Internet porn reduces rape?

An article in Slate concedes that the increase in the use of internet porn has a direct correlation to a decrease in rape. He also contends that violent movies decrease violent behaviors and crimes. Now theoretically, this is plausible, but his logical leaps are a little grandiose.
Have at it.

Does pornography breed rape? Do violent movies breed violent crime? Quite the opposite, it seems.
First, porn. What happens when more people view more of it? The rise of the Internet offers a gigantic natural experiment. Better yet, because Internet usage caught on at different times in different states, it offers 50 natural experiments.
The bottom line on these experiments is, “More Net access, less rape.” A 10 percent increase in Net access yields about a 7.3 percent decrease in reported rapes. States that adopted the Internet quickly saw the biggest declines. And, according to Clemson professor Todd Kendall, the effects remain even after you control for all of the obvious confounding variables, such as alcohol consumption, police presence, poverty and unemployment rates, population density, and so forth.

This may very well be true, but I would be interested in seeing some other factors that may be involved here, like law/policy, work by anti-rape activists, etc. Furthermore, whether this decreases rape or not, does the use of internet pornography change the culture of rape, or does it justify sexual fetishization to an even greater degree. Don’t get me wrong, the less rapes the better, but is this a solution?
The author (Landsburg) continues admitting that correlation may not be causation.

OK, so we can at least tentatively conclude that Net access reduces rape. But that’s a far cry from proving that porn access reduces rape. Maybe rape is down because the rapists are all indoors reading Slate or vandalizing Wikipedia. But professor Kendall points out that there is no similar effect of Internet access on homicide. It’s hard to see how Wikipedia can deter rape without deterring other violent crimes at the same time. On the other hand, it’s easy to imagine how porn might serve as a substitute for rape.

The article also discusses violent images and violent crime, one theory being if violent criminals are watching a movie, then they are not outside committing a crime.
Thoughts?

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73 Comments

  1. Thomas
    Posted October 31, 2006 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Correlation indeed is not causation. Perhaps most homicides are among folks who spend little time on the internet, while rape is a crime that nice affluent white boys commit; and that giving them broader intellectual outlets (like this blog and its sisters) chips away at their patriarchal attitudes. That’s as well-founded a claim as the inference that an effect that correlates to more internet use must be caused by more internet porn.

  2. Posted October 31, 2006 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    On any given day there will be three or four articles in Slate that insist that absurd correlation indeed equals causation, and the more absurd the more solid the case.

  3. Jessica
    Posted October 31, 2006 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Ditto to the last two comments….because if this was the case, we could also argue that increased access to feminist and anti-violence resources on the internet led to a decrease in rape…

  4. tink
    Posted October 31, 2006 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Jeez, scientific method, anyone? It’s amazing how much crap passes for science – in the mainstream media AND in the scientific community. Jeez. I don’t know what to say about so-called studies like this getting print ANYWHERE.
    I like the comment about them all being inside on the Internet.

  5. Posted October 31, 2006 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    If rape is like homicide, then the greatest confounding factor is not poverty or alcohol use but inequality. The correlation between US states’ murder rates and Gini coefficients is significant at the 0.1% confidence level. That’s apparently not controlled for.
    Besides, if internet porn reduces rape, we’d see a sharp decline in the rape rate of every country beginning in the late 90s. The only two countries I have survey data for, the US and Britain, don’t exhibit that trend: Britain’s rape rate has continued to skyrocket, and the USA’s has continued to decline.

  6. somebody
    Posted October 31, 2006 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Hi All: Landsburg links to the original paper by Todd Kendall: http://www.law.stanford.edu/display/images/dynamic/events_media/Kendall%20cover%20+%20paper.pdf
    Have a look. You’ll see that Landsburg’s article misrepresents it and wildly overstates the conclusions.
    I sent a rather long letter (so I won’t post it here) to the corrections editor because I couldn’t find Landsburg’s email address. I’ll post again if anything comes of it.

