Cover photo by Callie Gibson. 5 minute read.

Violent sexual crimes have existed long before explicit magazines and porn sites came into the picture.

In sharing this information, it is not our intention to prove scientifically, or otherwise, that behind every violent sex crime is a pornography problem. The purpose of this article is to address the concerning misinformation that claims pornography is harmless, or says the necessary “conclusive scientific data” that shows porn fuels sex crimes doesn’t exist.

We have also heard arguments that claim pornography is “helpful” to society. As the argument goes, this evidence suggests that porn actually functions as a societal “safety valve” for otherwise aggressive energy. The theory is that instead of attacking someone, people who might commit sexual crimes can express their violent desires by fantasizing to unlimited amounts of internet porn.

But what if it actually isn’t helpful in stopping violence, or a “safe” way to express abusive tendencies? What if it’s further complicating the already complex and heartbreaking issue of sexual assault and sexual violence, usually (though not exclusively) against women?

Related: Does Porn Really Decrease Rates Of Sexual Assault?

The research is much more complex than these ideas. Scientific questions surrounding sexual violations of innocent children, women, and men should not be reduced to simplistic soundbites that ignore the enormous complexities involved, while leading people to premature conclusions. Some of the public conversations about porn and sexual violence are simply failing to see the full picture.

The brain is wired to repeat what it sees and hears; it’s a major part of how humans learn. And the more senses you get involved in the learning process, the more consistent the message, and the more often you see it, the more likely you are to be influenced by it. [30] That’s just one more reason why consuming pornography is toxic—it’s a short jump from consuming something in porn to desiring it in real life. And sometimes the things you see can really hurt yourself and other people.

Porn and Sex Crimes

Did you know there’s a connection between porn and sex crimes?

Related: How Porn Likely Influenced The 2016 Stanford Rape Case

According to one report, “in spite of the lack of formal research, though, the FBI’s own statistics show that pornography is found at 80% of the scenes of violent sex crimes, or in the homes of the perpetrators.” [1] Now we think that’s kind of tough to ignore, while those who promote porn think this is easy to overlook. The argument is that porn is “harmless,” or that science doesn’t support the claims. Not exactly surprising, coming from those who stand to make a profit from the porn industry.

Now, we’re not saying consuming porn will automatically make someone a serial rapist. Even so, looking at the raw data, porn is connected with sexual violence. Proving this point is kind of tough, because an accurate study, as one researcher put it, “would require a sampling of much more than a thousand males, exposed to pornography through puberty and adolescence, while the other group is totally isolated from its influence in all its forms and varying degrees. Each group would then have to be monitored—through the commission of violent crimes or not.” [1]

Obviously, a study that invasive and complex would be next to impossible to set up. But that doesn’t mean the facts don’t exist.

Concerning Stats

There is more than enough evidence, like findings from the FBI, that prove there is a link between pornography and sex crimes.

In fact, here’s a bunch of evidence about that connection:

– The Michigan State Police Department found that pornography is used or imitated in 41% of the sex crimes they have investigated. [3]

– The University of New Hampshire did a study that showed that the states with the highest readership of pornographic magazines like Playboy and Penthouse, also have the highest rape rates. [2]

– Dr. Victor Cline did research that showed how consumers who become addicted to pornographic materials begin to want more explicit or extreme material and end up desiring to act out what they’ve seen. [5]

– Now this one will make your skin crawl—Dr. James Dobson interviewed Ted Bundy, one of the nation’s most notorious serial killers, on the day before his execution. Bundy said that the “most damaging kinds of pornography are those that involve sexual violence . . . The wedding of those two forces, as I know only too well, brings about behavior that is just, just too terrible to describe.” [1]

– Two doctors noted in their research-­based book, Pornography and Sexual Aggression, that “certain [aggressive] forms of pornography can affect aggressive attitudes toward women and can desensitize an individual’s perception of rape. These attitudes and perceptions are, furthermore, directly related to actual aggressive behavior against women.” They also found adult porn was connected with each of the 1,400 child sexual molestation cases in Louisville, Kentucky, and child porn was connected with the majority of them. [21]

– Another review of controlled studies found that extensive consumption of the type of pornographic material commonly sold at adult bookstores was positively correlated with an increased self-­reported willingness to commit rape or other forced sexual acts. [28]

