Creative Destruction

September 1, 2006

No, Porn Doesn’t Prevent Rape

Filed under: Feminist Issues — Ampersand @ 12:22 am

Via Riba Rambles, I see that last month, Northwestern University’s Anthony D’Amato suggested that more porn leads to less rape. D’Amato points out that rape prevalence (as measured by the federal government’s big National Crime Victimization Survey) has gone down in recent years (his comparison – he calls the decline in rape “steeper than the stock market crash that led to the Great Depression” – may be the single least relevant comparison I’ve ever read).

D’Amato points out that even as rape prevalence has declined, porn consumption has gone up:

There is, however, one social factor that correlates almost exactly with the rape statitistics [sic]. The American public is probably not ready to believe it. My theory is that the sharp rise in access to pornography accounts for the decline in rape. The correlation is inverse: the more pornography, the less rape. It is like the inverse correlation: the more police officers on the street, the less crime.

The pornographic movie “Deep Throat” which started the flood of X-rated VHS and later DVD films, was released in 1972. Movie rental shops at first catered primarily to the adult film trade. Pornographic magazines also sharply increased in numbers in the
1970s and 1980s. Then came a seismic change: pornography became available on the new internet. Today, purveyors of internet porn earn a combined annual income exceeding the total of the major networks ABC, CBS, and NBC.

(Okay, the “sic” was cheap of me. Whaddaya want? I’m running a blog here. G’way.)

Three problems with D’Amato’s theory:

1) During recent years, the NCVS has found a steep decline in all violent crime, not just rape. It seems likely that whatever’s causing the decline in all violent crime measured by the NCVS, is also causing the decline in rape measured by the NCVS; but it seems unlikely that pornography reduces all violent crime.

2) The NCVS measurement of rape prevalence is crap. Many other studies – including two major studies conducted by the Federal government – have found much higher rates of rape prevalence than the NCVS. Particularly notable is this study, by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which directly compared the NCVS’s methodology for measuring rape prevalence with modern “best practice” survey design – and found that the NCVS vastly undercounted rape.

(D’Amato does say that the decrease in rape is collaborated by other sources, but he doesn’t cite any specific sources other than the NCVS).

3) D’Amato has no measurement of porn prevalence other than internet access, nor does he do any real statistical analysis. In contrast, studies with sophisticated statistical analysis and more accurate measures of porn usage – such as the study published in Four Theories of Rape in American Society – tend to find that porn usage has little or no correlation with rape prevalence.

D’Amato has one good point; there is no evidence that the rise in internet access (and, presumably, in porn usage) has been accompanied by a rise in rape prevalence. That makes it seem unlikely that porn is a cause of rape, as some radical feminists have suggested.

My own belief is that whatever porn’s effects on rape prevalence are, they’re probably too small to be measured.

7 Comments »

  1. Hi dear,

    How are you doing?

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

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

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

    Please join me in stopping this! Let us make sanity and chastity prevail and prevent porn. Let us not damage this image and preserve it for glory! A coordinated & well-planned approach with active support from the government and public is required here. It will work wonders, if all women join hands for this & all men come forward to support it.

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

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

    Your friend,

    Karan Kapoor

    Comment by Karan Kapoor — December 18, 2006 @ 6:15 am | Reply

  2. Hi dear,

    How are you doing?

    I’m doing ok, apart from the fact my haemmohroids have been playing me up again, and I’ve got nowhere to go this Christmas. Musn’t grumble, though. How are YOU doing, dear?

    Our Country is a great nation; its culture, traditions & heritage have been very glorious since the past but as for now, it is facing a non-stop assault by the evil of pornography & obscenity.

    So true, so true. As I wander the littered streets of Europe’s most rain-sodden offshore island I often reflect on its radiant cultural glory and the danger posed to it by Pornography. Sorry, by the Evil of Pornography (one has to make these distinctions: “The Daleks”, for instance, is a totally different story-line from “The Evil of the Daleks”.) Or did you have another country in mind?

    Let us make sanity and chastity
    prevail

    with this all-in-one straitjacket and chastity belt!

    The saying –“God created man & man created sin” – suits fine here, right? So, please help stop porn before society sinks into the depths of horror that humankind has never seen before.

    Oh, I couldn’t agree more. Pictures of men and women having sex, the horror, the horror. And the worst of it is – that’s just the pictures: apparently their are countless lost souls who actually see these things without the aid of photographic reproductions, they see it all live – because they’re actually doing it! We have to remember that so-called “ordinary” pornography is wicked for the same reason that snuff pornography is wicked: not because it’s a photographic reproduction, but because it’s a photographic reproduction of an EVIL ACT!

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

    Consider me on your side. Are you going to invite me over for Christmas, then? Dear?

    Merry Christmas from your friend and devotee

    Tom

    Comment by Tom Nolan — December 18, 2006 @ 10:10 am | Reply

  3. Karen is a total spammer, by the way; I deleted 8 copies of this exact same comment, posted to 8 different threads, on “Alas.”

