Don't Blame The Decline Of Marriage On Porn Just Yet

Illustrated By Isabelle Rancier.
Porn has been accused of many things even since since someone got the idea to capture sex with a camera: objectifying women, setting unrealistic standards for bodies and sex, undermining satisfaction in real-life relationships. Now, a study by Michael Malcolm, an economics professor at West Chester University, and George Naufal, the technical director at Timberlake Consultants, is adding another criticism to the pile. They say porn is responsible for the decline in U.S. marriage rates because it serves as a kind of replacement for marital, ahem, relations.
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Published by Germany's Institute for the Study of Labor, the study tracked the Internet usage habits of about 1,500 men for four years. Researchers measured the amount of time each participant spent online each week and divided up their web-surfing activities into seven categories: porn, finance, news, education, health, sports, and religion. After adjusting for variables like education, age, employment, income, and religiosity, Malcolm and Naufal concluded that the men who spent the most time watching porn online were less likely to be married than the other participants in their study.
The researchers arguing that it's not just the availability of free online porn that correlates with the decline in marriage, but also that porn itself is partly responsible. In response to the study, Slate pointed out that "one could easily conclude that many men enjoy porn because they’re single, not that they’re single because they enjoy porn." There's also no indication of whether the unmarried men in the study simply went on to marry later.
The average age of marriage in the U.S. has been steadily rising. For men, it increased from 22 in 1960, 26 in 1990, and 29 in 2010. But, delayed marriage isn't the same as no marriage at all, and men who visited any of the seven types of websites considered in this study — with the exception of religious kinds — were less likely to be married than men who didn't visit these websites at all. (The correlation was just strongest for porn sites.)
While Malcolm and Naufal state that "increased Internet usage is negatively associated with marriage formation" and that "pornography consumption specifically has an even stronger effect," a look at all of the variables at play suggest that it's probably premature to blame Pornhub for society's shifting relationship to matrimony.
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