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Fresh Research on Pornography’s Effects on Romantic Relationships

Last Updated: April 22, 2015

Luke Gilkerson
Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Your Brain on Porn and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

In a recently published paper draft, Ana Bridges, Ph.D., faculty at University of Arkansas’ Department of Psychology, writes about pornography’s effects within the context of romantic relationships. Below are some of her findings:

1. Pornography Use Can Be Addictive

Increasingly pornography use is becoming implicated in divorces. Porn addiction can have many negative effects on relationships, such as the loss of a job due to surfing adult websites on the company computer or loss of time with spouse and family (due to increased time online).

2. Women Are Reluctant to Enter into Relationships with Frequent Pornography Users

Studies have shown that the discovery of a partner’s use of pornography can be a very traumatic event. Bridges conducted a study in which 85 college men and 81 college women were asked to view numerous mock online dating website-like profiles of individuals and to rate their interest in pursuing a long-term romantic relationship with each person in the profile. The results of this study revealed that knowledge about a potential mate’s pornography use was a significant predictor of intentions to pursue a relationship for women, but not for men.

3. Pornography Leads to Decreased Satisfaction with a Romantic Partner

There is copious data to show the association between pornography use and romantic dissatisfaction. One study showed that couples who were “happily married” were 61% less likely to report visiting a pornographic website in the prior 30 days.

In another study, for both men and women, exposure to the female centerfold models, such as Playboy and Penthouse, significantly lowered judgments about the attractiveness of the “average” attractive persons. The study also showed that consumption of popular pornographic magazines may negatively affect a man’s commitment to monogamous relationships. The study validated the experience of wives and girlfriends who claim they are unfavorably compared: to the ideals which porn users  hold for the porn star.

Another study showed that after repeated exposures to pornography, sexual satisfaction with one’s partner decreased in many areas: specifically, display of affection, physical appearance, sexual curiosity and sexual performance.

4. Pornography Users May Not See Their Use as Problematic, However, Partners of Pornography Users Are Affected

In one study of over 9,000 Internet users, findings showed:

  • 70% of respondents kept secret from their romantic partner how much time they spent online in their sexual pursuits
  • 68% felt their online sexual pursuits did not interfere with any area of their lives,
  • 93% of males and 84% of females admitted that others in their life had complained about their online sexual activities.

In another study of over 1,100 Internet users, participants without Internet sexual experiences were significantly more likely to rate the use of pornography as an act of infidelity compared to users.

In another study, 94 partners of identified “sexual addicts” were interviewed. The affects of their partners’ cybersex use included feelings of hurt, betrayal, lowered self-esteem, mistrust, decreased intimacy, anger, feeling unattractive and objectified, feeling their partners had less interest in sexual contact, pressure from the partner to enact things from the online fantasy and a feeling that they could not measure up to the women online.

Bridges’ study includes many more interesting bits of data which make it well worth further investigation.

  • Comments on: Fresh Research on Pornography’s Effects on Romantic Relationships
    1. Flavius

      “93% of males and 84% of females admitted that others in their life had complained about their online sexual activities.”


      I’ve never seen a study where anything approaching this number even admitted to viewing any porn at all.

      • I recommend you read her research article if you want to have a better idea about the circumstances surrounding the study. Thanks for your question, Flavius.

    2. Beth

      Flavius –

      It wasn’t written very clearly. I’m pretty sure she meant that 93% of male pornography users and 84% of female pornography users admitted that others in their life complained… Not that 84% of men in general.

    3. chris

      no… its written very clearly, 93% of men, and 84% of women. states it pretty clearly that those people have been told by a friend or other loved one has said something to them about their pornographic searching. clearly stated flavius is just trying to be argumentative

    4. alabi thomas omotayo

      im a post graduate student studing this problem in my country i therefore needed your assistance in term of research work on this minence hoping to hear from you soon thanks federal university of technology pmb 65 minna niger state

    5. nervoustitan


      It is clearly stated, and also just plain wrong. The actual statistic is actually on this same page, please don’t be obstinate.


    6. Eric

      I have yet to view the full research findings, however, as with any condition that brings forth “disease,” whether having a label or not, is secondary to that which restores balance thereto. This is the area that I am currently exploring and developing an understanding of via the principles of human experience; that restoring balance is possible regardless of the condition or degree of “attachment” to the condition. While there is cause for concern, particularly as noted in relationships, the greater concern is viable education which brings balance to relationships that experience such challenges and issues.
      Recognizing the causes of such a condition is truly a fresh beginning that only a few practitioners are venturing and hopefully continues to emerge for the sake of overall health and well being of human relations.



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