In a society that largely champions sexual expression, including pornography, it is heartening to hear someone acknowledge its detriments. That’s why I was initially glad to see sociologist Mark Regnerus’s recent article in First Things.

“Revelations of pornography use end an unknown number of relationships, including plenty of marriages and many courtships,” wrote Regnerus, known for his research on sex, relationships, and family. “Contrary to what is sometimes asserted, women have the right to be annoyed or upset by porn. It’s not a good thing.”

But then he went on:

We often overlook another casualty of pornography (and the human reaction to it): relationships that fail to launch. Breaking off a relationship because of pornography use can be a rational, justifiable, and moral reaction to a problem—the predilection for peering at nudity online—but such actions contribute in ways not often noted to our broad retreat from marriage.

Regnerus brought up women who consider porn a dating deal-breaker. “While I’m sympathetic to their concern, I can also promise you that widespread departures—given the dour numbers on porn use—will only accelerate the flight from marriage in the Church and is likely to backfire on women…who would leave for pastures that may well not be greener.”

Porn is so prevalent, he says, that if all Christian women left their boyfriends or turned down suitors based on their browser histories, marriage and the future of the church would be doomed. From his article, it’s easy for readers to conclude: Marriage is so important that we may need to start rethinking the idea of pornography as a deal-breaker. ...

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