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Five Studies that Show How Porn Often Normalizes Sexual Violence Against Women

While this article focuses on violence against women, men can also be victimized by violence. Click here to learn more.

“When I heard the second scream, I knew that something was wrong,” Max shared with us.

He and his friend, Chris, were recently walking in a park late one night when they heard a blood-curdling cry. They turned to look at one another half expecting to hear laughs from a friend who’d startled another friend. The laughs didn’t come. Instead, Chris and Max heard another pained scream, including the unmistakable voice of a woman shouting, “Get off of me!”

The pair bolted toward the sound. When they finally arrived at the scene, they saw a young man fleeing and found a shaken young woman in tears with her shirt and bra ripped. They consoled the woman. Apparently, she knew the man who attacked her, and she begged Max and Chris not to call the police.

Related: Does Mainstream Porn Fuel And Normalize Sexual Violence In Teen Relationships?

While the situation didn’t go as far as it could have, the damage was already done. This is one of the innumerable examples of gender-based violence that happens every day to women and girls everywhere.

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1 in 3

The above example exhibits the devastating power of sexual violence toward women and shows why its pervasive nature is so alarming.

According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO) and their partners, 1 in 3 women are subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence from a non-partner across their lifetime.

That number, equitable to about 736 million women, has remained mostly unchanged over the past decade. What’s more is that the WHO’s data exhibits sexual violence to be very common in young women too: 1 in 4 women between the ages of 15 and 24 who have been in a relationship will have already experienced violence by an intimate partner by the time they reach their mid-twenties.

Related: Why Sarah Everard’s Murder Is Sparking Conversations About What Fuels Violence Against Women

Here at Fight the New Drug, our mission is to educate on the harmful effects of porn using only science, facts, and personal accounts, and help give visibility to the decades of research from academic institutions that shows how porn is connected to so many issues in our world—including sexual violence.

Listen to one expert discuss how porn and violence are interlinked:

As Dr. John Foubert said in the video above, the odds that porn and sexual violence are not connected are very, very low.

While porn is by no means the sole cause of this form of violence toward women, and not even close to every porn consumer will become a perpetrator, porn certainly plays a role in fueling and perpetuating violence against women based on the evidence listed here. Porn dehumanizes women, and when someone is dehumanized, it is easier to commit violence against them.

Porn normalizes violence against women by packaging it as entertainment and selling it as an arousing fantasy, and porn has been shown to eroticize the very acts of violence women have been victimized by.

Let’s dive into five studies that show how porn can normalize sexual violence toward women.

Related: Does Porn Fuel Rape Culture And Sexual Assault On College Campuses?

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Study 1: Porn includes high levels of verbal and physical aggression (2010)

After analyzing 304 scenes from popular porn videos, this study concluded that porn contains high levels of verbal and physical aggression. More specifically, 88.2% of the scenes analyzed contained physical aggression, including spanking, gagging, and slapping, while 48.7% of scenes contained verbal aggression, primarily name-calling.

But that’s not all: men were usually the perpetrators of the aggression and females were overwhelmingly the targets.

Furthermore, the women who were targets most frequently responded neutrally or showed pleasure in response to aggressive behavior, suggesting that sexual violence is not a big a deal or even pleasurable for women.

Study 2: Porn can foster sexist attitudes (2013)

After looking at a probability-based sample of young Danish adults, this study concluded that increased past pornography consumption was significantly correlated with less egalitarian attitudes toward women and more hostile sexism.

Related: 1 In 16 U.S. Women Report Being Raped During Their First Sexual Encounter

A correlation with hostile sexism was especially noted in study participants with lower agreeableness (people who are less warm and friendly) and for benevolent sexism among women. Moreover, sexual arousal from the porn was, at least in part, found to bring about sexist attitudes.

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Study 3: Porn consumption is linked to sexual victimization in teenage girls (2019)

The goal of this study was to see if the number of online sexual experiences an adolescent female has could be used to predict the odds of sexual assault for or the number of physically violent dating partners of that same female.

In the study, young females who had a high probability of engaging in online sexual experiences were more likely to experience sexual assault one year later as compared to those who experienced the most sexual attention online. The study notes that there was a high probability of internet porn use for the first group. The study also found that those who intentionally sought out porn and sex chatting predicted having had more violent romantic partners one year later.

Related: “Hit That”: Do Both Pop Culture And Porn Culture Normalize The Abuse Of Women?

Study 4: Meta-analysis confirms a connection between porn consumption and sexual aggression (2015)

The Journal of Communication performed a meta-analysis of 22 studies across 7 countries and found that the studies exhibit clear evidence that porn consumption increases physical and verbal sexual aggression.

More specifically, the study found the following: “[Porn] consumption was indeed associated with sexual aggression in the United States and internationally, among males and females, and in cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. Associations were stronger for verbal than physical sexual aggression, although both were significant. The general pattern of results suggested that violent content may be an exacerbating factor.”

As we stated earlier, not every porn consumer is automatically going to turn into an abuser, but that doesn’t mean pornography consumption isn’t still associated with real-world violence and aggression. When porn teaches that aggression is a part of sex and an expression of arousal, that violence is normalized and eroticized.

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Study 5: Women receive 97% of physically aggressive acts in porn (2020)

An analysis performed on 7,430 porn videos scraped from Xvideos and Pornhub, two of the world’s most popular internet porn providers, found physical aggression against women present in 44.3% of Pornhub and 33.9% of Xvideos scenes. The most common forms of physical aggression noted were spanking and gagging.

Related: 10 Things Porn Gets Completely Wrong About Real Sex

While the study found that physical aggression was significantly more common than verbal aggression among the sample of porn videos, the verbal aggression noted tended to be gender-specific, such as calling women profane and derogatory female-specific names.

Why this matters

Because research suggests that mass media—ranging from magazines to TV, to porn—can all have an impact on consumers’ sexual attitudes and behaviors and the above studies definitively show that porn is full of sexual violence, we can draw the conclusion that sexual violence in porn can and does normalize and advertise unacceptable and abusive behavior—especially toward women.

Related: The Porn Industry Doesn’t Just Sell Sex, It Sells Violent Abuse Of Women

In other words, if we are going to fully address sexual violence against women in our culture, we need to address all the sources that fuel, perpetuate, and normalize it.

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