Does porn reduce violence against women? Evidence says otherwise


10:02 am - August 7th 2011

by Sian Norris    


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Research reported last week in The Scientific American claimed that using porn can actually reduce levels of violence against women and girls.

The article explains that the research has found ‘associations’ between porn and sexual violence, arguing that in states where there is low internet access (something which, they suggest, makes it harder to access online porn) there was “a 53 percent increase in rape incidence, whereas the states with the most [internet] access experienced a 27 percent drop in the number of reported rapes, according to a paper published in 2006 by Anthony D’Amato, a law professor at Northwestern University.&#8221

The piece is clear to point out that these are ‘associations’ and there is nothing to prove that access to the web is actually linked to a decrease in sexual assault levels.

However, the article cites a number of views that argue that pornography allows men* to act out their “deviant” sexual fantasies in their own space, thereby making it less likely that they will go out and rape.

‘the trends [cited above re internet access] “just don’t fit with the theory that rape and sexual assault are in part influenced by pornography,” Ferguson explains. “At this point I think we can say the evidence just isn’t there, and it is time to retire this belief.”’

Unsurprisingly, I don’t think it is as simple as that.

First of all, this article doesn’t cite or explain ANY of the research and evidence that has found associative links between exposure to pornography and sexist imagery, and an increased tolerance for sexism and sexual violence. The American Psychological Association conducted vigorous research in this area and found:

• Gender inequality is reinforced when women are valued for their supposed sex appeal at the expense of their other attributes and qualities.

• After being exposed to images that sexually objectify women, men are significantly more accepting of sexual harassment, interpersonal violence, rape myths, and sex role stereotypes.

This research is backed up by the work of a number of feminist academics, including Gail Dines

We are now bringing up a generation of boys on cruel, violent porn, and given what we know about how images affect people, this is going to have a profound influence on their sexuality, behaviour and attitudes towards women.

She believes that pornography can have a driving effect on men to commit acts of violence against women. She is clear that this does NOT mean (as her critics sometimes suggest) that all men who look at porn will go on to rape, but instead suggests that “‘porn gives permission to its consumers to treat women as they are treated in porn.”’.

Dines is not alone. I recently spoke at a conference with Dr. Nicola Gavey of the University of Auckland, who has spent much of her academic career looking at violence against women and girls. She is now conducting research into the effect mainstream internet pornography has on levels and acceptance of violence against women and girls.

In their books, ‘Living Dolls’ and ‘The Equality Illusion’, Natasha Walter and Kat Banyard cite both academic research and women’s personal stories to explore associations between porn and violence.

There are two more points I would like to make about the initial report.

One, it seems to me that this research completely ignores the violence committed against women (and men) who work in the sex industry. It ignores the fact that women are being raped within the industry (on camera and off).

Second, this report is fundamentally making a sexist statement against men. It suggests that if it wasn’t for the ‘release’ that porn offers men to ‘act out’ these “deviant” fantasies, then men wouldn’t be able to help themselves.

The age-old criticism that anti-porn feminists believe all men to be rapists is actually being suggested by those who seem to criticise the anti-porn feminist position!

As a feminist, I believe that rape can and will be prevented by education about consent and respect, better justice for victims and an end to rape culture. Pornography that more often than not portrays women as objects to be hurt and degraded; that portrays women as objects of violence; and that encourages men and boys to associate sexual pleasure with violence and degradation is not a solution to sexual violence.

* I am referring to men in this article as men are overwhelmingly the consumers of pornography. TOPTenReviews.com reported that in 2006, 96% of those using search terms including the word ‘porn’ were men; these are the most recent stats I could find


A longer version of this article is at Sian’s blog. Written first for Fresh Outlook

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About the author
Sian Norris is an occasional contributor. She is a Bristol based writer who likes to write short stories and muse on feminist debates.
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Reader comments


“The age-old criticism that anti-porn feminists believe all men to be rapists is actually being suggested by those who seem to criticise the anti-porn feminist position!”

No; what’s being suggested is that *some* men are inclined to rape women (which is true) and that some of *those* men are less likely to act on that inclination if they have good access to pornography (which may or may not be true).

2. Wibble Wibble

It’s impossible to draw any meaningful conclusions due to the number of variables at play. No doubt many will use whatever is in there to justify their own opinions though.

Life is full of ‘associations’.

This old chestnut.

Look, there is still this thing called “evidence”. Yes, I’m sure, terribly male and phallocentric of me.

There are two very large pieces of evidence that we have from the past 40 years or so.

1) A huge, massive, drop in the incidence of rape. This is true even given the (incomplete) change from blaming the victim to blaming the perpetrator, the greater seriousness with which we take the crime, more victims coming forward and so on. Rape has fallen.

2) The huge, massive, increase in the availability of pornography.

Now, yes, this is simply an “association”, a correlation. Science is, in part, about observing correlations and attempting to divine causality. We’ve known for millennia that apples fall down out of trees: it took a scientist to work out that it’s gravity, not because it is in the nature of apples to fall down, or because the Earth sucks or whatever.

So, what we want to work out is whether this correlation, of the increased availability of pornorgraphy and the reduction in the rape rate, well, what;s the causality here?

Maybe it’s nothing: maybe it’s just the general decline in violence of all kinds and sod all to do with smut movies.

Maybe it’s that porn and rape are substitutes for each other, not complements. That those who fantasise about violence against women are assuaged by acting it out in fantasy, not reality?

Maybe it’s just that violent men who wank themselves into a stupor can’t be bothered to rape anyone?

But don’t forget, this is science. Any theory has to explain the observable facts.

And those two major observable facts are that rape has decreased as porn has become more available. More used. So one of the hypotheses that we can quickly reject is that porn causes rape. It’s just not an explanation which is consistent with reality.

On average, of course. That some, one, a few, are led to rape by porn is clearly possible: I’d even suggest that it’s true. But trying to explain the average person in the real world must actually explain the evidence of the average in the real world. More porn is “associated” with less rape. That’s what we’ve got to explain, not just insist that pictures of nasty things lead to nasty things in real life.

Hell, we’ve even got proof of a fall in child abuse when child porn is legal.

Tim W There are two very large pieces of evidence that we have from the past 40 years or so.

Wow, that is some massively desperate attempt at causation, when you have no evidence that it took place. So what ‘evidence’ are you talking about, and what about the evidence that Sian points to above?

@3 Tim Worstall, have you got any evidence for the claims you’ve made that incidents of rape have gone down in last 40 years as I’ve not heard that before.

Current home office stats reckon 100,000 women in the UK are raped every year, and there has been a disturbing rise of intimate partner violence in teen relationships – Bristol uni and the nspcc research says that 1 in 3 teen girls experience violence from a partner and a recent home office report has said that 16-19 year old girls are now the highest risk group of experiencing intimate partner violence.

The problem with most psychology experiments is that they expose people to porn in very artificial context, often a laboratory setting where the individuals being didn’t choose the porn in question. They also don’t necessarily have the opportunity to orgasm since they are not in a private setting.

If you quiz someone on their sexual aggression response in that state, you can occasionally (but not consistently, there is plenty of publication bias in the literature) get some vaguely statistically significant results suggesting, for example, greater acceptance of ‘rape myths’. You can get more or less the same response from individuals after you make them do some vigorous exercise like riding a bike, or engage in a competitive sport.

So these sort of studies can tell you remarkably little about the effects of porn in the actual field in which it tends to be used (as, usually, private masturbatory material by willing consumers).

In this field, the evidence suggests either no effect or a small reduction in sex crimes associated with the availaiblity of pornography. This is supported by Milton Diamond’s sociological work, most recently here: http://www.hawaii.edu/PCSS/biblio/articles/2010to2014/2010-porn-in-czech-republic.html

And also, using econometric techniques, by Winai Wongsurawat: http://econpapers.repec.org/article/cemjaecon/v_3A9_3Ay_3A2006_3An_3A1_3Ap_3A185-214.htm

The advantage of that last paper is that it uses an instrumental variable to detect what the exogenous effect of pornography being more available (thanks to the differential availability of private mail boxes, this is pre-internet) compared with other similar districts. While you never get proofs of cause in this field, that is getting pretty close to a high probability that there is a causual mechanism operating there.

More porn means less sex crime because for some horrendous and pretty pathetic individuals, porn acts as a substitute to sex crime. It provides a legal distraction from illegal activity. For most other people it has no ill effects.

I think feminists would be much better of campaigning to regulate the production, where there is a lot of abuse and exploitation still around, rather than the content of pornography.

