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Can You Tell The Difference Between What Convicted Rapists and Porn Magazines Say About Women?

By February 20, 2020No Comments
Portions of this post were reposted from Collective Shout. It has been edited for length and content. 4 minute read.

The porn industry and convicted rapists have more in common than the average person might think.

According to a recent study, psychologists from Middlesex University and the University of Surrey found that when presented with descriptions of women taken from men’s magazines, and comments about women made by convicted rapists, most people who took part in the study could not correctly guess who said what.

Even worse, when men involved with the study were asked which quotes they agreed with, they were actually more likely to agree with the rapist quotes.

The University of Surrey reported on the study (conducted jointly with researchers at Middlesex University), and it was published in the British Journal of Psychology.

Researchers gave a group of men and women quotes from the British porn magazines, as well as excerpts from interviews with actual convicted rapists originally published in the book The Rapist Files. (Click here if you want to read the quotes. Trigger warning, proceed at your own discretion.)

Here’s the kicker: the participants couldn’t reliably identify which statements came from magazines and which from rapists—and what’s more, they rated the magazine quotes as slightly more derogatory than the statements made by men serving time for raping women.

Related: Is Rape Culture Real? Let’s Take A Look At The Evidence

The researchers also showed both sets of quotes to a separate group of men—the men were more likely to identify with the rapists’ statements than the pornographic magazine excerpts.

The only slightly bright spot in the study: when researchers randomly (and sometimes incorrectly) labeled the quotes as coming from either rapists or magazines, the men were more likely to identify with the ones allegedly drawn from mags. At least they didn’t want to agree with rapists.

Give One For Love

Disturbing Results

Still, the results as a whole are pretty disturbing.

Says lead study author Dr. Miranda Horvath, “We were surprised that participants identified more with the rapists’ quotes, and we are concerned that the legitimization strategies that rapists deploy when they talk about women are more familiar to these young men than we had anticipated.”

Her co-author Dr. Peter Hegarty adds:

“There is a fundamental concern that the content of such magazines normalizes the treatment of women as sexual objects. We are not killjoys or prudes who think that there should be no sexual information and media for young people. But are teenage boys and young men best prepared for fulfilling love and sex when they normalize views about women that are disturbingly close to those mirrored in the language of sexual offenders?”

“Many of the rapists quoted in the study talked about coercing women or having sex with them even though they were initially unwilling. However, so did the porn magazines.”

Related: Why This Massively Popular Porn Site Doesn’t Care If Their Content Shows Rape

Horvath says, “Rapists try to justify their actions, suggesting that women lead men on, or want sex even when they say no, and there is clearly something wrong when people feel the sort of language used in a lads’ mag could have come from a convicted rapist.”

A lot of these stereotypes—that women say no when they really mean yes, or are “asking for it” by going out with a man or wearing revealing clothing—have indeed been normalized, and it’s sad but not surprising that they appear in a lot of these pornographic magazines.

Defenders of such statements like to frame them as innocent, or even helpful, observations. But perhaps the news that they sound just like rapists will make people, and magazines, rethink their words.

Consider Before Consuming

Why This Matters

This study falls in line with what so many others are saying about porn—it promotes ideals that fall in line with rapist ideals, and it sells anything but healthy consent practices.

If you’ve ever checked out a mainstream porn site, you know you don’t have to search very thoroughly before violence and abuse appear. Video after video of people being treated roughly, physically assaulted, verbally demeaned, and even raped reveals the unsettling reality of porn-induced pleasure. Statistically, these people are often women.

A few years ago, researchers did a study of the most popular porn videos at the time. Their findings? Of the 304 scenes examined, 88% contained physical violence and 49% contained verbal aggression. 95% of the victims responded neutrally or with pleasure, and 94% of the victims were women. The message that comes from porn is that women enjoy getting beat up and forced into sexual acts.

Many studies have shown that both non-violent and violent porn make users more likely to support violence against women and to believe that women enjoy being raped, [1] and those beliefs have been found across several research studies to be predictive of a person being sexually aggressive in real life. [2]

RelatedWhy You Can’t Consistently Fight Sexual Abuse Without Fighting Porn

Consider how porn, especially the content on Pornhub, isn’t produced with the intention of showing accurate displays of sexual encounters, or even only consensual ones. It’s created to entertain and manifest fantasies, no matter how violent or violating. For example, consider the top-most searched porn categories on Pornhub last year that not only heavily featured incest fantasies, but also scenarios with minors in the “teen” category.

In addressing the issue of gender equality, sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse in our society, it is necessary that we address the ways that porn promotes inequality and feeds into the damaging narrative that women are objects to be used or sexual means to an end.

It won’t be easy to change the culture that surrounds us, but it is important that we do.

Citations

[1] Layden, M. A. (2010). Pornography and Violence: A New look at the Research. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 57–68). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute; Milburn, M., Mather, R., and Conrad, S. (2000). The Effects of Viewing R-Rated Movie Scenes that Objectify Women on Perceptions of Date Rape. Sex Roles 43, 9 and 10: 645–64; Weisz, M. G. and Earls, C. (1995). The Effects of Exposure to Filmed Sexual Violence on Attitudes Toward Rape. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 10, 1: 71–84; Ohbuchi, K. I., et al. (1994). Effects of Violent Pornography Upon Viewers’ Rape Myth Beliefs: A Study of Japanese Males. Psychology, Crime, and Law 7, 1: 71–81; Corne, S., et al. (1992). Women’s Attitudes and Fantasies About Rape as a Function of Early Exposure to Pornography. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 7, 4: 454–61; Check, J. and Guloien, T. (1989). The Effects of Repeated Exposure to Sexually Violent Pornography, Nonviolent Dehumanizing Pornography, and Erotica. In D. Zillmann and J. Bryant (Eds.) Pornography: Research Advances and Policy Considerations (pp. 159–84). Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates; Check, J. and Malamuth, N. M. (1985). An Empirical Assessment of Some Feminist Hypotheses About Rape. International Journal of Women’s Studies 8, 4: 414–23.
[2] Hald, G. M., Malamuth, N. M., and Yuen, C. (2010). Pornography and Attitudes Supporting Violence Against Women: Revisiting the Relationship in Nonexperimental Studies. Aggression and Behavior 36, 1: 14–20; Layden, M. A. (2010). Pornography and Violence: A New look at the Research. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 57–68). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute; Boeringer, S. B. (1994). Pornography and Sexual Aggression: Associations of Violent and Nonviolent Depictions with Rape and Rape Proclivity. Deviant Behavior 15, 3: 289–304; Check, J. and Guloien, T. (1989). The Effects of Repeated Exposure to Sexually Violent Pornography, Nonviolent Dehumanizing Pornography, and Erotica. In D. Zillmann and J. Bryant (Eds.) Pornography: Research Advances and Policy Considerations (pp. 159–84). Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates; Marshall, W. L. (1988). The Use of Sexually Explicit Stimuli by Rapists, Child Molesters, and Non-Offenders. Journal of Sex Research 25, 2: 267–88.
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