Male Partners’ Perceived Pornography Use and Women’s Relational and Psychological Health: The Roles of Trust, Attitudes, and Investment

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the mediating role of relationship trust in the links between young adult women’s perceptions of their male partners’ pornography use and their relational and psychological health. An additional purpose of this study was to examine the potential moderating roles of women’s attitudes toward pornography and relationship investment in the links between their male partners’ perceived pornography use and their relational and psychological health and between their male partners’ perceived pornography use and relationship trust. Participants included 359 young adult college women who were recruited at a large United States Southern public university and completed an online survey. Results revealed that women’s reports of their male partners’ pornography use were related to less relationship satisfaction and more psychological distress. In addition, relationship trust mediated the links between male partners’ perceived pornography use and relationship satisfaction and psychological distress. Results from the moderation analyses indicated that the direct effect of male partners’ perceived pornography use and relationship trust and the conditional indirect effects of male partners’ perceived pornography use on both relationship satisfaction and psychological distress were contingent on relationship investment. These findings indicated that when male partners’ perceived pornography use is high, women who have low or mean levels of relationship investment have less relationship trust. Finally, our results revealed that the relationship between male partners’ perceived pornography use and relational and psychological outcomes exist regardless of women’s own attitudes toward pornography.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

References

  1. Aron, A., Norman, C. C., Aron, E. N., McKenna, C., & Heyman, R. E. (2000). Couples’ shared participation in novel and arousing activities and experienced relationship quality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 273–284. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.78.2.273.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Bergner, R. M., & Bridges, A. J. (2002). The significance of heavy pornography involvement for romantic partners: Research and clinical implications. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 28, 193–206. doi:10.1080/009262302760328235.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Bradbury, T. N., Fincham, F. D., & Beach, S. R. (2000). Research on the nature and determinants of marital satisfaction: A decade in review. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62, 964–980. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.00964.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bridges, A. J., & Morokoff, P. J. (2011). Sexual media use and relationship satisfaction in heterosexual couples. Personal Relationships, 18, 562–585. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.2010.01328.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Bridges, A. J., Bergner, R. M., & Hesson-McInnis, M. (2003). Romantic partners’ use of pornography: Its significance for women. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 29, 1–14. doi:10.1080/00926230390754790.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Buzzell, T. (2005). Demographic characteristics of persons using pornography in three technological contexts. Sexuality & Culture, 9, 28–48.

