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15 Ways Porn is Connected to Real Sexual Violence

Not all porn features violence, but even non-violent porn is reportedly associated with negative effects like increased sexual aggression.

Is today’s porn mainly sensual but explicit sex, or is extreme content common?

While some studies have examined violence in porn by analyzing the content of porn videos, others have estimated the prevalence of violence in porn by asking porn consumers how frequently they see certain types of behaviors depicted in the porn they watch.

According to studies analyzing the content of popular porn videos, at least 1 in 3 and as many as 9 in 10 porn videos depict sexual violence or aggression.Fritz, N., Malic, V., Paul, B., & Zhou, Y. (2020). A descriptive analysis of the types, targets, and relative frequency of aggression in mainstream pornography. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 49(8), 3041-3053. doi:10.1007/s10508-020-01773-0Copy 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 

Related: How Common is Sexual Violence in Porn?

And while not all porn features physical violence, even non-violent porn has been shown to be associated with negative effects like increased 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 

Here are more stats about the prevalence of violence in porn, and the effect it has on consumers and our society.

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15 fast facts about porn and violence

1. Research suggests that frequent porn consumers are less likely to intervene during a sexual assault.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 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 

2. Nearly half of porn scenes (48.7%) contained verbal aggression, according to a study of popular porn videos.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 

3. Studies show that people who consume porn frequently are more likely to support sexual violence.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. https://doi.org/10.1037/vio0000198Copy 

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

4. Qualitative research reveals that young women often feel pressured to play out the “scripts” their male partners had learned from porn—they feel badgered into having sex in uncomfortable positions, faking sexual responses, and consenting to unpleasant or painful acts.Rothman, E. F., Kaczmarsky, C., Burke, N., Jansen, E., & Baughman, A. (2015). ‘Without Porn … I Wouldn’t Know Half the Things I Know Now’: A Qualitative Study of Pornography Use Among a Sample of Urban, Low-Income, Black and Hispanic Youth. Journal of sex research, 52(7), 736–746. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2014.960908Copy 

5. Research shows that women are almost always the targets of violence or aggression in porn—about 97% of the time.Fritz, N., Malic, V., Paul, B., & Zhou, Y. (2020). A descriptive analysis of the types, targets, and relative frequency of aggression in mainstream pornography. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 49(8), 3041-3053. doi:10.1007/s10508-020-01773-0Copy 

6. Reports show that those who sexually abuse children often show their victims porn to groom them or normalize sexual abuse.International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. (2017). Online grooming of children for sexual purposes: Model legislation & global review. ( No. 1). Retrieved from https://www.icmec.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Online-Grooming-of-Children_FINAL_9-18-17.pdfCopy Lanning, K. V. (2010). Child molesters: A behavioral analysis for professionals investigating the sexual exploitation of children. (No. 5). National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Retrieved from https://www.missingkids.org/content/dam/missingkids/pdfs/publications/nc70.pdf Copy 

7. Longitudinal, qualitative research has found that young people’s narratives surrounding anal sex often encourage coercion, pain, and other risky behaviors, and that they often attribute these narratives to pornography, as it can normalize sexual behaviors and attitudes.Marston, C., & Lewis, R. (2014). Anal heterosex among young people and implications for health promotion: a qualitative study in the UK. BMJ open, 4(8), e004996. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2014-004996Copy 

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8. Research shows that porn consumption is a significant predictor of sexual entitlement.Bouffard, L. A. (2010). Exploring the utility of entitlement in understanding sexual aggression. Journal of Criminal Justice, 38(5), 870-879. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2010.06.002Copy 

9. According to a UK survey of over 22,000 adult women, 16% reported having been forced or coerced to perform sex acts the other person had seen in porn.Taylor, J., & Shrive, J. (2021). ‘I thought it was just a part of life’: Understanding the scale of violence committed against women in the UK since birth. VictimFocus. Retrieved from https://irp.cdn-website.com/f9ec73a4/files/uploaded/Key-Facts-Document-VAWG-VictimFocus-2021a.pdfCopy 

10. Research suggests that frequent porn consumers are more likely to victim-blame survivors of sexual violence.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 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 

11. Studies show that frequent porn consumers are more likely to carry out sexual violence in real life.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 

Related: How Porn Portrays Violence As a Sexual Fantasy

12. A 2016 meta-analysis of 22 studies from seven countries found that internationally, the consumption of pornography was significantly associated with increases in sexual aggression, both verbally and physically among males and females alike.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 

13. Researchers have found that approximately 95% of the targets of violence or aggression in porn appeared either neutral to the abuse, or were depicted as responding with pleasure.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 

14. A 2018 study found that an estimated 1 in 3 young Australians reported being repeatedly exposed to violent depictions of sex in porn within the last year of their lives.Davis, A. C., Carrotte, E. R., Hellard, M. E., & Lim, M. S. C. (2018). What behaviors do young heterosexual Australians see in pornography? A cross-sectional study. 55(3), 310-319. doi:10.1080/00224499.2017.1417350Copy 

15. 44.6% of underage sex trafficking victims experienced childhood sexual abuse before entry into the commercial sex industry.Fedina, L., Williamson, C., & Perdue, T. (2019). Risk Factors for Domestic Child Sex Trafficking in the United States. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 34(13), 2653–2673. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260516662306Copy 

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The effect of violent porn on society

Of course, not all porn features physical violence, but again, it’s important to recognize that even non-violent porn has been shown to be associated with negative effects like increased 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 

And whether or not porn portrays sexual violence, it often glorifies other toxic narratives, including racism, sexism, incest, and the fetishization of marginalized people.

Porn plays a role in normalizing sexual violence, which can have devastating real-world consequences. Regular porn consumers might tell themselves that they aren’t personally affected by porn or the toxic messages it perpetuates, but research suggests otherwise. There is no guarantee that porn won’t affect a consumer’s attitudes about sex in unhealthy ways.

Related: How Porn Can Promote Sexual Violence

Now, we want to be very clear in saying that porn does not automatically turn consumers into rapists—porn consumers are not necessarily going to go out and sexually abuse someone just because they watched porn. What we are saying is that porn plays a role in normalizing sexual violence, which can have devastating real-world consequences.

Regular porn consumers might tell themselves that they aren’t personally affected by porn or the toxic messages it perpetuates, but research suggests otherwise. There is no guarantee that porn won’t affect a consumer’s attitudes about sex in unhealthy ways.

A significant portion of the porn consumed by millions of people every day reinforces the message that sexual violence is a normal part of what “good sex” is supposed to be, making it more challenging for many young people to prepare for healthy sexual relationships where their consent and boundaries are respected.

As our society continues to reckon with rape culture and the things that perpetuate it, it’s important that we start to recognize the role that porn plays in normalizing sexual violence.

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