Pornography Use: Its Impact On Heterosexual Men’s Lives & Romantic Relationship (2018)

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The main findings:

"as pornography use in males increase, their commitment, satisfaction and investment in their romantic relationships decrease, while their perception of attractive alternatives outside their relationship increases."

The conclusion:

Research on pornography has become important since pornography affects people’s lives in several ways. It obviously has a great impact on individuals’ romantic relationships. Different research has been done on pornography from different societies, countries, culture and even on different ethnicities. This present research has demonstrated that porn use has significant ill-effects on intimate relationships. Its role in infidelity, intimate partner violence, rape, gender inequality, divorce, and other social problems should be seriously explored.

Comment: Surprising results because the study used the egregious PCES - a questionnaire which reported that the more porn you use, the more you think it’s real, & the more you masturbate to it, the better your life will be. A critique of the flawed PCES. The authors suggest the ethnic makeup of the subjects may be the reason that their results run counter to what everyone else finds with the PCES. Or maybe it's because things have gotten so bad that even the crummy PCES is revealing porn's effects. The original PCES data was gathered in 2006, and involved men and women. This study was all males (in their twenties) and 10 years later.


Journal of Social Research & Policy 8, no. 1 (2017).

ISSN: 2067-2640 (print), 2068-9861 (electronic)


The effect of pornography use on heterosexual men’s levels of investment in their romantic relationship was investigated in this study. 180 males aged 18 - 29 years responded to the Pornography Use Scale, Pornography Consumption Effect Scale (PCES), and Investment Model Scale. Correlation analyses showed that frequency of pornography use was positively related to problematic use of pornography (r= .59, p<.01), and self-perceived overall negative effects of pornography consumption (r= .22, p< .01), but negatively associated with self-perceived overall positive effects of pornography consumption (r= -.31, p<.01). Linear regression analyses demonstrated that frequency of pornography use lowered satisfaction levels (R2=.052, F(1, 178) = 10.73, β= -.238, p<.01), investment size (R2=.039, F(1, 178) = 8.245, β= -.210, p<.01) and commitment levels (R2=.032, F(1, 178) = 6.926, β= -.194, p<.05), but heightened the quality of alternatives (R2=.130, F(1, 178) = 27.832, β= .368, p<.01) of men in their romantic relationships.

Keywords: Pornography; Intimate Relationships

Hypothesis 1a: Frequency of pornography use will be negatively correlated with self-perceived overall positive effects of pornography consumption.

From Table 3 below, the result shows a moderate negative relationship between frequency of pornography and self-perceived overall positive effects of pornography consumption (r= -.31, p<.01). This means that the more male participants used pornography, the less they perceived pornography as having positive effects on their lives.

Hypothesis 1b: Frequency of pornography use will be positively correlated with self-perceived overall negative effects of pornography consumption.

Results show that frequency of pornography is moderately related to self-perceived overall negative effects of pornography consumption (r= .22, p< .01). The more pornography males consumed, the more they perceived its negative effects on their lives.

Hypothesis 1c: Frequency of pornography use will be positively correlated with problematic use of pornography.

From table 3 below, it is seen that there is a strong positive relationship between frequency of pornography use and problematic use of pornography (r= .59, p<.01). This means that the more males used pornography, the more they estimated that pornography use is a problem to themselves or to others in their lives.

Hypothesis 2a: Frequency of pornography use will predict lowered levels of satisfaction.

Frequency of pornography use was found to moderately lower satisfaction, R2=.052, F(1, 178) = 10.73, β= -.238, p<.01. In other words, increase in pornography use was found to predict decrease in males’ satisfaction with their romantic relationships.

Hypothesis 2b: Frequency of pornography use will predict decreased levels of investment.

Frequency of pornography use was shown to moderately predict decreased investment, R2=.039, F(1, 178) = 8.245, β= -.210, p<.01. The more pornography males used, the less invested they felt in their relationships.

Hypothesis 2c: Frequency of pornography will predict diminished levels of commitment.

Frequency of pornography use predicted decreased commitment, R2=.032, F(1, 178) = 6.926, β= -.194, p<.05, to a small extent. As males used more pornography, their commitment towards their partner got affected.

Hypothesis 2d: Frequency of pornography use will predict heightened quality of alternatives.

Frequency of pornography use moderately predicted increase in quality of alternatives, R2=.130, F(1, 178) = 27.832, β=.368, p<.01. As frequency of pornography use in males increased, so did their quality of alternatives.

Discussion & Conclusion

This section will explain the results and will compare and contrast these to previous studies. Possible reasons for the findings will also be explored. It will also propose some limitations of this study, and will conclude on the applications of the findings.

The main objectives of the study were to determine how frequency of porn use affects individuals’ perception of the effects of porn on their lives, as well as whether it predicts investment, satisfaction, commitment and quality of alternatives in individuals’ relationships.

