Porn increases infidelity?

October 28, 2008 | 54 comments
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The New York Times has an interesting write-up on the latest infidelity research. Among other morceau, researchers have found a rise in infidelity among young couples and speculate that increasing porn use may be responsible.

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54 Responses to Porn increases infidelity?

  1. Steve Evans on October 28, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    Of course, porn use IS infidelity, so……

  2. Dan on October 28, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    *agrees with Steve Evans

  3. Adam Greenwood on October 28, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    Infidels.

  4. Cody on October 28, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    It probably bears mentioning that the article gives no evidence that pornography is linked to infidelity. In fact it appears that it is not even a speculation by the researchers who have authored these studies, but is either from an anthropologist or the journalist who wrote the article.

  5. Utahn in CT on October 28, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    “Porn increases infidelity”? This is definitely not a straight-up reading of the NYT article. Just as valid, if not more so as it’s definitely discussed in the article more than pornography (which gets one mention), is that women should be kept out of the workplace and denied access to cell-phones, a nasty device that can allow a woman to become intimate with someout out of the home.

    Let’s try curbing our dogma and hobby horses. Now, I just set that Hustler down here somewhere…

  6. Marc Bohn on October 28, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    Ross Douthat seems to agree with Steve.

  7. Marc Bohn on October 28, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Oh yeah… and Jesus Christ too.

  8. Matt Rasmussen on October 28, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    What a shocker. Now if we can convince every tv writer and radio dj that flippantly make porn seem like it’s no big deal.

  9. Jim Cobabe on October 28, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    The phenomenon is part and parcel of a general malaise that infects family relations in this day and age. Pornography use is simply another manifestation of the selfish self-gratification that characterizes so many symptomatic elements of this trouble. I consider divorce to be another manifestation of the same problem. It is another insidious form of marital infidelity, broken covenants, and selfish self-indulgent feeding of a personal agenda that supplants the common good of the whole family.

  10. Jared on October 28, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Not only does Porn increase infidelity it grieves the Spirit, and if not repented of will cause a loss of the Spirit for those who have entered into covenants with the Lord.

  11. Steve Evans on October 28, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    #7, I get that a lot.

  12. Derek on October 29, 2008 at 3:24 am

    There’s also speculation that access to porn prevents rape.

  13. Velska on October 29, 2008 at 7:13 am

    There’s also speculation that access to porn encourages rape. It seems to be in the eye of the beholder.

    The mainstreaming of pornography is a big problem for young people, who struggle to find their identity. For example, those who consume pornography express gender values that glorifies aggressive behavior by men and submissive behavior by women. Especially young men and women are susceptible.

    Convincing teenagers that having sex with someone you just met is no big deal has already caused a big dent in the nuclear family. And make no mistake, pornography peddles the model.

  14. djinn on October 29, 2008 at 11:17 am

    There may be speculation that an increase in Porn increases rape, but there is cold, hard evidence that the opposite is true.

    Two countries, Denmark and Japan, greatly liberalized their pornography laws in the 1960s and 1990′s respectively. Both countries had spectacular declines in the number of sex offenses. Denmark saw a 50% drop in such crimes, after the liberalization of pornography. Astonishing. http://www.hawaii.edu/PCSS/online_artcls/pornography/prngrphy_rape_jp.html

    Japan, who dramatically liberalized its pornography laws in the mid 1990′s (or at least reinterpreted its existing laws much more broadly) saw an even more astonishing decrease — an 85% decrease in sex crimes against children .http://www.hawaii.edu/PCSS/online_artcls/pornography/prngrphy_rape_jp.html

  15. George on October 29, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    And here I thought that it was monogomy that leads to infidelity (among other ills).

