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The Link Between Pornography and Infidelity

The numbers are in. Pornography consumption is up. Pornography revenues in the U.S. exceed 13 billion dollars per year (Ropelato, 2007), with world revenues exceeding 93 billion dollars. And, only twenty percent of consumers actually pay to view pornography (Doran, 2009). Putting this in perspective, an estimated 28,000 individuals per second access pornography on the Internet. And over 244 million pornography pages are operated within the United States alone.

Extensive research indicates that pornography consumers are at increased risk for relationship infidelity (Schnieder, 2000; Stack, Wasserman, & Kern, 2004; Zillman, 2000; Zillman & Bryant, 1988). Zillman and Bryant (1988) found that male and female partners who were exposed to pornography once a week for six weeks reported being less satisfied with their partner’s appearance and sexual behavior. Zillman and Bryant (1988) found that men who consumed pornography were more dominating and less attentive toward their partners. We can assume from these and other similar studies that repeated exposure to pornography impairs commitment to one’s relationship.

Rusbult (1983 suggested an investment model of commitment in which there are three elements to commitment. These are satisfaction, quality of available alternatives, and level of investment in the relationship. Negash, Lambert, and Stillman (2012) propose that consuming pornography will impede commitment by increased attention to attractive alternatives.

Stanley and Markman (1992) assessed commitment using a short form of the dedication subscale of commitment measure, comprised of four items ranging from (1) strongly disagree to (5) strongly agree. Not surprisingly, based on the above information, the higher pornography scores were associated with lower commitment scores.

Ambady and Rosenthal (1992) asked whether the disparity between relationship commitment in pornography users and non-users was apparent to casual observers. In a controlled study, their finding indicated that observers could spot pornography users over non-users based on their behavior toward their partners.

Can the negative effects of pornography be reduced? Negash, Lambert, and Stillman (2012) found that three weeks abstinence improved social relations and quality of relationship scores.

The bottom line is pornography is not good for the perceived quality of a relationship, and foretells of infidelity, indicating that partners should have a serious discussion about their views and habits regarding pornography before committing to a long-term relationship.


Negash, S., Lambert, N. M., Stillman, T. F., Olmstead, S. B., Fincham, F. D. (2012). Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 31(4), 410-438.

Ropelato, J. (2007). Internet pornography statistics. Retrieved November 1, 2010 from statistics.html.

Doran, K. (2009). The economics of pornography. Unpublished manuscript. Retrieved

November 1, 2010 from: mocracy/social_costs_of_pornography/Doran%20-%20%20Economics%20 of%20Pornography.pdf

Rusbult, C. E. (1983). A longitudinal test of the investment model: The development (and deterioration) of satisfaction and commitment in heterosexual involve- ments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 101–117.

Schneider, J. P. (2000). Effects of cybersex addiction on the family: Results of a sur- vey. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 7, 31–58.

Stack, S., Wasserman, I., & Kern, R. (2004). Adult social bonds and use of Internet pornography. Social Science Quarterly, 85, 75–88.

Stanley, S., & Markman, H. (1992). Assessing commitment in personal relationships. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 54, 595–608.

Stanley, S. M., Markman, H. J., & Whitton, S. W. (2002). Communication, con ict, and commitment: Insights on the foundations of relationship success from a national survey. Family Process, 41, 659–675.

Stanley, S. M., Whitton, S. W., & Markman, H. J. (2004). Maybe I do: Interpersonal commitment and premarital or nonmarital cohabitation. Journal of Family Issues, 25, 496–519.

Zillman, D. (2000). In uence of unrestricted access to erotica on adolescents’ and young adults’ disposition toward sexuality. Journal of Adolescent Health, 27, 41–44.

Zillman, D., & Bryant, J. (1988). Pornography’s impact on sexual satisfaction. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 18, 438–453.


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