Pornography

Porn Panic Alert: Smut Becoming 'Marriage Substitute,' Warn Conservatives Who Can't Tell Correlation From Causation

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modified from tommyjones6511/Flickr

So I was going to ignore this silly study about how pornography is serving as a widespread "marriage substitute" for young American men. But it just keeps popping up on my radar and a gal only has so much patience. Let's dive in. I promise to keep it brief. 

The assertion: "Smut has become a replacement for marriage for many of the 18 to 35 year old males who use it," as the good folks at The Blaze put it

Is that so? When we strip out the speculating, here's what the study actually found:

1) Internet usage in general was negatively associated with marriage—the more hours a young man spent online, the less likely he was to have a spouse.
2) Web porn consumption was negatively associated with marriage—the more hours of pornography a young man watched, the less likely he was to have a spouse. 

Fearmongering conservative media types are throwing around ample ancillary stats in order to flesh out (pun intended!) the idea that porn is a scourge on U.S. marriage rates. Here's The Blaze again: 

The study highlights some of the shocking variables that cause concern surrounding porn's potential impact on marriage, including the fact that the proportion of men today between the ages of 25 and 34 who have never walked down the aisle is six times higher than it was in 1970.

And what's changed in society since 1970 besides the advent of Internet pornography? Other than, you know, almost everything…

So! It could be that bunches of young men find watching porn an acceptable, lifelong substitute for not just actual sex but actual human companionship. However, it seems much more likely that:

a) bachelorhood makes watching a lot of porn and spending a lot of time on the Internet more possible or desirable than it is for people living with a wife and family, or

b) the kind of people who watch the most porn and spend the most hours online have certain personal characteristics or life circumstances that also make them less likely to want to marry or less appealing as a marriage partner (for instance, married men in the study were more likely to be employed and more likely to be religious, both factors which would seem to lend themselves to watching less pornography), or

c) married individuals are less likely to self-report ample pornography consumption, or

d) all of the above. 

Say it with me now, kids: Correlation does not imply causation. And "low-cost sexual gratification" probably isn't the end of civilization as we know it. 

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  1. Basically, this study assumes the causation arrow points one way, when there’s no reason to believe it doesn’t point the other way.

    The correlation of porn and being single could mean that watching porn makes you single, or it could mean that being single makes you watch porn.

    1. And (while I know this is engaging in the same sins I’m mocking people who believe the former for), doesn’t the latter seem much more likely?

      1. “Idle hands,” etc., etc.

        1. Are your hands idle when watching porn?

          Are you sure you’re doing it right?

        2. It seems pretty obvious to me that being single and alone = lots of free time. And absent some other more productive interest, the typical young male fills his free time with sports, video games, booze, weed, and porn.

          That article might as well posit “Men Choosing Free Time Over Wives” instead.

          1. It isn’t being single that makes you watch porn. It is being married that prevents watching porn.

            Watching porn is the default condition.

      2. Both seems far more likely than just one or the other.

      3. Yeah but the latter doesn’t attach a negative stigma to porn, Elizabeth. Get your priorities straight.

      4. I’d imagine it goes both ways, but I would guess that the latter is more common. But for people who are less outgoing or comfortable with the whole finding a woman thing, porn might make it easier to stay single.

        I think that the biggest reason for lower marriage rates is probably just people shacking up now that that is generally socially acceptable.

      5. Not necessarily.

        I find it much more likely that men who use a lot of porn ARE opting out of marriage and relationships at far higher rates than in the past however the porn is merely a symptom of the root cause and if you eliminated the porn they’d be more likely to turn to each others company than seek out womens.

        While the MRA’s and PUA’s are generally morons they do have something of a point, modern feminism and the shitty economy for young men are combining to make it simply not worth even trying to find a woman to get married to.

        First the women play too many mind games about who and what they want you to be (but rest assured it is not what you are today) and they will alternately demand you be mutually exclusive extremes then attack you when you are at the wrong end at the wrong time (and attack can mean anything from a verbal assault to a physical assault to criminal charges) and even if you do manage to find a good woman it’s not like you have any real prospects of finding a solid reliable job that will allow you to afford to support her (and yeah she’s almost certainly going to still demand you do that) and affording kids is just right out.

