Internet Porn Has Nothing to Do With the Major Social Trends Affecting Sex and Marriage

Somewhere in the United States of America, right now, a man in his twenties is watching Internet pornography, or perhaps even playing a video game. 

Let's (Slate). Freak (The Daily Beast). Out (New York magazine). You know what this means, right? All gainfully employed, pretty women will die alone, unmarried and childless, and if by some stroke of incredible luck a college educated woman manages to snag a husband with a job, she will probably only have sex with him once a year or something. Because of Internet porn.

I'm a well known feminazi, and even I have a higher opinion of American men than this. But watch out, dudes: Mark Regnerus and Kay Hymnowitz have new books out, so we're about to hear a lot about how premarital sex and later marriage are newsworthy, terrible, and have something to do with Internet porn addiction. 

These claims are false. 

Let's cut to the new White House report on women. As you can see, it's true that Americans are waiting longer to get married, even though we still have the highest marriage rate in the Western world. This trend clearly predates the availability of free pornography on personal computers.

Screen shot 2011-03-02 at 8.47.25 AM

Are later marriages a bad thing? No. Economic stability and higher education are leading predictors of successful marriages, and both take time to acquire. Couples who marry before the age of 25 are twice as likely to divorce as couples who marry after 25. Avoiding divorce is good for both children and adults. Duh.

Now, if you're familiar at all with basic human biology, you ought to realize that a society in which there is over a decade gap between puberty and marriage will be a society in which there is rampant pre-marital sex. I know we're supposed to believe that premarital sex was completely taboo as recently as the mid-1960s, but I have news for those of you who don't watch "Mad Men:" The hippies didn't invent sex, ya'll. Guttmacher Institute surveys show that even among women born in the early 1940s, eight out of ten had premarital sex before the age of 25. 

I know you want to see a fascinating table proving that people were doing it left and right in casual relationships way before there was an Internet on which to view pornography. Here it is!

Screen shot 2011-03-02 at 9.05.26 AMvia: Guttmacher Institute

You know, it's almost as if the media wanted us to feel incredibly anxious about 50-year macro social trends that have brought about unprecedented gender equality and personal fulfillment. Hmm…

20 thoughts on “Internet Porn Has Nothing to Do With the Major Social Trends Affecting Sex and Marriage

  1. I believe anything I read

    I disagree. According to Conservapedia sex, homosexuality, and divorce were all invented by dirty hippies in 1965 at Berkeley.

    Reply
  2. Weekly J

    Are you married? Internet Porn can be a serious problem in a marriage. It really can. That doesn’t mean it’s horrible or bad in and of itself. It’s like alcohol: it can ruin a marriage, or it can not…but just because not all drinkers are raging alcoholics, doesn’t mean that alcohol is not problematic at all. The same goes for internet porn.

    Reply
  3. caitlin m

    I don’t think she’s saying anything about porn NOT having potential dangers, obviously as a self proclaimed feminazi I’m sure she’s opinionated about what the porn industry has done to the societal view of the female body.

    Alas, everything within reason.

    Reply
  4. Kevin

    No! People need to marry early and grow to hate each other as quickly as possible – this is the American dream!

    Reply
  5. RK

    @Weekly J: yes, I’m married. Internet porn is a problem in your marriage if you’re predisposed to think that it’s a problem. There’s no reason it should be. It sounds like the marriage, and the notion of what marriage means, is what needs to be fixed.

    Reply
  6. Anna_L_S

    Hey Dana, good post. I’m curious what you think about other, less quantifiable effects of widely available and often extreme or violent internet porn. Natasha Vargas-Cooper takes it on in her Atlantic article –

    link to theatlantic.com

    And I’d love to hear your thoughts and the thoughts of your readers.

    -Anna

    Reply
  7. Arkamis

    “I know we’re supposed to believe that premarital sex was completely taboo as recently as the mid-1960s, but I have news for those of you who don’t watch “Mad Men:” The hippies didn’t invent sex, ya’ll. Guttmacher Institute surveys show that even among women born in the early 1940s, eight out of ten had premarital sex before the age of 25.”