Related: Research Shows Softcore Porn Linked To Acceptance Of Rape Culture

– The Kingston Sexual Offenders Clinic in Canada found “an unexpected finding” when they conducted a study of their patients over a period of six years. “One of the rapists reported that he consumed consenting sex depictions to incite rape images in the process of preparing himself to attack a woman. Subsequent questioning revealed a further five rapists who made similar claims, and 10 of the 10 rapists who currently consumed (pornography) for enjoyment (not necessarily preparatory to offending) also said they consumed it to incite rape fantasies. [22]

– Dr. Dolf Zillman and Dr. Jennings Bryant showed that continued exposure to pornography had serious negative effects on beliefs about sexuality in general, and on attitudes toward women in particular. They also found that pornography desensitizes people to rape as a criminal offense, and that massive exposure to pornography encourages a desire for increasingly extreme materials that depict violence (such as sadomasochism and rape). [29]

– Individuals with a predisposition for aggression have shown to be particularly drawn to images of pornography, and are more likely to expose themselves to such images in the future than lower­ risk individuals. Moreover, a number of priming studies have shown that consumers with earlier risk characteristics may interpret sexually explicit material differently than lower­ risk individuals, such that pornography activates and reinforces inappropriate cognitive representations (e.g., hostility toward women) and fosters the development of sexual preoccupation in these consumers. [14]

Related: Is There A Connection Between Porn Culture And Rape Culture?

– A 2015 study, for instance, documented a strong correlation between increasing Internet availability in India and increasing rates of sexual offenses against children—especially the rape of minor girls. 

These studies are not outliers or anomalies. A recent review found a full 50 peer-reviewed studies directly link porn use to sexual violence. Specifically, the researchers concluded that an extensive review of the literature supports “the existence of reliable associations between frequent pornography use and sexually aggressive behaviors, particularly for violent pornography and/or for men at high risk for sexual aggression.” Far from reducing sexual violence, pornography use actually feeds a culture that views women as sexual objects and accepts rape; as shown by links to many porn consumers’ increased likelihood of using physical coercion to have sex and of engaging in sexual harassment and abusive behaviors.

Why This Matters

Again, we are not saying that everyone who consumes porn is going to turn into an attacker. That would be illogical and alarmist. We are saying that porn isn’t as harmless as the industry and society would have you think.

The facts are clear: pornography is harmful and research is proving it. No matter what people say to try and make pornography seem normal or harmless, there’s enough evidence out there that says it’s not that simple. With porn being so available, affordable, anonymous, and accessible, every consumer has a right to know the risks before clicking.

Learn the facts about the negative effects of porn—all of them, there’s way more than just the link between porn and sex crimes—and we believe you’ll think twice before looking for it.

Get Involved

Expose the link between porn and sex crimes. SHARE this article to spread the facts and start changing perceptions about pornography in society.

