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Can Watching Porn Impact Family Relationships?

Research shows that porn can fuel disconnection—and that doesn’t only translate to those you're in a romantic relationship with.

This article contains affiliate links. Fight the New Drug may receive financial support from purchases made using affiliate links.

There’s a significant amount of research confirming how porn can impact people’s relationships.

While you may have thought about how porn could hurt your partner, have you ever considered how it can separate you from your loved ones outside of just romantic relationships—like your family?

How porn can disconnect consumers from their family

Relationships require effort, time, and care in order to thrive. Porn, however, can easily distract consumers from meaningful relationships, which can put a wedge between consumers and their families.

Instead of spending quality time with those they love, many porn consumers find themselves withdrawing mentally, emotionally, and physically from their real-life relationships by turning to a habit that thrives in isolation. In fact, research actually shows that pornography fuels loneliness.Butler, M. H., Pereyra, S. A., Draper, T. W., Leonhardt, N. D., & Skinner, K. B. (2018). Pornography Use and Loneliness: A Bidirectional Recursive Model and Pilot Investigation. Journal of sex & marital therapy, 44(2), 127–137. https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2017.1321601Copy 

Shame can also play a role in disconnecting porn consumers from their loved ones. Consumers who feel ashamed of their porn habits may feel a need to keep the habit a secret, which can isolate them even further.

Porn models toxic behavior

Research shows that porn normalizes aggressive and objectifying behavior toward others.

By watching scene after scene of dehumanizing or violent content, it can start to seem normal.Daneback, K., Ševčíková, A., & Ježek, S. (2018). Exposure to online sexual materials in adolescence and desensitization to sexual content. Sexologies, 27(3), e71-e76. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sexol.2018.04.001Copy Ezzell, M. B., Johnson, J. A., Bridges, A. J., & Sun, C. F. (2020). I (dis)like it like that: Gender, pornography, and liking sex. J.Sex Marital Ther., 46(5), 460-473. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2020.1758860Copy 

Related: How Porn Can Normalize Sexual Objectification

In fact, research indicates that porn consumers are more likely to sexually objectify and dehumanize others,Mikorski, R., & Szymanski, D. M. (2017). Masculine norms, peer group, pornography, facebook, and men’s sexual objectification of women. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 18(4), 257-267. doi:10.1037/men0000058Copy Skorska, M.N., Hodson, G., & Hoffarth, M.R. (2018). Experimental effects of degrading versus erotic pornography exposure in men on reactions toward women (objectification, sexism, discrimination). The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 27, 261 - 276.Copy Zhou, Y., Liu, T., Yan, Y., & Paul, B. (2021). Pornography use, two forms of dehumanization, and sexual aggression: Attitudes vs. behaviors. Null, 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2021.1923598Copy  more likely to express an intent to rape,Foubert, J. D., Brosi, M. W., & Bannon, R. S. (2011). Pornography viewing among fraternity men: Effects on bystander intervention, rape myth acceptance and behavioral intent to commit sexual assault.18(4), 212-231. doi:10.1080/10720162.2011.625552Copy  less likely to intervene during a sexual assault,Foubert, J. D., Brosi, M. W., & Bannon, R. S. (2011). Pornography viewing among fraternity men: Effects on bystander intervention, rape myth acceptance and behavioral intent to commit sexual assault. 18(4), 212-231. doi:10.1080/10720162.2011.625552Copy  Foubert, J. D., & Bridges, A. J. (2017). What Is the Attraction? Pornography Use Motives in Relation to Bystander Intervention. Journal of Adolescent Research, 32(20), 213–243. https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558414547097Copy  more likely to victim-blame survivors of sexual assault,Foubert, J. D., Brosi, M. W., & Bannon, R. S. (2011). Pornography viewing among fraternity men: Effects on bystander intervention, rape myth acceptance and behavioral intent to commit sexual assault.18(4), 212-231. doi:10.1080/10720162.2011.625552Copy Foubert, J. D., & Bridges, A. J. (2017). What Is the Attraction? Pornography Use Motives in Relation to Bystander Intervention. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 32(20), 3071–3089. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260515596538Copy  more likely to support violence against women,Wright, P. J., & Tokunaga, R. S. (2016). Men's Objectifying Media Consumption, Objectification of Women, and Attitudes Supportive of Violence Against Women. Archives of sexual behavior, 45(4), 955–964. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-015-0644-8Copy Seabrook, R. C., Ward, L. M., & Giaccardi, S. (2019). Less than human? media use, objectification of women, and men’s acceptance of sexual aggression. Psychology of Violence, 9(5), 536-545. doi:10.1037/vio0000198Copy  more likely to forward sexts without consent,van Oosten, J., & Vandenbosch, L. (2020). Predicting the Willingness to Engage in Non-Consensual Forwarding of Sexts: The Role of Pornography and Instrumental Notions of Sex. Archives of sexual behavior, 49(4), 1121–1132. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-01580-2Copy  and more likely to commit actual acts of sexual violence.Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., & Kraus, A. (2016). A meta-analysis of pornography consumption and actual acts of sexual aggression in general population studies. Journal of Communication, 66(1), 183-205. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/jcom.12201Copy Rostad, W. L., Gittins-Stone, D., Huntington, C., Rizzo, C. J., Pearlman, D., & Orchowski, L. (2019). The association between exposure to violent pornography and teen dating violence in grade 10 high school students. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 48(7), 2137-2147. doi:10.1007/s10508-019-1435-4Copy Goodson, A., Franklin, C. A., & Bouffard, L. A. (2021). Male peer support and sexual assault: The relation between high-profile, high school sports participation and sexually predatory behaviour. 27(1), 64-80. doi:10.1080/13552600.2020.1733111Copy Mikorski, R., & Szymanski, D. M. (2017). Masculine norms, peer group, pornography, Facebook, and men’s sexual objectification of women. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 18(4), 257-267. doi:10.1037/men0000058Copy 