    2. Yep. One could just as easily say that a society with empowered women demands and supplies more pornography.

      1. hot take! Pitch that to PostEverything, stat…

    3. Or being married makes it more difficult to watch porn.

    4. I have read the paper:

      http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/pa…..id=2534707

      We employ instrumental variables and a number of robustness checks, all of which suggest that this is a causal effect and not merely the endogenous relationship that married men are less likely to look at pornography, or some kind of unobserved selection issue that distinguishes men who use pornography from men who do not use pornography.

      The model, however, is overly stripped down: Cheaper pornography expands the budget set in the single state and so, if a man can choose whether to get married at the beginning of the period, higher utility from marriage is required in order for the man to marry. Thus, cheaper pornography is unequivocally associated with lower marriage rates.

      The conclusions are relatively sober: In this paper, we have explored the possibility that the rapidly-proliferating Internet is in some way substitutable for marriage, especially to the extent that use of pornography can provide low-cost sexual gratification. If one of the important reasons to get married has a low-cost alternative, then it is natural to wonder about the extent to which one can replace the other.

      Bottom line: The paper’s not that bad, but unconvincing instruments available, and they likely have not appropriately addressed endogeneity questions. But it’s unfair to say that they do not understand the difference between causation and correlation.

      1. The missing component is the high cost of failed marriage. When a young stud looks at the options: Get married and risk giving up a big chunk of his income to subsidize a woman who hates him and kids he rarely sees versus watching porn, it’s not just that porn is cheaper than marriage – it’s a WHOLE lot cheaper than divorce!

        The frequency with which women avail themselves of the state-sponsored economic rape of divorced men is a major factor in (smart) young men eschewing the institution of marriage.

  2. More men have finally figured out that women are expendable in the context of a happy lifestyle and that after age 25 or so, men have all the power in the dating game. Tinder, etc. means you can carry on like in college in the real world. Porn has little to do with it.

  3. I’m guessing there has been an increase in the amount of porn that married couples watch together. Porn strengthens marriages!

    1. I know there’s been an increase in the amount of porn that married couples make together.

      *shudders*

      1. I hate when I accidentally click on the amateur stuff. I love playing sports when I’m on their field, but there’s a reason I watch NFL and MLB instead of drunk amateurs weekend-warrioring it.

    2. This is not entirely uncommon. If it weren’t for me swearing off the stuff, my wife would be 100% on board with watching porn together. It would probably come as a shock if our friends at church found out, but it is what it is.

    1. Phbbt. *Only* 7 = ?

      1. The average is just under 6 =, but ASCII pron is very misleading.

        1. A lot depends on the kerning (TWSS)

  4. the proportion of men today between the ages of 25 and 34 who have never walked down the aisle is six times higher than it was in 1970.

    I’m going to assume that this is also true for women.

    Which makes me wonder: why is the assumption that men are responsible for getting married (or not), but women really don’t have any say in whether or not they get married?

    More importantly, perhaps, if the problem is that men aren’t getting married, then these folks should be all in favor of gay marriage, shouldn’t they? Talk about the shortcut for juicing the stats on marriage!

    1. Which makes me wonder: why is the assumption that men are responsible for getting married (or not), but women really don’t have any say in whether or not they get married?

      This is what sprung into my mind with your causative association post above.

      The arrow could point both ways, but applies inversely across genders. Women getting more of what they want (in and) out of bed makes men seek out more of what they want in (and out of) bed.

      Fewer women barefoot and pregnant causes more porn? You don’t say.

    2. Because, RC, women don’t have any agency. If conservatives and feminists act like it’s true, it must be true.

    3. The reason is that women WANT to get married.

      Consider the biological bias of the past 50,000 generations. Those genes are passed down whose parents adopted successful strategies. For women, this meant finding a man who was a good protector and provider for her and her children. Absent a provider, the children starved and the genes were not preserved.

