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BYU study: Pornography use at any level harms romantic relationships

‘The fact remains that relationship stability is weakened by pornography usage for both men and women,’ says BYU’s Brian Willoughby

New research provides powerful, overwhelming evidence for not only couples, but also for agencies and policymakers about how regular pornography use harms relationships.

A study from BYU published in the Journal of Sex Research says whether men or women in a relationship use pornography, it has a pronounced negative impact on their relationship stability. 

“As higher pornography use was reported, lower relationship stability was also reported by men and women,” said Brian Willoughby, BYU School of Family Life professor who wrote the study results with Carson Dover, a BYU graduate student.

The research looked at data from over 3,500 people in committed relationships around the United States — examining pornography-usage associations among gender, perceived addiction and level of religiosity. 

The researchers did not have participants view pornographic material but asked them to answer specific questions about pornography viewing and also asked them about their sense of satisfaction and stability in their relationship.

“It’s true that the type of pornographic content may have larger negative effects on relationship well-being than others, and that men who are religious appear to be more impacted by watching pornography due to feelings of being out of harmony with their moral beliefs, but the fact remains that relationship stability is weakened by pornography usage for both men and women,” Willoughby said in a news release from BYU

Before this research, scholars and other experts did not agree on the impact of pornography on relationship health, arguing that too many competing factors were at play. Now, Willoughby said, better conversations can start to happen about pornography use being a risk factor for relationships.

“Most couples are probably unaware that their pornography use may be creating risk or harm in their relationship,” he said. “I’m hoping that research like this can start conversations for policymakers and others about the need to educate the public about the potential harms of pornography and create better resources for individuals and couples on navigating this topic.”

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