online porn
A man browses online porn on a local website at a public internet service in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sept. 28, 2009. Getty Images/ AFP/ Bay Ismoyo

A study analyzing porn viewing and religious belief found that religious men who watch porn had a more egalitarian attitude towards women in society.

The study was conceived when the team of researchers found that religious men tend to be more conservative in their outlook towards women and their role in society. Religious men were found to be against abortion, had a negative attitude towards women in power and did not fully support the idea of women leaving their home to work.

The researchers took the data of pornographic material use, the extent of religious belief and attitude towards women from 11,658 men and 13,988 women who participated in the General Social Survey, an annual study of attitudes in the U.S. population.

Using this comprehensive dataset, the team were able to establish clear patterns among their under-scrutiny parameters.

The data showed that greater religious tolerance was directly proportional to a more negative attitude towards abortion, women in positions of power, and women working outside the home.

But, when the data for pornography use was combined, the new common area showed that men who watched more porn were more neutral in their view towards women. They were found to be more at ease with women in power and had positive reactions to women working outside the home.

The data clearly showed the team that pornography use moderated a man’s outlook on a woman’s role in society.

“These findings are consistent with the possibility that pornography consumption creates cognitive dissonance in those who attend religious services more frequently and that this dissonance has the potential to erode traditional beliefs about women espoused by conservative religious groups,” the lead authors wrote in their study.

The large sample space of the data helped the team control several variables related to demography such as age, gender, marital status, political affiliation, and education which were deemed crucial. But the study does have some limitations.

The only factor that the team couldn’t conclusively prove is the cause and effect of the whole phenomenon. The rigidity of the data makes it difficult for the team to conclusively say if a more egalitarian attitude towards women caused increase porn usage or increased porn usage caused a more egalitarian view.

What this means is, the researchers could not say if religious men who viewed porn had a more egalitarian viewpoint because they watched porn or they watched porn because they were egalitarian.

Further analysis of more comprehensive data and a person-to-person approach to the concept could give the team a broader outlook on the issue. If the link between porn use, religious belief, and women rights is to be understood, scientists would have to delve deep into the male psyche to understand triggers and what causes different thoughts and mindset among people in one issue when they are similar in others.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Sex Research, was conducted by Kyler R. Rasmussen of Mount Royal University and Taylor Kohut of the University of Western Ontario.