Porn Use and Support for Same-Sex Marriage, Part II

Although I didn’t blog on it here, back in December I published a piece about the empirical connection between porn use and support for same-sex marriage among men, using the notorious-but-wonderfully-valid-and-versatile dataset called the New Family Structures Study.

It turns out I’m not the only one saying it, which is always nice. Scholars from Indiana University and the University of Arizona are reporting the same phenomenon in the General Social Survey, the granddaddy of datasets. The article itself is appearing soon in the journal Communications Research.

When asked to explain the connection, lead author Paul Wright remarked that “pornography adopts an individualistic, nonjudgmental stance on all kinds of nontraditional sexual behaviors…” and added that ”since a portion of individuals’ sexual attitudes come from the media they consume, it makes sense that pornography viewers would have more positive attitudes towards same-sex marriage.”

And that’s not much different from what I said in Public Discourse, where I concluded with the simple observation that, “contrary to what we might wish to think, young adult men’s support for redefining marriage may not be entirely the product of ideals about expansive freedoms, rights, liberties, and a noble commitment to fairness. It may be, at least in part, a byproduct of regular exposure to diverse and graphic sex acts.”

Despite the negative press I get, friends, rest assured: I’m not making this stuff up!

 

  • Joe Canner

    In your December article (which I just read), you rightly caution readers to not jump to correlation=causality conclusions. I agree that the causal arrow probably doesn’t go in the other direction and I am also impressed that this association holds up despite adjustment for other variables. However, as you undoubtedly well know, there are many other possible factors which were not measured and/or analyzed that could be driving both phenomena. Measures of religiousity and political affiliation are probably too general to be useful in teasing out the actual causal factor.

    Moreover, the proposed causal link doesn’t really make much sense (to me anyway). I think one would need a lot more specific data on types of porn viewed and attitudes about same-gender relationships before making that leap.

    I also wonder about women who favor same-sex marriage. Was there a relationship between porn-use and same-sex marriage approval among women? If not, what causes women to favor same-sex marriage and why would the mechanism be different?

    Finally, I wonder about the effect of age. I know of a number of religious and fairly conservative young people who approve of same-sex marriage. I don’t know about their porn habits, but their same-sex marriage views seem to be much more likely about the changing perceptions of gays (“they’re normal everyday people just like me”) and wanting justice for them.

    For all of these reasons, I think it is a bit premature to draw conclusions about the effect of porn on same-sex marriage approval.

    • http:www.cantheseboneslive.blogspot.com Carl Bankston

      I agree that the claims about causality are questionable. It seems plausible to me that an empirical connection could be reasonably explained by the fact that viewing pornography and approving of same-sex marriage both tend to be based on individualistic, nonjudgemental, libertarian views of sexuality. so that it is really the underlying attitude that tends to cause both. I think one could make a causal argument, though: viewing pornogaphy leads one to adopt an individualistic, nonjudgemental view of sexuality to account for this pastime. In turn, those who adopt such a view of sexuality tend to support same sex marriage. I’m not sure how one would test the nature of causation here.

      • Mark Regnerus

        A very reasonable assessment, Carl.

    • Alice

      Another major effect that would have to be accounted for is the gay and lesbian presence in mainstream media, which reaches a lot of people who aren’t porn fans. I’d guess it has a bigger impact because while porn is all about sex objects, the characters and actors in mainstream media are a little more humanized.

  • Tim Wright

    Hi,

    I work with men and women who view porn and masturbate while viewing porn. Can I say, that it is very common for men to watch lesbian porn, bestiality, bondage, you name it they watch it sooner or later. They may start out watching male/female porn, but in time they can’t get aroused what they used to get aroused by watching the same old stuff.

    As for Christian Women, if you dfo any reading on the web, you can see that lesbianism is increasing among Christian women and a womens sexuality is more ambiguous than among men.

    I tend to see the coherence in this artciles position.

  • http://textsincontext.wordpress.com Michael Snow

    Whatever the connection, our porn culture has horrible consequences.
    http://zeitgeistcontext.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/children-and-the-culture-of-pornography/

  • Mark Regnerus

    Posting this email because its author asked me to…

    Dr. Regnerus,

    I was unaware of your research and its associated controversy until a few days ago when the popular press picked up my study of predictors of support for same-sex marriage. I am an LGBT advocate and have published research to this effect (e.g., “Mental health resources for LGBT collegians – Journal of Homosexuality). My recent study of education, sexually explicit media consumption, and support for same-sex marriage was justified (at an applied level) on the following grounds:

    “A variety of commentators have identified same-sex marriage as the “civil rights issue of our time”…Social scientific data suggest that same-sex couples and their children suffer a variety of consequences due to same-sex couples inability to marry…Given the documented benefits of marriage and the variability in support for same-sex marriage among individuals of voting age in the United States, research is needed that identifies predictors of support for same-sex marriage” [pages 1-2 of the online first article].

    Given our divergent applied motivations for studying this issue and the controversy surrounding your research, I am writing to request that you remove mention of me and my study from your blog. If you will not do that, I ask that you at least post this email to your blog, so that its readers can understand the differing perspectives from which we approached this issue.

    Thank you,
    Paul Wright


    Paul Wright, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor
    Department of Telecommunications
    Indiana University

  • http://www.saintsandsceptics.org Graham

    Sheesh!
    When did collegiality die? Since when did the researcher’s motivations have an impact on the quality of his argument? How is that relevant?

  • Faithful Christian

    Ha! This guy doesn’t want to be found out, eh?!
    As for Christian women and lesbianism, can I say as a Christian woman in my 30s, yes I see that lesbianism – under the cover of bisexuality and rage at men – is on the rise. The whole idea of ‘gender’ has made it worse, but so does the skewed male-female ratio in churches.
    Regarding women’s support for same-sex marriage, perhaps it is indeed connected to porn, partly, but I’d also say that there is an unspoken sense among a lot of women that same-sex marriage would ensure that gay men do not covertly prey on women in order to marry them under false pretences, only to a) go on the down low and b) come out and destroy the marriage. This seems to be the view of Straight Spouse Network.
    I’m not saying I agree with this view – I don’t. I think too many women out there imagine that same-sex marriage is a clearly demarcated concept, when the debate in different countries shows on careful inspection that it is being used to redefine marriage and enable men to demand types of ‘sex’ that are associated with homosexuality and which women mostly can’t stand.

  • Eric

    This is an interesting correlation, but you first need to question the honesty of the respondents. If someone has a conservative world-view and thinks pornography is wrong, they are probably more likely to lie and say they don’t view it, because of shame and social pressure. On the other hand, if someone is very liberal in their world view, they would likely not feel any shame in admitting porn viewing.

  • scottrose

    Dr. Wright also found this: 1) Support for same-sex marriage did not prospectively predict pornography consumption (and that is true of some young adult men); and this: 2) Education was also positively associated with support for same-sex marriage (and that is true for many young adult men)


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