Porn and Marriage: Dr. Willoughby Presents at WCF

In case you haven’t noticed, we spend a lot of time talking about families here. A lot of our faculty are doing some really interesting research on family dynamics, families and religion, family therapy, families and politics, and the changing definition of marriage in American culture. It’s something that’s on a lot of people’s minds lately, as evidenced in part by the presence of the World Congress of Families conference in October 2015. Several BYU FHSS faculty members presented there: professors Dollahite and Carroll were some. Dr. Brian Willoughby also presented, on the issue of pornography use and marital relationships.

Willoughby, Brian
BYU Photo 2009 All Rights Reserved

“My presentation focused on how pornography use intersect with family formation and marriage,” he said. “One of the often overlooked costs of pornography is how it influences relationships and family formation at all stages of the life course.  This issue is particularly important among teens and young adults who are in a crucial stage of relationship and family formation.  Several studies and data collection efforts show how pornography has both a negative relational effect and also influences how young adults think about marriage.  Specifically, pornography users generally have more negative views of marriage and hold a desire to delay marriage in their life.  Given the high levels of pornography use we see among young adults, such [attitudes] may have important ramifications for future marriage and families.”

According to a study co-authored by colleague Professor Carroll, pornography use has increased dramatically in the past 10 years.  Among the 258 young adults surveyed for Dr. Willoughby’s presentation, seventy percent of young men had viewed pornography on a weekly or monthly basis in the past year. Eighteen percent of young women had viewed it. Of those young men, sixty percent agreed that pornography was an acceptable way to express sexuality, compared with thirty-five percent of young women.

13072266233_31534a21e3_k via flickr iconicphotoservices

He said that those who view pornography on a regular basis are more likely to think of sexual intimacy more in terms of their own sexual needs, with a sexually available and often submissive partner. These expectations lead to frustrated, selfish behaviors. Amongst young adults, this is particularly concerning because it impacts their value of marriage and their decisions about when they will form those long-term commitments. Pornography use is linked to a desire to delay marriage and a devaluing of marriage.

About presenting at the World Congress of Families, Dr. Willoughby had this to say: “It was wonderful presenting the WCF.  I was able to present with two other leaders in the field of pornography and we were able to approach the topic from numerous policy and research angles.  The audience was great and energized by the presentations and I think motivated to take the work that was presented and advocate for positive societal change.”

It is interesting to think about what avenues those who want to advocate for positive society change regarding the use of pornography might take. Our own Comprehensive Clinic offers a pornography process group for males struggling with pornography, for instance. Dr. Willoughby cautioned that marital beliefs are complex and multi-faceted, but, when considering the bigger, social costs of pornography, we should consider the subtle yet important ways pornography nudges youth away from committed and healthy relationships.

The full video of his presentation can be found here:


Feature image courtesy of IconicPhotoServices on Flickr.

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