      But what could possibly entice a man to sign up to give away his food or to stand in combat to defend someone else? Women had to make themselves useful in some way. This often took the form of cooking, cleaning, homemaking, sex. This quid pro quo was part of law in some states until as recently as 50 years ago – the law recognized that the duty of a husband was to provide for his wife and children, and the duty of the wife was to obey the husband.

      But that model is broken. Women today trade heavily on sex appeal. In truth, it is often all they offer. And while a man in the preceding millennia could choose to leave, taking his support with him, if the wife failed in her duties, today’s defecting husband is hounded by government to fulfill his side of the bargain – even if women are not fulfilling theirs.

      Who would sign a contract that says, “You must commit your resources to your partner irrevocably, now and in the future, and your partner agrees to be helpful… if she feels like it”?

      That contract is modern-day marriage.

    4. I think the assumption is that it is the mans job to initiate the marriage and that by and large the women would mostly accept if asked

  5. At which point do we start peeing our pants over not enough people getting married?

    1. In 3…2…1…

    2. There is probably already porn for that.

      1. Porn of people who, fearing the social consequences of declining marriage, get married an then have socially responsible intercourse?

    3. Establishmentarians have already had drippy britches about it for years.

    4. It’s really just a crappy proxy controversy for “there aren’t enough good Christians anymore”

      Sorry SoCons, coming from a devout southern Baptist, you don’t get to dictate cultural morals and religion. Either you win hearts and souls the hard way, or shut the hell up. Correction: win hearts and souls the hard way AND shut the hell up!

      /rant

      1. “It’s really just a crappy proxy controversy for “there aren’t enough good Christians anymore””

        Gosh, that’s a very nice compliment, to say that marriage is something Christians do and infidels don’t.

        However, I respectfully decline the compliment. Christians don’t have a monopoly on marriage, or on the defense of marriage as an institution.

        1. No, there is no monopoly, but in the circles that I travel, it’s the Christians that lament the marriage rate as a sign of moral decay.

          I agree that marriage is a good thing, especially when you’re having kids. I disagree that a declining marriage rate is something to clutch pearls about when the base cause (IMO) is a culture that is increasingly less Christian. Focus on the root cause, not the symptom.

  6. “… including the fact that the proportion of men today between the ages of 25 and 34 who have never walked down the aisle is six times higher than it was in 1970.”

    No marriage,no divorce, no alimony. To say nothing of the rest of the problems young adults face in relationships due to living in a psychotic culture. If I was just a little bit younger, there’s no way I’d get married.

    1. This is a big factor. Almost everyone has a parent or a close friend’s parent who got screwed big time in a divorce. And its usually the man.

      1. I had to buy half of my fucking house back AND pay six figures. Never again.

  7. I’m holding off on judgement here until we have measured the effects of Jezebel on marriages.

    1. I don’t think it would be difficult to argue that Jezebel readers and commenters have caused a decline in birth rates. Just a few pictures of those hideous hags would be enough to kill boners across entire cultures.

  8. Also, the appropriate headline for this article was,

    “Research Identifies 99 Problems”

    1. JayZ references? Really?

      1. He who does not feel me is not real to me.

        1. I’ll feel you Gil.*hugs Gilmore* Sshh. Daddy’s got you.

            1. Did you draw that yourself HM.

              1. I can barely draw a stick figure.

  9. Correlation does not imply causation

    It kinda does, though.

    1. Actually, it kinda doesn’t.

      Correlation is necessary but not sufficient for causation is probably the best way to put it.

      1. “Correlation does not imply causation” is technically true for a meaning of “imply” that isn’t used by normal people.

        1. I think even in the common use of “imply” its right. Correlation implies relation, not causation. You need different information to get at what causes what.

          1. “The street is wet but that doesn’t imply that it rained.”

            That’s technically true, but sounds crazy by the normal meaning of “imply.”

            1. Except, they opened the fire hydrant, the street cleaning truck just went by, the neighbors left the sprinklers on all night long, the kids have been having a water fight in the street and the dam just broke (which is why the street is wet -and the buildings are all gone).

