Maybe Porn Doesn't Make Men Fall Out of Love - Breaking News, Sports, Entertainment and more
Loading...
The Brain

Maybe Porn Doesn't Make Men Fall Out of Love

A widely cited study that found looking at pornography made men lose interest in their partners, even making them less in love, may not hold up to scrutiny.

In the 1980s Professor Douglas Kenrick published studies on how heterosexual men and women responded to naked pictures of hot members of the opposite sex. Participants were then asked a series of questions, including how they felt about their partners.

Women were unaffected, but men expressed less attraction to their wives or girlfriends after seeing all the sexy alternatives, and were less likely to describe themselves as being in love with them. Ever since, this has been frequently cited as evidence for the destructive effects of porn on the male brain.

Yet science depends on replication. Individual studies can be flawed, it is only by getting the same results over several trials that we can be confident that they are right. For 27 years no one tried to replicate Kenrick’s work, or didn’t publish their findings if they did, which is particularly strange since his most influential work involved just 63 men.

Rhonda Balzarini, a PhD student at the University of Western Ontario conducted three trials with 10 times as many participants as Kenrick used, and found that looking at centerfolds made no difference to male participants’ assessments of their attraction to their partners, or how much love they felt for them. Her work has been published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

It is easy to jump to the conclusion that either Kenrick or Balzarini are simply wrong, with some flaw in their experimental technique or processing of data. However, there are plenty of alternative explanations as well. In particular, it is possible that more widespread exposure to pornography has caused what was once a real effect to wear off. Kenrick speculated to Slate, “Maybe the damage has been done.”

Another explanation is that differences between the way the two studies collected volunteers led one or both to be unrepresentative of American men in general.

Balzarini’s work was conducted as part of the Open Science project and adds to the evidence that social science research has a poor reproduction record, although just how bad the problem is remains debated.

The timing of the publication of Balzarini’s work is significant because it coincides with a new approach by the opponents of pornography. Attempts to ban sexually explicit material have largely failed in the face of America’s first amendment and the challenges of regulating the Internet. Newer attempts focus on allowing so-called victims to sue, as in proposed legislation in Utah. But the evidence of damage now looks a lot more dubious.

Leave a Comment