    Women born in the early 1940s would be approximately 25 by the mid-60s, which doesn’t do anything to support your claim that prior to the mid-60′s, people were having pre-marital sex.

    It actually seems to support the notion that the explosion of pre-marital sex did, in fact, happen in the mid 60s.

    Reply
  8. Francis

    Internet porn probably saves more marriages that it hurts, mine included. I love my wife, but she has almost zero interest in sex. Without porn she probably would have dumped long ago

    Reply
  9. Wayne

    The family court system has done more to destroy marriage and families than homosexuality, pornography, video games, or anything else you want to burn on the altar of blaming “immature men”, or morality, or even feminism.

    Put simply, marriage is a bad deal for men. It is a bad risk, and there’s little a man can do to improve the outcome. He can make it worse, to be sure, but no matter what, he can count on losing his kids, his savings, and end up subsidizing another person’s “choice” for a decade or more.

    The realities of our economic system, including our “end-of-family court” system will drive marriages one way or another, to begin earlier or later, to have stable or instable marriages, to have men involved in their children’s lives, or to have multiple generations of kids who’s siblings have different biological fathers, and a parade of dudes that mom has the hots for in and out of their lives.

    We get the behavior that we reward, and we get less of the behavior that we tax and punish.

    We reward single moms, so we get more of them. We reward women for filing for divorce, so we get more of them. We reward men for, well, we don’t punish men for sitting at home, playing video games, watching porn, and not getting married.

    We do reward women for having babies with successful men, by taking money from him and giving it to her, for “her choice”, even if his choice is to “not reproduce”. What this dynamic results in is men representing themselves as, *shock and surprise*, irresponsible deadbeats as a form of birth control. “I’m not over the financial threshold of either a shotgun wedding or pursuing child support, but I’m cute and fun enough for a one night stand”

    I’m not condemning or endorsing premarital sex, pornography, divorce or marriage, feminism, misandry or misogyny. I’m simply pointing out that we get what we pay for, as shocking and as simple and as unintended as it may be.

    Reply
  10. Steve D

    Doggone Francis, you make it all so clear. My gold-digging wife of 35 years is just waiting for the day she can dump me because the money will be worth all the disappointment, heartbreak, acrimony, lost home and loneliness. But it’s my own fault. Instead of getting a degree and getting a fulfilling job, I should have settled for a minimum wage job that wouldn’t pay enough to make it worth divorcing me. Of course I wouldn’t have a nice house, car, freedom to travel, etc., but it’s worth it to stick it to women. Right? It so makes sense to orient your whole life around making sure women don’t get anything out of a relationship with you.

    Reply
  11. Steve D

    Sorry Francis. I thought bylines were at the top, not the bottom. Cross out Francis and write in “Wayne.”

    Reply
  12. Dan

    Steve, are you actually too dumb to understand the difference between statistical trends, economic pressure on human behavior, and claims of unalterable laws governing every individual marriage, or is that just the character you play on the internet?

    Reply
  13. Celestial Bacon

    “we don’t punish men for sitting at home, playing video games, watching porn, and not getting married.”

    Thanks to Wayne for pointing out what this conversation (like most any conversation about sexual freedom) is really about:

    Punishment.

    It’s not that there’s any concern about people’s happiness or well-being. It’s that people are living in a way that isn’t the traditionally approved ostensibly-heteronormative societally-accepted no-sex-before-it man-and-woman marriage.

    As usual, considerations of whether people are happier with their marriages happening later or never don’t enter the picture. Nor do the divorce rates of early marriages, which Dana points out. No, for millions like Wayne, the problem is that people are getting away with living their own lives in a manner Wayne doesn’t approve of, WITHOUT EVEN BEING PUNISHED.

    And I know many want to stand with Wayne. For years, they’ve been trying to make sure people are punished for not living how they want. Fights against contraception or abortion, because they both contribute to a world where people aren’t sufficiently punished for having sex.