              1. Thank you for spelling out the reasons why “doesn’t imply” isn’t technically correct the way logicians use the word. But … what’s your point?

                1. isn’t is

    2. When it rains, the street lights come on in my neighborhood. Does that imply that rain causes the street lights to come on? Of course not. They have a common cause, cumulonimbus clouds.

      Correlation does not imply causation, especially in soft sciences.

      1. Correlation does not imply causation, especially in soft sciences.

        I thought confusing correlation and causation was soft science.

        1. Hey, you can’t ask them to be experts in statistics and formal logic… They’re “not good at math!”

          Besides, they get more notoriety and funding if they play fast and loose with their conclusions.

  10. This reminds me of those sad-trombone moral panics from elitist lifestyle nannies about how fat people are making the planet heavier. There’s never any explanation why, if true, this is a bad thing.

    Nothing but sentimental, faux-nostalgic, religio-moral glurge here to explain why a reduction in marriages, whatever the cause, would be a bad thing. Nothing.

    1. Well, having children out-of-wedlock has been pretty thoroughly demonstrated to be really, really bad.

      But that isn’t really the same thing as not being married.

      1. I think Charles Murray and others have done some work showing that married people are happier etc. than singles.

        1. But did marriage make them happy? Or are happy people more likely to get married because sad people are really fucking annoying.

        2. But that’s only if they stay married. It’s the divorce that brings misery (mostly to the guy).

          Men who walk in a mine field are really happy.

          And then, suddenly they aren’t.

          That mine field is called “marriage”.

        3. and dog owners are happier than those who don’t own a dog.

          and dogs are much cheaper than spouses

          and you can put a dog down

        1. http://www.tino.us/2012/11/kru…..ds-sweden/

          This is highly misleading. In secular Sweden, family traditions differ from those of the United States. Cohabitation (“sambof?rh?llande”) is formally recognized and treated by the law as virtually identical to marriage. Swedish couples typically cohabitate, get children and only then get marry. Statistics Sweden explains:

          “Living together without being married has long been common and majority of the children born in Sweden are born out of wedlock, but usually cohabiting, parents. Cohabitation can in many respects
          equated with being married, and young adults has been widely accepting of couples with children remaining unmarried. Despite this, most couples choose to married eventually. Of the couples that are followed in this report and still lived together at the end of 2010, 73 percent married, while 27 percent were still cohabitating?.About 10 percent of couples did not live together when the child was born, but most of these couples have lived together before or after birth. Approximately 3 percent of all couples never lived together and had a child outside of a relationship.”

          1. Interesting. That’s very similar to how it works in Thai culture. Granted part of that is because Buddhism doesn’t consider marriage to be a religious sacrament, but a secular affair.

            Still, from the perspective of many in the United States, those Nordics are “living in sin” and producing bastards. When people here fret about bastardy, they’re usually talking about the decline of the importance of a traditional, religious marriage.

            1. When people here fret about bastardy, they’re usually talking about the decline of the importance of a traditional, religious marriage.

              I don’t think I buy “usually.” Sure, that’s common on the Christian right, but I think most fretting is about missing the benefits of a stable, two parent household.

            2. Pre-christian Irish were pretty relaxed about marriage (and sex). Much of this discussion stems from some rather strange viewpoints of Victorian English and Americans.

    2. Well, there’s also the money aspect.

      A married couple can afford to have kids, while a single parent likely will need government assistance.

      And then there is even a political angle. There was that recent lawsuit against the Ferguson school district, where the ACLU is upset because the kids in the district are 75% black, but because they have single parents, they are outvoted by the white parents who are couples and only have 1-2 kids.

      1. I don’t think you can say that marriage solves either of these problems, or that a decline in marriage is correlated with either problem. An unmarried partnership of committed parents could solve both problems (and numbers of this common-law type of family are on the rise), but the demographics we’re talking about here aren’t known for the kind of future-oriented thinking that would drive them to make decisions that put their children first.