“@3 Tim Worstall, have you got any evidence for the claims you’ve made that incidents of rape have gone down in last 40 years as I’ve not heard that before. ”

Why not try looking at the very paper which is quoted in the Sci Am piece?

http://anthonydamato.law.northwestern.edu/Adobefiles/porn.pdf

“As the chart shows, there were 2.7 rapes for every 1,000 people in 1980; by 2004, the
same survey found the rate had decreased to 0.4 per 1000 people, a decline of 85%.”

“@3 Tim Worstall, have you got any evidence for the claims you’ve made that incidents of rape have gone down in last 40 years as I’ve not heard that before.”

I think Tim might be referring to a drop in the US which was much more significant, as their criminal justice system has simultaneously grown much more punitive.

But if you want British figures. In 2000, the BCS estimated 0.4% of women were raped. In 2004, it was 0.3%:

http://www.wdvf.org.uk/RapeHO.pdf
http://www.broken-rainbow.org.uk/research/Dv%20crime%20survey.pdf

This is probably due to a whole host of factors, but it does not in any way support the idea that the rapid increase in porn availability has driven sex crimes up. There isn’t even an association to explain.

[deleted]

@3

“So one of the hypotheses that we can quickly reject is that porn causes rape.”

You don’t really understand science, do you?

While your claim above would be true if ceteris paribus when porn became more widely available rape decreased, but obviously no-one is claiming that.

By your (utterly absurd) logic – I could argue that petrol reduces the size of fires if I threw a litre of petrol onto a bonfire, inside a swimming pool of water. Which would clearly be ridiculous.

12. rebelgirl1959

Thanks for writing this. At the pornography civil rights hearings, a prosecutor testified that porn was found in the car or home of every child rapist he had been involved in convicting. Folk should read this work by Mackinnon & Dworkin – they give us the victims of porn speaking for themselves. This “research” in the Scientific American is non-specific & flies in the face of the experience of women children.

It’s time for Evidence 101, yet again… sigh!

So… there are two main theories about the relationship between porn and sexual violence.

Theory 1 is called ‘gateway theory’ and suggests that viewing porn serves as a gateway to sexual violence. The evidence for this theory comes primarily from studies conducted on convicted sex offenders and from a combination of self-report studies and physiological measurements of arousal taken while viewing porn videos – yes, there are psychologists out there who are still in the business of strapping measuring devices to men’s penises to see if they get a stiffy while watching different types of porn.

There are three main problems with this type of research:

1. Physiological measurements of sexual arousal tell you only that the subject got wood but not why, so if a sex offender gets a stiffy while watching a simulated rape video one cannot tell whether what they’re responding to is the violence, the general physical appearance of the victim or something else entirely that’s going on in their head at the same time.

2. Self-report studies tend to be conducted in conjunction with offender treatment programmes and are readily biased by offenders telling the researcher what they think the researcher wants to hear in the hope/expectation that playing nice and getting with the programme may count in the offender’s favour if/when they come up for parole.

3. Evidence derived from studies of sex offenders cannot reliable be generalised to the wider male population. Miost men who watch porn vids don’t commit sexual offences against women and cannot, therefore, make reliable judgements about the generality of male behaviour from studies of a small sub population that is already known to be outside the norm.

So, at best, these studies tell us something about what goes in the head of sex offenders – and sex offenders only – but nothing at all about the general male population and not much we can rely on about the relationship between porn and sexual violence, not least because no one has yet come up with a research methodology that is capable of cracking the chicken and egg problem, i.e. does porn spark off sexual violence or does a propensity for sexual violence influence offenders viewing behaviour and choice of porn?

Theory 2 is called ‘displacement theory’, i.e. some men who could potentially become sex offenders safely get their jollies watching porn instead.

The evidence for this is epidemiological, i.e. a number of studies have shown an inverse correlation in the general population between the availabilty of porn and the incidence of sexual violence, i.e. more porn equals less rape.

There is also at least one study which shows that women are more likely to be ‘active’ consumers of porn, i.e. to act on their sexual fantasies if they watch porn regularly, than men who are more likely to be ‘passive’ consumers, i.e. their viewing habits are kept between them and their right hand. From memory, the main lessons from this study appeared to be that what women get from watching porn are ideas such as ‘sex should be fun’, ‘I don’t have to put up with crap sex’ and ‘it’s okay to fancy other women’ – on this last point I should note doesn’t translate automatically into ‘wahey, let’s try a threesome’; most women who do go on to give their Sapphic urges an airing, do so sans any male participation.

The main problems with this evidence stem from difficulties in controlling for confounding factors. Increases in the availability of porn have gone hand in hand with changing attitudes towards women and greater sexual opennes across society as a whole, increases in the reporting of rape and sexual violence to police – and this is not the same as an increase in prevalence – and much greater awareness of sexual violence as a serious issue generally.

So, the relationship here is nothing like as simple as ‘more porn equals less rape’ – there’s much more to it and no guarantee that the apparent displacement effect would be anything like as effective without the reinforcement provided by other social and cultural factors.

What neither theory can do is make predictions about individual behaviour.

Some of the work that underpins the gateway theory does identify particular psychosexual and psychological pathologies linked to offending but, at best, this could be used to pick out men who might go on to become serial offenders and, even then, not with any great degree of reliability.

Let’s be clear about one thing here, the kind of criminal profiling you tend to see on the TV and in films, where the resident nerd reels off a list of statistics before concluding that the perp is a white male divorcee in his late 20s or early 30s who lives with his mom and just about holds down a blue collar job, is a load of bollocks. There is absolutely no credible evidence to show that that kind of profiling is effective. The only form of offender profiling for which there is scientific validation relates to offender ‘signatures’ – most offenders are creatures of habit and once they’ve established a pattern of offending behaviour they tend to stick to it, which is extremely useful when it comes to linking cases together during investigations and getting unsolved cases off the books once you’ve caught the offender, but its bugger all use, on its own, until you’ve caught yourself a suspect and has no predictive value to speak off.

That more or less covers where we’re at in terms of evidence, and if we’re to have a reasoned debate on this issue then we have to take all this evidence into account and not just pick and choose the bits that agree with our own preconceptions, prejudices and ideological biases.

So, the evidence for displacement theory is not making a sexist statement to the effect that “if it wasn’t for the ‘release’ that porn offers men to ‘act out’ these “deviant” fantasies, then men wouldn’t be able to help themselves.”

This may be true of some men – those whose potential for sexual violence is actually displaced by watching porn – but again we’re dealing with a sub-population the actual size of which is difficult, if not imposssible, to estimate reliabily and its still the case that most men who watch porn do so just for enjoyment, either alone or with a partner, without ever contemplating committing acts of sexual violence.

Some porn is violent, degrading and exploitative and it can, and does, give rise to the perpetration of non-consensual sexual acts on performers, i.e. rape and/or sexual assault, but this is not true of all porn by any means, so what you have here is not an argument for prohibition but one only for the prosecution of producers, directors and actors/actresses who cross the line and perpetrate non-consensual acts on other performers.

Clean up the industry by all means but at least appreciate that the problems that do exist are primarily a feature of some niche markets and, as with everything else in this debate, not generalisable to the industry as a whole, particularly as the industry’s own figures show that the market for ‘Hollywood porn’, which has historically spawned the most objections in regards to objectification due to its reliance on surgically enhanced actresses, hit saturation point around five years ago with the result that most of the industry’s growth since the mid-2000s has been in nice markets and, particularly, from independently produced web cams and reality porn, only some of which is produced professionally.

One final point on the use of evidence in the internet age – you won’t get away wioth cherrypicking so don’t do it.

The OP states:

“* I am referring to men in this article as men are overwhelmingly the consumers of pornography. TOPTenReviews.com reported that in 2006, 96% of those using search terms including the word ‘porn’ were men; these are the most recent stats I could find”

Yes, male users overwhelming topped the list of searches for ‘porn’ and ‘free porn’ in 2006, although this tells us nothing about context, i.e. the extent to which these men were surfing solo or with a partner.

However, the same source also shows that more women than, in the same year, more women than men searched the interest for the following search terms; teen sex, free sex, adult sex and cyber sex, whiile there was fifty-fifty split on searches for sex, sex ads, group sex, xxx and sex chat. In addition, the male-female split on searches for ‘adult DVD’ was 58-42, for ‘xxx-videos’ the figure was 64-37 (over 100% due to rounding issue) and for ‘anal sex’ it was 67-33.

(see – http://internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/internet-pornography-statistics.html)

Men are more likely to view porn online but the actual figures aren’t as overwhelming as the OP tries to make out and the current best estimate is that 1 in 3 porn consumers in the US is female.

The lesson from all this is simply that while you’re entitled to your own opinions, you’re not entitled to your own facts, and the evidence for the relationship between porn and sexual violence is, across the board, neither conclusive nor particularly relaible – and certainly not relaible enough for anyone to be making sweeping generalisations, which is pretty much what the OP does throughout.