  7. Paul G. Brown
    Posted October 31, 2006 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    Following up somebody’s comment, here’s the paper’s abstract.
    “The arrival of the internet caused a large decline in both the
    pecuniary and non-pecuniary costs of accessing pornography.
    Using state-level panel data from 1998-2003, I find that the
    arrival of the internet was associated with a reduction in rape
    incidence. However, growth in internet usage had no apparent
    effect on other crimes. Moreover, when I disaggregate the rape
    data by offender age, I find that the effect of the internet on rape
    is concentrated among those for whom the internet-induced fall
    in the non-pecuniary price of pornography was the largest –
    men ages 15-19, who typically live with their parents. These
    results, which suggest that pornography and rape are substitutes,
    are in contrast with most previous literature. However, earlier
    population-level studies do not control adequately for many
    omitted variables, including the age distribution of the
    population, and most laboratory studies simply do not allow for
    potential substitutability between pornography and rape.”
    In other words, 15-19 year old boys with access to the internet are less likely to be be convicted of rape. What this might also mean is that 15-19 year old girls with access to the ‘net are less likely to be raped, but the paper doesn’t go into that.
    I’d also note that this paper’s entire result appears to assume the reality of the “Avenue Q” effect. I think it’s entirely possible that the internet simply changes the socialization patterns of 15-19 year old boys (and girls).

  8. pisaquari
    Posted October 31, 2006 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    “The bottom line on these experiments is, ‘More Net access, less rape.’ A 10 percent increase in Net access yields about a 7.3 percent decrease in reported rapes.”
    Oh absolutely, I’d rather have a rapist playing with themselves in their room than in mine but porn as a “substitute”? PuhLeeze.
    Does this take into account internet porn addiction? As if to say mere images can replace a rapist’s appetite for sexual deviance. Delay it might, but there will come a point when there aren’t enough images of rape scenarios, doggie-pounding, and child genitalia to satisfy them (sorry for graphic language, but let’s be honest-we aren’t dealing with cinematic gems here).
    I think my irritation with an article like this is that it promotes this lesser of two evils attitude I believe *dominates* our culture. Lower the common denominator and voila, we can avoid dealing with the real issue at hand. And that being, I suspect, that a person capable of rape is not healed with internet access, simply postponed.
    On a more cynical note: I would imagine the rapists also are busy enterprising their psychosis by MAKING much of the porn out there, photographing themselves or each other (see: internet as networking opportunity-barf) and thus there isn’t as much time to go out and rape. Porn=rape entrepreneurs.
    Splendid.

  9. feminist_myrmidon
    Posted October 31, 2006 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    The authors of the study need to read Susan Brownmiller’s epic, “Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape” again it seems. Rape is about power and control, not about having an orgasm, which Internet porn provides. If men could rape women via the Internet, they would do it.
    And if Internet porn reduces rape, then it would also reduce sex abuse of children. But the Internet only seems to be fueling sex abuse against children as child pornography expands to fit the increasing market for it.

  10. Posted October 31, 2006 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    The collective response to the post on this site has been pretty interesting.
    I would just like to point out that would any of you be screaming “Correlation, not causation” if the study had shown that easier to access to pornography was correlated with an increase in rape?
    Doubtful, very very doubtful.

  11. Posted October 31, 2006 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Actually, Patrick, I highly doubt anyone here would posit that pornography leads to an increase in rape. Rather, I think many of us would be inclined to think that the two were different symptoms of the same cause: namely, the objectification and depersonification of women.

  12. Paul G. Brown
    Posted October 31, 2006 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    Feminist_Mrymidon -
    At the risk of getting prissy, you need to read the fine paper. They explictly address the “rape is about power” idea and point out that this idea a) has little empirical support, and b) that it runs contrary to a large body of biological/evolutionary evidence.
    I’d also point out: if rape was “about power”, then it follows that making porn more easily available ought either to have no influence (because it’s not about make sex drive which is reduced through wanking), or else ought to increase its frequency (assuming rape is connected to the “objectification and depersonification of women”, which clearly much porn does).
    At the very least, the paper’s evidence don’t support that conclusion.

  13. Posted October 31, 2006 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    Not to mention all of the rape that occurs in the porn.
    Until they clean all of that shit out of porn, then anything talking about positive effects of pornography waaaay pisses me off.

  14. EG
    Posted October 31, 2006 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    If rape were about sex, you’d see women raping men in equal numbers as men raping women. You don’t. Why? Because women don’t have the power.
    What biological/evolutionary evidence? There’s a body of socio-evolutionary theory, but that’s not quite the same thing.
    There are many, many men out there who do not rape. That makes far more evolutionary sense than rape; a traumatized woman who is reminded every time she looks at her offspring of her rape is not going to make the best mother. That’s the problem with socio-evolutionary theory: it can be used to “explain” any behavior, and it if explains everything, it ultimately doesn’t explain anything.
    But so what? Human beings hurtle through the air in metal tubes. We put pieces of plastic in our eyes to help us see better. We spend our days typing on computer screens. We’re clearly capable of over-riding genetic predispositions–hell, I take medication every day to over-ride my genetic predisposition to cough myself into immobility whenever the air gets cold.