        A cause that hasn’t been considered, at least in this article, is a generous welfare state that actually rewards people for a choice that would otherwise be considered foolish and worth avoiding at all costs: having children without the support of at least one other family member; having children that one cannot afford.

        Stupid choices and abundant government subsidies for stupid choices can’t really be cured by traditionalist, pro-marriage vice-bashing.

  11. Men aren’t getting married because it is a losing proposition.

    I now know far more divorced people than I do married, far more. To be fair, many of the men I know were equally to blame for the end of their marriages, but they still bear the burden of the consequences.

    And I know a fairly significant number of men who’ve had wives leave them because they got bored. When they left they got the bulk of the shared assets, a lifetime pension in the form of spousal support, and near total custody of the children.

    Men in my cohort (early 30s) and younger grew up watching this, have seen many of our friends lose on marriage and have realized that A. we can still get pussy without committing (especially from younger women, which is doubleplusgood), and B. augment with porn.

    1. we can still get pussy without committing (especially from younger women,

      I would have thought a little older demographic cohort of women would be the best hunting ground for pussy without commitment. But this is all academic for me, as I am so old that I am actually happily and faithfully married.

  12. The guy jerkin’ it kinda looks like one of the engineers from Prometheus.

  13. I really wish people would stop spouting “Correlation does not imply causation” like it’s some masterful counter argument.

    1. That ad hom was NOT appropriate.

    2. The truth hurts.

    3. Well, it is a counter argument to arguments that just assume that correlation does imply causation. But yes, it doesn’t show that there is not causation.

    4. It is a masterful counterargument if you’ve offered no proof of causation.

      I wish people would remember that logical fallacies don’t disprove conclusions, they only attack the method of argumentation.

    5. Its not intended to refute the correlation.

      Its intended to refute the claimed causation, when there is no basis for causation other than correlation.

      Mere correlation does not imply causation is a better way to put it.

    6. It doesn’t get any less true just because you’re sick of hearing it.

      *This was always my bitch against the concept of “godwinning”. The reason the Nazis always come up is because the Nazis were the logical extension of many of the assumptions of statism, and we live in a statist society. That meant that one could appropriately reference the Nazis in just about any political discussion about a western political system. But because people got sick of hearing valid analogies to Nazism, some shitface made up a completely arbitrary rule banning those valid analogies.

      People will continue to “spout” this as a masterful counter argument as long as there are punk ass social “scientists” in the world who need to hear it. That is to say, forever. Better get used to it.

      1. “Since changes in the accessibility of pornography have occurred coincident to large changes in marital behavior, the causal relationship between the two is a natural question.”

        Obvious these punk asses needed to hear the phrase every asshole on the internet knows.

      2. Read the appendix to the paper. The idea that ENB could teach these two a lesson in causation is insane.

        1. I’m not speaking to the authors of the paper but the myriad conservative journos who stripped the paper’s premise of any thought or nuance and then ran with it

          1. Not buying it.

            So! It could be that bunches of young men find watching porn an acceptable, lifelong substitute for not just actual sex but actual human companionship. However, it seems much more likely that:

            a)
            b)
            c)
            d) all of the above.

            Say it with me now, kids: Correlation does not imply causation. And “low-cost sexual gratification” probably isn’t the end of civilization as we know it.

        2. True. But look at Table 4. It seems that using the Internet for anything other than checking for date of the next church bake sale pisses women off.

          I call it the “Waiting in bed while he plays one more turn of Civilization” effect.

          1. That’s mentioned in the conclusion.

            “Thus, the results in
            this paper suggest that technological proliferation and access to pornography specifically can be
            a causative factor that underlies these rapid demographic changes that occur concurrent to
            economic growth.”

            1. So, we’re becoming Japanese, basically.

              1. Revenge of the Weeaboos

  14. Marriage increases the likelihood of adultery. What about that? Huh?

    1. And its the main cause of divorce.

      1. Did you know that something like 50% of all marriages end in death?

  15. This study looks like some SoCons trying to emulate the retardation of the prog “social scientists.” It has about the same scientific value as the proggie “video games turn your kids into serial killers” studies.

