Silly Study Claims that Pornography Lowers Marriage Rates

Let’s face it, the internet is a cesspool.  Pornography is big business on the internet…or is it?  Some people believe – quite erroneously – that pornography is one of the biggest uses of the internet.  It’s not….nor is it one of the most profitable businesses on the internet, despite low overhead, high traffic, and an insatiable clientele.  It may, however, be another manifestation of the “creeping commercialism” on the internet, another attempt to cash in on the increasingly isolated lifestyles of those who work and play mostly on the internet.

The widespread belief that pornography accounts for 37 percent of the traffic on the internet stems, according to a BBC Online Article, from a single press release issued by a company called Optenet, which provides internet filtering services.  Optenet’s figures were based on traffic samples – page views – taken in 2010 from a “representative” sample of four million website urls out of the 228 million websites in existence at the time.  That same year, however, the National Survey Of Sexual Health And Behavior, the largest study ever of human sexual behavior, with almost 6,000 respondents, reported that just three percent of the internet sites then available were considered pornographic. The conflict between these two models – page views versus site counts – has never been resolved, but what is clear is that there is much less pornography on the internet than we have been led to believe. It still might be way too much.

Now some social scientists who actually believe – also erroneously – that pornography is the reason that fewer people are getting married today have released a study that attempts to prove that there is a correlation between the consumption of pornography and marriage rates in the United States.

The  self-published study, released recently by “an independent German research organization” called The Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), concludes that between the years 2000 and 2004, in a sample of 1,500 American males between 18 and 35, men who watched more pornography on the internet got married less often than men who watched less pornography.  (Women were not included in the study, despite the fact that almost 50 percent of all marriages involve women.) That conclusion, however, is based on another erroneous assumption: that people get married for sex.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  As one comedian after another has testified from personal experience, the best way to destroy your sex life is to marry your sex partners. In fact, since most people are well aware of this truism, we have to conclude that most people don’t actually marry for sex.  They marry despite sex, often because they are tired of having their lives ruled by sexual impulses, for companionship, for their personal development as human beings, to have or foster children and, occasionally, let’s face it, for the tax benefits.

Study co-author  Dr. Michael Malcolm, a professor at the University of West Chester in Pennsylvania, reports that there is a direct correlation between internet usage and marriage, with marriage rates going down as internet rates go up, but he believes there is an even more direct correlation between the consumption of pornography and decreasing marriage rates among the men in the study group. According to a Washington Post report, Dr. Malcolm believes  the reason for this correlation is that pornography has become an alternative form of sexual gratification, undercutting the need for marriage to serve this function.

Stop right there. First of all, pornography does not provide sexual gratification of any kind for normally organized humans, regardless of whether they are straight or gay.  On the contrary, pornography actually increases levels of sexual frustration for the consumer, because that is what pornography is designed to do.  No one rushes home after a long, hard day at a frustrating and unrewarding job to sit down in front of a computer and have a long, hard frustrating evening looking at bare naked ladies (or men, depending upon individual preferences.)

It isn’t the pornography that provides the sexual release; it is the masturbation in which the viewers of pornography engage while watching pornography that provides the sexual release. Any teenage boy could tell you that, but the authors of this study apparently missed that step in their developmental processes. Pornography doesn’t make anyone feel good, except for the people who are cashing in on the pornography business.  On the contrary, pornography generally makes people feel bad in a number of obvious and some not so obvious ways, ranging from simply sexual frustration, embarrassment, and guilt, to phobias and obsessions.

Here are some real world reasons why the marriage rates in the United States and elsewhere in the first world are declining:

  1. Two-wage couples don’t benefit from the income-splitting that one-wage couples get. In fact, when both partners in a marriage work, their tax burden is usually higher than they would have been if they were not married.
  2. The global recession penetrated deeply into employment rates, and people who are out of work don’t tend to get married as much as people who have jobs, largely because the people they are marrying would prefer to marry someone who is gainfully employed. Despite reports claiming that income rates have returned to 2008 levels, we have not seen a return to the same income levels.
  3. The pressures of a “careerist” society have caused many younger people – both men and women – to postpone marriage in order to pursue their career goals with the understanding that once they do get married, the almost inevitable next step is to have children, in which case, postponing marriage is actually a mechanism for postponing childbearing until couples think they can afford to raise children.
  4. High levels of debt – especially for the prolonged education required by a careerist society – have forced many couples to postpone marriage.
  5. Increasingly, women see marriage as a choice – and often a restrictive choice – that is less attractive than their other career alternatives.
  6. Selfishness – plain and simple – stemming from an increasingly self-centered socio-economic milieu that is so prevalent in Western society, along with an increasingly sexually-permissive culture has made it easier for men and women to obtain sex without marriage – something that has nothing to do with their presumptive utilization of pornography.

Ultimately, however, there is a link between the increasingly “virtualized” culture of the internet and the increasing use of pornography. That link is impersonalization.  On the internet, people develop relationships with other people they have never met. Without any physical contact, who we are is who we say we are, since we have less and less sensory based information to use when we evaluate one another.  With this environment becoming increasingly prevalent, it is easy to understand why real physical relationships have become more frightening for many people, and unachievable for others, while virtual sex online, including everything from still photos to live interactions via web cams, have become increasingly attractive precisely because they are impersonal and therefore safe.

Pornography existed long before in the internet; check out the ancient graffiti on the walls of the sets for the HBO series “Rome.”  The internet is merely a delivery mechanism, no different from print media, film, and television, but that relatively new delivery mechanism has made it easier – and less expensive – to obtain and consume pornography, to the point where pornography is readily available to anyone, male or female, at any age, and it is the readier availability that makes the prevalence of pornography seem to relate to lower marriage rates.

It is  equally possible, however, that marriages are being postponed or rejected as a lifestyle choice for reasons other than saturation with pornography, and the marriage-less are turning to pornography as a consequence of their marriage-lessness rather than as the cause of it.

Washington Post blogger Roberto A. Ferdman does a credible job of gathering some contradictory evidence, but the evidence he presents falls far short of indicting the study for the fraud that it is.   The Institute for the Study of Labor publishes an online journal, and there is no evidence that the research they publish has been peer-reviewed, leading to the conclusion that IZA  may be a “paper mill,” a business (they are organized as a limited liability corporation, rather than as a nonprofit organization as most journals are) that exists to publish author subsidized articles that enable the articles’ authors to gain publishing credits.

Pornography may someday be as gratifying as real sex, but that will come at a premium price.  Your basic $499 laptop won’t be equipped with sensory stimulators, but your $9,000 72 inch curved Samsung LCD might soon very well be.

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