Blog

New Study Finds Revenge Porn is More Common Than You Might Think

By July 11, 2019 No Comments

There's a vast amount of research on the harmful effects of pornography, and it's important that this information is accessible to the public. Weekly, we highlight a research study that sheds light on the expanding field of academic resources that showcase porn's harms. These studies cover a wide range of topics, from the sociological implications of pornography to the neurological effects of porn-consumption.

The full study can be accessed here.

Nonconsensual Pornography Among U.S. Adults: A Sexual Scripts Framework on Victimization, Perpetration, and Health Correlates for Women and Men

Authors: Yanet Ruvalcaba, Asia A. Eaton
Published: 2019

Peer-Reviewed Journal: Psychology of Violence. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/vio0000233

Background

Technology is an essential mechanism for social communication today. Most Americans, across all ages, races, and socioeconomic levels, are active Internet and cell phone users, with 95% of Americans owning cell phones (Anderson, 2015) and 89% using the Internet (Pew Research Center, 2018).

Unfortunately, alongside increased connectivity, technology has provided people new means to perpetrate interpersonal abuse, including technology-facilitated sexual abuse (Henry & Powell, 2016). One growing form of technology-facilitated abuse is image-based sexual abuse, which includes “upskirting,” sexualized photoshopping, and nonconsensual pornography (Henry & Powell, 2015; McGlynn, Rackley, & Houghton, 2017).

The purpose of this article was to quantitatively examine rates of nonconsensual pornography victimization and perpetration among online U.S. women and men, using an inclusive definition of nonconsensual pornography. In addition, we assess health correlates of nonconsensual pornography victimization, and how these vary by victim gender. In doing so, we set the foundation for understanding nonconsensual pornography as a form of gender-based sexual abuse.

Nonconsensual pornography is defined as the distribution of sexually graphic images of individuals without their consent (Citron & Franks, 2014), excluding commercially distributed pornography. The non-consensual distribution of sexually explicit images, not necessarily the production or reception of the images, is the characterizing feature of nonconsensual pornography, which is sometimes called “revenge porn.”

Research on the frequency and nature of technology-facilitated sexual abuse is still scarce. Using a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults, Lenhart, Ybarra, and Price-Feeney (2016) found that one in 25 online Americans had someone threaten to post/or post their nude or nearly nude image without their consent. However, the operationalization of nonconsensual pornography in that study was restricted to images distributed online and disseminated with the intent to embarrass or harm (Lenhart et al., 2016). This may have led to an underestimation of the problem, as nonconsensual pornography occurs across all domains of technology, including e-mail and text message.

In addition, there are varied motivations for committing nonconsensual pornography, ranging from financial gain to entertainment (Isaac, 2014; Segall, 2015). A subsequent online study of nonconsensual pornography prevalence in Australia using a broader definition of nonconsensual pornography found a higher prevalence rate than Lenhart and colleagues (2016), estimating that as many as one in 10 Australians had a sexual or nude image of themselves distributed without consent (Henry, Powell, & Flynn, 2017).

The current study will further contribute to the literature on digital sexual abuse by examining U.S. adults’ experience with nonconsensual pornography using an inclusive definition that does not limit the method of dissemination, the relationship between perpetrator and victim, or perpetrator motives. In a further extension of current knowledge, we also examine the health correlates of women’s and men’s victimization using a framework of sexual scripts.

Methods

Eligible participants were adults 18 years of age or older and residing in the United States. Data was collected from 3,044 participants. Participants were recruited on the social media platform Facebook, and Facebook advertisements were used to invite participants to take an online survey.

The invitation included a variation of the following statement: “Help us understand more about what Americans think about sharing nude images online. Take our survey and voice your opinion.”

The images on the advertisements were unrelated to sexual content, such as computer screens or raised hands. Facebook Ads Manager was used to apply a proportional quota sampling technique to achieve a sample of men and women adult participants in each U.S. state proportional to that state’s population. Proportional quota sampling is a nonprobability sampling technique that selects participants non-randomly in accordance to a fixed quota (Trochim, Donnelly, & Arora, 2015).

Unique to this technique is that the sample gathered is proportional to a prespecified characteristic of the population. In this case, the sample is derived from the U.S. population proportionate to the men and women populace per state (Trochim et al., 2015). In other words, we used this sampling technique to target an equal number of men and women proportional to the representation of each state in the United States. For example, according to the 2016 U.S. census demographics 3.99% of the American population was located in Illinois. Thus, we recruited 4% of our total sample from Illinois.

After the desired quota of participants from each state was reached, the ads no longer targeted that state.

Results

This study investigated the prevalence of nonconsensual pornography victimization and perpetration among U.S. adult online social media users. In our sample of 3,044 participants (54% women), one in 12 (8%) reported having been victims of nonconsensual pornography at some point in their lives, and one in 20 (5%) reported having perpetrated nonconsensual pornography. Participants in this study reported higher rates of victimization than in some previous research on U.S. online adults (Lenhart et al., 2016), likely due to the more inclusive operational definition of nonconsensual pornography we used.

Women experienced higher rates of nonconsensual pornography victimization than men overall, whereas men reported higher rates of perpetration. These gender differences are consistent with research on interpersonal violence (Black et al., 2011; Breiding, 2015; Jewkes et al., 2017), and may reflect a power imbalance informed by sexual scripts and double standards (Green & Faulkner, 2005). Although motivations for nonconsensual pornography perpetration are vast, anecdotal evidence reveals it is common for a woman’s sext to be distributed without consent as a form of punishment or control by a partner or ex-partner (Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, 2018a).

Age was found to be a critical factor in contextualizing nonconsensual pornography victimization and perpetration. Participants in our study most often reported nonconsensual pornography victimization and perpetration in emerging adulthood. It is important to consider that the age distribution of first incidence of victimization and perpetration of nonconsensual pornography emerges during adolescence and then peaks during emerging adulthood.

The emergence of nonconsensual pornography during adolescence reflect a similar pattern like interpersonal violence in adolescence (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016), or teen dating violence, and this makes sense because it is a developmental time where individuals start to form lasting relationship dynamics.

Additionally, women victims of nonconsensual pornography in this study reported lower levels of psychological well-being and higher levels of somatic symptoms compared with women non-victims. This is consistent with qualitative studies that examined nonconsensual pornography victimization outcomes among women (Bates, 2017). Women victims reported higher somatic symptoms compared with men victims (Hypothesis 4), consistent with a sexual scripts framework and sexual double standards (Green & Faulkner, 2005). Previous research on interpersonal violence also finds that women experience higher mental and somatic pain than men post victimization (Ansara & Hindin, 2011; Devries et al., 2013). This is not to negate the adverse health outcomes related to IPV for men; however, the degree and severity of the impact is gender-differentiated (Devries et al., 2013).

The full study can be accessed here.

Truth About Porn

Send this to a friend

Like all websites, we use cookies. By continuing on this site, you agree to our use of cookies. More

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close