Don’t do porn if you’re married because you’ll probably end up divorced

Marriage and porn do not make good bedfellows. That seems obvious, right? Wait, scratch that last part. Starting an article with a rhetorical question is just about the worst of sins in our style guide. Give me a moment to get on with my penance.

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned etc etc. There we go.

Now back to the pornography thing (which also links to the religion thing, in due course). Basically: married sex is good; watching sex when married is bad.

Some hefty research out of the United States – Till Porn Do Us Part? Longitudinal Effects of Pornography Use on Divorce – has tried to pin down the effect that consuming pornographic material has on marriages.

The researchers, from the University of Oklahoma, found that consuming porn after you get married more than doubles the likelihood of your marriage ending in divorce. To be clear, that is if you didn’t watch porn before saying “I do”. In the US, the chances of a marriage failing – across all age groups – is 6%.

The Oklahoma team found that if a man starts consuming pornography after getting married, the likelihood of him ending up divorced is 11%. That correlation holds true for women in marriages delving into porn, except in that case the marriage has a 16% chance of failing.

To get this sort of data, the researchers took a few thousands people and divided them into waves. Each wave was interviewed every two years, for a total of three interviews. Each person was asked about their views on porn and their porn consumption. Those answers were then matched up against data on how those people fared in marriage and divorce.

For the sake of making this scientific, the team made sure their correlation was more than just a statistical fluke. This meant checking the influence that other factors had on pornographic consumption and divorce. These included age, how religious each person was and how happy they said they were with their marriages and relationships during the different interviews.

The first thing this test concluded was that young people are crap at marriage. The data showed that the younger the person surveyed was when they started marital-porn-consumption, the more likely they were to end up divorced.

That could just be because older people are too tired to get divorced (or they’re in love and all that jazz). Or it could be that spring chickens don’t have a mortgage and can elope at the next sideswipe on their Tinder. That means you can chase the bondage fantasy you saw in your dark-side-of-the-internet porn searches and get someone to stuff something in a place that your current partner recoils in horror at the mere mention of.

But the Oklahoma team did find that furtively googling those fantasies is more likely to go down well in a marriage where the partners are religious. Catching your partner turning the sound off after a fake moan escaped into the room had virtually no effect on these people’s chances of divorce.

Religion also trumps happiness in keeping a marriage together. People who classified themselves as “very happy” when they were heading into marriage were four times as likely to get divorced when they found their partner at the porn. This is in comparison with people who were just getting married because they marginally liked each other more than other people – Joe and Jane Soap.

Deleting your YouPorn profile and burning that dog-eared porn stash was, however, found to be good for marriage. Women who stopped their porn intake after getting married had a 6% chance of getting divorced – compared to the 16% of women who got divorced when doing the inverse. Rehabilitation is possible.

So read into that what you may. The researchers said their findings were no moral crusade: “We have no desire to push a ‘ban pornography’ agenda on the grounds that it can be harmful to marriages.”

They just want you to be forewarned. And you are. This has been, in effect, the Mail & Guardian doing a public service announcement. We care.

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Sipho Kings
Sipho Kings is a former acting editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian

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