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“Porn Teaches Viewers Violence”: Our Conversation with Researcher John Foubert, Ph.D.

In this episode of Consider Before Consuming, Dr. John Foubert paints a clear picture of the research on porn and sexual violence, bystander intervention, and objectification.

By November 16, 2022No Comments

Decades of studies from respected institutions have demonstrated significant impacts of porn consumption on individuals, relationships, and society. No Porn November is all about giving visibility to these facts and empowering individuals to choose to be porn-free. Learn more by clicking here.

“Pornography is something that can affect how you expect sex is going to play out, especially if you’re not very experienced with it. It’s going to give you ideas in your head about ‘this is how sex happens.’ Do you want sex to be taught to you by an industry that just wants you for your money or wants you for how many clicks you click on a website?… Is that how you want to learn about sex? And I hope the answer to that is no.”

Dr. John Foubert is a renowned anti-porn researcher, author, and speaker.

His 50 peer-reviewed studies have revealed an indisputable link between porn and sexual violence. In fact, there’s a one in 88 decillion change that porn isn’t tied to sexual violence.

While his 30-page resume and his research are impressive, so is his ability to have a personable conversation and share his expertise in a way that especially young people can connect with.

In this episode of Consider Before Consuming, a podcast by Fight the New Drug, he paints a clear picture of the research on the correlation between pornography and sexual violence, bystander intervention, and objectification.

Dr. Foubert is A Dean of the College of Education at Union University, acting as the Principal of Dr. John D. Foubert, LLC., and serving for the U.S. Army as the Highly Qualified Expert for Sexual Assault Prevention.

He also continues to work for the national nonprofit organization he founded called One in Four where, for 20 years, he has researched rape prevention programs on college campuses, in communities, and in the military.

Related: 15 Ways Porn is Connected to Real Sexual Violence

How Dr. Foubert became a pornography researcher

In 2006, Dr. Foubert was a professor doing anti-sexual violence work at a university when the porn industry came to campus in an effort to normalize pornography and performing in it. He was especially concerned to see many of the students who were working on sexual assault prevention supporting the porn industry’s visit.

In our conversation with him, he describes having an intuition telling him that porn was unhealthy, but recognized that his argument was theoretical. His frustration ultimately led him to do research, share that information about the harms of pornography, and correct misconceptions in a way that would be convincing to college students.

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He recognized that pornography objectified women, and that when we make an object out of a person, it makes it much more possible to commit violence against them. He dove in to what had been done in the area of pornography research, and found a study that especially stood out on Pornography and Sexual Aggression which documented over 50 studies that connected pornography and sexual violence.

He makes the important clarification in our conversation that of course not every person who has seen pornography will commit rape or sexual violence, while there is a particularly strong connection between the two.

Related: How Common is Sexual Violence in Porn?

Violent porn can inhibit bystander intervention in consumers

In 2010, Dr. Foubert added to the research by revealing how pornography is connected to bystander intervention. He surveyed several hundred college students and found was that the more people watch porn, the less likely they are to intervene to prevent sexual assault from happening.

In a follow up study, he found that it’s particularly violent and degrading pornography that tends to inhibit people from intervening as a bystander, but emphasizes that there are plenty of reasons not to watch even non-violent porn—like its links to erectile dysfunction and less satisfaction in relationships.

Related: How Porn Can Distort Consumers’ Understanding of Healthy Sex

He points out that “consensual” or “ethical” pornography is difficult to define, because you can’t really know the conditions under which the people in it decided to participate. Plus, “ethical” porn is a niche that’s often used as a marketing ploy by the porn industry.

Sure, there may be some pornography that is less violent than others. But no matter the type, it still objectifies a human being and their body—making them into an object, not a person.

How pornography harms

Dr. Foubert has a knack for distilling down scholarly articles and putting them in a format where the general public can understand.

That’s exactly what he did with his most recent book, How Pornography Harms. In it, he breaks down about 200 different studies, around 30 books, and interviews with about 20 people whose lives had been directly impacted by pornography.

Many of those studies are on the amount of aggression and violence in today’s pornography. In one, for example, researchers evaluated the top 25 porn movies and found that in 88% of the scenes, there was violence by one person towards another. And usually, that was a man towards a woman. And 95% of the time when a woman was hit by a man in porn, she responded with either pleasure, or she had no response at all.Bridges, A. J., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., Sun, C., & Liberman, R. (2010). Aggression and sexual behavior in best-selling pornography videos: a content analysis update. Violence against women, 16(10), 1065–1085. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801210382866Copy 

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He also highlights several studies that show the more young people use porn, the more lonely and depressed they can get—creating more and more isolation in a society where we’re struggling to connect with each other, as well as research showing a significant decline in empathy with the last generation compared to generations before.

But as a word of hope, Dr. Foubert also discusses the neuroplasticity of the brain and how the rewiring porn inflicts can be reversed over time.

Creating a healthy culture—one that isn’t shaped by an industry that wants your money and your clicks, not your sexual health and fulfillment in real relationships—starts by understanding the research.

Dr. Foubert has made it his life’s work to share this research through a variety of avenues and make it digestible for young audiences. We thank him for his perspective on this episode of our Consider Before Consuming podcast, and his continued work in this field.

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