So one side has a huge body of evidence, the other reckons something based on their interpretation of gender theory. Get some data and stop speculating.

@11

Without wishing to be drawn into anything else with regards to this article, the fact that every child rapist this prosecutor had encountered possessed pornography doesn’t really mean anything. I’d imagine that if you have a rapist you can probably assume that they have a strong sex drive, violent tendencies and a disregard for others. As such, it’s hardly unexpected that they’d also be the type of people who possess pornography.

Of course, one way you could theoretically check the link would be if there was data regarding the type of sex acts committed in rapes which could then be cross referenced against the prevalence of those sex acts in pornography. If there were a link, I imagine that is where it would be seen.

Partly for reasons of its long, respected history, Japan has a huge and flourishing pornography industry with fewer of our inhibitions and restrictions about exposing young women to its influence – try this TV show, for example:
http://www.pornhub.com/view_video.php?viewkey=6c39820e63fed2cd54db

“Japan’s pornographic industry, known locally as AV (adult video), is widely known to be somewhat different to the West, not least due to its mainstream acceptance in daily Japanese culture. AV stars can enjoy a high-level of celebrity not only in Japan, but across Asia.”
http://www.cnngo.com/tokyo/life/japans-adult-video-stars-make-their-way-real-world-932681

However:

“Our findings regarding sex crimes, murder and assault are in keeping with what is also known about general crime rates in Japan regarding burglary, theft and such. Japan has the lowest number of reported rape cases and the highest percentage of arrests and convictions in reported cases of any developed nation.”
http://www.hawaii.edu/PCSS/biblio/articles/1961to1999/1999-pornography-rape-sex-crimes-japan.html

@ nwd

Aww, you’re so sweet.

As an fyi before i leave, i wrote an expanded version of this for my blog because i thought it was quite interesting how reports of a piece of research that seemingly linked two fairly abritary things (internet access and sexual violence) to argue that porn had no effect on levels of sexual violence were ignoring the other research that found there were associations between porn and sexual violence. It is a really complicated subject. There is a lot of argument and debate on each side and the differences between causal links and associations make it very difficult to find firm answers. If it was easy, we’d have all the answers by now! And we don’t. In my blogpost i attempted to present the research in the Scientific American, and the research on the other side of the argument, precisely to show how diverse views in this area are. I also, because it is my blog, explained where in the spectrum my opinions fall, from my own experiences and my experience as a feminist activist.

Sunny read it on my blog and then asked if he could re-produce a shorter version here.

In terms of rates of violence against women, i read a news article that said rates of domestic violence had ‘gone up’ but this was likely to be more of a result of higher reporting rates. The article pointed out that this actually gave us a clearer picture of how widespread domestic violence is. Unfortunately i can’t find the article but this is an interesting piece with some useful stats:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2011/apr/15/domestic-violence-legal-aid-keir-starmer
Because so much rape and violence against women is unreported it is very difficult to determine exact numbers and how far rates are going up and down.

Two things strike me concerning the data used for claims on either side of this debate. First, internet access is associated with a lot of positive factors, given that countries with high internet access tend to be wealthy democracies and hence can be expected to have higher levels of gender equality. Therefore making and kind of direct link between the levels of rape to internet access seems redundant unless you are going to look into the relationship in a high level of detail.

Secondly, I’m curious where the statistics for rape occurences comes from given the extremely low numbers of rapes that are reported. A change in the number of *reported* rapes does not correlate to changes in the numbers of actual rapes, for instance such a change could just as easily be an indication of shifts in cultural attitudes.

Short version: you cannot discuss factors influencing rape without very detailed analysis. Sadly people seemed determined to do so, often as part of efforts to undermine the fact that rape remains one of the most serious human rights abuses if the age.

19. Just Visiting

Bob B

There are too may cultural differences between the UK and Japan (including their treatment of women in general) – so analogies there are unhelpful. Those cultural differences can result in huge differences in how accurate official rape statistics are.

It’s too big a diversion to try to compare Japanese and Uk culture, treatment of women, women’s expectations of how they’ll be treated, legal remedies and support for rape victims etc etc.

It would be like comparing with Saudi that has virtually no cases of reported rape, …. where the issue is that Sharia law makes it is virtually impossible for a rape victim to make a case before the law.

“for instance such a change could just as easily be an indication of shifts in cultural attitudes.”

True….but which way do you think that cultural shift has beengoing in recent years? To more under reporting? Or less?

Me, I’d say the overwhelming evidence is the latter really.

What a silly article. Take this-

“The age-old criticism that anti-porn feminists believe all men to be rapists is actually being suggested by those who seem to criticise the anti-porn feminist position!”

The reason this age old criticism exists is that it is correct. A number of highly significant radical feminsts have taken this theoretical position. Catharine Mackinnon, she who is largely responsible for the legalist approach, uses a model derived from Marxism in which all women as a class are exploited by all men as a class, and thus consent is impossible. She allows the loophole that in a non-patriarchal society that would not be the case, but under patriarchy consent is impossible. Since from the feminist position we still live in a patriarchy, all sex currently is rape- in fact in Towards A Feminist Theory Of State she appears to be saying that all male/female interaction in a patriarchy is rape. No woman is free to give consent to anything.

ANyway, the basic problem here is that radical feminism is simply the rebranding of the 19th century “social purity” movement. It is thus profoundly anti-sex, which is why so many of its leaders, as in the Victorian Era, pretend to be lesbians. These women are erotophobic intense puritans who despise any expression of sexuality, hence the hatred of porn and sex in general. They are simply a gang of Victorian matrons who cannot comprehend that any woman would willingly be penetrated. Hence why Liberal Feminists, the Village Voice set like Judith Levine, rightly condemned the Radicals as “neo-victorians”. Because that is all they are.

Liberal leftists need to grasp that the most powerful conservative voices in western society are now on the Left, hiding in disguise in Feminism, the Green Movement, and so on. By the mid 70s, social conservatism was dead in the water. It was the “Radicals” who fished it out, dried it off, gave it CPR and a whole new life under new narratives based around class violence against women, etc.

The bottom line? Porn is simply not, in rational terms, a big issue. It is only imagined to be one by these extremist reactionaries. It is just an ordinary thing that some people like to indulge in, like sports or shopping or cycling or numerous other human pastimes. It is only radical puritanism that creates an “issue” where none really exists.

22. Mr S. Pill

@20

Your mistake is to confuse “radical feminists” with “feminists”.

@11 rebelgirl1959

At the pornography civil rights hearings, a prosecutor testified that porn was found in the car or home of every child rapist he had been involved in convicting.

You could no doubt say the same about food, coffee, furniture, television sets, and motor cars. Correlation is not causation. You also need to remember the Bayesian fallacy- “all Americans are humans” does not imply that “all humans are Americans”.

Folk should read this work by Mackinnon & Dworkin – they give us the victims of porn speaking for themselves.

Ah, consciousness raising testimony. Formalised by marxist ideologists, but equally derived from religious testimony traditions. Testimony is inherently unreliable. I could easily get lots of white racists in a room to offer testimony of their consciousness that all blacks are inferior. It wouldn’t prove a single thing though, would it? That’s why science seeks to collect objective data, so as to get as balanced a view as one can get, rather than relying on subjective perceptions. And why Rad Feminism rejects science as a patriarchal trick- because it doesn’t give them the answers they want, whereas “consciousness raising” does.

“Wow, that is some massively desperate attempt at causation, when you have no evidence that it took place. So what ‘evidence’ are you talking about, and what about the evidence that Sian points to above?”

Well Sunny, let’s look at it all shall we? Here’s the evidence that Sain points to:

“Research reported last week in The Scientific American claimed that using porn can actually reduce levels of violence against women and girls. ”

So that’s the Sci Am article. In that they point to this:

““a 53 percent increase in rape incidence, whereas the states with the most [internet] access experienced a 27 percent drop in the number of reported rapes, according to a paper published in 2006 by Anthony D’Amato, a law professor at Northwestern University.””

Oh, so, what’s that paper then?

Oh, it’s this one!

http://anthonydamato.law.northwestern.edu/Adobefiles/porn.pdf

And what does that paper say?

““As the chart shows, there were 2.7 rapes for every 1,000 people in 1980; by 2004, the
same survey found the rate had decreased to 0.4 per 1000 people, a decline of 85%.””

Oh, my word! You mean the very evidence in the piece which Sian is quoting?

Nice try Tim W – but you’re not showing causation there. Those two changes could have happened independently

@17: “There are too may cultural differences between the UK and Japan (including their treatment of women in general) – so analogies there are unhelpful. ”

No – the cultural differences are illuminating because these show that the influence of pornography and the incidence of rape are culturally relative and therefore not dependent on some inherent human response mechanism which all or most of us are alleged to have. The fact is that pornographic art and periodicals have long been mainstream in Japan’s history going back to the Edo period.