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Citations

[1] Anderson, K.J. (2003). “Pornography”. http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/porno.html
[2] Baron, L., & Straus, M. (1984). Sexual stratification, pornography, and rape in the United States. In N. M. Malamuth & E. Donnerstein (Eds.), Pornography, sexual aggression (pp. 185­209). New York: Academic Press.
[3] Campbell, M.C., & Campbell, J.M. (2005). The Engines of World War III. Retrieved January 2011
[4] Carter, D. L., Prentky, R. A., Knight, R. A., Vanderveer, P. L., Boucher, R. J. (1987). “Use of Pornography in the Criminal and Developmental Histories of Sexual Offenders”. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 2: 196–211.
[5] Cline, V. (2009). “Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children”. Retrieved January 2011 http://www.scribd.com/doc/20282510/Dr­Victor­Cline-Pornography­s­Effects­on­Adults­and­Children
[6] Davies, K.A. (2004). “Voluntary exposure to pornography and men’s attitudes toward feminism and rape”. Journal of Sex Research. Retrieved Jan, 2011. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2372/is_n2_v34/ai_19551963/
[7] Diamond, M. (1999). The effects of pornography: an international perspective. In J. Elias, V. Bullough, V. Elias, G. Brewer, J. Douglas & W. Jarvis (Eds.), Pornography 101: Eroticism, Sexuality and the First Amendment (223–260) Amherst: Prometheus Press.
[8] Diamond, M. (in preparation). Pornography and Sex Crimes in Poland
[9] Diamond, M., & Kotula, O. (in preparation). Pornography and Sex Crimes in Finland.
[10] Diamond, M., Jozifkova, E., Weiss, P. (2010). “Pornography and Sex Crimes in the Czech Republic. Received: 29 July 2009 / Revised: 30 August 2010 /Accepted: 30 August 2010 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010.
[11] Donnerstein, E., & Linz, D. (1986). Mass media sexual violence and male viewers: current theory and research. American Behavioral Scientist, 29, 601?618.
[12] Donnerstein, E., Linz, D., & Penrod, S. (1987). The question of Pornography: Research ?ndings and policy implications. New York: Free Press.
[130 Ferguson, C. J. and R. D. Hartley (2009). “14.” Aggression and Violent Behavior 14(5): 323­329.
[14] Kingston, D.A., Fedoroff, P., Firestone, P., Curry, S., Bradford, J.M. (2008). “Pornography Use and Sexual Aggression: The Impact of Frequency and Type of Pornography Use on Recidivism Among Sexual Offenders”. Aggressive Behavior, Vol. 34, p. 341–351.
[15] Kutchinsky, B. (1973). The effect of easy availability of pornography on the incidence of sex crimes: the Danish experience. Journal of Social Issues, 29, 163?181.
[16] Kutchinsky, B. (1983). Obscenity and pornography: behavioral aspects. In S. H. Kadish (Ed.), Encyclopedia of crime and justice, vol. 3. (pp. 1077?1086)New York: Free Press.
[17] Kutchinsky, B. (1991). Pornography and rape: theory and practice? Evidence from crime data in four countries where pornography is easily available. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 14, 47?64.
[18] Kutchinsky, B. (1992b). Pornography, sex crime and public policy. Paper presented at the Sex Industry and Public Policy, Canberra, Australia.
[19] Landripet, I., Stulhofer, A., & Diamond, M. (2006). “Assessing the influence of pornography on sexual violence: a cross ­cultural perspective”. Paper presented at the International Academy for Sex Research Amsterdam, The Netherlands (July 12–15).
[20] Malamuth NM. Donnerstein E (1982): The effects of aggressive-pornographic of mass media stimuli. In Berkowitz L (Ed): “Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Vol.15.” New York: Academic Press.
[21] Malamuth NM, Donnerstein E (Eds) (1984): “Pornography and Sexual Aggression.” New York: Academic Press.
[22] Marshall, W.L. (1988). “The Use of Sexually Explicit Materials by Rapists, Child Molesters and Nonoffenders,” Journal of Sex Research, 25, No. 2, pp. 267­288.
[23] Peters, R. (2004). “The Link between Pornography and Violent Sex Crimes”. Retrieved January 2011. http://www.obscenitycrimes.org/news/Pornography­SexCrimes­Link­RWP.pdf
[24] Silbert, M.H., Pines, A.M. (1984). “Pornography and sexual abuse of women”. Sex Roles 10: 857–68.
[25] Watson, B., Welch, S.R. (2000). “Just Harmless Fun? Understanding the Impact of Pornography,” Enough Is Enough, http://www.enough.org/objects/justharmlessfun.pdf
[26] Winick, C., & Evans, J. T. (1994). Is there a national standard with respect to attitudes toward sexually explicit media material? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 23(4), 405?419.
[27] Winick, C., & Evans, J. T. (1996). The relationship between non-enforcement of state pornography laws and rates of sex crime arrests. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 25(5), 439?453.
[28] Zillmann, D. (1986). “Effects of Prolonged Consumption of Pornography”, Included in the Report of the Surgeon General’s Workshop on Pornography and Public Health, United States Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General, August 4, 1986.
[29] Zillmann, D., Bryant, J. (1982). Pornography, sexual callousness, and the trivialization of rape. Journal of Communication, 32(4), 10­21.
[30] Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2010). Processes underlying the effects of adolescents’ use of sexually explicit internet material: The role of perceived realism. Communication Research, 37, 375­399. doi: 10.1177/0093650210362464

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