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Why Don’t 40% of Young Men in Australia Consider Sexual Assault to be Domestic Violence?

As individuals and as a culture, it would be unreasonable to assume consuming something as violent as today’s internet porn would not affect attitudes and actions in any way.

By February 1, 2022No Comments
For anyone affected by abuse and needing support, call 1-800-799-7233, or if you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVIS to 1-866-331-9474.

Four in 10.

According to an article published in October 2020 by Australian news organization The Sydney Morning Herald, that’s about the proportion of young men in Australia who do not consider nonconsensual sexual activity, otherwise known as sexual assault, to constitute domestic violence.

The data in the article came from a national survey of 1,074 adults that asked respondents to identify what could be considered domestic violence from a list of behaviors that experts regard as violence.

The survey, performed by anti-violence campaign group White Ribbon, found that 42% of men aged 18 to 34 did not consider “hitting, punching or restraining” another person to be “a type of domestic violence.” A similar percentage of men in the age range also didn’t classify sexual assault, degrading and punishing a person or isolating them from their friends as domestic violence.

Yet, when older age ranges were surveyed, those between the ages of 35 and 54 and those over 55, numbers jumped up significantly. More specifically, the proportion of men willing to call hitting and punching domestic violence changed to over 67% in the 35 to 54 category and 97% in the over 55 category. Additionally, nearly nine out of 10 men over 55 thought that rape was domestic violence.

Store - General

Why is there a generational gap in attitude toward sexual and domestic violence?

While we recognize the numbers across the board are not high enough—all violent behaviors listed by the experts on the survey should be seen for what they are: sexual and domestic violence—we do want to point out that there’s a clear and interesting generational gap here.

Wondering why that could be? Here’s a theory based on available research.

To answer such a question, we need to look at one major difference between how each of these age groups was raised.

Related: Data Shows Domestic Violence In Australia Is Made Worse By Violent Porn

And one of those major differences is the availability of hardcore, violent porn.

While porn may not be the only reason why one generation may have a measurably different attitude on sexual and domestic violence, we hypothesize it at least plays a large role.

Let’s get into why we think that is.

The porn revolution

Men between the ages of 18 and 35 had access to porn on unprecedented historical levels during their early, most formative years.

First, technology progressed at a rate that allowed for this supernormal stimulus to be readily available not only on computers, but also on tablets and phones. This meant that porn was at the palm of one’s hand wherever they were and whenever they wanted it. Moreover, the quality of the porn increased massively—it was no longer in a still picture form or pixelated and blurry video, but high definition video.

Second, the amount of porn available grew steadily. As the reach of the internet grew and newly-created algorithms allowed porn companies to scrape the web for porn search data in realtime, new categories and types of porn were created and uploaded to the web—gone were the days of porn producers attempting to count nude magazine sales. For the first time ever, porn became an “if exists, there’s porn of it” kind of experience.

Related: Multiple Studies Confirm Connection Between Consuming Porn & Sexual Aggression

Third, as we stated earlier, this porn revolution occurred for this age grouping during the most formative years of their life. The brain doesn’t fully develop until the mid-20s, meaning teenagers have extremely “neuroplastic” (able to be changed easily) brains without strong impulse control. Because porn triggers the reward system like a slot-machine jackpot of dopamine, teenagers face higher addiction potential and a much higher chance that their sexuality could be influenced by the content they consume.

And this all matters because what is consumed through our eyes massively affects our attitudes and actions.

What you watch affects you

Your brain is what allows you to think, feel, create, remember, learn and so much more. These functions can be conditioned by stimuli in a way that changes and impacts them.

One of those stimuli is what we watch.

As a 2019 New York Times article shared, viewing habits of television can affect anything ranging from your thinking to your political preferences, and even your cognitive ability. In other words, you learn from what you watch.

What are people learning when they watch porn? One prominent lesson is that violent behavior is okay.

In one 2010 study analyzing 304 porn scenes, 88.2% included physical aggression and 48.7% contained verbal aggression. Additionally, perpetrators of the aggression were usually male, while targets of the aggression were almost always female. Further, the targets of the violence most often showed pleasure or responded neutrally to the aggression.

Related: Why Is “Rough Sex Gone Wrong” Becoming An Excuse For Fatal Sexual Violence?

In a more recent 2020 study, researchers looked at 7,430 porn videos from Pornhub and XVideos and found that women were the target of 97% of the physical and verbal aggression depicted. The researchers concluded:

“This study suggests that a significant portion of pornography contains depictions of aggression against women with no negative responses from targets; this may lead to the development among consumers of a sexual script that encourages the learning of aggression against women. Although consumers may not go to mass media, including pornography, with the specific motivation to learn sexual behaviors, they still might absorb the provided scripts.”

With porn exhibiting such extremely high levels of verbal and physical aggression, is it really so impossible to believe that 40% of young men in Australia don’t consider sexual assault domestic violence?

BHW - The Heart

Why this matters

To be clear, the point of this article is not to imply in any way that every porn consumer will have a chill attitude toward sexual and domestic violence, nor is it to say that a porn habit is behind every sexually and domestically violent action. However, the research is becoming clearer all the time that there is a connection between sexual violence and porn.

As few as 1 in 3 and as many as 9 in 10 porn videos depict sexual violence or aggression. That’s especially concerning, considering that research indicates that these sexually violent narratives can bleed into consumers’ attitudes and behaviors.