That doesn’t sound like a good recipe for safe and loving family dynamics, does it?

BHW - General

Porn fantasies exploit family relationships

It’s no secret that incest is an unfortunately common theme in pornography.

In fact, a group of researchers recently analyzed common themes found in mainstream porn videos, finding that one in eight porn titles on three popular porn sites describes sexual violence.

The most frequent form of sexual violence in the sample—8,421 titles—was related to sexual activity between family members. Common terms included step, aunt, brother, cousin, dad, daughter, family, father, gran, incest, and mom. Even more disturbingly, the researchers found that representations of step relationships in porn titles were actually less common than blood relationships, with the majority of titles describing sexual activity between immediate family members.Vera-Gray, F., McGlynn, C., Kureshi, I., & Butterby, K. (2021). Sexual violence as a sexual script in mainstream online pornography. The British Journal of Criminology, doi:10.1093/bjc/azab035Copy 

Take, for instance, some of the highest-ranking search terms year after year on just one major porn site—like MILF, mom, stepmom, and stepsister. Presenting abusive, incestuous rape scenarios as sexual fantasies is deeply problematic, yet porn normalizes and fantasizes situations that should never be healthy or accepted in real life.

Related: Bark: This Is a Better Way to Monitor Your Family’s Internet While Building Trust

Now consider the broader repercussions. There were 42 billion visits to just one major porn site in 2019—that’s more than 115 million visits a day, or 1,331 visits per second. Given that many of the top searched-for terms on that site sell the idea that sex with a parent or a sibling is sexy and normal, it’s safe to say there’s a significant demand for this type of content, and that a lot of people are consuming it.

But is it healthy to repeatedly consume content that consistently sexualizes family members and normalizes unhealthy relationship dynamics like incest?

Bark

How porn can hurt future family

No one has a “perfect” family. Even if your current family relationships aren’t where you’d like them to be, you have the power to decide how you want to build your own family. You can make decisions and develop habits now to help you build healthy family relationships in your future.

Some people think that consuming porn is a switch they can turn on or off based on circumstances or relationship status, but the research shows something significantly different.

In fact, many people are surprised to find that giving up a porn habit is more difficult than they thought it would be. Because porn can become addictive, some continue consuming it when they’re in a committed, fulfilling, sexual relationship and they’re trying their best to stop.

Related: How Porn Can Hurt a Consumer’s Partner

Plus, porn can negatively impact more than just the consumer. Many people share experiences about how their family member’s porn habit has hurt them and changed their life—like a parent choosing porn over their family, or the difficulty of having a sibling who struggles.

Even if a consumer doesn’t have a spouse or kids of their own but might want to someday, consider how consuming porn could affect future loved ones. The idea that someone can turn off a porn habit whenever they want isn’t consistent with the science behind how porn impacts consumers.

Truth About Porn

Fight for the love of your family

The temporary gratification of porn may seem desirable in the moment, but it’s not worth everything it might take—like relationships with the people who are (hopefully) really there for you no matter what.

Related: My 14-Year-Old Daughter is Watching Porn, How Do I Talk to Her About It?

If this is something you struggle with, connect with a community that can help you heal, and open up to your loved ones about your porn habit so they can support you along your journey.

Family can give what porn never will—and that’s worth fighting for.

Need help?

For those reading this who feel they are struggling with pornography, you are not alone. Check out Fortify, a science-based recovery platform dedicated to helping you find lasting freedom from pornography. Fortify now offers a free experience for both teens and adults. Connect with others, learn about your unwanted porn habit, and track your recovery journey. There is hope—sign up today.

Fortify

Fight the New Drug may receive financial support from purchases made using affiliate links.

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