How does a man’s sexual history affect his likelihood of divorce?

Nick B. Steve recently pointed out an oversight on my part when I originally wrote “Who is the true enemy of neoreaction“. Basically, I misinterpreted some bolded text in an excerpt from a study provided by the social pathologist. You can download the whole study here. Here is the text reproduced below:

The results presented in this article replicate findings from previous research: Women who cohabit prior to marriage or who have premarital sex have an increased likelihood of marital disruption. Considering the joint effects of premarital cohabitation and premarital sex, as well as histories of premarital relationships, extends previous research. The most salient finding from this analysis is that women whose intimate premarital relationships are limited to their husbands—either premarital sex alone or premarital cohabitation—do not experience an increased risk of divorce. It is only women who have more than one intimate premarital relationship who have an elevated risk of marital disruption. This effect is strongest for women who have multiple premarital coresidental unions. These findings are consistent with the notion that premarital sex and cohabitation have become part of the normal courtship pattern in the United States. They do not indicate selectivity on characteristics linked to the risk of divorce and do not provide couples with experiences that lessen the stability of marriage.

Here is my claim from my original post:

Empirically, a man’s risk of divorce is not increased by his sexual history so past sexual restraint for men who might join is more optional, assuming he is willing to reform himself. 

I tripped up on that It is only women line and thought that was meant to exclude men from this risk, when it only meant to exclude women who had sex with their husbands and only their husbands before being officially married. We all make mistakes. My apologies. In any event, after seeing my mistake I was quite curious to see what previous research has explicitly found about male sexual promiscuity and its effects on marriage:

After re-reviewing the study, I can see that you are correct and that it doesn’t address what effect premarital partners among men has on divorce risk for men. I attempted to find a study that addresses this explicitly, but so far I have not found anything. All the relevant studies seem to focus exclusively on what happens to women with multiple partners. This is rather surprising to me. I don’t know why these researchers would seemingly avoid addressing this obvious question. I have a few guesses as to why this might not be addressed. Maybe these researchers found no correlation between sexual partners and men’s divorce risk. If so, this is an “uninteresting” negative finding and so they just ignore it because it won’t result in a publication. Alternatively, the same result might highlight a biologically justifiable double standard for men and women, which would be highly controversial and as a result they would never be able to publish the finding. Another possibility is that they simply couldn’t find enough men who only have had sex with their wives, and thus couldn’t constitute a large enough control group. Without the control group, you have no basis of comparison and any data you collect is useless.

Something similar happened when they tried to find a control group of men who hadn’t viewed porn. Apparently non porn watching men are every bit as fictional as unicorns. Virginal husbands might be similarly rare.  Submitted as indirect evidence, women’s own preferences would seem to undermine the possibility of large numbers chaste husbands.

So what I am left with is that my statement is neither supported or refuted by anything I could find, but with some indirect evidence in favor. The claim is a reasonable guess based an an understanding of evolutionary psychology. If it ever became possible to empirically verify this hypothesis, I would suspect it to be true. Thanks for pointing this out though, and if you can find any study that addresses the question directly, please send it to me.

So after spending an hour or two trying to find something that directly addressed the question I came back empty handed. Though my original claim is certainly weakened by this, it is by no means refuted. If someone can find a study on this please send me the title. Also, keep in mind that cheating on a wife is not the same as divorcing her and failing as a provider.

In any event, this is a relatively minor quibble. From part two of my original post, I expanded a bit on this and conceded that the direct influence of sexual history on a man’s divorce risk isn’t the only thing to consider:

As a matter of principle and in the interest of harmony it is a good idea to strongly discourage male infidelity, but the relative gravity of the transgression is not as large as female infidelity. This is why I stated in my post that for men, sexual history is more optional. Leniency here wouldn’t destroy the community in my opinion. Though this is technically true, I certainly understand principled rejection of PUAs from the hypothetical community. More likely than facing PUAs off, though, I suspect you will have to decide to accept or reject men with a few to moderate level of previous partners (not true PUAs), so it wouldn’t be as clear cut.

To add to this, the point of the post was how a community might be initially created and I would be surprised if some leniency wouldn’t be necessary in such a circumstance. This doesn’t say anything about how young men should be raised within the community. Certainly they should be discouraged just as strongly as young women. It takes two to tango and even if it doesn’t adversely affect the young man, it would affect whichever girl he was with. In short, there are plenty of reasons to discourage male promiscuity before marriage. Increasing his divorce risk just probably isn’t one of them.

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2 Replies to “How does a man’s sexual history affect his likelihood of divorce?”

  1. You wouldn’t absolutely require men who only had sex with one partner (their wives) to assess the effects of male promiscuity on divorce probability. Of course, it would help. I doubt that men who have had only one sexual partner are any rarer than women. I’ve seen the quip in several places that more women enter college as virgins but more men leave college as “virgins” (scare quotes because I’m not convinced men can actually be virgins, but I think we know what they mean).

    I agree it was a minor point. Men do bond with sex, but at weaker rates than women. So there is every reason to believe that, when such study data exists, it will show that divorce risk or marital unhappiness indeed goes up with past promiscuity but only not as starkly as it does with women.

    The most interesting finding (and it could simply be random, so we should not make too much of it) in Social Pathologists data was that reported marital satisfaction did not appear to be monotonic in N. There was a low spot in the 3 to 6 category, IIRC. This means (again if this is not just a statistical aberration) that girls that are only a little bit slutty have the worst marital outcomes of all. The concept of Alpha Widow comes to mind: girls who didn’t just “sleep with anyone” but only slept with the highest status males. They may be the ones who will be least well adjusted for marital happiness.

    If true, then the rule: “Don’t Marry a Slut!” would have a corollary: “But if you do, make sure she’s really REALLY slutty.”

    1. “The most interesting finding (and it could simply be random, so we should not make too much of it) in Social Pathologists data was that reported marital satisfaction did not appear to be monotonic in N.”

      The data showed the same trend over three different decades that were tracked so I doubt it’s random. There’s a “sweet spot” for sluttiness to maximize marital stability (when virgin isn’t an option).

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