  15. EG
    Posted October 31, 2006 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    “In other words, 15-19 year old boys with access to the internet are less likely to be be convicted of rape.”
    I’m far from convinced that rape convictions are an accurate measure of rape occurrences.
    And Patrick, “screaming”? Where, exactly, do you see anybody “screaming”? Tell me, would you use that word about several men expressing their opinions? If you look back over this blog, you’ll find that we’re pretty consistent in noting that correlation does not equal causation.

  16. Paul G. Brown
    Posted October 31, 2006 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    “If rape were about sex, you’d see women raping men in equal numbers as men raping women. You don’t. Why? Because women don’t have the power.”
    verses.
    “There’s a body of socio-evolutionary theory, but that’s not quite the same thing.”
    Forced intercourse is a reproductive strategy. It’s oberved in other primates (chimps, baboons). I don’t like it. But then – I don’t much care for sickle-cell anemia either. Yet it’s a biological / evolutionary fact.
    It’s on a reproductive par with females having sex with a male outside the stable pair bond. I’m not claiming it’s right or wrong – simply that these are observed behaviors.
    I agree with everything else you write, EG. Coercion is wrong. End of story. Sexual coercion (and sexual betrayal) violate all kinds of social taboos.
    But if you’re interested in solving the problem (and rape is a much bigger moral problem than infidelity) then you at least need to pay attention to the evidence.
    This study doesn’t convince me that we should be feeding teenage boys a steady diet of rape-fantasy porn and providing them with an industrial pump-pack of hand-lotion. But it does suggest that endlessly proclaiming “rape is about power” might be missing an important, and useful, insight.

  17. Paul G. Brown
    Posted October 31, 2006 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    EG -
    “I’m far from convinced that rape convictions are an accurate measure of rape occurrences.”
    Agreed completely! Now – please read the fine paper. The authors explicitly acknowledge this. But they argue that convictions are at least a proxy for occurrences.
    And yes – Patrick’s point is silly.

  18. Posted October 31, 2006 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Ah…so far my point has been criticized because I used “screaming” metaphorically and that my point is “silly.”
    That’s some pretty excellent arguing there. Well done!
    My only point is that this seems to be a perfectly credible scientific study that is being criticized by people who a)don’t seem to have read it and b) seem to be saying something along the lines that “the study says X, but -X must be true so screw the study” with very little argumentation.
    Is it possible that it is because the study contradicts a position that is fairly popular amongst feminists?
    Isn’t it possible that feminists (who are human beings after all), through confirmation bias, would treat a similar study that demonstated a strong correlation between viewing porn and rape behavior with less skepticism than they treat this study?
    I don’t see how such a point is “silly” or refuted by pointing out that “screaming” was hyperbolic.

  19. Paul G. Brown
    Posted October 31, 2006 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    Patrick -
    your comment is “silly” because it’s an utter non-sequitor. It isn’t a “point”. It’s gibberish. If you had said:
    “Would any of you be screaming ‘the moon is made of cheese’ if we found a mole with three tongues?”
    it would be just as silly.
    Go away, you silly man.

  20. Posted October 31, 2006 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    That’s your reaction? That petty, mean-spirited non-response.
    Which do you deny? Do you deny that a) “that porn causes rape” is a claim that is often made in feminist circles (within which I count myself) b) that this study calls that into question c) that human beings often suffer from confirmation bias?
    Which one? None? All? Simply calling my comment “gibberish” or a “non sequito [sic]” doesn’t make it so.

  21. Paul G. Brown
    Posted October 31, 2006 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    Patrick -
    1. Your comment said nothing about either the OP, or any of the comments above. It was unrelated to the topic. Troll points +2.
    2. Your comment was a non-sequitor. You simply asserted “confirmation bias” without pointing to any evidence that might support that conclusion. Troll points +2.
    3. The language you are using is inflammatory “screaming”, snide “Doubtful, very doutbful”, or pure rhetoric (“Which do you deny?”). Troll points +2.
    4. You’ve made no substantive points about the evidence, or the logic, used by either the OP, or any of the commentators. Troll points +2.
    Sorry – Troll points > 5.
    Go away, you silly man.

