Study: Men's porn use linked to unhappy relationships

The study bolsters some anecdotal evidence that men’s porn use can shake the self-esteem of their girlfriends or wives, though certainly not all couples have conflicts over pornography, said study researcher Destin Stewart, a clinical psychology intern at the University of Florida. Stewart decided to investigate the effect of porn on relationships after some of her clients revealed that they were struggling with the issue. …

A number of studies that have interviewed women about pornography find a range of feelings on the topic, from “scathing to mildly positive,” Stewart and University of Tennessee psychologist Dawn Szymanski wrote online May 6 in the journal Sex Roles. Nevertheless, concerns about measuring up to the images found in pornography were a common theme. In one 1999 study, for example, a participant told researchers, “These men look at these pictures and say, ‘Look at her. She’s just beautiful. Why can’t you be like that?'” …

The findings showed that the statistical link between frequency of porn use and relationship dissatisfaction was partially explained by low self-esteem among the women in these relationships. But that doesn’t prove that porn necessarily caused the women’s self-esteem to drop. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem, Stewart said: Women whose partners watch a lot of porn might begin to feel more insecure. Or women who feel bad about themselves might seek out or stay with porn-loving guys more often than secure women.