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Does Winning an Election Make Men Watch More Porn? Can Porn Cause Relationship Problems? Science Weighs In!

We just got our hands on the most recent edition of a journal we like, Computers in Human Behavior and it came out with a fascinating article called--ready?---Pornography-seeking behaviors following midterm political elections in the United States: A replication of the challenge hypothesis.

Does Vivid win when your political party wins?
Does Vivid win when your political party wins?

Anyway, the paper conducted a study testing the "challenge hypothesis," which predicts that "individuals who viciously win a competition of rank order will seek out pornography relatively more often than individuals who viciously lose a competition." The hypothesis, apparently, is solid.

People located in traditionally Republican states tended to search for pornography keywords on Google more often after the 2010 midterm election (a Republican victory) than after the 2006 midterm election (a Democratic victory). Conversely, individuals located in traditionally Democratic states tended to search for pornography relatively less often following the 2010 midterm election than they did following the 2006 midterm election.

So, ladies and gentlemen, if your conservative-leaning boyfriend or girlfriend has started searching for porn more than usual lately, you can blame the Tea Party for viciously winning all those seats.

How might you feel about this porn-watching extravaganza? Science suggests: not so good. We found a bunch of other journal articles about porn and relationships and all that, and thought we'd tell you about the many interesting things we learned.

First, however, a fun fact: the term "pornography" comes from the Greek term ''pornographos,'' which can be translated into ''writing about prostitutes.''

So what happens when people look at "writing-about-prostitutes" a lot?

If you think "nothing," then you are wrong. Sort of.

 

Is porn bad for a relationship?
Is porn bad for a relationship?

Most people who watch porn say that they are not affected by it, however, that "most other people are" are affected by it.

Studies have demonstrated that while a majority of people believe that others' behavior is influenced by pornography, only a small minority report their own behavior as being similarly influenced.

Hmm. What of these people who are indeed affected by it? What might this look like? How might people be affected by it? Well, for one,

strong>The consumption of pornography leads people to rate their own sexual relationship as less exciting over time.

Bummer, but maybe not entirely unexpected? According to one paper , researchers found that in a sample of 531 Internet users, happily married people were 61% less likely to report visiting a pornographic website in the prior 30 days. Similarly, a 2007 survey conducted using 217 heterosexual couples found that men's use of pornography negatively related to both his and her levels of sexual satisfaction, as in, the more frequently a man used porn, the less likely his wife was to be satisfied, and vice versa.

Of course it's hard to say which "caused" which. Do people start looking at porn because they aren't satisfied with their own sexual relationships? Or do they become less satisfied with their relationships because they're too busy comparing themselves to the experiences portrayed in pornographic videos?

Exposure to porn might lead men to become less attracted to, and even less in love with their partners.

The first part, not terribly surprising, but the last part is unexpected, right? In this study one set of couples looked at slides of abstract art to form the control condition. In the experimental condition, women looked at pictures from centerfolds from Playgirl. Their male partners checked out Playboy and Penthouse centerfolds. After viewing the centerfolds/abstract art, participants were asked to rate how sexually attractive they felt their mate was.

Results? Men in the experimental condition--looking at a Penthouse and Playboy centerfolds-- rated their female partner's attractiveness and scores on Rubin's Love Scale much lower than the men looking at abstract art. Women's ratings, however, were not influenced by art or Playgirl.

If you are like us, you are probably thinking a) wtf is Rubin's Love Scale? and b) isn't Playgirl thought of as catering to gay men and not straight women these days, thus complicating the study?

On the latter point, we feel you.

On the first point: according to social psychologist Zick Rubin, romantic love is comprised of:

1. Attachment: The need to be cared for and be with the other person.

2. Caring: Valuing the other person's happiness and needs as much as your own.

3. Intimacy: Sharing private thoughts, feelings, and desires with the other person.

In 1970, Rubin published a paper on this very issue and attempted to come up with a scale to differentiate between, and evaluate the degree of liking or loving another person.

So men looking at Playboy/Penthouse scored lower on this scale than abstract art-looking men when rating the feelings they had towards their wives. Taken alone, that's significant.

But we wonder--if the point is that the centerfold lady is not only super hot, but also is no doubt airbrushed and Photoshopped and professionally photographed, rendering her so completely gorgeous that no "normal" woman can look like her, and that just looking at the Playboy and Penthouse ladies makes guys not so into their wives, well, what about the gorgeous women of Victoria's Secret? Or, really, every billboard advertising just about everything?

So we question whether or not porn, per se, is the issue here.

Also, perhaps we have all become inoculated to Photoshopped and airbrushed gorgeousness due to seeing it at all times, everywhere, on billboards for every single product on earth.

We don't know but so leave you to discuss this amongst yourselves.

Carrying on.

Watching pornography that is particularly degrading to women can kind of make [heterosexual] men act like jerks to women. Even if they are normally very nice guys.

We are well-versed in the difference between pornography and erotica and, dear readers, we assume you are as well. Some with less refined tastes, however, delight in watching films that are not only "pornographic" but exhibit violence towards women. A paper investigating men's behavior towards women after watching sexually explicit films (titled, incidentally, Men's Behavior Toward Women After Viewing Sexually-Explicit Films) wanted to see what happens if men watch sexually violent pornography, and then are partnered up to do a little teamwork exercise with a bunch of women who didn't know that the men had been watching pornography.

So what they did was have seventy-one men view one of three films: (a) sexually-explicit and degrading to women, (b) sexually-explicit but non-degrading, or (c) non-sexual. The men then interacted with women in a problem-solving exercise.

Men who viewed either sexually-explicit film displayed more dominance and anxiety than did the men who viewed the non-sexual film. This was true, however, for only the two-thirds who were non sex-typed--which we will explain in a second. Of these men, those who viewed the degrading sexual film displayed less anxiety, but more dominance, than men who watched the non-degrading sexual film, interrupting their female partners a lot and touching them a lot and generally being very rude.

OK, so what is this "non-sex-typed" business?

Before getting comfortable and watching some porn, the guys were interviewed to see if they were "sex-typed" or "non-sex-typed". Sex-typed is academic speak for an attitude that can charitably be described as "traditional." These men see 'women as more attractive, sexual, and submissive, but less intelligent and rational than men." These guys were domineering and kind of rude to their female partners no matter what. There was no difference if they watched porn, violent porn, or no porn.

But the non-sex-typed guys--you know, your latte-drinking, liberal-leaning, NPR-listening progressive type-- were the ones who watched some porn, and then were rude and domineering when interacting with female partners. And they were more domineering when exposed to the violent porn than the non-violent porn. Make sense?

But again, you might say, "I do not watch violent porn. I just watch normal porn. Not the violent kind."

Well, porn today is kind of characterized by violence in a way that it didn't used to be so unless you're super into 1970s vintage porn, which you may be, you're probably watching something with some violence towards women in it.

Porn today is a lot more violent and "degrading" than porn in the 1970s and 1980s.

A recent content analysis (also available for you to read about here) of 50 best-selling adult videos showed that nearly half of the randomly selected, 300+ scenes

analyzed contained verbal aggression and over 88% showed physical aggression.

Less you think the violence was evenly distributed, 70% of aggressive acts were perpetrated by men and almost 90% violent acts were committed against women. Fewer than 5% of the aggressive acts provoked a negative response from the victim, like flinching and requests to stop the action.

This could, of course, mean that people who don't know how to use the Internet are more interested in violent porn than people who do know how to use the Internet to simply download porn.

So, my conservative-leaning, red-state residing friends, we have but one more effect of the Republican midterm victory. It is causing people to check out more porn.


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