    The Sexual Revolution and its offspring – “no fault” divorce, subsidized single parenthood, etc. – are where we should look if we’re wondering why things are getting worse.

  16. What annoys me about this paper is its utter pointlessness.

    Even if the paper could be proven true…so what?

    Last time I checked, if I openly and directly wanted to advocate for the destruction of marriage and the family, none of these jackasses would be able to do fucking shit to stop me.

    If openly and directly using speech to try to destroy marriage and the family can’t legitimately be stopped by the state, how can speech that indirectly might destroy marriage and the family legitimately be stopped by the state?

    1. “Even if the paper could be proven true…so what?”

      The so-what is that some conservatives share a similiar trait with leftists in thinking that individuals have some affirmative duty to conduct their lives in such as manner as to maximize their utility to the state, or society or the community or civilization.

      Marriage and procreation within marraige are supposed to be the bedrock that civiliation is built and maintained on so in their view, we all have a duty to conform and contribute.

      The concept of someone deciding that he will live only for himself according to his own interests, desires and objectives is anathema to those type people.

  17. I was a bachelor before the Internet. If we had today’s Internet then, I’d be watching porn every night, as would my buddies. Marriage? Heck, I can cook already.

  18. It could be that men watch porn because marriage is not actually available to them. What they’re actually offered is a toxic bargain called “marriage” that they’d be fools to accept.

  19. I don’t know if this tracks but I always liked this post.

    Society has changed. Women have more power over their own life, and there is less pressure to conform to expectations from family, religion, society at large, etc. So now with more choice on how to life their lives, many women are deciding to do something with their lives other than be the traditional housewife of 50 years ago. It sucks to be a guy today who wants the housewife of 50 years ago, since there are less of them, but people have more choice on how to live their lives now, and that’s a good thing.

    Many women fought hard for this. Some would even call it “feminism”.

    But guess what? Men also have more power over their own life, and there is less pressure to conform to expectations from family, religion, society at large, etc. So now with more choice on how to life their lives, many men are deciding to do something with their lives other than be the traditional husband of 50 years ago. It sucks to be a women today who wants the husband of 50 years ago, since there are less of them, but people have more choice on how to live their lives now, and that’s a good thing.

    And many women hate this.(*)

  20. …the proportion of men today between the ages of 25 and 34 who have never walked down the aisle is six times higher than it was in 1970.

    How does this work?

    If the proportion of men who have never walked down the aisle in 1970 was 17%, then the proportion of men who have never walked down the aisle today would be 102%.

    Are they saying that more than 83% of men age 25-34 in 1970 had been married, or are they saying that 0% of men age 25-34 today have been married?

  21. Actually, porn consumption is more of a symptom than a cause. Young American men today have an alternative to marriage. They can just find someone they hate and give them half of their stuff.

    Of course, that’s a trite way to point out that never has the deck been more stacked against married men – so much so, that many young men are deciding marriage is a BAD idea. Those who do get married face a 50%+ chance of divorce – with huge financial penalties as they subsidize the wife they no longer have and the kids they probably don’t even see. Women are increasingly seeing men as sperm-donating cash machines. With the law making it ever-so-easy to give a husband the boot (and still keep a big chunk of his income) spoiled, narcissistic American women are increasingly opting to engage in economic rape using the services of Uncle Sam.

    The antidote?

    Avoid marriage. Treat women as occasional sex toys, or in their absence, sate the sex drive with porn.

    The decline is not due to young men choosing porn over women. It’s a consequence of young women deciding that only perfect partners will do – and the ease with which women can use the power of the state to enslave men.

  22. I dont thinkSammy Da Bull is going to like that.

    http://www.TheAnonBay.tk

  23. It would be interesting to compare the lower marriage rate among young males with the increase in young males and particularly young females in college. Ditto with the number of young females with careers. Ditto with increased college debt.

    There are all kinds of choices.

  24. “a) bachelorhood makes watching a lot of porn and spending a lot of time on the Internet more possible or desirable than it is for people living with a wife and family” Chris Rock explains- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BXFXqMw70E

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