Even so, UK-base academic studies have had acute difficulty in turning up with evidence of any systematic relationship between access to porn and rape – although it’s always possibly to turn up with some homicidal rapist who really liked porn.

A more interesting perspective on cultural relativism is why Britain’s classical pornographic literature – books like John Cleland’s Fanny Hill and DH Lawrence: Lady Chatterley’s Lover – are about straight sex while French classical pornography – the works of De Sade and Pauline Reage: The Sory of O – are sado-masochistic.

Also, this-

Pornography that more often than not portrays women as objects to be hurt and degraded

There are all kinds of pornography, and some of it is sadomasochistic and thus “violent” (although it is mostly a kind of “play” violence anyway, because it’s a fetish). But pornography in general does not portray women as objects to be hurt and degraded; it portrays women as sexual beings with agency who enjoy sex; and that is what revolts the the puritan feminist. It is only “degrading” if you think that human sexuality is degrading, which is what illiberal feminists believe a priori. The message of every porn video is “women like sex” and, to a puritan, that is just unacceptable.

I see cherries are in season – sigh!

For starters, women account for 1 in 3 porn consumers. Search engine data tells only that there are gender differences in the terminology used to access online sex services and in patterns of consumption. Men go for terms like ‘porn’ and ‘free porn’, women go for terms like ‘teen sex’ and ‘sex chat’ and tend to favour interactive services and services which offer opportunities to act on their sexual fantasies where men favour passive services, i.e. video sites.

Most of the evidence for Sian’s gateway theory comes from sex offender studies and cannot be generalised onto the male population as a whole, not withstanding their other methodological limitations – many of these studies are conducted in conjunction with offender treatment programmes so one cannot be sure how much of the evidence is biased by offenders telling researchers what they want ot hear in the hope that it’ll go down in their favour come their next parole hearing.

There are now several large scale studies showing an inverse correlation between porn availabiltiy and the prevalence of sex offending, covering (from memory), the USA, Japan, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. This last study is, as I recall, particulary interesting because its both recent and because, unlike most Western countries where changings in access to porn and cultural attitudes towards sex and sexuality have occurred gradually over time. they is sharp demarcation line in the availability of porn stemming from the fall of communism. These studies all support the displacement theory but have their limitations, especially in terms of confounding effects from changes in social and cultural values that have occurred at the same time as accessing porn has become much easier.

So, what this tells us is, again, there is sub-population of men who might well have gone on to become sex offenders were their sexual proclivities not catered for by porn, much as there is a sub population of men whose tendancy towards sexual violence may be triggered or exacerbated by viewing porn.

Neither theory tells us anything about men generally or about the much larger number of men who watch porn movies without ever once presenting a risk to women, nor does either theory make it possible to predict, in advance, which men will respond to watching porn videos in which manner.

Oh, and there’s also the chicken and egg problem – do some men become violent after watching violent porn, or do violent men seek out violent point to satisfy their pre-existing sexual proclivities> – to which neither theory offers any concrete solutions.

So, going back to the title, the evidence doesn’t ‘say otherwise’, its inconclusive and contradictory, although the contradictions arise from sociologists’ insistance on putting people neat little boxes and trying to compare apples and oranges, proving only that people are complicated, sociology isn’t a science and that there are still far too many people out there who still haven’t got their head around the idea that although they’re entitled to their own opinions, they’re not entitled to their own facts.

Try this:

True wife confessions: How women’s real-life stories became the new internet sensation

Shelly writes poignantly about the state of her marriage. Karen blogs shamelessly about her secret life as a serial mistress. Amy reveals all about her adulterous affairs …Suddenly there are any number of websites devoted to women’s real-life confessions. But who uses them, and why?
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/men-women/true-wife-confessions-how-womens-reallife-stories-became-the-new-internet-sensation-1757228.html

The Science of Cuckoldry – By sex therapist & relationships counselor Susan Gower
http://www.hotwifeblog.com/index.php?s=science+of+cuckoldry

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that the porn industry has changed considerably over the last ten years, and since the mid-2000’s in particular, when the market for conventional ‘Hollywood’ porn, i.e. the kind in which all the actresses conform to the surgically enhanced ‘Barbie doll’ image, hit saturation point.

That side of the market hasn’t grown appreciably in the last 5-6 years, during which time most of the growth in terms of revenues and accessibility, has come from niche markets, and particularly from the growth in interactive services, i.e. webcam sites, where the performers are pretty much all independent contractors working fron home on the basis that site operators take a share of the revenues, and from reality porn, i.e. home produced videos, many of which are shared/exchanged via adult social networks.

People’s tastes change over time as well, a fact that rarely gets taken into account in these debates. The rapid emergence of the whole MILF/Cougar thing, a niche which has seen massive growth, is a reflection of the fact that the 68% of porn consumers are over the age of 3 and the older demographic’s interest is pneumatic teenagers has waned considerably over the years.

As people get older, their fantasies and daydreams tend to become less fantastical across the board – when you’re 10 years old you might daydream about scoring the winning goal in the World Cup final, even if you’re crap at football, but by the time you hit 35, you know deep down that’ll never happen, all of which takes the edge of your daydream, so you moderate your fantasy to somehing more mundane but hypothetically attainable, like being in the stadium when your country wins the World Cup.

For most people, their sexual fantasies go the same way. When you’re 15 you can sustain the fantasy that you migth just be able to get off a 19 year old surgically sculpted vision of perfection, even if you look like Plug from the Bash Street Kids. When you hit forty, you look at your own saggy bits and moderate your imaginary ambitions to suit, not least because the idea of getting in on with someone who’s not that much older than you’re own kids feels a bit ‘off’.

One of the big problems facing the anti-porn side of this debate is that fact that porn industry itself is dynamic and shifts relatively quickly in response to changes in consumer demand to the extent that, as time passes, the image of the industry that campaigners put across in their arguments increases ceases to resemble what people actually see of the industry in their own lives, and the less people see a connection between the image presented by anti-porn campaigners and what they see on the internet, the less credence they’ll give to other anti-porn arguments.

@Ian b
Ha! That is funny. You think porn portrays women actively enjoying sex? You think because I might argue that being anally penetrated and then being orally penetrated immediately afterwards by the same penis is a degrading act (basically pushing shit into a woman’s mouth) means I am puritanical and hate sex? That by arguing that filmed rape such as in deep throat, actual live on camera rape, is portraying and normalises violence against women, means that I am somehow repressing women’s sexuality? By pointing out that women in the sex industry are raped, you think I am being a puritan? Wow.

@29 sianushka (are you the author of the article?)

There’s a lot of people think that one man anally penetrating another is automatically degrading. Discuss.

It’s hard to know the truth about Deep Throat; Lovelace fell into the orbit of Dworkin and Mackinnon, and we don’t know how many of her claims were true. That is not to say she was lying, but people have all sorts of interpretations of their pasts, particualrly when they reject something they used to do (think of the fanatical ex-smoker, the born again Christian, etc). Notheless, taking the Deep Throat narrative at face value, it is indicative that you’re digging back 40 years for an example. I can give you examples from any industry of bad practices in the past. Bad conditions in the textile mills or modern training shoe factories doesn’t mean that clothes and shoes are themselves inherently evil. It means that you might want to consider a Factories Act, not close the factories.

I will not argue that no woman in porn has ever been raped. I will not argue that no textile worker has ever been raped either, but it would be dishonest to claim that textile work is defined by rape. The overwhelming majority of porn is simply women choosing to do a particular job. That is all it is. You might interpret what you are seeing as rape, but you are just seeing sex and acting. Sorry.

I’m not a BDSM fan myself, but one thing I do have nestling on my hard drive is a bloopers reel from one large such website, and it’s a delight to watch; e.g. a moment when the actresses are engaged in some intense “discipline” and one accidentally farts lube onto another, and they burst out laughing. It’s make believe, like all other media. And that’s all it is.

@29 I thought hosepipe enemas were the norm? No chance for pushing shit into mouths that way.

@ Sunny Hundal
Usually I wouldn’t dare to intervene on a topic where I know very little. However, a couple of thoughts occurred to me on reading this thread.
Firstly, there have been two conflicting cultural influences during the past few decades :
mainstream television has gradually become more relaxed and open about sex, sexuality and nudity, while still retaining some level of censorship – and this mainstream television influence may have shaped attitudes and helped with lowering the rate of incidence of sexual assault.
pornography has developed/degenerated to more niche interests, outside this new mainstream, including crude rough treatment or violence towards women – which may be excusing or ‘legitimising’ aggressive sexual behaviour / misdeeds.
The presence of contrary influences may cloud any attempt at evidential research?