    Comment by Ampersand — December 18, 2006 @ 11:16 am | Reply

  4. Her post was caught in moderation. It didn’t look like spam, so I approved it. Thanks for the head’s up, and feel free to delete a ninth, if you wish.

    Comment by Daran — December 18, 2006 @ 12:33 pm | Reply

  5. So it was spam? I’m disappointed. I get very lonely at Christmas, and I thought I’d found a friend. I was going to ask Karan if I might bring some videos over to her place on Christmas Day for the two of us to watch together. Some real collector’s items for her to feast her eyes on.

    Comment by Tom Nolan — December 18, 2006 @ 11:07 pm | Reply

  6. NoPornNorthampton.org provides a variety of rebuttals to arguments such as Professor D’Amato’s:

    How Spread of Porn Could Give the Illusion that Rape is in Decline (explicit language)
    Indications from books like Unhooked or Female Chauvinist Pigs suggest that many women in our present age, understandably, prefer to conceive of themselves as powerful and in control, not as victims. Female members of the porn industry like Lizzy Borden fuel this image of woman as dominator, as opposed to the dominated. A woman acknowledging she was made to have sex against her will, whether to police or to a survey-taker, would not be compatible with this self-image. We observe that sexual assault is both widespread and a substantially underreported crime…

    We can hypothesize that as women adopt the promiscuous, callous lifestyle advocated by porn, they will be less likely to report instances of rape. This might be in part because porn trains people to expect discourteous behavior in sex, and in part because of widespread beliefs that ‘loose’ women have little credibility when it comes to accusations of rape. A raped woman has every reason to fear that her sexual history might be mercilessly worked over in court (and/or public opinion) during a trial, especially if that history is long and messy. For reasons like these, one cannot conclude from mere correlation that porn truly reduces the incidence of sexual assault. There is no unambiguous logical connection between the two…

    It is easy to see how the propagation of rape myths would decrease reporting of rape. The victim might not be sure that an actual crime occurred, or even if they did, might not feel that our legal system will recognize their injury.

    United Kingdom: A Glaring Counter-Example to the Theory that Internet Porn is Cathartic
    Law professor Anthony D’Amato, and more recently Todd Kendall of Clemson University, have attempted to correlate increased Internet penetration with decreasing rates of rape. Since the Internet is a major vector for porn, they suggest that more porn in the home means fewer people will rape. In short, they claim that porn is cathartic.

    We have already discussed some of the flaws in this argument, the origins of which go back over 30 years. A new counter-example has recently come to our attention. Between 2000-2005, the number of Internet users in the United Kingdom increased from 15.4 million to 35.8 million (InternetWorldStats). During this time, the overall population only grew from 58.8 million to 59.9 million, so the proportion of Internet users in the population grew from 26% to 60%.

    If the D’Amato/Kendall theory was correct, you would expect a measurable decrease in the number of reported rapes. However, the opposite trend was seen. In the period 1999-2000, just under 8,000 rapes of a female were reported in England and Wales. This level then increased every year until by the 2005-2006 period, over 13,000 rapes of a female were reported (Home Office Crime Statistics). This was during a time when the overall population increased by just 2%.

    In Scotland, the trend of recorded rapes is similar. After dipping slightly between the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 reporting periods, rapes recorded by police increased every year through the 2005-2006 reporting period (Scottish Executive). Overall, recorded rapes increased from just under 600 in 1999-2000 to just under 1,000 in 2005-2006.

    Government officials in the United Kingdom believe that some of the increases in recorded rapes are due to improved reporting of crimes. Factors like these underscore the risks of drawing simple conclusions from apparent correlations between changes in reported crime rates and changes in other phenomena. The challenges are especially great when discussing heavily underreported crimes such as rape and domestic assault.

    When combined with personal testimony and scientific experiments, the balance of the data suggests that porn stimulates rape and confuses people about what’s acceptable behavior (such as whether to take no for an answer during sex). It certainly cannot be concluded that porn reduces rape.

    Porn and Sex Crimes in Other Countries: The Historical Experience
    Porn advocates are usually quieter about the results of studies of Sweden, Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia, where “”as the constraints on the availability of pornography were lifted…the rates of rape in those countries increased.””[35] For example, “in two Australian states between 1964 and 1977, when South Australia liberalized it’s laws on pornography and Queensland maintained its conservative policy…over the thirteen-year period, the number of rapes in Queensland remained at the same low level while South Australia’s’ showed a sixfold increase.”[36]

    Comment by NoPornNorthampton — May 27, 2007 @ 9:30 pm | Reply

  7. There are lot’s of correlations between increases of porn viewing and decreasing of rape, but correlation does not imply causation. So you’re right, porn doesn’t prevent rape. It doesn’t cause it either. So we don’t know if porn is good, but we do know it’s not evil either.

    Comment by Brooke — March 4, 2011 @ 6:16 am | Reply


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