    “It was the Roman state that limited the number of a man’s wives to one, and not the Christian church; and this being done, it was perpetuated. And history teaches us that under that monogamic system, Rome became the most licentious of all nations.”
    — Erastus Snow, 7 Oct 1882 (General Conference Address), Journal of Discourses 23:298

    “And if a tree is to be judged by its fruits, what of the whoredoms, the adultery, the fornication, the prostitution of women in monogamic nations? What of sexual diseases, of blighted lives, of martyred women, of little graves dotting every hillside and the resting places of the dead? What of foeticide, infanticide and abortion? What of the decimated power and numbers of the best society, what of their liasons [liaisons] and their divorce courts, and other damning features which cling closely to the skirts of modern Sodoms, the paragons and promoters of monogamic marriage?”
    — Henry W. Naisbitt, 8 Mar 1885, Journal of Discourses 26:123

  16. Variable on October 29, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    I am against pornography. It\’s offensive. What also is offensive is the correlation is causation argument. As a statistician/econometrician, this argument is obscene. If you really wan to prove a causal relationship between porn and infidelity, here\’s what you need to do:

    Start with a random sample of married couples who never had previous exposure to pornography. Randomly divide them into four groups:
    1) Control group (no porn exposure)
    2) husband exposed to porn
    3) wife exposed to porn
    4) both exposed to porn

    Controlling for everything else, i would venture to guess that over time, groups 2 and 4 would show an increase in infidelity. Group 3 might, it would be an insignificant difference above the control group.

  17. djinn on October 29, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    I find the Japanese and Danish studies quite remarkable. Plus, they are whole countries. It is correlation, rather than causation, but the numbers are astounding. I have no idea why this is true, but it is certainly true that sexual abuse did not rise during the time. An 85% decline? Something’s happening. OK, variable, explain away. Humans are strange, strange, creatures. The studies did not discuss infidelity, that I saw, fwiw.

  18. Tim B on October 29, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    We don\’t need studies to \”prove\” that pornography is destructive — for many of us, our lives have already proven the point. For the rest of us, we\’ve got an unending stream of prophets who\’ve been warning that it\’s destructive for decades. And, if that wasn\’t quite enough, we\’ve now got the witness of Steve. Is this still an open question for anybody really?

    The only question I\’ve got is what it would take to get the blog at Latter-day Sexual Recovery added to the link list around here to help people trying to clear the wreckage from their lives that porn and sex addiction has brought to their lives.

  19. djinn on October 29, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    Yes. It seems that there are specific circumstances that make pornography addictive. Using actual data, I’ve been trying to pinpoint what they are. These are real problems in people’s lives, and if there is a very easy fix, it should be taken.

  20. djinn on October 29, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    I don’t think variable 16′s idea will work, because I suspect there’s an age-based aspect.

  21. djinn on October 29, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    I don’t think variable 16′s idea will work, because I suspect there’s an age-based aspect.

  22. Variable on October 29, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    The hypothetical study isn’t about proving the destructive nature of pornography. I think that it is generally agreed upon that it is destructive. The article in question states that pornography use causes infidelity. I don’t think this is a causal relationship. If I were to tell you that ice cream consumption causes swimming pool deaths, just because periods of high ice cream consumption also have periods of high swimming pool deaths, would you believe me? I hope you wouldn’t.

    Again, pornography is destructive. I don’t like it. But, to say that it causes infidelity is inaccurate. There is some underlying factor that makes people both look at porn and cheat on their spouse.

  23. Jacob J on October 29, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    There is some underlying factor that makes people both look at porn and cheat on their spouse.

    libido coupled with a lack of self control?

  24. Agellius on October 29, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    Jim writes, (9): “The phenomenon is part and parcel of a general malaise that infects family relations in this day and age. Pornography use is simply another manifestation of the selfish self-gratification that characterizes so many symptomatic elements of this trouble. I consider divorce to be another manifestation of the same problem.”

