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Can Watching Porn Turn Someone Into a Cheater in Reality?

By May 26, 2020 No Comments

We know that finding out a partner has been watching porn definitely feels like being cheated on. But here’s another question: is consuming porn the same thing as cheating with a real person in reality?

Truthfully, there’s not really a “correct” answer, and a lot of people in our society would probably say no. But a lot of other people would say absolutely, yes.

The reality is, it’s a question that can only be answered subjectively. Partly, it depends on your personal definition of cheating—does it have to involve direct physical contact with someone, or can it be a mental or emotional event that crosses a line? By the numbers, 41% of marriages reportedly suffer from “physical or emotional infidelity,” but what exactly does that mean? That line is what makes things tricky. For every individual and every unique couple, that line can be different, and what’s acceptable or understandable to some people might be considered over the line by others.

As an organization, we can’t answer these questions for you because they’re such personal questions, but we can point you to the research and inform individuals about the proven harms of porn and help couples make healthy decisions.

RelatedIs Watching Porn Like Cheating On Your Partner?

Obviously, as an anti-porn, pro-love organization, we know the world would be a happier, healthier place if porn didn’t exist. We could explain the scientific and sociological reasons why that is all day long, but we’ve spent plenty of time doing that already—just read our blog or watch our three-part documentary series for free, if you aren’t sure what we’re talking about.

So back to the cheating question. Regardless of if you define consuming porn secretly in a relationship as cheating or not, can consuming porn push a consumer to act out with others in reality?

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Does consuming porn make someone unfaithful?

This may come as a disappointment, but to be totally honest, no one is really sure if porn can “make” someone cheat on their partner with others in reality. There have been quite a few studies on porn’s effect on relationships, and they’ve found that people who watch porn can be “less stable in their relationships and have higher rates of infidelity and divorce. They are also less committed to their partners, less satisfied in their relationships, and more cynical about marriage, love, and relationships in general.”

That doesn’t sound good at all, but let’s take a minute to talk about correlation and causation.

Correlation means that two things are connected, and causation means that one thing causes another—for example, eating lots of chocolate might be correlated with getting good grades, but it doesn’t necessarily cause someone to get good grades. So maybe chocolate eating and good grades might show up together in studies, but there’s probably another variable that we don’t know about yet that explains why the two are correlated. (It’s true, you can show a correlation between pretty much anything, whether they’re related or not.)

RelatedWhen You Watch Porn, Who Is It Actually Hurting?

The fact is, it’s been shown time and again that there is a positive correlation between porn and infidelity—that is, porn consumption is definitely connected to more infidelity. It’s important to note that most studies about porn and infidelity struggle to move from correlation to causation, though.

While we can say that people who watch porn are more likely to be unfaithful to their partners, we can’t definitively prove that this increased likelihood is because the person has a history of watching porn. Make sense? Either way, porn isn’t healthy for relationships, and plenty of credible research is very clear about that fact.

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Own your decisions

Really, though, the “correlation vs. causation” shouldn’t matter if we go back to the beginning—the murky ethical line that separates “cheating” from “normal behavior.” At the very least, porn is something that usually makes consumers feel like they’re doing something that doesn’t benefit their relationships, and shouldn’t our internal compasses be trusted if they feel that way?

RelatedIn A Relationship, Can Porn Be Like The “Other” Guy Or Girl?

In the words of Russell Brand, “There’s a general feeling isn’t there, in your core, if you look at pornography, that this isn’t what’s the best thing for me to be doing. This isn’t the best use of my time.” We couldn’t have said it better, Brand.

Porn is bigger than infidelity

Instead of worrying about whether or not porn is equivalent to cheating or trying to draw straight lines between watching porn and infidelity, let’s trust ourselves to make that decision in favor of real, honest, and transparent relationships. We don’t want to be secretive and isolating because we know that what we’re doing is hurtful to ourselves and the people around us.

RelatedIs It A Bad Idea To Date Someone Who Watches Porn?

Choosing to consume or not consume porn often isn’t about black and white distinctions. So, you can worry that porn is connected to infidelity, but we encourage you to not get hung up looking for a proven causal relationship (the research will take care of that).

What research and personal stories clearly show right now—that porn makes relationships harder and less rewarding, that it hurts people in very real ways—is enough to make our own healthy decision to opt for real love and ditch porn for good.

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