  22. Posted October 31, 2006 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Not to interrupt the flame war or anything, but interested readers may want to see Amanda Marcotte’s response, or Twisty’s searingly brilliant pictorial musings on the subject.

  23. Arturo
    Posted October 31, 2006 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    For the person who above said that porn is a poor substitute…
    It’s important to consider that paraphilias cannot be cured. If a paraphilia is harmful, is it really so bad that he watches porn as a safety valve instead of acting on it?
    The thing is I’m not sure porn is that bad. Men are not that stupid. It’s not as if they see rape porn, now they must rape. I think people can see the difference between fantasy and reality. I think porn is a healthy way to live out fantasies that might (a) be innapropiate (b) impossible or (c) hard to find a willing partner.
    Some people like to see violent movies, that doesn’t mean they go out and kill people.
    Also, not all people who watch porn are men. And sometimes women have no roles in some porn. Is it equally harmful in those situation?

  24. Posted October 31, 2006 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    What are you talking about?
    I made an argument and asked you to tell which of the premises you had a problem with that.
    So far, you haven’t denied any of them. We can only conclude that you think that all the premises are true.
    Do you think the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises? Well you didn’t say so, so we should assume you have no problem with that.
    Let me see, your post concerning me added nothing substantive to mine, calling it silly, so that’s one troll point. Your rhetoric was inflammatory (another troll point).
    Your post is a non-sequitur (it does not follow that my argument does not follow because I didn’t post psychological studies demonstrating the existence of confirmation bias). And besides, it was obvious that I was speculating (clearly, I don’t know for sure because I was positing a HYPOTHETICAL). Another troll point for you.
    Creating a nonsensical point system with which to tendentiously criticize someone who has disagreed with you. Another troll point.
    Insulting a person who has insulted no one. Another troll point.
    See I can play this game too. Maybe you would like to have a serious discussion. Otherwise, why don’t you just shut up?

  25. Susan
    Posted October 31, 2006 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    My only point is that this seems to be a perfectly credible scientific study that is being criticized by people who a)don’t seem to have read it…
    No. The people who have read it are criticizing the Slate article that misrepresented the study’s conclusions.

  26. Posted October 31, 2006 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    Patrick Smith/Paul Brown–
    check out this analysis over at Feministe .

  27. pisaquari
    Posted October 31, 2006 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    Arturo I believe you were responding to my post, so this response lies in that assumption.
    Without diving into a dissertation on my thoughts of “porn is a healthy way to live out fantasies…â€? might I ask a more in depth response to my point of a porn user needing more material over time.
    Do you not agree that it must intensify in quantity over time to achieve the same feeling?
    As well, that it involves upping the bar, so to speak, in regards to the content of the material (i.e. more taboo, more unusual, socially unacceptable scenarios that, if actually happened, would be considered criminal, etc…)
    I agree, not all people who watch porn are men. I am in college and let me tell you, females watch it too, for the same reasons a male might. It makes to no more/less wrong/right.

  28. Posted November 1, 2006 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    Anyway, I have no interest in continuing this pisssing contest. Here is my post on the subject. Judge my seriousness as you see fit:
    http://gracchus.typepad.com/gracchus/2006/10/does_access_to_.html
    I’m done.

  29. Posted November 1, 2006 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    Delay it might, but there will come a point when there aren’t enough images of rape scenarios, doggie-pounding, and child genitalia to satisfy them (sorry for graphic language, but let’s be honest-we aren’t dealing with cinematic gems here).
    Where does your obviously advanced knowledge of the content of online pornography come from?
    Actually, Patrick, I highly doubt anyone here would posit that pornography leads to an increase in rape.
    I certainly hope you’re right. I’ve had to deal with plenty of porn-causes-rape sentiments (though not here – on Reclusive Leftist).
    The authors of the study need to read Susan Brownmiller’s epic, “Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape” again it seems.
    Maybe they read it and realized the book’s empirical parts undermine Brownmiller’s thesis and its theoretical parts have no factual backing.

  30. Paul G. Brown
    Posted November 1, 2006 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    Bittergrad -
    Interesting. And I think I largely agree with the Feministe criticism of the paper (the authors make the “Avenue Q” assumption about the internet). I’m frankly not equiped to comment on what makes up porn, though.
    That said, I think it’s fair to say that the evidence (the observation) that the authors make is interesting. But I don’t buy the argument by the paper’s authors any more than some folk here.
    (And sorry Patrick, it’s not confirmation bias – I think I agree with what the study implies; give a population of 15-19 year old makes sexual outlet and there’s gonna be less coercive sex.)
    I just don’t think this paper supports that conclusion.