    I think it’s the collapse of moral authority. The more you encourage the notion that it’s up to each person to decide for himself what’s moral and immoral, the more immorality you will get. Sexual immorality is so easy and so pleasurable, that you can only resist it when you are convinced that it’s absolutely forbidden. Not “advised against” but forbidden under threat of dire consequences.

    When you’re in the throes of temptation, and weighing the pleasure of succumbing against the non-pleasure of continuing to resist, you need all you can get on the latter side of the scale. I know from experience that teaching people that sexual immorality is “a relatively minor sin compared to others”, only serves to lighten that side of the scale.

    But of course, teaching that something is sinful, only carries as much weight as the authority doing the teaching. The lessening of authority has lightened the weight of what authoritative teaching there is. Which causes the “resist” side of the scale to be outweighed by its opposite.

  25. Agellius on October 29, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Djinn writes (14): “There may be speculation that an increase in Porn increases rape, but there is cold, hard evidence that the opposite is true.”

    Even if more porn does lead to less rape, still that cannot justify porn. (I know you didn’t say that it can.)

  26. Rameumptom on October 29, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    James Dobson did a study and interviewed some serial rapists years ago. One of the common things for each of them was they began with porn. They began to fantasize, and then started to act on those fantasies.

    Given some of the extremely bad porn out there now (some Japanese porn shows men raping women as an enticing thing), I cannot believe that porn discourages rape.

  27. Rameumptom on October 29, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    On the drop in other countries that liberalized porn, I would suggest that the mindset has changed, and there are fewer people reporting sex crimes than before.

    I think we see the same thing happening here, as sex becomes more “normalized” in all of its variations, people no longer see it as a crime when someone forces himself on someone else.

    For example, what is the joke impulse you get if you were to hear a man say he was raped by a beautiful woman? Most guys would say, “where do I get in line?”

    Now that we have songs about girls kissing girls to attract guys, etc., we suddenly enter into a new realm where reporting may go away due to peer pressure.

  28. Cody on October 29, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    #27 Do you have any evidence, not counting the song about a girl kissing another girl, that reporting of sex crimes has gone down in Japan and Denmark?

    #23 Do you know of any evidence linking pornography and infidelity? Because the conversation continues as if some has been presented.

  29. Jack on October 29, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    For those who argue that what the Prophets and Apostles say about porn is what is important, not the the scientific data–I say be careful what you argue. One thing is for certain–our families will face an ever increasing amount pornography on television, in advertising and in our schools unless we are able to change the norms of our culture and our overly permissive law very soon. There will be no way to escape the onslaught of pornography in coming years, not even for our youngest children. (One could convincingly argue that there is no way to escape it today.)

    Unfortunately, most people, especially those with any sort of power over these matters, will not listen to the argument “Porn is bad because President Monson says so.” We will only convince the powers that be that pornography ought to be stopped if we can convince them using evidence they will accept that pornography has pernicious effect. Thus, for those of us who want to diminish the effect and amount of pornography in our culture, we need to create a body of scientific evidence supporting our ideas about pornography. We also need to acknoldege that the studies may show that pornography has some positive effects. Maybe pornography really does diminish rape. But so what if it destroys the ability of normal people to have intimate relationships with the opposite sex, increases infidelity, or leads to depression, suicide, etc.

    We cannot begin to have this discussion until more good scientific studies are funded and completed.

  30. Adam Greenwood on October 29, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    The only question I\’ve got is what it would take to get the blog at Latter-day Sexual Recovery added to the link list around here to help people trying to clear the wreckage from their lives that porn and sex addiction has brought to their lives.

    Asking? No doubt I’m the only one on the Bloggernacle, but I’ve never heard of this blog before.

  31. djinn on October 29, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    I lived in Japan as a child and was horrified by the rape comics that were openly displayed, which is one reason I bothered investigating at all. But here we have this odd, odd evidence, and it’s not just at the bare p=5% value, either. So, what’s happening? Any ideas? Why would porn drastically lower the rape rate?

