Evangelicals' Porn Viewing Is on the Rise - Pacific Standard

Evangelicals' Porn Viewing Is on the Rise

But frequent churchgoers and Biblical literalists have successfully resisted the temptation.
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At times, it feels like we're splitting into two separate societies, one of which is dominated by evangelical Christians. So it's reassuring to report that members of that faith tradition have something in common with their fellow Americans: They, too, are watching more pornography.

By their own account, American evangelicals are increasing porn viewership at virtually the same rate other Americans, University of Oklahoma researchers Samuel Perry and Cyrus Schleifer write in the journal Social Science Quarterly.

This rise is driven by people who identify as evangelicals, but do not attend services frequently. Among those who spent significant time in the pews, levels of porn consumption haven't moved from where they were three decades ago.

Much research has shown viewing pornography has become a more and more popular pastime among Americans in recent decades. To see whether this trend extends to evangelicals, Perry and Schleifer analyzed data from the General Social Survey covering the years 1984 through 2016.

Over the decades, 12,685 participants answered the question, "Have you seen an X-rated movie in the last year?" They also indicated their religious affiliation, whether they attended services at least once a month, and their feelings regarding the Bible.

After taking into account other variables, the researchers found that "those in evangelical denominations are increasing their likelihood to watch pornography at rates nearly identical to other Americans." However, those "who regularly attend church or view the Bible as God's literal words have not increased in their pornography viewership."

"The major divergence between frequent churchgoers and Biblical literalists and other Americans started around the mid-1990s, just when Internet pornography was becoming widely available," they note.

"From these trends, it would seem that Americans who merely affiliate with theologically conservative groups are following the dominant trend," Perry and Schleifer write. "The difference (in porn consumption) is not due to evangelical affiliation, but rather whether one is more deeply embedded within one's religious community, and adheres to the authority of the Bible."

The findings are a reminder that, like so many social groups, evangelicals are not as monolithic as they are often portrayed. Some are clearly interested in porn, even if their community frowns upon it: A study published last year found states with the highest percentage of highly religious people generate a disproportionate number of Google searches for sexual material.

"Americans who are nominally committed to conservative Protestantism seem just as likely to view pornography as other Americans, all else being equal," the researchers conclude, "but those who are the most committed and conservative are not."

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