Previous research suggests that pornography use, under certain circumstances, may negatively influence the quality of romantic relationships. Yet we still know relatively little about whether watching pornography is associated with the stability of romantic relationships later on. This study examined whether Americans who use pornography, either at all or more frequently, are more prone to report experiencing a romantic breakup over time. Longitudinal data were taken from the 2006 and 2012 waves of the nationally representative Portraits of American Life Study (N = 969). Binary logistic regression analyses demonstrated that Americans who viewed pornography at all in 2006 were nearly twice as likely as those who never viewed pornography to report experiencing a romantic breakup by 2012, even after controlling for relevant factors such as 2006 relationship status and other sociodemographic correlates. This association was considerably stronger for men than for women and for unmarried Americans than for married Americans. Analyses also showed a linear relationship between how frequently Americans viewed pornography in 2006 and their odds of experiencing a breakup by 2012. The findings affirm that earlier pornography use is associated with lower stability within Americans’ romantic relationships, especially for men and the unmarried. Data limitations and implications for future research are discussed.
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Though the term “pornography” often carries negative moral connotations, the current study employs the term because it is still frequently used in studies and national surveys, including the survey used in this study. Throughout the remainder of this study, the term pornography will refer to any sexually explicit visual material (websites, videos, magazines) created with the intention of stimulating sexual arousal.
Using controls from the 2012 wave (results available upon request) did not substantively change any of the findings for this study.
When the “unmarried” group is disaggregated and models were run with each group separately (single, cohabiting, divorced/separated, and widowed), the direction and size of the porn effect was substantively the same and obtained statistical significance in many of the models, even with a drastic reduction in sample size. Results available upon request.
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Conflict of interest
Authors declare that they have no conflicts of interests.
This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.
All data for replication are available from The ARDA. Coding specifications are available from the corresponding author upon request.
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Perry, S.L., Davis, J.T. Are Pornography Users More Likely to Experience a Romantic Breakup? Evidence from Longitudinal Data. Sexuality & Culture 21, 1157–1176 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-017-9444-8
- Romantic relationships