Secondly, in the past 30 years or so, western societies have been exposed to the corrosive influence of neo-liberal right-wing economics which insists that people aren’t to be valued as human beings anymore, but instead are to be regarded as a commodity traded according to their economic worth. Neo-liberal economics offends against humanity; it’s based on a tenet that all humans can be bought and sold. Its effect is corruptive, yet, oddly, it also preaches a pseudo-morality of its own.

On a practical level, the porn industry would serve better if there were many more female directors and producers (i.e. empowered women working behind the camera, not just in front of it).

“Nice try Tim W – but you’re not showing causation there. Those two changes could have happened independently”

Indeed, they could have happened independently: it could just be correlation. Which is what all the subsequent papers are about. Can we nail down a closer connection?

That specific paper both I and the Sci Am piece mention: that’s doing the sort of exercises that we use to try and work out whether there is just correlation or causation.

For example, let’s agree that we’ve seen a correlation between pron increasing and rape decreasing. We don’t know whether there’s a connection or they’re just unrelated things that happened at about the same time.

So, what we might do is take some indicator, something associated with access to porn: say, broadband internet access. Then we look at hose broadband rolled out over different areas. And we look at the rape statistics for those different areas. If we find that rape declines as broad band reaches areas, well, we think we’re onto something. If we find, say, that rape increases in places with no broad band (possibly showing the general societal movement) but actually falls in areas with broadband, then we really start to think that theere is causation there, not just correlation.

Amazingly, that is what that paper actually finds.

And if this isn’t good enough for you: well, I’m sorry, this is the way all of the social sciences work. The Spirit Level works this way (to rather a lower standard of proof to be honest). The evidence that fiscal stimulus grows economies is actually based on fewer observations and lower levels of proof than this one paper.

If you want to reject this method of trying to work things out then you’re going to have to abandon an awful lot of things you thought were proven.

33 Rook

Sorry, can’t let this one go, even if it’s OT-

Secondly, in the past 30 years or so, western societies have been exposed to the corrosive influence of neo-liberal right-wing economics which insists that people aren’t to be valued as human beings anymore, but instead are to be regarded as a commodity traded according to their economic worth. Neo-liberal economics offends against humanity; it’s based on a tenet that all humans can be bought and sold. Its effect is corruptive, yet, oddly, it also preaches a pseudo-morality of its own.

Sorry, this is the very reverse of reality. “Neo-liberal” market economics inherently treats people as individuals with individual worth- call it value- which they themselves can trade as they wish. It increases one’s perception of humans as human beings; it is socialist economics that reduces people to being mere “labour units”. Which is why virtually every communist regime has treated its citizens as slaves. All that matters is the Collective; the individuals are just its atoms, and have no individual lives of their own.

You may think it dehumanising for a person to trade themself. It is far more dehumanising to remove their right to trade themself and make them the property of the State instead of their own property.

“Down that coalmine, comrade, and no arguing! It is for the comon good!”

“Look, there is still this thing called “evidence”. Yes, I’m sure, terribly male and phallocentric of me.”

I am curious to know why you said this, Tim Worstall. How did you think it would be received by the female reader, if you did? I lost interest in the rest of your comment, if feedback is helpful.

38. Robin Levett

@Unity #28:

Sorry; I just couldn’t resist highlighting this:

68% of porn consumers are over the age of 3

I think under the age of 3 it counts as milk consumption.

“How did you think it would be received by the female reader, if you did? I lost interest in the rest of your comment, if feedback is helpful.”

It’s just so wonderful to meet a stereotype.

Never mind the evidence, I don’t like the way you said it so I’m not going to pay attention.

Quite lovely.

Sunny.

The sex offender studies on which the gateway theory is based don’t demonstrate causation either due to their inabilty to control for confounding.

These studies use two basic methodologies, sometimes in combination.

The first involves taking physiological measurements of sexual arousal while showing porn videos to a test subject, the theory being that violent offenders will exhibit greater levels of arousal when shown scenes of sexual violence than they will when shown consensual sexual activity. Leaving aside the ethical issues that this kind of research raises and the questionable value of the measurements – as with lie detectors, these systems can be fooled if you put your mind to it – even if you do get a reaction from the test subject, you cannot be sure exactly what it is the subject is reacting to.

It could be the depiction of sexual violence, but then offenders know that what they’re being shown is a simulation and not the real thing so researchers often don’t get the results they’re expecting, or it could be some other element of the scene, something in the ‘victims’ appearance, something about the way the scene is constructed or something entirely unrelated to the ‘action’ that appears on screen.

There are too many variables to control for in order to make any reliable assessments of causation.

The other common methodology is the use of self-report studies but, as I;ve already pointed out, these rely on subjects answering questions honestly, of which there’s no guaratee, and the context in which many studies are conducted – i.e. within or alongside offender treatment programmes – introduces a considerable risk of bias as offenders are prone to play ball and tell the researcher what the researcher wants to hear in the hope that their apparent cooperation will count in their favour when they next try for parole.

Add to that the fact that you cannot legitimately generalise from studies conducted ion sex offenders to the general male population and the fact that gateway theory cannot reliably predict individual behaviour when it comes to many convicted sex offenders – its only the serious, serial offenders that tend to exhibit pathological behaviour patterns that can be consudered to be diagnostic of likely future behaviour – and the most that can be said with any confidence is that watching porn appears to be a contributory element in the offending behaviour of a sub-group of sex offenders which is, itself, only a small sub group of the male population.

Yes, the inverse correlation between the trends in the availabiity of porn and patterns of sex offending may not indicate direct causation but its unlikely that these trends are wholly independent of each other. The more plausible hypothesis is these trends are linked indirectly by other factors of which displacement is only one element amongst several which, taken together, account for the observed relationship. The increased availability of porn has coincided with profound social and cultural changes in attitudes towards sex and sexuality and towards women, generally, not to mention improvements in sex education, increased cultural awareness of sexual violence and an increase in the reporting of sex offences to the police. Its likely that several, or all, of these factors work together and mutally reinforce each other in order to generate the observed reduction in the prevalence of sexual violence in such a way to a displace/deter some men away from offending.

However, once again, the men who’s potential for offending is displaced/deterred in this fashion are still only a sub-group of the male population and one no more generalise from this group to the male population as a whole than one can sdo the same from evidence obtained by studying sex offenders, even if it were possible to reliably identify this particular sub group in the first place.

That said, what the inverse correlation between the availability of porn and the prevalence iof sexual violence does demonstrate, conclusively, is that the strong version of the gateway hypothesis, which treats porn as a causal factor in sexual violence in its won right rather than as being one contributory factor amongst many – and, as yet, no one has managed to quantify the extent to which it acts as a contributory factor, relative to other relevant factors – cannot be correct.

If the strong version of the gateway theory were correct then an increase in the availabilty of and access to porn would result in an increase in the prevalence of sexual violence, not a decrease.

So what we can say, by taking all the evidence into account, is that any causal relationship between porn and sexual violence is limited to a small sub-group of men – and in all likelyhood, to a sub group of that sub group – relatively weak and reliant on reinforcement from a complex array of other psychosocial factors.

When you come down to the level of individuals, then the answer to question ‘why do some men become sex offenders?’ is pretty much the same as the answer to ‘why are there gay men in Iran?’ and ‘where do working class Tories come from?’ – as individuals. people are complicated and unpredictable to the extent that no matter how much you might try to control their external environment, some will always behave in ways you weren’t expecting.

41. Luis enrique

This passage is extraordinarily incoherent:

Second, this report is fundamentally making a sexist statement against men. It suggests that if it wasn’t for the ‘release’ that porn offers men to ‘act out’ these “deviant” fantasies, then men wouldn’t be able to help themselves.

The age-old criticism that anti-porn feminists believe all men to be rapists is actually being suggested by those who seem to criticise the anti-porn feminist position!

As a feminist, I believe that rape can and will be prevented by education …

The idea that porn reduces rape merely requires that some men move from rapist to not rapist because of porn, we could be talking about 0.1% of the male population, so it has absolutely nothing to do with the idea all men a rapists. Secondly, why is it sexist to think some men would be rapists if not for the “release” of porn, but not sexist to think that some men would be rapists if not for education?

I have no bloody idea about the question in hand, but it strikes me as a very difficult empirical problem. Suppose there are more rapes in poor areas, then areas obtain improved internet access as they get richer, data shows rape falling. I haven’t read the paper to see if authors get round potential problems like that (it’s possible they may). On the other hand I’m not sure why anybody would have strong prior views one way or another, we know rape is prevalent in societies with virtually no access to porn at all, and it doesnt strike me as impossible some would-be rapists instead stay at home wanking all day. That could even be happening at the same time as watching porn turns other would-not-be rapists into rapists, its just a question of which outweighs the other.

