The Porn Gap: How is Pornography Impacting Relationships Between Men and Women Today?
One in Five Couples Report Conflict Related to Pornography, According to New Survey
While over 70% of men and women in a national sample note some level of approval for pornography use, a new report finds 1 in 4 men actively hide their pornography viewing from their partner and 1 in 3 women are concerned about their partner’s pornography viewing
There is a Gender Gap in the Frequency of Viewing Pornography
Among those in dating relationships, women were almost twice as likely than men to report never viewing pornography (36% vs. 19%), a difference that remained stable and even rose when comparing married women and men (51% vs. 25%). Among those married, only a quarter
of married men reported no current pornography use while over half of all married women reported no pornography use over the last year.
Differences were even larger when looking at frequent pornography use that occurs at the weekly or daily level. Among dating individuals, men were more than two and a half times more likely to be viewing pornography alone in a weekly pattern compared to dating women. For married
couples, the gap of frequent pornography use alone is even greater with a third of married men reporting frequent use, but less than 1 in 16 married women reporting similar levels. Differences were also strong and consistent when looking at specific types of pornography content. Men were over three times more likely to view extreme pornography weekly compared to women, over four times more likely to watch hardcore pornography weekly or more compared to women, and over five times more likely to watch softcore pornography weekly compared to women.
Women Are Less Accepting of Pornography
Both men and women generally agree that pornography viewing is not acceptable for teens, although strong gender differences emerge. While almost 1 in 3 men agree that it is acceptable for teens to view pornography, only about 1 in 10 women feel the same. For adults, roughly half of both men and women agree that pornography viewing is acceptable for adults. A deviation from this trend appears to be married women, who are generally less accepting than men and less accepting than dating women of pornography viewing for adults, regardless of their
Pornography is Most Common among Young Men
A notable cohort difference found is that men under 30 years of age report a much higher level of daily pornography viewing (17.3%) than men over 30 years old (6.9%). That means that men in the rising generation are nearly two and a half times more likely to view pornography on a daily basis than their older peers.
One in Five Couples Report Conflict Related to Pornography
In our national sample, 20% of all couples reported some degree of conflict in their relationships due to pornography. Also, 1 in 4 men reported actively hiding their
pornography viewing from their partner. A significant number of women also expressed concerns about their partner’s pornography viewing, with almost 1 in 3 dating women reporting they worry about their partner being more attracted to pornography and their partner thinking about pornography while being intimate. For married women and men, more than 1 in 5 report the same anxieties. Also, almost 1 in every 3 dating women agreed that they were worried that their partner was withholding some details about their pornography viewing. Married women and men were generally less anxious about pornography concealment, but still 1 in 4 still reported some worry about this issue.
Pornography is Associated with Lower Relationship Quality
Couples where both partners report that they do not use pornography report the highest levels of relationship stability, commitment, and relationship satisfaction; with
90% or above of these couples reporting that their relationship is stable, committed, and satisfying to them as a couple. A consistent reduction in relationship stability,
commitment, and relationship satisfaction was noted as the relative frequency of pornography use increased within couples. Lower levels of relationship quality were
consistent across both couples with a similar level of use (both monthly users and both daily users), as well as for couples with a reported gap in use between the partners. In
comparison to couples who avoid pornography, couples where men use pornography regularly and women use pornography occasionally were 18% less likely to report that their relationship is stable, 20% less likely to be strongly committed, and 18% less likely to report that they have high relationship satisfaction. Although not a common pattern, couples where both partners view pornography on a daily basis report a 45% decrease in stability and a 30% decrease in commitment levels compared to couples where both partners do not view pornography at all.
Brian J. Willoughby, Ph.D. is currently a Professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University and a research fellow at the Wheatley Institute. Dr. Willoughby is considered an international expert in the fields of couple and marital relationships, sexuality, and emerging adult development. His research generally focuses on how adolescents, young adults, and adults move toward and form long-term committed relationships. Dr. Willoughby has published over 80 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, and is the author of the recently published books, The Millennial Marriage and The Marriage Paradox: Why Emerging Adults Love Marriage Yet Push it Aside. Dr. Willoughby currently serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Sex Research and serves as an assistant editor for the journal Emerging Adulthood.
Galena K. Rhoades, Ph.D., is a Research Professor in the Psychology Department at the University of Denver. Her research is on maternal health, romantic relationship development and functioning, the related implications for children and adults, and the effectiveness of prevention programs and interventions for families. She has over 100 publications in these areas and leads several related federally-funded evaluations. In addition, Dr. Rhoades runs MotherWise, a community program that serves women during pregnancy and postpartum.
Jason S. Carroll, Ph.D., is the Associate Director of the Wheatley Institute and is a Professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University. He is best known for his theoretical contributions to relationship science, namely his development of Marital Horizon Theory, Sexual Restraint Theory, and a Developmental Model of Marriage Readiness among young adults. In 2014, Dr. Carroll received the Berscheid-Hatfield Award for Distinguished Mid-Career Achievement, an annual award given for distinguished scientific achievement by the International Association for Relationship Research.