  31. Arturo
    Posted November 1, 2006 at 12:54 am | Permalink

    I don’t think that porn users need more and harder stuff with time. I think it probably varies on how horny you are and what you’re in the mood for. I don’t think equaling porn to a drug that induces tolerance is accurate. Maybe people who want to look at rape porn start with normal porn because it’s easier to find? Not everyone who starts having sex ends up in dominatrix/gimp suit…
    Bittergradstudent, I read the critique on Feministe and the person who wrote it is a bit extreme. Porn is rape on tape? I think this kind of comments do injustice to how horrible rape really is. EVEN if the characters are ACTING a rape, it’s not rape on tape. It’s two (or more) consensual adults playing out a scene. It might be distasteful, but it’s not rape unless someone is being forced. It’s fantasy.

  32. pisaquari
    Posted November 1, 2006 at 2:06 am | Permalink

    “Where does your obviously advanced knowledge of the content of online pornography come from?�
    Yes Alon Levy, I suppose recognizing that online pornography includes rape scenarios, bestiality, and exploited children is “obviously advanced knowledge.� You’ll have to excuse me for exposing such a vast array of unique and unheard of online pornography practices . I am so caught, and for that matter, lets say: takes on to know one.
    (Pfffttt)
    “I don’t think that porn users need more and harder stuff with time. I think it probably varies on how horny you are and what you’re in the mood for.â€? I don’t think equaling porn to a drug that induces tolerance is accurate. Maybe people who want to look at rape porn start with normal porn because it’s easier to find? Not everyone who starts having sex ends up in dominatrix/gimp suit…â€?
    “It’s fantasy.�
    Oh, how I love this argument. It’s fantasy. Wonderful, we can all go home happy because porn has NO effect after initial release. (“I’m sorry did your wanka just doodle into your sock or am I looking at a phantom pickle?�)
    Let’s be frank: using porn to masturbate to “fantasy� is about as hands off as watching a cooking show to make the family dinner. At the end of the day, you (general “you�) are still using the images to achieve a *real physical* result. You are not the porn, you are not the fantasy. Simply because you are using what is called “fantasy� does not mean that what’s going on in your brain or your body is “fantasy.� It’s real. Your brain, chemically, makes changes to allow that climax to happen and exposure to these images over time in association with that climax, yes I believe creates a tolerance for what one might consider normal, “consenting adults� having sex on screen. And thus, we move onto more unusual topics, or “advanced� topics if you’re Alon Levy.
    No, I don’t think everyone who starts having sex ends up in a gimp suit but I believe it is that disassociation the user may take with the subjects of the porn (thus branching off into the issues of “objectification� and so on) that allows this descent into the need for increased quantity and deviance.

  33. Posted November 1, 2006 at 2:15 am | Permalink

    Yes Alon Levy, I suppose recognizing that online pornography includes rape scenarios, bestiality, and exploited children is “obviously advanced knowledge.�
    There’s a big difference between “includes” and “significantly includes.” Porn includes rape scenarios. Muslims include terrorists. In neither case can you say that this is widespread, let alone that porn is about rape and Islam is about terrorism. You can only say it if you have hard data, pardon the pun. So my question to you is, how do you know that rape porn is more than 4 websites that average 50 daily hits each?

  34. pisaquari
    Posted November 1, 2006 at 2:46 am | Permalink

    Did I say it was widespread?
    Did I say it was about rape?
    Can rape porn be considered a problem if and only if it *dominates* the porn world, or is included “significantly�?

  35. Posted November 1, 2006 at 3:25 am | Permalink

    Yes, you did:

    I would imagine the rapists also are busy enterprising their psychosis by MAKING much of the porn out there, photographing themselves or each other (see: internet as networking opportunity-barf) and thus there isn’t as much time to go out and rape. Porn=rape entrepreneurs.

    Do you have any evidence that “much” of porn portrays even fake rape, let alone real rape?
    Anyway, for everyone else’s benefit, you can read my commentary on both the study and the responses thereto. I mince no words about either.

