Monday, October 23, 2006

Pornography and rape

One argument sometimes offered for laws against pornography, or against some kinds of pornography, is the claim that consumption of pornography leads to violence against women. A counter argument is that it has the opposite effect, that imaginary sex, including imaginary violent sex, is a substitute for the real thing.

I recently attended a talk by an academic who had found an ingenious way of using a natural experiment to find out which was true. Access to the internet makes pornography more readily available—not only cheaper and easier to find, but more private and so less likely to lead to embarassment and other negative social consequences. Internet access increased at different rates in different states. Data on rape rates by state is available. So he looked to see whether, controlling for other variables, increased access to the net correlated with an increase or decrease in rape. It correlated with a decrease—about a ten percent drop in rape for a ten percentage point increase in internet access, with the exact numbers varying according to just how he did the analysis. There was no similar relation for murder, which suggests that the result is not simply picking up the effect of some third variable that correlates with both internet access and violent crime.

As further evidence, the author repeated the analysis, separating out the data according to the age of the perpetrator. His conjecture was that the men most benefitted by the availability of internet porn would be young adult men living with their parents, since they would find it difficult to consume other forms of pornography without risking discovery. The results supported the argument; the reduction in rape was concentrated in the 15-19 age group.

Readers interested in the details can follow the link at the beginning of this post and read the original paper.

18 Comments:

At 1:41 PM, October 24, 2006, Anonymous Peter Bessman said...

Nice post. I'll use this information with my girlfriend next time she complains. "Look, it's for your own good. I'm less likely to rape you this way."

 
At 10:01 PM, October 24, 2006, Anonymous Hafiz said...

that's new.

 
At 10:51 PM, October 24, 2006, Anonymous jeff said...

Instinctually, I'd also suspect porn to decrease rather than increase sexual crimes.

However, I wonder if this study really counts as evidence for that. Lack of internet access and high crime rates are already both strongly correlated with geographical poverty. As such, they are automatically correlated with each other. If rape is as correlated with poverty as other crimes like robbery, then the study is meaningless. (On the other hand, maybe rape is a lot different and spans across all income levels equally. ?)

 
At 12:32 AM, October 25, 2006, Anonymous hej said...

Jeff:
In a way he does. He compares the difference in murders to that in rapes, and the difference in rapes is much bigger. If the whole explanation was the connection to poverty, wouldn't that work the same way for murders?

 
At 5:58 AM, October 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Hedley Lamarr: Qualifications?
Applicant: Rape, murder, arson, and rape.
Hedley Lamarr: You said rape twice.
Applicant: I like rape. "--Blazing Saddles, 1974

 
At 9:59 AM, October 25, 2006, Blogger Chris said...

I wonder about this effect and child pornography. Not that I'm suggesting it might be a good idea to legalize the production of child pornography, but here in Canada at least, even creative works depicting pedophilia are illegal. The argument for this is that child porn acts as a gateway to pedophilia, but I've always thought it is more likely to be a substitute. Any thoughts?

 
At 1:13 PM, October 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the conclusion but I would have to disagree with the methodology. This kind of study can never analyze things ceteris paribus and the results can prove anything. By looking enough it would probably be doable to create a similar study showing the opposite.

 
At 9:24 AM, October 26, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as child pornography maybe this makes the case for using virtual characters to make legal pornography for that group... may decrease the acts of child molestation...

 
At 10:50 AM, October 30, 2006, Anonymous Mel said...

Let me see if I understand this correctly. The idea is that "imaginary sex" or "imaginary violent sex" is actually lessening the rape rate. Is there anyone here who thinks that the sex or violent sex taking place in various porn venues, including the internet, is "imaginary"? Are people not actually having sex in internet porn? Is it all make-pretend? And what is the difference between a woman being raped in, say, a porn movie and a woman being raped "in real life," other than the fact that even more men get to "enjoy" it her pain and humiliation? Is there a difference between the "real life" rapist, the porn rapist, and the armchair rapist who enjoys the degradation and pain being visited on the rape victim? Is the armchair rapist somehow "better" than the other rapists because he didn't actually perform the rape, he just enjoyed watching the dehumanizing of a woman? And this makes him a good guy....how?

And this is all supposed to convince us that porn is actually GOOD for women, right? Yes, Peter Bessman, you CAN tell your girlfriend that your watching the humiliation and subjugation of another woman is actually for your girlfriend's own good. If you didn't have that outlet so you could actually peacefully and happily enjoy rape, you might have to rape your girlfriend! Wow. It's good of you to be so concerned for her well-being. It's a testament to your true humanity.

And Chris, it's so hard to believe that even "creative" works that depict pedophilia are illegal in Canada! What an outrage! Can't people see that men enjoying the pain, suffering, humiliation, and dehumanizing of children might actually be GOOD for those children? Are they all so blind?

How nice to learn something new!

Mel

 
At 11:42 AM, October 30, 2006, Anonymous saltyC said...

Mel, don't you see, those women abused and tortured in porn are not real. The women we know and see, they're real, but so long as pimps are able to segregate women in porn from the rest of society, they will remain subhuman and worthless. After all, they will die young and leave no loved ones behind.

