New research shows that porn doesn’t kill love after all

Showing porn to men has no effect on their love/attraction for partner.

New research shows that porn doesn’t kill love after all
Dr. David Ley, PhD
Dr. David Ley, PhD

In 1989, researchers Kenrick, Gutierres, and Goldberg published a powerful study examining the impact of pornography on relationships and attraction. In the study, subjects were exposed to photos from Playboy and other types of erotica. Subjects who had viewed these nude images then found other women—especially their wives—to be less attractive. The subjects also reported that they were actually less in love with their wives after viewing the pornographic images.

This research has been heavily cited in academic literature, but also in general media discussions of the effects of pornography. The fact that porn could make men feel less attraction and less love for their wives is commonly used as a foundation for arguments against it. But while the idea that porn leads men to compare their wives to unrealistic ideals is a concern cited by activists and spouses, new research reveals that porn no longer appears to have this effect—if it ever did.

You may be aware of the ongoing “replication crisis” in social-science research. In essence, recent research has attempted to replicate some of the hallmark findings of some heavily-cited, influential research in psychology and the social sciences. Surprisingly, attempts to replicate many of these research findings have failed, suggesting that in many cases, the original studies were limited by statistical strategies, methodological flaws, or just over-interpretation by enthusiastic researchers eager to publish sensational findings in an academic market that feeds on hype.

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