    People should wake up and start using “sufficient happiness” rather than “sufficient punishment” to measure whether various social trends are beneficial for the people involved.

    Reply
  14. Buzzkillcynic

    For another reality check…
    I’m 47 and Mom is 79. In the 1950′s people often got married when young women got pregnant. My parents, two of my best friend’s folks, and my godparents all “had” to get married. Three of those four marriages have lasted.
    The lasting unions were due to a good sense of humor, incredible self control or failing that, forgiveness. They functioned as a team sacrificing for the family good. Even children were contributing members. We were far from perfect but stood by each other when trouble hit.
    There are couples who display this loyalty now. Quietly working through problems they live under the radar, as they are not statistically sexy or headline grabbing.
    We should deal w/ the “evils” of internet porn the same way as any other challenge. Work towards a manageable compromise or solution w/ the least hurt possible.
    Familiarity w/ my family’s genealogy/history has shown me that there has ALWAYS been a lot of sex going on. Those grim looking folks in the sepia photos will sometimes really shock you!
    Internet Porn is just the latest bugbear on the Hellfire circuit. When internet porn needs to be addressed, it is often more symptom than problem.

    Reply
  15. Buzzkillcynic

    By the by,
    The one marriage that did not work was off because my friend’s young mom was gay. My friend was raised by her mother and her partner. Their family had the same loyalty. My friend and her husband are two of the best people and parents I know.

    Reply
  16. djfav

    “Somewhere in the United States of America, right now, a man in his twenties is watching Internet pornography, or perhaps even playing a video game.”

    You got me. I confess. 29 year old male who likes to stay up late to watch porn and play video games. Problem?

    Reply
  17. albe

    Any age, anyone can do anything that’s not deleterious to my health. That’s the right thought ? I don’t know of anyone genuinely concerned about anyone else, All could be nuance and self delusion, just saying, let it be.
    We are not even important, the dna in our cells are, we are insignificant,Embrace and enjoy.

    Reply
  18. womble

    @Celestial Bacon, you’ve obviously gone through some quite complex mental gymnastics to be able to completely misinterpret Waynes point.

    So I’ll summarise it for you.
    “we don’t punish men for sitting at home, playing video games, watching porn, and not getting married”
    But we DO punish them for getting married and having children!

    So don’t be surprised when young men choose to avoid the whole traditional “family man” path.

    Reply
  19. Bob Loblaw

    Sorry, these statistics are flawed. For cohorts turning 15 from 1955 to 1964, the Median Age of premarital sex was 20.4 years, and the median age of marriage for women appears to be about 21. In that case, it is pretty close to mathematically impossible for the premarital sex percentage to rise from 48 percent at age 20 to 75 percent at age 25.

    Do they mean to say that the median age of first sex (premarital or not) rose to these levels? Or alternatively, do they mean to say that, for unmarried women at age 25 (less than half of 25 year old women), 75 percent had premarital sex? This would be a more reasonable statement that would tend to correlate with widely observed trends that show that (i) the age of first intercourse has been rising steadily since records have existed (i.e., since the late 17th century in the U.S., based on birth certificate records), and (ii) over the long term in the U.S., age of first sexual intercourse in the U.S. is independent of age at first marriage (i.e, American chicks have sex at about the same age as their peers, regardless of whether they are married)?

    Reply
  20. Schismatism

    “Are later marriages a bad thing? No. Economic stability and higher education are leading predictors of successful marriages, and both take time to acquire. Couples who marry before the age of 25 are twice as likely to divorce8 as couples who marry after 25. Avoiding divorce is good for both children and adults. Duh.”

    Has no one given thought that you can’t have a stable middle-class lifestyle without going through college or at least finding a good trade and spending time finding a niche in the economy? If people are waiting to stabilize their lives before settling down to marry, that’s a good thing. The bad thing is, it’s taking a lot longer for people to stabilize their lives and move out of mom and dad’s house to avoid the embarrassment of bringing that girl (or guy) she or he’s dating for a night of World of Warcraft raiding together.

    Reply

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