Evidence Mounts: More Porn, LESS Sexual Assault

Those who claim that porn incites rape are mistaken.

Posted Jan 14, 2016

Some anti-porn activists have claimed that X-rated media spur men to commit sexual assault. On the contrary, the results of what researchers call “natural experiments”—evidence before and after social changes—show that this is not the case.

Arrival of the Internet: More Porn, LESS Rape

Before the late-1990s when the Internet revolutionized access to information, porn was available in books, skin magazines, rented videocassettes, and at the limited number of seedy theaters that screened X-rated movies. But with the arrival of the Internet, millions of porn images and videos were suddenly just a few clicks away for free. As a result, porn quickly became one of men’s top online destinations and porn consumption soared.

If the anti-porn activists are correct, if porn actually contributes to rape, then starting around 1999 as the Internet made it much more easily available, the rate of sexual assault should have increased. So what happened? According to the Justice Department’s authoritative National Crime Victimization Survey, since 1995, the U.S. sexual assault rate has FALLEN 44 percent. For more on this, see my previous post, Does Porn Cause Social Harm?

Clearly, the anti-porn activists are wrong. Porn doesn’t incite men to sexual violence. It looks more like a safety valve that gives men an alternative outlet for potentially assaultive energy. Instead of attacking women, men who might commit that crime can masturbate to unlimited amounts of Internet porn.

The Czech Republic: More Porn, LESS Rape

Another natural experiment involves the political changes in Eastern Europe. From 1948 to 1989, the Communist police state then known as Czechoslovakia made possession of pornography (including relatively tame publications like Playboy) a criminal offense punishable by prison. As a result, porn was largely unavailable to Czech men. But when Communism collapsed and the democratic Czech Republic emerged, it legalized porn, which became easily and widely available. So what happened to women’s risk of sexual assault?

Using Czech police records, American and Czech researchers compared rape rates in the Czech Republic for the 17 years before porn was legalized with rates during the 18 years after. Rapes decreased from 800 a year to 500. More porn, less rape.

In addition, the legalization of porn was associated with a decrease in another despicable sex crime, child sexual abuse. Under Communism, arrests for child sex abuse averaged 2,000 a year. After porn became legal, the figure dropped by more than half to fewer than 1,000. More porn, fewer sex crimes.

Denmark: More Porn, LESS Rape

In the 1970s, Denmark relaxed restrictions on pornography, and the country quickly became a center of porn production. Researchers compared arrest rates for sexual assault before and after the change. When porn became more easily available, allegations of rape decreased.

Japan, China, Hong Kong: More Porn, LESS Rape

Around the millennium, partly in response to the availability of Internet porn, Japan, China, and Hong Kong relaxed laws that restricted its availability. In all three places, as porn became more easily available, sex crimes decreased.

Compared with Most Men, Rapists Consume LESS Porn

UCLA researchers surveyed recollections of porn use among law-abiding men and a large group of convicted rapists and child sex abusers. Throughout their lives, the sex criminals recalled consuming LESS porn. More evidence that porn is a safety valve. Instead of committing rape and pedophilia, potential perpetrators find a less harmful outlet, masturbating to porn.

Pornography DOESN’T Isolate Men

As evidence mounted that if anything, porn helps PREVENT sexual assault, porn critics changed their tune. Instead of blaming X-media for harming women, they claimed it harms MEN by confining them in a dark prison of masturbatory isolation that destroys their interpersonal relationships with others.

English researchers gave 164 men standard psychological tests of interpersonal connectedness to determine their emotional closeness to—or distance from—the important people in their lives (spouses, family, friends).  Then the researchers surveyed the men’s porn consumption.

Contrary to the critics’ assertions, as porn consumptions increased, so did emotional closeness to others. Far from providing an escape from close relationships, the researchers suggested that porn use may signify a “craving for intimacy.”

Those who feel offended or disgusted by pornography are entitled to their opinion. But they are not entitled to misrepresent its effects on men and society. Porn does NOT isolate men from significant others, nor does it contribute to rape and other sex crimes.

References:

Diamond, M. et al. “Pornography and Sex Crimes in the Czech Republic,” Archives of Sexual Behavior (2011) 40:1037  

Diamond, M. “The Effects of Pornography: An International Perspective,” in Pornography 101: Eroticism, Sexuality, and the First Amendment, edited by J. Elias et al. Prometheus Press, Amherst, NY, 1999.

Diamond, M. and A. Uchiyama. “Pornography, Rape, and Sex Crimes in Japan,” International Journal of Law and Psychiatry (1999) 22:1.

Goldstein, M. et al. “Experience with Pornography: Rapists, Pedophiles, Homosexuals, Transsexuals, and Controls,” Archives of Sexual Behavior (19971) 1:1.

Kutchinsky, B. Pornography and Rape: Theory and Practice? Evidence from crime Data in Four Countries, Where Pornography is Easily Available,” International Journal of Law and Psychiatry (1991) 14:47.

Kutchinsky, B. “The Effect of Easy Availability of Pornography on the Incidence of Sex Crimes: The Danish Experience,” Journal of Social Issues (1973) 29:163.

Poipovic, M. “Pornography Use and Closeness with Others in Men,” Archives of Sexual Behavior (2011) 40:449

More Posts