  36. sojourner
    Posted November 1, 2006 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    I want to know this: You men out there who masturbate to internet porn that shows women being called cunt, bitch, slut ,etc., women tricked, or blackmailed into having anal sex, gang bangs, swallowing cum, or swapping it with each other (and ok I am not going to argue that swallowing that stuff is in itself degrading, but on those same websites that show that kind of material it is referred to as being degrading) , I want you men who get off that kind of thing, (and this is what most internet porn is about, and yes I know this because I have watched a lot of it) tell me how it affects your perception of who women really are and how they deserve to be treated. If you don’t think that women are in fact cunts, bitches and whores, that deserve to be “used� for men’s pleasure, how can you get off on such things?
    And for those of you who like to think it’s fantasy, don’t forget it is happening to real women. If it makes you feel less guilty to think that they were “consenting adults�, don’t forget the likes of Linda Lovelace.
    And for whoever was claiming that porn watchers don’t demand more and more extreme stuff, just compare today’s porn with 70’s porn. Straight fucking doesn’t get anyone off anymore.

  37. Posted November 1, 2006 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    “EVEN if the characters are ACTING a rape, it’s not rape on tape.”
    Not necessarily, Arturo. Sojourner just alluded to Deep Throat — and I suspect it’s not an outlier.

  38. pisaquari
    Posted November 1, 2006 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    “Yes, you did:”
    You mean the part following “On a more cynical note:…â€? where I poked fun at the notion of rapists busying themselves online as a way to not go out and rape- something asserted in the article above? My apologies “rape entrepreneursâ€? was not dripping in enough sarcasm for you.
    “Do you have any evidence that “much” of porn portrays even fake rape, let alone real rape?â€?
    Once again, I never said this but to entertain you for a second I just Googled “rape porn�
    (I did an advanced search to filter out educational intuitions and .orgs)and I can see 10 pages (with the exception of THREE sites) at 10 sites each promising rape scenes, or forced sex scenarios (with the added bonus of incest). And Google assures me there are millions more (counts it at over 14 million). And who knows, this may not be *the majority* but once again I never stated that (in seriousness, read my post carefully) and even assuming that, is this still not *enough*? Who knows if it is real rape. Two “consenting adults� coming together to act out a rape scene for someone else’s masturbatory purposes are not perpetuating a world I would like to live in. And let’s say these sites get only one hit a day. That’s one more person I have no interest dating or living near my future children.

  39. Posted November 1, 2006 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Arturo-

    Bittergradstudent, I read the critique on Feministe and the person who wrote it is a bit extreme. Porn is rape on tape? I think this kind of comments do injustice to how horrible rape really is. EVEN if the characters are ACTING a rape, it’s not rape on tape. It’s two (or more) consensual adults playing out a scene. It might be distasteful, but it’s not rape unless someone is being forced. It’s fantasy.

    Read about the way that most hetero porn is produced in this country. There are all sorts of questionable practices in the production that range from inappropriate pressure to scenarios that are outright rape on the set. At the minimum, almost every porn star I’ve seen interviewed recounts a situation where they showed up to do one thing (i.e., vaginal sex with a single partner), and end up doing something much, much more extreme thanks to pressure from the director. Just look at the glazed-over, dead look in their eyes. That is not the stare of someone who is fucking consentually.
    No one really wants to prosecute, as the sex industry is such a lightning rod that you get this disconnect between happy consumers and those who think there should be no sex industry at all. There is a reason that porn stars, when given power over their own careers, eventually will stop doing anything involving men.
    Supporting the porn industry is supporting rape.

