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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Theory is no match for Data: Pornography and Rape, Sexual Violence and other Nasty Stuff

"By the time I'd grown up, I naturally supposed that I'd be grown up." - Eve Babitz

***

Theory is no match for Data.

Linked from a magazine article for popular consumption (Porn: Good for us? in The Scientist):

Pacific Center for Sex and Society - Pornography, Public Acceptance and Sex Related Crime: A Review

"Actual data about any research demonstrated effects of pornography were sparse and many significant studies and findings were omitted [in pornography discussions]...

The other side of the argument holds that pornography is an expression of fantasies that provide pleasure (Christensen, 1990), are media that can inhibit sexual activity (Wolf, 2003), and materials that can act as a positive displacement activity for sexual aggression (D'Amato, 2006). And identified feminists like Camille Paglia (Paglia, 1991), Leonore Tieffer (Tiefer, 1986), N.B. McKormick (McKormick, 1994) and others consider that pornography actually empowers women by loosening them from the shackles of social prudery and anti-sexual restrictions...

With such strong feelings at stake what is the evidence for demonstrated negative or positive effects of pornography? Considering that the production, distribution and sale of sexually explicit materials are worldwide and part of a multi-billion dollar industry with ready access to anyone with a computer, or a so-called “Adult” store, one would think the negative affects, if actual, would be obvious and readily available...

Bauserman concluded: “Rape rates are not consistently associated with pornography circulation. And the relationships found are ambiguous. Findings are [not] consistent with . . . the view that sexually explicit materials in general contribute directly to sex crimes (page 405)”...

Surprisingly few studies have linked the availability of porn in any society with actual associated antisocial behaviors or sex crimes in particular. None have found a causal relationship and very few have even found one of positive correlation... Classroom studies, both on methodological as well as theoretical grounds have been strongly criticized...

While pornography became increasingly available, there was an overall decrease in sexual offenses. When considering cases of rape in particular, cases were down to fewer than 2 percent of the arrests. In comparison to the sex related charges, cases of other major non-sex related crimes e.g., homicide, increased by 4 percent for the same interval. This overall period, it should be noted, was an era of increased availability of pornography even for materials previously considered obscene (Rembar 1968). As noted in the following section comparable findings have been found in Scandinavia, Asia and Europe...

Walker found that exposure to the portrayal of heterosexual intercourse was first seen by rapists when they were on average 18 years old but by control males three years younger. Nutter and Kearns (1993), in similar research, found that child molesters were significantly older than controls when exposed to sexually explicit materials...

Green (1992) has reported that sex offenders requesting treatment commonly disclose that pornography helps them contain their abnormal sexuality within imagination as a fantasy instead of their aggressively acting out in real life...

The police sometimes suggest that a high percentage of sex offenders are found to have used pornography. This is meaningless, since most men have at some time used pornography... Rapists were more likely than non-rapists in the prison population to having been punished for looking at pornography while a youngster. And such was by no means common among the rest of the prison population... what does correlate highly with sex offense is a strict, repressive religious upbringing (Goldstein & Kant, 1973). Green too reported that both rapists and child molesters use less pornography than a control group of "normal" males (Green, 1980). This is certainly a thought-stimulating finding...

Every country so far examined has shown parallel findings: as pornography became available sex crimes decreased rather than increased...

There has not been demonstrated any cause and effect relationship between viewing child porn and the actual commission of child abuse. In the only three countries known in which child porn has been legally available, Denmark (Kutchinsky, 1973), Japan (Diamond & Uchiyama, 1999) and the Czech Republic (Diamond, Weiss & Joziflova, in press) the incidence of child sexual abuse declined after possession of child porn was decriminalized. It has been argued that there are more problems with censorship of sexual information and other erotic material from minors than there are advantages...

Many persons express an opinion regarding pornography (or other matters) based on what they think is the effect on others, not themselves. It has been shown that, while people themselves may not think porn is harmful or capable of inciting sexual transgressions, they often think it might have such an effect on others... Females are more likely to believe their attitudes are more similar to those of other females than males and both males and females project worse effects to other males)...

Psychologists Padgett et al. (Padget et al., 1989) compared the attitudes toward women in a sample of patrons of an adult movie theater with a college sample of men and women. Their findings essentially and significantly showed the patrons of an adult movie theater had more favorable attitudes toward women than either male or female college students... men and women who had seen an X-rated movie in the past year were more gender equal than those who had not seen any...

Addendum: Those men who went to X-rated movies were significantly more tolerant and accepting of women than those men that didn’t...

Studies by other investigators, female as well as male, (Barak, Fisher, Belfry, & Lashambe, 1999; L. Baron, 1990; Davies, 1997) essentially found similarly that there was no detectable relationship of the amount of exposure to pornography and any measure of misogynist attitudes. No researcher or critic has found the opposite, that exposure to pornography—by any definition—has had a cause and effect relationship between exposure to SEM and ill feelings or actions against women. No correlation has even been found between exposure to porn and calloused attitudes toward women...

Fisher and Grenier (1994) tried to experimentally provoke men to negative, aggressive and violent attitudes in their fantasies, attitudes and behaviors toward women. Using female accomplices they prepared situations to negatively bias men who would then be shown aggressive and even violent videos, in which women were degraded, objectified or raped. Their efforts produced essentially no measurable misogynistic effects. And Bogaert (1993) has shown that, in a free choice setting where men were offered choice of 14 different video types to view, their least common choices, in this free-choice setting, were to see sexually violent videos (4%) or child pornography (3%). The majority given a free choice chose non-violent videos with common sexual acts with sexually interested women...

Ann Ferguson and colleagues (Ferguson et al., 1984) discuss the differences they see among feminists in their regard to pornography... “radical-feminists” [and] “libertarian-feminists”... “both sides tend to categorize each other essentially as either virgins or whores. This dichotomous thinking has served to increase the polarization on these issues (Russo, 1987, page 103).” Some group representatives will not even debate or attend a debate with those of the other side...

Further insight as to how women in-general self-perceive pornography can be drawn from a study of almost 700 men and 400 women aged 18-30 years by Hald and Malamuth (2007). Their study showed that “both men and women generally reported small to moderate positive (emhasis added) effects of hardcore pornography consumption and little, if any, negative effects of such consumption (page 621)”...

Many feminist legal scholars [like] Nan Hunter and Sylvia Law... argue that the legal prohibition of pornography in accordance with a Dworkin and MacKinnon position on pornography and free speech reinforces sexist stereotypes about men as “irresponsible beasts with ‘natural physiological responses’ which can be triggered by sexually explicit images of women, and for which men cannot be held accountable” and sexist stereotypes about women such as that they are incapable of consent and that “‘good’ women do not seek and enjoy sex...

The laws against rape are essentially almost as severe as those against murder...

There are many myths that seem to persist regardless of the refuting evidence. Despite the often voiced contention that exposure to violent movies leads to violent action research has shown that film violence seems to act as a substitute for violent crime in society (Dahl & DellaVigna, 2006). And while watching many hours of television has been blamed on children’s poor test scores studies have shown the opposite... It is a similar myth that pornography has exhibited a causal relationship to antisocial or unlawful acts or sexual violence. Such a conclusion by the Meese report and others was and is based more on politics than evidence"
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