42. Luis enrique

Oh sodding HTML, sorry quote ends after education …

Oops, sorry about the type Robin – that should read…

68% of porn consumers are over the age of 35

44. Leon Wolfson

@14 – Japan has a 98% conviction rate. It’s court system is not considered fair, internationally. Not a good example.

@35 – Really? No, that’s how it treats *capital*, hence the falling percentage of wealth which wages represent within society. The Nordic Model would be how to treat workers fairly, aka “folkesocialisme” (“people’s socialism”).

Really? No, that’s how it treats *capital*, hence the falling percentage of wealth which wages represent within society.

No, that’s a pure Marxist analysis and I’m not going to argue any further about that because it’s just Flat Wrong.

The Nordic Model would be how to treat workers fairly, aka “folkesocialisme” (“people’s socialism”).

Ah, the volkisch idea is never far away. Didn’t work out so well last time, that nasty man with the moustache. What year did Sweden finally grudgingly abandon their eugenics programme again, by the way?

46. Leon Wolfson

@44 – Oh, the EVIDENCE, which shows wages are decreasing as a percentage of wealth are flat wrong is it?

Of course it is, thanks for that great display of defending people’s wages shrinking for the rich’s profits. That’s all that matters to the rich right, in the end.

And the Nordic Model has produced a society which has greater labour mobility, higher average living standards and which is considerably fairer than the mess which we’ve landed in. Of course you have to argue against it, since it deunks your “rich and only for the rich” model of society.

But no, austerity (for the poor), cuts (for the poor), tax cuts (for companies and the rich) – it’s *always* the same when the Tories take power. Only this time, the North still hadn’t recovered from Thatcher, and this time you’re determined to put them out for the count.

@ IanB

“Sorry, this is the very reverse of reality. “Neo-liberal” market economics inherently treats people as individuals with individual worth- call it value- which they themselves can trade as they wish. It increases one’s perception of humans as human beings;”

Oh no, I’m not having that – Adam Smith concept of people as free and rational actors in an open competitive market is a about as far from modern global capitalism in its outlook as the Stalinist command ecomony was from Marx’s notion of workers control over the means of production.

If communism reduces people to ‘labour units’, modern capitalism reduces people to a bunch of numers on a balance sheet – neither treats people as individuals with individual worth, you get that only where the market conforms to Smith’s 18th century petty bourgeois conception of a marketplace dominated by small businesses, a market culture that was pretty much swept away by the mass industrialisation of the 19th century and the development of large scale corporations with their own independent existence and rights in law.

Not for nothing did some of America’s founding fathers give serious consideration to enacting laws that would subject corporations to enforced dissolution after a fixed period of time of 60-70 years, so as to prevent corporations gaining too much power by developing a life of their own in near perpetuity.

Smith is rightly considered to be the father of modern economics, not its prophet, and although he got a lot of foundational principles right, there is still a hell of lot he failed to predict, so you can’t just transpose all of his ideas into a contemporary setting and assume they still hold valid.

@ Luis

“I have no bloody idea about the question in hand, but it strikes me as a very difficult empirical problem.”

Yep – as with most social problems, the sheer number of confounding variables you’d need to control for to generate decent empirical answers makes establishing causality with any stroing degree of confidence pretty much a non-starter.

48. Baying Lynch Mob

@38

So are you going to answer the question? How *did* you think that comment would be taken by female readers? Did you not realise that, even if you thought you were being funny, saying “people without cocks don’t like evidence” is patronising at best? And if you did, why did you go ahead and post it anyway?

47 Baying Lunch Mob,

I can’t speak for Tim, but I’d guess that he was just taking the mickey out of the tendency of Feminists to launch into denunciations of, you know, phallocentric malestream science whenever it contradicts the “truths” discovered by consciousness raising.

@46 Unity

modern capitalism reduces people to a bunch of numers on a balance sheet – neither treats people as individuals with individual worth,

Er, you do realise that those “Numbers on a balance sheet” are actually measures of the individuals’ worth as it applies to other people?

That’s the problem with socialism; nobody has an individual worth on a balance sheet. Value is ignored. Everyone is just an atom of a homogenous aggregate. The market measures worth (“value”). Destroy the market, you lose all sight of the value.

Also, economics has moved on a very long way since Adam Smith (bit of a twat really, bad writer, confused, tepid marketeer and that ghastly Labour Theory Of Value that ended up with Marx and “a lump of iron is a lump of solid labour” bullshit).

@43: “@14 – Japan has a 98% conviction rate. It’s court system is not considered fair, internationally. Not a good example.”

So the example of Britain with a c. 5% conviction rate for rape is “fair”?

The obvious question is whether the incidence of reported rapes in Britain has more to do with the low conviction rate relative to the scale of the reports of rape than with the access of rapists to porn. On the conviction rate, rapists have an excellent chance of getting away with it.

Japan has a marvellously low crime rate – from experience, the streets feel very safe in Tokyo even in areas like Soho late at night despite the clubs and touts.

The point is that Japan has a long history of pornography for specific historical reasons to do with how the Tokugawa shoguns ran the country in the Edo period through to the restoration of the emperor in 1868 by the so-called Meiji Revolution.

To ensure the good behaviour of the feudal lords, successive shoguns required the feudal lords to keep their families with retainers in Edo – renamed as Tokyo after the Meiji Revolution – whenever they returned to their landed estates to manage their affairs. The retainers in Edo needed entertainment and distractions to keep them compliant. Hence the multitude of clubs in Tokyo, the historic geisha culture and shunga:
http://www.robynbuntin.com/japanese/g_shunga.asp

The crime rate in Japan is generally low for violent crime, including rape.

52. Leon Wolfson

@50 – 98% for *everything*. Your example makes a mockery of the unfair methods and trials which the Japanese system produces.

Japan has a FAR higher crime rate than is “reported”, in cases where there’s a question of guilt between Japanese nationals, and between many groups in Japanese society, the police don’t get involved.

Are you really calling for that here?

@50 Bob B

The conviction rate for rape in Britain is about 60%, comparable to other violent crime. That 6% figure is the attrition rate, a figure so misleading that a Parliamentary Committee specifically ordered Harriet Harman and the government in general to stop using it.

@52: “The conviction rate for rape in Britain is about 60%, comparable to other violent crime. That 6% figure is the attrition rate, a figure so misleading that a Parliamentary Committee specifically ordered Harriet Harman and the government in general to stop using it.”

That’s rubbish.The 60% figure relates to those alleged rapists actually brought to court and convicted of rape. The “6%” figure relates to the convictions for rape as a percentage of the numbers of reported rapes. If I were inclined to rape, I’d be far more focused on the latter figure than the former. Rapists have an excellent chance of getting away with it – on the evidence. No wonder Parliamentarians wanted spin to obscure the truth of the matter.

55. Baying Lynch Mob

48 Ian B

That’s not a tendency I’ve noticed among feminists; but if I claim that my own experiences mean anything, I’ll just be reinforcing your perceptions, won’t I?

On the other hand, people who denounce overly simplistic interpretations, or look closely for unintended biases in the experiment, include but are not limited to feminists.

@ 46. Unity

” Oh no, I’m not having that – Adam Smith concept of people as free and rational actors.. ”

That is not how Adam Smith seen people. If people were always acting rationally, they would only ever pursue their own selfish self-interest. Quite clearly, in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith said humans have a natural tendency to care about the well-being of others because we like to see people happy. He called it sympathy, “our fellow-feeling with any passion whatsoever” Moreover, it was so ingrained in humans not always to be rational and selfish that, “the greatest ruffian, the most hardened violator of the laws of society” was capable of caring about the well-being of others especially if they vividly witnessed injustice.

When he wrote:

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

He was merely pointing out that even when people act in their own interest, it still benefits others.

His ideas that humans desire to be free and every system that did accept humans as free was covered in his description of humans on a chessboard being pushed around by ‘ the man of system. ‘ The man of system was doomed to fail miserably whether corporate or government unless people were making their own choices.

That’s rubbish.The 60% figure relates to those alleged rapists actually brought to court and convicted of rape.

Bob, that is the actual definition of “conviction rate”.

@51: “Are you really calling for that here?”

No. I’m just pointing out that Japan combines a long history of a flourishing porn industry for historic reasons with a low incidence of violent crime, including rape, and that it feels very safe to walk about areas like Akasaka, Roppongi and Shinjuku in Tokyo late at night. Girls sit about the lounges of even posh hotels waiting for clients. There is a long tradition.

