emily Macke serves as Theology of the Body Education Coordinator at Ruah Woods in Cincinnati, Ohio. She received her Master’s in Theological Studies at the John Paul II Institute in Washington, DC, and her undergraduate degree in Theology and Journalism at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Emily shares the good news of the Catholic faith through writing, media appearances and speaking opportunities, which she has done on three continents. She and her husband Brad live in southeast Indiana.