  32. djinn on October 29, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    Japanese people do tend to report low marital satisfaction, so perhaps that’s a place to start.

  33. djinn on October 29, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    I am leaning to the idea that when children or young adults see images of naked people, say, in non-porn situations (like not that long ago in everyone’s houses except the very rich) it somehow innoculates them against later porn addictions. So, take your kids to museums, have the occasinal art book with the resiquite degree of nudity in a non-sexual setting. Evidence for this can be found in the high correllation between self-reported religiosity ( thereby privliging and thus giving great emotional weight to certain types of images) and those porn addictions. Innoculation. Not only for church history. Sexual response in humans is a weird thing.

  34. djinn on October 29, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    I am leaning to the idea that when children or young adults see images of naked people, say, in non-porn situations (like not that long ago in everyone’s houses except the very rich) it somehow innoculates them against later porn addictions. So, take your kids to museums, have the occasinal art book with the resiquite degree of nudity in a non-sexual setting. Evidence for this can be found in the high correllation between self-reported religiosity ( thereby privliging and thus giving great emotional weight to certain types of images) and those porn addictions. Innoculation. Not only for church history. Sexual response in humans is a weird thing.

  35. djinn on October 29, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    “I think it’s the collapse of moral authority. The more you encourage the notion that it’s up to each person to decide for himself what’s moral and immoral, the more immorality you will get.” Then why does liberal Massachusettes have such a dramatically lower divorce rate (2.8%) than Utah (5.1%)?

  36. djinn on October 29, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Yay! My last comment didn’t double post!

  37. we on October 29, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    #36 They just don’t bother?

  38. Jim Cobabe on October 29, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Then why does liberal Massachusettes have such a dramatically lower divorce rate (2.8%) than Utah (5.1%)?

    Perhaps because more people simply do not bother to formalize their partnership with a marriage?

  39. Sonny on October 29, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    #31.

    I am not an expert at all, but in my job I work with parolees, many of whom are sexual offenders. I suspect that for some of those that would otherwise sexually offend (like rape, molest, etc), porn may be enough of a ‘release’ for them that many end up not violating others as a result. I have always been of the mind that porn would only serve to increase the base desires that lead to rape or other sexual violations, so I am quite surprised by the data from Japan.

    Again, I am by no means an authority on the subject.

  40. djinn on October 29, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    Even factoring in the difference in marriage rates, 7.9% to 10.5%, you get a significantly lower divorce rate.

  41. Agellius on October 29, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    djinn writes (35), “Then why does liberal Massachusettes have such a dramatically lower divorce rate (2.8%) than Utah (5.1%)?”

    I don’t know. But why were there 308 abortions per 1,000 live births in MA, versus only 71 in UT, in the year 2000? Source:
    http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss5212a1.htm (see Table 3)

  42. djinn on October 29, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    well, Rameumpton, your post sounds perfectly reasonable, but the evidence shows otherwise. Why? I’m female. I find porn disgusting and disturbing, but an 85% drop in rapes is quite a few women (whom I identify with) spared. C’mon guys, what’s happening here? And how can we use this knowledge to protect our own children.

  43. djinn on October 29, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    Having just looked at the studies, they look at those issues you consider Rameumpton, and decide that there is no reason to consider that the reporting of rapes went down.

  44. Jack on October 29, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    Re: #29

    That was a different Jack than me–the old pain-in-the-butt Jack that’s been around here for … well, too long.

    I’ll will disagree with “Jack” and say that perhaps the day will come when the only point of argument we’ll have to stand on is precisely what the prophets and apostles have to say on the subject.

  45. Starfoxy on October 29, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    “Why would porn drastically lower the rape rate?”

    Liberalizing the porn industry does more than increase the availability of porn, it would also change the way porn is produced. When porn is made by criminals and desperate people then the whole industry is bound to be fraught with coercion and crime, where sex is involved that coercion and crime easily becomes rape. Government approval and regulation could play a large part in protecting actors from others in the industry or in changing or preventing the situations that drives them to the industry in the first place.