  7. Carroll, J. S., Padilla-Walker, L. M., Nelson, L. J., Olson, C. D., McNamara Barry, C., & Madsen, S. D. (2008). Generation XXX: Pornography acceptance and use among emerging adults. Journal of Adolescent Research, 23, 6–30. doi:10.1177/0743558407306348.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Conley, T. D., Moors, A. C., Mastick, J. L., Ziegler, A., & Valentine, B. A. (2011). Women, men, and the bedroom: Methodological and conceptual insights that narrow, reframe, and eliminate gender differences in sexuality. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20, 296–300. doi:10.1177/0963721411418467.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Cooper, A. (1998). Sexuality and the internet: Surfing into the new millennium. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 1, 187–193. doi:10.1089/cpb.1998.1.187.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Deane, F. P., Leathem, J., & Spicer, J. (1992). Clinical norms, reliability and validity for the Hopkins Symptom Checklist-21. Australian Journal of Psychology, 44, 21–25. doi:10.1080/00049539208260158.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Derogatis, L. R., Lipman, R. S., Rickets, K., Uhlenhuth, E. H., & Covi, L. (1974). The Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSCL): A self-report symptom inventory. Behavioral Science, 19, 1–14. doi:10.1002/bs.3830190102.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. Evans-DeCicco, J. A., & Cowan, G. (2001). Attitudes toward pornography and the characteristics attributed to pornography actors. Sex Roles, 44, 351–361. doi:10.1023/A:1010985817751.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Field, A. (2013). Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS statistics. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Funk, J. L., & Rogge, R. D. (2007). Testing the ruler with item response theory: Increasing precision of measurement for relationship satisfaction with the Couples Satisfaction Index. Journal of Family Psychology, 21, 572–583. doi:10.1037/0893-3200.21.4.572.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. Galliher, R. V., Welsh, D. P., Rostosky, S. S., & Kawaguchi, M. C. (2004). Interaction and relationship quality in late adolescent romantic couples. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 21, 203–216. doi:10.1177/0265407504041383.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Green, D. E., Walkey, F. H., McCormick, I. A., & Taylor, A. J. W. (1988). Development and evaluation of a 21-item version of the Hopkins Symptom Checklist with New Zealand and United States respondents. Australian Journal of Psychology, 40, 61–70. doi:10.1080/00049538808259070.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Häggström-Nordin, E., Tydén, T., Hanson, U., & Larsson, M. (2009). Experiences of and attitudes towards pornography among a group of Swedish high school students. European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care, 14, 277–284. doi:10.1080/13625180903028171.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation and conditional process analysis: A regression based approach. New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Johansson, T., & Hammarén, N. (2007). Hegemonic masculinity and pornography: Young people’s attitudes toward and relations to pornography. The Journal of Men’s Studies, 15, 57–70. doi:10.3149/jms.1501.57.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Kor, A., Zilcha-Mano, S., Fogel, Y. A., Mikulincer, M., Reid, R. C., & Potenza, M. N. (2014). Psychometric development of the problematic pornography use scale. Addictive Behaviors, 39, 861–868. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2014.01.027.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. Lambert, N. M., Negash, S., Stillman, T. F., Olmstead, S. B., & Fincham, F. D. (2012). A love that doesn’t last: Pornography consumption and weakened commitment to one’s romantic partner. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 31, 410–438.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Larzelere, R. E., & Huston, T. L. (1980). The dyadic trust scale: Toward understanding interpersonal trust in close relationships. Journal of Marriage and Family, 42, 595–604.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Locke, H. J., & Wallace, K. M. (1959). Short marital adjustment and prediction tests: Their reliability and validity. Marriage and Family Living, 21, 251–255.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Lottes, I., Weinberg, M., & Weller, I. (1993). Reactions to pornography on a college campus: For or against? Sex Roles, 29, 69–89. doi:10.1007/BF00289997.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Maddox, A., Rhoades, G., & Markman, H. (2011). Viewing sexually-explicit materials alone or together: Associations with relationship quality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 441–448. doi:10.1007/s10508-009-9585-4.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. Mallinckrodt, B., Abraham, W. T., Wei, M., & Russell, W. (2006). Advances in testing the statistical significance of mediation effects. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53, 372–378. doi:10.1037/0022-0167.53.3.372.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Manning, J. C. (2006). The impact of internet pornography on marriage and the family: A review of the research. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 13, 131–165. doi:10.1080/10720160600870711.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Morgan, E. M. (2011). Associations between young adults use of sexually explicit material and their preferences, behaviors, and satisfaction. Journal of Sex Research, 48, 520–530. doi:10.1080/00224499.2010.543960.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. O’Reilly, S., Knox, D., & Zusman, M. E. (2007). College student attitudes toward pornography use. College Student Journal, 41, 402–406.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Parent, M. C. (2013). Handling item-level missing data: Simpler is just as good. The Counseling Psychologist, 41, 568–600. doi:10.1177/0011000012445176.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Petersen, J. L., & Hyde, J. S. (2010). A meta-analytic review of research on gender differences in sexuality, 1993–2007. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 21–38. doi:10.1037/a0017504.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2008). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavior Research Methods, 40, 879–891. doi:10.3758/BRM,40.3.879.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  33. Resch, M. N., & Alderson, K. G. (2014). Female partners of men who use pornography: Are honesty and mutual use associated with relationship satisfaction? Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 40, 410–424. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2012.751077.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Rochlen, A. B., & Mahalik, J. R. (2004). Women’s perceptions of male partners’ gender role conflict as predictors of psychological well-being and relationship satisfaction. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 5, 147–157. doi:10.1037/1524-9220.5.2.147.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Ropelato, J. (2007). Internet pornography statistics. Retrieved from http://internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/internet-pornography-statistics.html.