  40. Andrea
    Posted November 1, 2006 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Sojourner,
    I wanted to answer your post, even though I’m a chick… my husband has a sizeable collection of porn that he uses to get off every now and again, and we’ve had a lot of talks about porn, etc., so I thought I’d share the thoughts he’s shared with me on the subject.
    A lot of the porn that he watches includes swallowing/swapping cum, anal, etc. And as you said it’s really hard to get stuff without at least one of those things in it. What I’ve noticed him do is that he skips around it. (or in the case of cum swapping, stops the vid before it gets there). Essentially, he sticks to the fairly “normal” fucking/blowjob scenes. I’m not saying that this is an excuse to not talk about or attempt to change the way the industry operates or what is typically put into porn scenes, but I think that when we consider porn users it’s important to consider how they watch it — because I suspect that for some (perhaps not even many) men it’s more about watching a woman fuck a guy than anything else.
    I’m not trying to make a statement about the practices of the industry — I’m highly unqualified to do so. All I’m saying is that, to draw a parallel example, just because someone buys a Tomy Hillfigar sweater doesn’t mean that he/she is a raging racist. It just means they like the sweater. And what would happen if the only sweaters in the world were produced by Tomy Hillfigar? His sales would go up, but does that mean that the number of racists in the country are going up? Or is it more because that in this scenario there is no competing producer of a product that people need?
    Just because a man downloads a fairly normal piece of porn (blowjob followed by fucking) and watches it and jacks off doesn’t mean that he’s getting off on the idea or actively supportive of the rape/abuse of women. It usually means he just wants to see two people fucking while he jacks off (if he downloads something that is expressly a rape scene, then I think you have bigger problems). And it’s not like there’s an industry that competes against the porn industry that has better practices.
    Again, to recap: the porn industry really needs to be cleaned up. But not all people who purchase things produced by said industry do so because they enjoy the idea of its less-savory/dangerous practices.

  41. Hysterical Feminazi
    Posted November 1, 2006 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    the major problem with this article is that it depicts rapists as horny, desperate-for-love losers. rape is not about sex or being horny and not being able to control yourself – rape is about power and violence. depicting rapists as “more horny than the rest of us” simplifies and dilutes the issue of rape as violence, primarily against women, and is a dangerous road to travel.

  42. Erin
    Posted November 1, 2006 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been gone too long and all the players have changed. Except EG and Sojourner – they’re spot on like always. And I really like this new Paul guy and his troll points – cute!
    I’m not sure how to phrase my thoughts on the issue. I’m trying to be calm and thoughtful here, but that won’t stop the trolls from calling me shrill and shrewish. I do think there probably is a correlation between rape and SOME kinds of porn – specifically violent and degrading porn. We’ve seen over and over in behavioral studies that OBSERVING a behavior makes one more likely to REPEAT it. The classic Bobo-the-Clown-Doll abuse study comes to mind.
    I believe that if a normal boy was sat in front of a screen and forced to watch violent pron movies three times a day for a year, that boy would be more likely to rape a woman later in life. However, we don’t do experiments like that. People who are drawn to violent porn watch it; people who aren’t aren’t. You *could* argue that rapists experience rape safely and vicariously over the internet and therefore don’t have to do the “real thing” and worry about being caught.
    In the same way, I speed race on video games so I don’t speed on the highway, which could lead to an unpleasant ticket.
    That said, my concern about violent porn is not the people who would have watched it, so much as the people who might not have watched it, yet found it by accident (or trickery), and got “hooked”. My fear is that we may be making more potential rapists.
    Further, I suspect that “containing” rapists with vicarious rape only postpones the problem. Likely, the vicarious porn rape will just wet the appetitite rather than control it forever. It would be far better to educate them in more healthy, egalitarian modes of sexuality.
    However, I’m not advocating banning pornography, simply because I prefer freedom of (pretty much) all expression to censorship. I just wish that people wouldn’t bring the pornographers business….

  43. Posted November 1, 2006 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I believe that if a normal boy was sat in front of a screen and forced to watch violent pron movies three times a day for a year, that boy would be more likely to rape a woman later in life. However, we don’t do experiments like that.
    Actually, they do. The researchers just go to great lengths to skew the results to confirm their own anti-porn bias. The unskewed studies show no psychological effects from watching pornography.
    Likely, the vicarious porn rape will just wet the appetitite rather than control it forever.
    But that requires a lot of evidence… for example, that an upsurge in porn consumption is followed ten years later by an increase in rape among 25-to-29-year-old men.
    Mind you, Kendall’s study is crap. But it’s not crap because of the possible consequences of legitimizing porn; it’s crap because of the consequences of poor study design.

  44. Thomas
    Posted November 1, 2006 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    I put up a very early coment criticizing the study, but I must say that I saw something on the comments that sticks in my craw, because it is so common.
    Some folks routinely refer to anal sex as if it is inherently either degrading or painful, or both. It is not necessarily either of those things. I’m the enveloping partner in anal intercourse all the time (and often the entering partner also) and I am not at all degraded by this kind of intimacy with a partner. Further, to suggest that degradation is a necessary component of anal intercourse is to insult virtually the entirety of the gay male community.