Our study demonstrates that the more pornography males used, the more problems it created in their lives. Similarly, the men’s perception of negative effects of pornography increased and their perception of the positive effects of pornography decreased with increased use of pornography. The findings failed to support Hald & Malamuth’s (2008) findings which demonstrated that participants reported only small negative self-perceived effects of "hardcore" pornography consumption, while reporting moderate positive effects, with with men reporting significantly more positive effects than women. This may be due to the fact that Hald & Malamuth’s (2008) participants, who were from a Western background, might have had more positive attitudes towards pornography. The participants in our study were mainly of Asian origin and since pornography is considered as a taboo in Mauritius, it is probable that males might have perceived their pornography consumption negatively because of their religious beliefs (Stack, Wasserman & Kern, 2004). Additionally, our results may be explained by Check’s (1992) and Russell’s (1993) findings that males perceive their pornography consumption negatively because pornography impacts their personal life, as well as their romantic relationship (Bridges, Bergner & Hesson-McInnis, 2003). It can be further argued that the participants in our study perceived their pornography consumption negatively as they may feel a higher risk for job loss (Goldberg, 1998) or occupational disturbances due to pornography use.

In addition, the strong relationship between frequency of pornography use and problematic pornography use lend support to findings that males perceive their pornography consumption negatively. For instance, males report feeling guilty and embarrassed when viewing pornography (von Feilitzen & Carlsson, 2000) since it made them sexually aroused (Morgan, 2011). Similarly, pornography often gives rise to extramarital affairs (Stack, Wasserman & Kern, 2004), risky sexual behaviors, having sexual relationships with multiple partners (Braun-Courville & Rojas, 2009; Brown & L’Engle, 2009) and engaging in physically forced sex with their romantic partner (Crossman, 1995). These behaviors may explain why the men in our study felt negatively about pornography despite being frequent users of it.

Our findings also demonstrated that frequency of pornography use significantly lowers satisfaction levels, investment size, commitment levels while predicting heightened quality of alternatives. The decreased commitment levels may be explained by Zillmann & Bryant’s (1988) claims that male pornography viewers have dominating attitudes towards their romantic partner. And thus, when these individuals become less dependent in their relationships, their levels of commitment may decline (Rusbult, Drigotas & Verette, 1994), especially if the user becomes dependent on pornographic materials rather than on their partner. Moreover, the male pornography user often does not sacrifice his likings of pornography for the welfare of his relationship (Powell & Van Vugt, 2003). This decline in responsiveness and support towards their partner thus lowers the commitment level in his romantic relationship (Murray et al., 2001). Furthermore, as Guerrero, Anderson & Afifi (2011) mention, relationship commitment is enhanced when a couple perceives their relationship to be equitable. In the case where the partner of the pornography user perceives an imbalance in dependency, there may then be decrease levels of commitment from the partner as well.

Resch & Alderson (2014) pointed out that when an individual was honest about his pornography use to his romantic partner, the level of satisfaction in the couple increased. However when the male did not disclose their pornography use to his romantic partner, the level of satisfaction declined in the relationship, and they may face higher levels of stress in their romantic relationship. Since participants were from Mauritius who is a moderately conservative country, it is unlikely that all males disclosed their pornography use to their romantic partner. Thus these users might have felt higher levels of stress, thereby resulting in lowered satisfaction. Moreover, researchers have postulated that romantic partners experience satisfaction when both are physically and mentally healthy (Simpson & Tran, 2006). But when a partner, especially the man, consumes pornography while in a romantic relationship, he is more likely to experience higher levels of depression (Shapira et al, 2003; Young, 2005). Thus, his affected health may lead to decreases in satisfaction. Furthermore, researchers have proposed that satisfaction levels decrease when one’s partner feels jealous in their romantic relationship (Guerrero & Eloy, 1992; Pfeiffer & Wong, 1989). Since the male pornography user usually perceives his partner’s body negatively, comparing them with the pornography actresses, thereby lowering his partner’s self – esteem (Albright, 2008), the female partner may feel jealous and satisfaction level in the romantic relationship may be lowered for both partners.

Our results show that frequency of pornography use results in decline in investment size. Investment size, which can be tangible (e.g. exchanging gifts) or intangible (e.g. spending time with one’s romantic partner) (Goodfriend & Agnew, 2008) may enhance and strengthen a romantic relationship when couples exchange gifts with each other (Ruth, Otnes & Brunel, 1999). Similarly, Belk (1996) mentioned that exchanging gift pleases, surprises and delights the receiver. In situations where males consume pornography he will spend more time searching for pornographic videos on the internet and consequently spending less time with his partner (King, 2003). Thus investment levels may suffer because of this lack of devotion of time to one’s partner, which may affect the quality of communication (Sacher & Fine, 1996).

Carroll et al. (2008) demonstrate that male pornography use results in greater number of lifetime sexual partners and greater acceptance of extradyadic sex. A possible reason for this practice is that pornography consumers are more likely to be unfaithful to their partner (Zillmann & Bryant, 1988) since pornography consumption increases men’s desire for sexual variety. Moreover, viewing pornography makes men perceive their partner’s bodies negatively while they view the porn actresses to be more physically appealing (Betzold, 1990). Thus, this dissatisfaction may urge them to try new alternatives to their partners.