  36. Rusbult, C. E. (1980). Commitment and satisfaction in romantic associations: A test of the investment model. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 16, 172–186. doi:10.1016/0022-1031(80)90007-4.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Rusbult, C. E., Drigotas, S. M., & Verette, J. (1994). The investment model: An interdependence analysis of commitment processes and relationship maintenance phenomena. In D. Canary & L. Stafford (Eds.), Communication and relational maintenance (pp. 115–139). New York: Academic.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Rusbult, C. E., Martz, J. M., & Agnew, C. R. (1998). The investment model scale: Measuring commitment level, satisfaction level, quality of alternatives, and investment size. Personal Relationships, 5, 357–387. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.1998.tb00177.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Schneider, J. P. (2000). A qualitative study of cybersex participants: Gender differences, recovery issues, and implications for therapists. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 7, 249–278. doi:10.1080/10720160008403700.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Senn, C. Y. (1993). Women’s multiple perspectives and experiences with pornography. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 17, 319–341. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1993.tb00490.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Shaw, S. M. (1999). Men’s leisure and women’s lives: The impact of pornography on women. Leisure Studies, 18, 197–212. doi:10.1080/026143699374925.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Spanier, G. B. (1976). Measuring dyadic adjustment: New scales for assessing the quality of marriage and similar dyads. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 38, 15–38. doi:10.2307/350547.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Stack, S., Wasserman, I., & Kern, R. (2004). Adult social bonds and use of internet pornography. Social Sciences Quarterly, 85, 75–88. doi:10.1111/j.0038-4941.2004.08501006.x.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Stewart, D. N., & Szymanski, D. M. (2012). Young adult women’s reports of their male romantic partner’s pornography use as a correlate of their self-esteem, relationship quality, and sexual satisfaction. Sex Roles, 67, 257–271. doi:10.1007/s11199-012-0164-0.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Sun, C., Bridges, A., Johnason, J., & Ezzell, M. (2014). Pornography and the male sexual script: An analysis of consumption and sexual relations. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Advance online publication. doi:10.1007/s10508-014-0391-2.

  46. Szymanski, D. M., & Stewart-Richardson, D. N. (2014). Psychological, relational, and sexual correlates of pornography use on young adult heterosexual men in romantic relationships. The Journal of Men’s Studies, 22, 64–82. doi:10.3149/jms.2201.64.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (2001). Using multivariate statistics (4th ed.). Needham Heights: Allyn & Bacon.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Tylka, T. L., & Van Diest, A. M. K. (2014). You looking at her “hot” body may not be “cool” for me: Integrating male partners’ pornography use into Objectification Theory for women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 39, 67–84. doi:10.1177/0361684314521784.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Wallmyr, G., & Welin, C. (2006). Young people, pornography, and sexuality: Sources and attitudes. Journal of School Nursing, 22, 290–295. doi:10.1177/10598405060220050801.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  50. Weston, R., & Gore, P. A. (2006). A brief guide to structural equation modeling. The Counseling Psychologist, 34, 719–751. doi:10.1177/0011000006286345.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Zillmann, D., & Bryant, J. (1988). Pornography’s impact on sexual satisfaction. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 18, 438–453. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.1988.tb00027.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Zitzman, S. T., & Butler, M. H. (2009). Wives’ experience of husbands’ pornography use and concomitant deception as an attachment threat in the adult pair-bond relationship. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 16, 210–240. doi:10.1080/10720160903202679.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Funding

The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Informed Consent

The research involved human participants and included an informed consent that was approved by the University of Tennessee’s Institutional Review Board.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dawn M. Szymanski.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Szymanski, D.M., Feltman, C.E. & Dunn, T.L. Male Partners’ Perceived Pornography Use and Women’s Relational and Psychological Health: The Roles of Trust, Attitudes, and Investment. Sex Roles 73, 187–199 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-015-0518-5

Download citation

Keywords

  • Pornography
  • Relationship quality
  • Mental health
  • Psychological distress