So how does this normalization of sexual violence affect porn consumers? Well, according to neuroscientific studies, with repeated exposure to porn, consumers can become desensitized to some sexual content and may need to consume increasingly extreme content in order to get the same rush as before.Banca, P., Morris, L. S., Mitchell, S., Harrison, N. A., Potenza, M. N., & Voon, V. (2016). Novelty, conditioning and attentional bias to sexual rewards. Journal of psychiatric research, 72, 91–101. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2015.10.017COPY 

By watching scene after scene of dehumanizing or violent content, it can start to seem normal.Daneback, K., Ševčíková, A., & Ježek, S. (2018). Exposure to online sexual materials in adolescence and desensitization to sexual content. Sexologies, 27(3), e71-e76. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sexol.2018.04.001COPY Ezzell, M. B., Johnson, J. A., Bridges, A. J., & Sun, C. F. (2020). I (dis)like it like that: Gender, pornography, and liking sex. J.Sex Marital Ther., 46(5), 460-473. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2020.1758860COPY  In fact, research indicates that porn consumers are more likely to sexually objectify and dehumanize others,Mikorski, R., & Szymanski, D. M. (2017). Masculine norms, peer group, pornography, facebook, and men’s sexual objectification of women. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 18(4), 257-267. doi:10.1037/men0000058COPY Skorska, M.N., Hodson, G., & Hoffarth, M.R. (2018). Experimental effects of degrading versus erotic pornography exposure in men on reactions toward women (objectification, sexism, discrimination). The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 27, 261 - 276.COPY Zhou, Y., Liu, T., Yan, Y., & Paul, B. (2021). Pornography use, two forms of dehumanization, and sexual aggression: Attitudes vs. behaviors. Null, 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2021.1923598COPY  more likely to express an intent to rape,Foubert, J. D., Brosi, M. W., & Bannon, R. S. (2011). Pornography viewing among fraternity men: Effects on bystander intervention, rape myth acceptance and behavioral intent to commit sexual assault.18(4), 212-231. doi:10.1080/10720162.2011.625552COPY  less likely to intervene during a sexual assault,Foubert, J. D., Brosi, M. W., & Bannon, R. S. (2011). Pornography viewing among fraternity men: Effects on bystander intervention, rape myth acceptance and behavioral intent to commit sexual assault. 18(4), 212-231. doi:10.1080/10720162.2011.625552COPY  Foubert, J. D., & Bridges, A. J. (2017). What Is the Attraction? Pornography Use Motives in Relation to Bystander Intervention. Journal of Adolescent Research, 32(20), 213–243. https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558414547097COPY  more likely to victim-blame survivors of sexual assault,Foubert, J. D., Brosi, M. W., & Bannon, R. S. (2011). Pornography viewing among fraternity men: Effects on bystander intervention, rape myth acceptance and behavioral intent to commit sexual assault.18(4), 212-231. doi:10.1080/10720162.2011.625552COPY Foubert, J. D., & Bridges, A. J. (2017). What Is the Attraction? Pornography Use Motives in Relation to Bystander Intervention. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 32(20), 3071–3089. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260515596538COPY  more likely to support violence against women,Wright, P. J., & Tokunaga, R. S. (2016). Men's Objectifying Media Consumption, Objectification of Women, and Attitudes Supportive of Violence Against Women. Archives of sexual behavior, 45(4), 955–964. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-015-0644-8COPY Seabrook, R. C., Ward, L. M., & Giaccardi, S. (2019). Less than human? media use, objectification of women, and men’s acceptance of sexual aggression. Psychology of Violence, 9(5), 536-545. doi:10.1037/vio0000198COPY  more likely to forward sexts without consent,van Oosten, J., & Vandenbosch, L. (2020). Predicting the Willingness to Engage in Non-Consensual Forwarding of Sexts: The Role of Pornography and Instrumental Notions of Sex. Archives of sexual behavior, 49(4), 1121–1132. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-01580-2COPY  and more likely to commit actual acts of sexual violence.Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., & Kraus, A. (2016). A meta-analysis of pornography consumption and actual acts of sexual aggression in general population studies. Journal of Communication, 66(1), 183-205. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/jcom.12201COPY Rostad, W. L., Gittins-Stone, D., Huntington, C., Rizzo, C. J., Pearlman, D., & Orchowski, L. (2019). The association between exposure to violent pornography and teen dating violence in grade 10 high school students. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 48(7), 2137-2147. doi:10.1007/s10508-019-1435-4COPY Goodson, A., Franklin, C. A., & Bouffard, L. A. (2021). Male peer support and sexual assault: The relation between high-profile, high school sports participation and sexually predatory behaviour. 27(1), 64-80. doi:10.1080/13552600.2020.1733111COPY Mikorski, R., & Szymanski, D. M. (2017). Masculine norms, peer group, pornography, Facebook, and men’s sexual objectification of women. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 18(4), 257-267. doi:10.1037/men0000058COPY 

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In 2016, a team of leading researchers performed a meta-analysis of quality studies on the connection between porn and sexual violence. After analyzing relevant studies on the topic, they concluded that the research left “little doubt that, on the average, individuals who consume pornography more frequently are more likely to hold attitudes conducive to sexual aggression and engage in actual acts of sexual aggression.”Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., & Kraus, A. (2016). A meta-analysis of pornography consumption and actual acts of sexual aggression in general population studies. Journal of Communication, 66(1), 183-205. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/jcom.12201COPY 

Articles and statistics like these need to be a wake-up call for anyone who believes porn is harmless. As individuals and as a culture, it would be unreasonable to assume consuming something as violent as today’s internet porn would not affect attitudes and actions in any way.

Related: “Why Was The Rape Victim So Upset?”—Why Teens Need Better Consent Education

That’s just one of the many reasons we refuse to click.

Will you join us in the fight?

For anyone affected by abuse and needing support, call 1-800-799-7233, or if you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVIS to 1-866-331-9474.