  45. Erin
    Posted November 1, 2006 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Alon, you show me ONE remotely reputable study within the past ten years where a boy was _forced_ to do anything and my hat is off to you.
    We don’t do studies where we force people to do anything. Studies are based on a volunteer basis. And people who volunteer to look at porn are probably likely to view it anyway, therefore not a worthwhile test group for my proposed hypothetical experiment.
    Thomas, may I suggest that anal is different for women than it is for men. I understand we have different equipment up there. ;)

  46. Thomas
    Posted November 1, 2006 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    EJ, the only difference between men and women where receptive anal sex is concerned is that men have prostates. Now, having a prostate is a nice thing. But it neither determines whether anal intercourse is painful nor whether it is degrading.
    As how big an appendage will fit, the lube to use and how the partners approach the relaxation and gradual entry necessary for comfortable anal sex, I think you’d be hard- pressed to show a difference. Those things are what govern whether anal penetration is painful; not the presence or absence of a prostate. Tristan takes it in the ass, I take it in the ass, we both need lube and some warm-up to do so pain-free. I’ve talked to her about it, and to my wife, who is my frequent partner and to a lot of other women about anal sex experiences. I do not agree that pain during anal sex is a different phenomenon for men than women: pain is the product of incompetence or insensitivity, whether the recipient is male or female.
    As to degradation, certainly anal sex might be seen by a patriarchal society as more degrading for women than for men, simply because all sex in patriarchy carries with it the corpus of slut-shaming for women and not for men. That proves too much; in that sense, all sex in patriarchy is degrading to women. (Of course, in a homophobic patriarchy, there is also a good argument that receptive anal sex is more degrading for men.)
    If you’ve got a theory about why anal sex is inherently more painful or degrading for women than men, let’s hear it.

  47. Erin
    Posted November 1, 2006 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately, Thomas, I have no theories, only my own personal experience and anecdotal evidence from girlfriends, neither of which I should probably share here. I’ll take your word that it doesn’t NEED to be painful, while maintaining that it sure as hell can be under certain circumstances.
    I think the degrading part of anal porn comes from the statistical fact (yes, I swear, I’ve seen statistics on this) that most women don’t want to experience anal sex. Therefore, in anal porn it’s either assumed or explicitly presented that she’s being coerced into something painful and undesirable. IMO.

  48. tink
    Posted November 1, 2006 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    This is off-topic for current posts, but relevant to previous ones. On this posting and on previous, I have seen people citing science as evidence that rape is not about dominance. This reference always seems to point back to animal behavior.
    A major problem with ethology (and the reason I left the field) is that people look for animal behaviors that uphold their theories about HUMAN BEHAVIOR and ignore the rest.
    Presumptions about what human behaviors are “normal” based on ethological studies are inherently flawed. For instance, if a small male poeciliad fish swims around sticking his gonopod in every other fish, this is a reproductive strategy, not just for that fish, but for the whole species. The big males are more likely to get eaten by wading birds, so the continued presence of smaller males is meaningful.
    When humans rape, nothing of the sort is operative. And to ignore the power-structure and point to animal behavior is to side-step the issue.
    As far as I can tell, humans rape for many reasons, ranging from brutality to regular old confusion. To suggest that the behavior is somehow hard-wired based on any correlary in the animal kingdom shows both flawed reasoning and a low opinion of human males.
    I know that’s NOT what the original study this post referenced was about. But the subject came up as it has over & over in the past.
    As for recent comments, I defer to Thomas, king of feminists.

  49. Erin
    Posted November 1, 2006 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Re: “Rape is evolutionary” theory doesn’t take into account that many rapes involve women not capable of reproducing. If the man is just trying to spread his genes, why rape infertile females? There has to be more than a desire to procreate at work here.

  50. Thomas
    Posted November 1, 2006 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    EJ, your points are certainly well taken.
    “sure as hell can be under certain circumstances”
    The recent normalization of anal sex among straight folks has been too much of a one-way street, with privileged guys assuming that they can just stick their cocks into an anus and pump away — a recipe for misery. Since that mix of ignorance and insensitivity is what the patriarchy mostly creates, that is unfortunately the kind of partner most women run into, and if they try anal intercourse at all, they have a bad time. I don’t think men that enjoy receptive anal sex view it this way, since they know what it takes for them to enjoy it.
    I don’t think any woman ought to feel pressured to have anal sex, and there’s nothing wrong with having no interest in it. The porn industry has disserved women (as it always does) by promulgating the notions both that all or most women have anal sex, and that anal is or ought to be painful and degrading.

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