The link @14 reports that the stars of Adult Videos become celebrities in Japan. Their social values are very different from ours. Try this “upskirt” game show from Japanese TV – the audience responses show that it is taken in all good fun but imagine the reaction here if ITV or Sky were to put on something like that:
http://www.gametrailers.com/user-movie/japanese-upskirt-game-show/235312

57- Bob B

The central problem Anglo/Protestant/Western European/What Have You society suffers from is hegemonic puritanism, which other parts of the world don’t (though they have other problematic inherited historical attitdues which may cause equal if different problems). I don’t mean “puritan” as a vague insult at prudes, but rather the specific movement that stretches all the way back before Cromwell, went into remission in the 18th century then acquired enormous dominance, here and across the Anglosphere in the 19th.

It manifests across the political spectrum, and that is the problem. These aren’t “left” and “right” issues. I don’t need to point out the puritans on the Right- Mary Whitehouse, Moral Majority, Bible Belt preachers and on and on. But on the Left, it tends to disguise itself in radicalism. Much of the green movement is puritan- it is a combination of Romanticism and Puritanism (“self denial to save nature”) which tends to obscure and confuse real discussion of the environment and potential problems with it. Likewise, puritanism is the driving force of anti-sex feminism and people need to realise that and combat it. That is not to stand against equal rights for women. It is to stand against the poisonous puritan fanaticism that has ended up with us criminalising a 16 year olds who send each other nudie pics on their phones, and so on.

Japan has a different heritage in this regard. It just doesn’t have this mortal terror of sexual expression that characterises Britain, America and the rest of the Anglosphere, and that’s because it didn’t experience the intense Christian revivalism that our countries did and that has so totally shaped our perception of erotica, prostitution, and so on.

@58: “Japan has a different heritage in this regard. It just doesn’t have this mortal terror of sexual expression that characterises Britain, America and the rest of the Anglosphere, and that’s because it didn’t experience the intense Christian revivalism that our countries did and that has so totally shaped our perception of erotica, prostitution, and so on.”

Absolutely – although, as I recall, the priesthood of the medieval Church, including the Pope, were not especially dedicated about in observing celibacy vows. Some Popes had children but then the Romans hadn’t been notably puritanical.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sexually_active_popes

Historically, Japan had special ways of dealing with Christian mssionaries:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZDKQ536jJs

The wooden pony was a favourite method but, reportedly, that was also actively used during the American civil war as a means of extracting information from prisoners of war as well as by the Spanish Inquisition.

The important point surely is that cultural attitudes to sexuality differ widely as to time and place – so there is no innate human response to porn.

I’m not sure asking the question ‘Does porn reduce violence against women?’ and the citing every anti-porn feminists’ favourite anti-porn feminist really constitutes a refutation of the claim it does, let alone proof of the opposite. The ‘causal link’ has been the holy grail of feminist anti-porn campaigners for over 30 years, so it’s not as though inconclusive evidence, let alone studies that indicate there’s isn’t a causal link is going to stop them arguing for it (as Dines has done for the last three decades).

@sianushka:

You think because I might argue that being anally penetrated and then being orally penetrated immediately afterwards by the same penis is a degrading act (basically pushing shit into a woman’s mouth) means I am puritanical and hate sex?

Well I would wonder whether: (a) you had considered the possibility that the participants had cleaned themselves inside and out beforehand; (b) you can tell the difference between ‘unhygienic’ and ‘degrading’ (or between a turd and a penis) or (c) you were simply using the most disgusting scenario you could come up with to win the argument.

Moreover, I’d still wonder whether your real objection is to sexism in the porn industry (which can change, not least through women’s protests), or simply to the sex in which the women participate as part of an an agreed employment contract. There’s a history of ‘social purity’ movements within feminism that object to sex (and other people’s sexual behaviour) far more than they want to safeguard the pay and working conditions of women in the sex industry.

@ 62
i think it is just easier for people to accuse those who question whether sexism and violence exist in the porn industry of somehow being anti sex than to engage.
ATM isn’t the most icky thing i can think of, but is extremely common.

I think we need to find ways forward in the discussion around porn, sexual violence and the wider sex industry that ensures that women are safe and that sexism is tackled and that sexual violence comes to an end. I don’t have the answers. Gail Dines doesn’t have all the answers, The Scientific American doesn’t have all the answers. But the knee jerk reaction that questioning the portrayal of violence against women in porn means you somehow hate sex or are a puritan is certainly not the answer. If anything, it’s immature.

“Did you not realise that, even if you thought you were being funny, saying “people without cocks don’t like evidence” is patronising at best? And if you did, why did you go ahead and post it anyway?”

Because I don’t actually care if people get a fit of the vapours over the way I choose to express myself. Capisce?

@63 Sian

i think it is just easier for people to accuse those who question whether sexism and violence exist in the porn industry of somehow being anti sex than to engage.

That isn’t it at all. I can’t speak for anyone else here obviously, but I myself have spent considerable time and effort studying this issue, and the feminist movement, its history and its core texts. As such, accusing key components of the feminist movement of being anti-sex isn’t an idle jibe, but a reasoned analysis of the characters, their history and considered speculation regarding motivations. (Nobody can ever prove a motivation, but one can make considered judgements with caution).

I think we need to find ways forward in the discussion around porn, sexual violence and the wider sex industry that ensures that women are safe and that sexism is tackled and that sexual violence comes to an end. I don’t have the answers.

A consideration of the history of feminist and other activism makes me sceptical about statements like this. It sounds very mild and reasonable, but is really an attempt to crack the door open with a clear intent in mind. It begs the question. Whenever an activist says, “let’s discuss…”, it means, “I have this agenda I want to force through, and this is the first step…” and that is the nature of activism (from whatever side of the political divide). Somebody saying, “let’s have a discussion about the death penalty and tackling violent crime” actually means, “I want the death penalty back, and getting it on the agenda is the first step to that”. Or, “let’s discuss smoking in the home” isn’t a request for a nice chat, it’s “we want to ban smoking in the home next”.

You are begging the question about porn and sexual violence, because of an a priori assumption that one causes the other; but there are no clear links between the two. The reality seems to be that porn just isn’t very important at all. It’s just an entertainment that people indulge in; some may become too obsessed with it, but that can happen to fans of Star Trek, golfers and just about any other damned thing. I’m too obsessed with debating on the internets. It’s human nature. You may as well “start a discussion” about the dangers of bloggers leaving comment boxes to lure the addicted.

But the knee jerk reaction that questioning the portrayal of violence against women in porn means you somehow hate sex or are a puritan is certainly not the answer. If anything, it’s immature.

It’s anything but “immature” and that is a rather snide put down intended to stifle debate. There are strong historical links between the movement we now call feminism, and its anti-sex campaigning, and the old social purity movements which were part and parcel of First Wave feminism (suffragettes etc) and the “Zeroth Wave” that goes right back to Hannah Moore. There is a rich political and social history of how social change movements arose out of devout Protestant missionary zeal in the Anglo nations (particularly England and America) and that had a profound formative effect on our hegemonic attitudes to sex and numerous other issues.

It is very strongly arguable that after the liberal lattter 20th century, we are now in a return to puritanism; we even have a resurgent temperance movement, and the social purity movement is back complete with a new version of the White Slavery Panic. This is important stuff, and well worth “a discussion”.

66. Clio Bellenis

Excellent article. Verifiable stats are so hard to find in and area agree under repairing of crime is so massive. What worries me is the assumptions of some vulnerable naive young girls that what they see in porn is normal sex, and that there is something wrong with them when they don’t like out, our find it painful. I worry to for young boys who have their nascent sexuality moulded by unrealistic images, and sexual aggressor whose fantasy escalation (a normal thing) is accelerated by easily available images. Most porn shows women being used, not as a fantasy which they sere in control of, but as if it is normal. Many women flip between suspending disbelief to enjoy porn, and laughing at the ridiculousness of the acting. The pretending to enjoy something which looks to be either boring our painful.
I’m quoting no stats here, qualitative sociological research is another important way of seeking info relevant to specific groups which would get lost in the noise of gross, probably inaccurate, figures.

@ Sian

Pornography that more often than not portrays women as objects to be hurt and degraded; that portrays women as objects of violence; and that encourages men and boys to associate sexual pleasure with violence and degradation is not a solution to sexual violence.

The sexual practices portrayed in pornography reflect what the consumer wants to see- if it didn’t do that, people would not buy it and it would not be made. You view some of these depictions as sexist/degrading to women/expressing male violence/objectifying women and you would ultimately argue to have such pornography prohibited.

Whilst we might argue about that, you do have to accept that the type of pornography that is available is a direct reflection of the sexual drive of the male population who watch it.

It may be uncomfortable for you to know that there is a violent or degrading element in the sex drive of some men but it is clearly not something you can remedy by education about respect and consent. Indeed, some feminists see the act of penetration itself as a violent and degrading act but such “sexual violence” will only be solved by compulsory universal castration.

A question for you.

If the correlation between an increase in the availability of pornography and a decrease in the incidence of rape and other violence against women were proved, would you advocate greater availability or not?