Don't you see? The subjugation of those unreal women results in the elevation of us real women.

Male supremacy is best when it's invisible, as is the reality of women in porn.

 
At 10:29 PM, October 30, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That must be true of those pornographic cartoons and games too... And those poor actor and actress who get raped in the R rated movies... pornography can be faked...

 
At 8:35 AM, November 11, 2006, Anonymous seabel said...

I notice that this paper is not published anywhere. My guess is that a peer review would find that CORRELATION DOES NOT ESTABLISH CAUSALITY. Ice cream sales are highly correlated to drownings, does that mean ice cream is responsible for these deaths? No, the answer is that it is summer and people are swimming more and buying more ice cream. This is why correlation never establishes causality. A high correlation indicates that more research could be done to determine why this correlation is so high. A high correlation is a clue to help solve the mystery, but does not provide the solution. There are over 3000 PUBLISHED studies linking violence in the media (rape is violence, the internet is media) to real life violence.

Additionally, MOST rape is not reported, (this fact is determined based on reports of rape counselors, crisis centers and advocates who help rape victims regardless of whether or not the victim files a police report) making it even more difficult to determine the rate at which rape occurs.

 
At 2:12 AM, December 18, 2006, Anonymous karan kapoor said...

Hi dear,

How are you doing?

Well, I always wanted 2 share my views with all 2 know – if they are really worth and of any value – probably u r the 1 who’s gonna answer me! Please do say something for me; i’ll await your answer.

Our Country is a great nation; its culture, traditions & heritage have been very glorious since the past but as for now, it is facing a non-stop assault by the evil of pornography & obscenity. Our youths have become its target & falling prey to it, hence causing an irreparable damage to our nation’s true values and spoiling our society!

Pornography is plainly responsible for the great upsurge in sin & sexual violence on women all across the world. Youth, under the influence of pornographic literature, Websites, & films are beginning to see women as objects of sexual pleasure & fantasy; thus leaving women feeling more ‘n’ more unsecured.

Please join me in stopping this! Let us make sanity and chastity prevail and prevent porn, the curse on our civilized India. India is looked up to for its cultures, traditions, values & social life; Let us not damage this image and preserve it for glory! A coordinated & well-planned approach with active support from the government and public is required here. It will work wonders, if all women join hands for this & all men come forward to support it.

The saying –“God created man & man created sin” – suits fine here, right? So, please help stop porn before society sinks into the depths of horror that humankind has never seen before. I request you to kindly do the needful to save our great & magnificent nation & its invaluable treasures of culture, tradition and moral values. Join me to support this cause at: http://www.jantaraj.com/raghurammalladi/defaultpet.asp?pid=358

(Hundreds have already joined me and I know you will do the same – thank you)

Your friend,

Karan Kapoor

 
At 3:59 PM, December 26, 2006, Blogger JOSHUA S BLACK said...

This is my message to pornogaphers and those who patronize them.

"Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

My friends, would you sell your right eye for $1 million? How about both of your eyes for $100 million? Then why on earth would you trade your soul for a fleeting glance at a woman? Please, turn from your sins today that God may grant you everlasting life through Jesus Christ His Son. Then read your Bible daily and obey what you read. God never fails to keep His promises."

In addition, I would like to point out that not all women who participate in porn, do it willingly. There are pimps in this form of prostitution as well as the other. Supporting it in anyway shows a very wicked heart. God does judge all sin.

 
At 2:32 AM, December 12, 2008, Blogger Sir Frank said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 8:45 AM, January 22, 2009, Blogger 海賊王 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 11:15 PM, March 16, 2009, Blogger moto said...

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At 12:29 PM, May 02, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mel, thank you! As a psychology student with plans on becoming a sexual therapist, I've never read anything in the literature and studies I've read that has made degradation and humiliation, or the desire to degrade and humiliate, sound anything but repulsive. I do believe most men who watch the sort of aversive pornography you speak of are misogynists. In fact, some will admit it- read the comments under a porn video and it becomes clear as day. I once read a man say he enjoyed watching women, or whores, of course, being degraded because it made him feel like less of a "beta male," it gave him power. Which is, of course, identical to what a bully does. The schoolyard bully will degrade others to give themselves a moot sense of power, attempting to hide insecurities about the self. This sense of aggression and cruelty is highly criticized, yet when it's turned into a sexual medium, it's just an orientation. It's sickening, and it defies logic. One cannot be "good" merely because of consent. What if a bullied child no longer protests because they've become so accustomed to their treatment? If consent makes an act "okay," then Sharon Lopatka was a mentally sane woman.

People are so rampantly trying to defend every form of sexuality that they become so open-minded their brains fall out. And the defense, "what if she likes it?," doesn't hold up to scrutiny. What is the difference between a woman being told she's a worthless cum bucket while being "raped" in porn, spit on, and treated like trash, and a woman verbally abusing herself before she self-mutiliates? Nothing except in the way the defense mechanism behavior manifests itself. The emotional etiology is essentially the same; low self-esteem, or repressed feelings of inadequacy. One defense mechanism cannot be justified if the other is not.

 

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