    Another aspect is a change in the type of porn being produced. In the states most of the porn that is professionally produced caters to the most extreme consumers because those are the most money reliable and lucrative consumers. This situation creates a feedback loop where the extreme consumers want increasingly violent imagery, and since they are the primary consumers the industry gives it to them. I would wager that these extreme users are the ones most likely to act on their fantasies in illegal ways.

    More casual users are less likely to seek out porn that is hidden away in the back of seedy stores so they either do without, or use free stuff they find on the internet. When porn is widely available for casual users (who are uninterested in violent imagery) to purchase, they become a larger share of the market. The industry then begins to cater to casual users and stops producing the increasingly violent porn that feeds the fantasies of the more volatile and potentially criminal consumers.

  46. djinn on October 30, 2008 at 1:31 am

    Starfoxy, that’s fascinating, but we have porn on the internet, but a high rate of rape. Do you feel that the back alleys of the internet ar the equivalent of the porn hidden away in seedy sections of the stores? I have three daughters, I want what’s best for them. I accidentally stumbled into some dark corner of the interne tporn world and was (and remain) horrified. I find your thesis that light brings moderation quite interesting.

  47. djinn on October 30, 2008 at 1:32 am

    We, of course, equals the United States. Forgive my ethnocentrism

  48. Tim B on October 30, 2008 at 2:51 am

    30 — Then let this be considered a request, please.

    I think very few folks have heard of it, let alone visited. I’ve been trying to find opportunities to ask this question on a number of blogs that aren’t OT, and it’s not easy — I just had an email to ldselect timeout after three days of attempted delivery, and I’ve yet to get a response to a handful of requests at various blogs.

    http://www.ldsr.org/blog for the interested. It should be noted that the site has posted boundaries that are enforced, but the purpose of the blog is a bit different from the average Mormon blog.

    29 — I have no interest in persuading anybody in power that porn is dangerous. There’s little they can do that they’re not already doing. I’m talking to the people here, and there aren’t many messages the prophets of the last few decades have been more clear and consistent on than this one. They haven’t spent the amount of time they have because this isn’t a problem among Latter-day Saints. It’s a huge problem, and it’s very difficult to address.

    At LDSR, we have people who show up all the time with variations on the same theme — they’ve tried for years and years to quit using porn, and failed every time. They are relieved to find that there is a place where they can talk to others who share their struggles. It is nice to be understood.

    And then they never come back. The work is hard. You don’t just talk to your bishop for a few weeks, pray a lot, and have it all go away. It is a lifetime struggle. It’s not 24/7 Hell. Things do get better, but it’s a challenge that keeps on being a challenge that takes consistent attention. It’s a good thing to address.

  49. Tim B on October 30, 2008 at 3:18 am

    45 — That makes no sense from the perspective of an addict. None at all. The purpose of porn is the excitement that comes from seeking it, finding it, and using it. Just like your first hit of heroine or crack or meth, that sudden jolt of excitement is amazing, but, then, it takes more, and more intense stuff to try to get that same effect. So occasional becomes regular, and softer becomes harder, and harder becomes twisted. Pictures give way to videos, and videos give way to strip clubs, and strip clubs give way to prostitutes. Or things go in a more twisted direction with voyeurism and other fetishes. And, all along the way, fantasy distorts the expectations and satisfaction with reality. Hearts get hardened, and lives and families are seriously messed up.

    BTW, use of porn is so widespread that there’s really no way of widening its reach without selling it openly to children or at churches. Not that children and people at churches aren’t using porn as it is, but those are the places in society where it’s not already openly justified. And there is plenty of harsh and twisted porn that’s available for free. More than you can likely imagine. The free stuff is used to hook people and sucker them into spending money, and it works well enough to fund a multi-billion dollar industry.