Debaters may find this an interesting watch- it’s a video about the porn industry so NSFW etc but not pornographic.

http://www.thedevilandshelleylubben.com/

Part 2 in particular. Yes, it is one sided advocacy. But it’s the other one-side, so may provide some balance to the debate. It discusses the claims of Shelley Lubben, who was briefly in porn and has since become a Born Again Christian anti-porn advocate, with a narrative of coercion and harm.

It’s also hard not to notice how the positions taken by far right religious campaigners, and left wing/feminist campaigners, are indistinguishable in content.

sianushka:

I think we need to find ways forward in the discussion around porn, sexual violence and the wider sex industry that ensures that women are safe and that sexism is tackled and that sexual violence comes to an end.

But sianushka, this discussion has been going for over three decades now. In some instances, women decided that the best ‘way forward’ was to work in the sex industry from a feminist perspective, not least by producing porn that women would like. Other women have tried to find, discuss and recommend good examples of porn, or challenge the industry’s relationship to women.

However, Gail Dines is all too typical of the kind of feminist whose response to that is to call such women ‘scabs’ and to shut down any discussion of porn or sex work outside of an abolitionist perspective. Activists like Dines think women only get to be ‘safe’ when they don’t do porn, or when the industry is somehow shut down altogether, rather than when the pay and working conditions are ‘safe’ for them to earn a living. Likewise, the images mean only what campaigners like Dines say they mean – hence, for example, the inability to tell the difference between consenting (if intense) BDSM and violence (and people say Media Studies is a waste of time…).

In short, activists like Dines think they already have all the answers and are the only voices that should be heard simply by insisting on equating porn with violence against women (there’s no ‘causal link’ for gay porn, apparently), something the balance of your OP seems to share despite the calls for ‘debate’ below the line.

Footnote: If readers have time, here is a 1997 comparison between Dines’ anti-porn roadshow and a pro-sex counterpart by Susie Bright (images might be NSFW). It’s a pretty good summary of the whole anti-porn modus operandi.

70. Baying Lynch Mob

64 Tim W

”Because I don’t actually care if people get a fit of the vapours over the way I choose to express myself. Capisce?”

No, I don’t understand. If, as you claim, you don’t care that perpetuating an inaccurate stereotype puts the subjects of that stereotype on the back foot, why did you go out of your way to do it?

@69 redpesto

(there’s no ‘causal link’ for gay porn, apparently)

Mackinnon comes to the rescue on this one, as we see in this Guardian interview, when asked about gay porn-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/apr/12/gender.politicsphilosophyandsociety

But surely lesbian and gay porn at least eludes such criticisms? MacKinnon disagrees. “There’s a good book by Christopher Kendal which studies the real content of gay male pornography and the children who are violated to make it as well as the men who are used in the industry.

There you go, years of campaigning by gay rights activists to break down the bigoted perception of gays as pederasts, flushed down the toilet. Turns out they are after all. Thanks, Catharine!

@IanB: Thanks for that, but note that Mackinnon says ‘children’, not ‘women’. Mind you, in Dworkin’s Pornography: Men Possessing Women, the author has to figuratively turn one of the male participants on gay porn into a woman in order to be (ahem) ‘consistent’, and regards lesbian porn as a form of ‘self-hatred’ even though lesbians must have been fed up with having their sexuality either ignored or misrepresented by non-lesbians, hence the creation of On Our Backs/A> in the US in the 1980s (one of the first, and best-known examples of feminists responding to porn in a way that Dines et al. would hate).

@72 redpesto

The big problem any “By lesbians, for lesbians” porn has is that men will be aroused by anything if it’s got reasonably hot, reasonably naked women in it, so it’s always going to end up being accused by the pornophobes of being “for men” because we’re going to watch it and probably outnumber the target audience, just because there are more straight men than lesbian women.

I mean, I’d watch a woman reciting the telephone directory if she was reasonably hot and reasonably naked. And then probably that would spawn a whole new niche of Directory Porn, and we’d argue about whether the “J”s were better than the “M”s and whether you’re a Residential Directory Man or a Business Directory Man and stuff like that.

🙂

With longer life expectancy in Japan than in other affluent countries – probably because of their diet – the porn industry there has given thought to the special needs of pensioners:

Japan’s Booming Sex Niche: Elder Porn
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1818203,00.html

The central problem Anglo/Protestant/Western European/What Have You society suffers from is hegemonic puritanism, which other parts of the world don’t (though they have other problematic inherited historical attitdues which may cause equal if different problems). I don’t mean “puritan” as a vague insult at prudes, but rather the specific movement that stretches all the way back before Cromwell, went into remission in the 18th century then acquired enormous dominance, here and across the Anglosphere in the 19th.

It manifests across the political spectrum, and that is the problem. These aren’t “left” and “right” issues. I don’t need to point out the puritans on the Right- Mary Whitehouse, Moral Majority, Bible Belt preachers and on and on. But on the Left, it tends to disguise itself in radicalism. Much of the green movement is puritan- it is a combination of Romanticism and Puritanism (“self denial to save nature”) which tends to obscure and confuse real discussion of the environment and potential problems with it. Likewise, puritanism is the driving force of anti-sex feminism and people need to realise that and combat it. That is not to stand against equal rights for women. It is to stand against the poisonous puritan fanaticism that has ended up with us criminalising a 16 year olds who send each other nudie pics on their phones, and so on.
Ian
I think you are correct apart from the ism. In fact I would say i come from leftist working class background and I was brought up with those values.
I would say in the 50’s and 60’s we were the norm
The unionist men who made up my family were certainly not feminists
1. Hard work
2. A dislike of decadence
3. Family and neighbours were central to lifes
4. A dislike for criminality
5. Self discipline
These were central to their lives. I look at a TV screen and see a lack of self discipline and yearn for those days.

Guttman: It manifests across the political spectrum, and that is the problem. These aren’t “left” and “right” issues

Indeed. Male homosexuality was condemned by both the Nazis and by the Russian/Communist regimes. Likewise, sexual behaviour doesn’t ‘fit’ neatly into a politics of gender discrimination – only a fool would assume that all feminists are okay with each other’s sexual preferences and practices (trust me, the history of the ‘sex wars’ indicates precisely the opposite).

OMG, I didn’t realise there was a thing called ‘evidence’! My fragile ladybrain has never encountered that before as usually I’m too busy thinking about kittens. Or maybe I am, like any human being, capable of rational thought. My uterus actually doesn’t read and think and assess information for me (who knew?!).

The first study quoted in the OP does not say a single thing about porn and how it relates to sexual violence. It measured a correlation between internet access and (reported) rape. Internet access. Not porn use, internet access. Any connection to porn use is an assumption and therefore *not evidence*. They don’t even report who is using this internet access and for what. It could be teenage girls looking at LOLcats for all we know.

Yes, some of those people with internet access will be looking at porn. But until the researchers know how many people, how much porn and what type of porn, then equating it with statistics about (reported) rape is meaningless. It could be that Mr X in a state with less general access is caning the porn sites 24-7 watching the nastiest stuff he can get his hands on, whereas Mr Y in a state with access out the wazoo is only looking at relatively ‘vanilla’ pictures for ten minutes every other day.

Also, do the people in states with less internet access have other means of accessing porn? Y’know, like people did in ye olden days? Do they have televisions, access to porn magazines and videos/DVDs? Do they use these to consume porn? We don’t know, because the researchers didn’t take this into account.

In terms of ‘a thing called evidence’, the study quoted can be filed in the round drawer in the corner of the room. As a piece of science, it sucks. It says absolutely nothing at all about porn use and how it relates to sexual violence, it is a tiny piece of correlation cake buried under a heap of assumption icing. All wrapped up in a nice shiny media box of ‘oh porn is okay after all yay’.

@ Violet

25% of all search engine requests are looking for pornography.

http://internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/internet-pornography-statistics.html

That’s evidence.

“Unsurprisingly, I don’t think it is as simple as that….. The American Psychological Association conducted vigorous research in this area…Dr. Nicola Gavey of the University of Auckland, who has spent much of her academic career looking at violence against women …”

I don’t really care about the research of these researchers. Lab-based evidence, surveys, cultural analysis to me are irrelevant. What counts is what people actually do in real life. And there is ample evidence that an increase in porn availability translates to less rape. Moreover this evidence is cross-cultural!

“Now, yes, this is simply an “association”, a correlation. Science is, in part, about observing correlations and attempting to divine causality.”

Its NOT just a correlation. With temporal evidence meaning effect follows cause we have causal evidence. Here we have solid causal evidence.


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    Does porn reduce violence to women? No, says @SianUshka for @LibCon: http://t.co/RvlpF1G

  15. sianushka

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