Examining the Associations Between Pornography Use and Relationship Outcomes
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There has been a growing interest in understanding whether and how pornography use is associated with relationship quality and sexual satisfaction for individuals in long-tem, committed relationships. Past research examining this question has produced inconsistent findings. Moreover, the methodological limitations of past work make it difficult to draw any definitive conclusions. The current thesis consists of three key studies that focus on the relationship between pornography use and relationship outcomes (i.e., relationship quality and sexual satisfaction). In Study 1, I examined the associations between pornography use (an individual’s own use and estimates of partner’s use) and relationship outcomes for 780 adults in long-term committed relationships, while improving upon three significant methodological flaws that have been present in past research: underpowered studies, recruitment of biased samples, and use of unreliable measures. For women, only one significant association emerged: women who estimated that their partners used pornography more frequently reported lower quality in their relationship. Men who reported using pornography more frequently were less sexually satisfied and reported lower relationship quality, as compared to men who used pornography less frequently. Men who estimated that their partners used pornography more frequently were more sexually satisfied, as compared to men who estimated that their partners used pornography less frequently. In Study 2, I replicated the findings from Study 1 and extended them by examining how contextual factors (i.e., pornography-related communication) relates to relationship outcomes. We were able to replicate the findings from Study 1 in an independent sample of 773 adults in long-term romantic relationships. Furthermore, the quality of overall communication and the quality of pornography-related communication were found to be important predictors of relationship outcomes, and attenuated many of the associations of participants’ own pornography use and participants’ perceptions of their partner’s pornography use with relationship outcomes. The quality of pornography-related communication was also positively associated with relationship quality for women and sexual satisfaction for women and men, over and above quality of overall relationship communication. Because pornography-related communication was shown to be important for relationship outcomes, the goal of Study 3 was to examine the degree to which discussions around pornography use is avoided by partners in a romantic relationship. In a sample of 191 adults in romantic relationships, pornography use was found to be the most avoided topic on average, and was avoided significantly more than several other relationship topics. Overall, results underline the importance of considering contextual factors that may influence the relationship between pornography use and relationship outcomes.