  50. Tim B on October 30, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    I should clarify that the progression I showed in the above comment is not a universal path on a slippery slope. It is there to show the direction continued porn use leads to, rather than a time-table on which those mileposts will be passed. Many will not reach the more extreme of those, but far too many will.

    Wasn’t intending to kill the thread.

  51. bbell on October 30, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    I just read djinn’s study. Lets put it this way. He is misrepresenting the data. Read for yourself. Western Europe saw a slight increase in rapes in 2-3 countries studied and no change in the other after porn legalization.

    The Japan data is being completely misrepresented by djinn.

    Example from the report on Japan:

    “In 1972, 33.3 % of the offenders were between 14-19 years of age; by 1995 that percentage had decreased to 9.6%. Thus, over the period in question, there was a major shift in the proportion of victims and offenders from the younger categories to older categories.”

    A quick look at the demographic data for japan will show that in the period from 1972 to 1995. Japanese society aged greatly as fewer and fewer children were born Hence the shift from younger victims and perps to older perps and victims.

  52. Jim Cobabe on October 30, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    It doesn’t matter what confusing or contrived data the “studies” come up with on pornography. The brethren have unequivocally spoken against pornography use by any holder of the priesthood. No question remains in my mind — the Lord’s servants have spoken.

    Let us follow the pathway of faith in this matter. No amount of “science” or “studies” can return findings more significant or strongly directed. We need not subject ourselves to the confusion of the world. There remains no question but that any usage of pornography is wrong and unjustified by those who would follow the counsel of inspired leadership.

    That is where I want to go. Others, I hope and pray that you get the message too.

  53. Bookslinger on October 30, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    bbell: I just looked at that report too. It’s even more complicated than that.

    Rapes went down drastically from 4677 cases in 1972 to 1500 cases in 1995. (That’s a suspiciously round number.)

    While population increased from 107 million to 125 million.

    However, sexual assault actually increased from 3139 to 3644 cases.

    And, very telling is that other serious violent crime went down during those years: Murder dropped by 40 percent, and physical assaults dropped by 60 percent.

    Unless one wants to argue that access to pornography affected all crime, it looks to me like Japanese society was undergoing a transformation anyway. That might be attributed to an aging population, as violent crime is mainly the domain of teens and young adults. (The figures I’ve heard is that the majority of people outgrow it by 30, and almost all by age 40.) So when those 20-something violent criminals hit 40, they almost all stop being violent criminals. And the next cohort of 20-somethings is much smaller in number. (The study did span over 20 years.)

    It looks like the incidence of rape decreased by about the same percentage as physical assaults, but sexual assault (other than rape) actually increased.

    Sexual assault (other than rape) did not follow the overall trend. If one wants to put forth a guess, it might be that access to pornography actually caused a number of sexual assaults that otherwise would not have occurred.

    Another hypothesis is that Japanese cultural shifts of the 70′s and 80′s (women’s rights, feminism, etc.) made women less tolerant of sexual assault, so it was reported more. Also, In the 70′s and 80′s more women entered the workplace in most industrialized nations. If that was true in Japan, then perhaps that cause more opportunities for sexual assault in the work place.

    My conclusions: 1) Since all violent crime went down, I think rapes would have decreased anyway.

    2) Since sexual assaults other than rape actually went up, even against an overall trend of decreasing violent crime, the claim that porno lowered sex crimes is doubly dubious.

  54. Jared on October 30, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    I think an important point is being over looked in this discussion. When we’re baptized and confirmed we’re told to receive the gift of Holy Ghost. This is the most important thing we can do. Until we receive the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost we haven’t fulfilled the purpose of our membership in the Lord’s church. The counsel of the apostles and prophets is nearly always directed towards helping members acquire and maintain the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    This being the case it doesn’t matter if science finds some useful end to porn. For those who are true followers of Christ porn is their enemy. Repentance is the key to dealing with porn.

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