Saturday, 6 August 2011

P0rn, sexual violence and The Scientific American

(hides behind hands as traffic sources prob will contain unpleasant search terms...)

links and sources at end of post

Porn, and the links to violence against women and girls

Research reported last week in The Scientific American claimed that using porn can actually reduce levels of violence against women and girls. The article explains that the research has found ‘associations’ between porn and sexual violence, arguing that in states where there is low internet access (something which, they suggest, makes it harder to access online porn) there was “a 53 percent increase in rape incidence, whereas the states with the most [internet] access experienced a 27 percent drop in the number of reported rapes, according to a paper published in 2006 by Anthony D’Amato, a law professor at Northwestern University.”

The piece is clear to point out that these are ‘associations’ and there is nothing to prove that access to the web is actually linked to a decrease in sexual assault levels. However, the article cites a number of views that argue that pornography allows men* to act out their “deviant” sexual fantasies in their own space, thereby making it less likely that they will go out and rape.

The article says:

‘the trends [cited above re internet access] “just don’t fit with the theory that rape and sexual assault are in part influenced by pornography,” Ferguson explains. “At this point I think we can say the evidence just isn’t there, and it is time to retire this belief.”’

Unsurprisingly, I don’t think it is as simple as that.

First of all, this article doesn’t cite or explain ANY of the research and evidence that has found associative links between exposure to pornography and sexist imagery, and an increased tolerance for sexism and sexual violence. The American Psychological Association conducted vigorous research in this area and found:

• Gender inequality is reinforced when women are valued for their supposed sex appeal at the expense of their other attributes and qualities.
• After being exposed to images that sexually objectify women, men are significantly more accepting of sexual harassment, interpersonal violence, rape myths, and sex role stereotypes.

This research is backed up by the work of a number of feminist academics, including Gail Dines, who, in a recent interview with Julie Bindel said ‘"We are now bringing up a generation of boys on cruel, violent porn, and given what we know about how images affect people, this is going to have a profound influence on their sexuality, behaviour and attitudes towards women."’ She believes that pornography can have a driving effect on men to commit acts of violence against women. She is clear that this does NOT mean (as her critics sometimes suggest) that all men who look at porn will go on to rape, but instead suggests that “‘porn gives permission to its consumers to treat women as they are treated in porn."’. With so much free, online pornography that portrays acts of degradation and violence against women, she therefore does see a link between violence against women and girls, and exposure to porn. Her research has also looked at men who have raped and abused children, all of whom had watched child pornography in the search for something more ‘extreme’ than the porn they were used to. She explains that ‘“What they said to me was they got bored with 'regular' porn and wanted something fresh. They were horrified at the idea of sex with a prepubescent child initially but within six months they had all raped a child."’

Dines is not alone. I recently spoke at a conference with Dr. Nicola Gavey of the University of Auckland, who has spent much of her academic career looking at violence against women and girls. She is now conducting research into the effect mainstream internet pornography has on levels and acceptance of violence against women and girls. In their books, ‘Living Dolls’ and ‘The Equality Illusion’, Natasha Walter and Kat Banyard cite both academic research and women’s personal stories to explore associations between porn and violence.

There are two more points I would like to make about the initial report. It seems to me that this research completely ignores the violence committed against women (and men) who work in the sex industry. It ignores the fact that women are being raped within the industry (on camera and off). One example of this is Linda Lovelace, the star of Deep Throat. During production she was virtually imprisoned and repeatedly raped both on film and when the cameras stopped rolling. Outside of porn, women who have been prostituted are raped daily. So the suggestion that porn prevents rape completely silences and devalues the voices of those within the industry who are victims and survivors of violence – those who may be raped themselves to supposedly “prevent” the rape of others. I find this very revealing in terms of how women and men who work in the sex industry are seen by some of those studying/running it.

My final point is that this report is fundamentally making a sexist statement against men. It suggests that if it wasn’t for the ‘release’ that porn offers men to ‘act out’ these “deviant” fantasies, then men wouldn’t be able to help themselves. The age-old criticism that anti-porn feminists believe all men to be rapists is actually being suggested by those who seem to criticise the anti-porn feminist position! The idea that men can’t help themselves, that they need to ‘release’ their pent up sexual desire to prevent them going out and raping someone is an idea often mooted by sex industry advocates. And yet we know on every level that this is a nonsensical suggestion. It also, once more, completely ignores the fact that women who work in the sex industry are raped too. Douglas Fox, of the International Union of Sex Workers, says his industry provides a “much-needed” service that should be available on the NHS. But surely, rather than making the argument that some women should be treated as objects to be used (and often abused) to prevent some men from raping, we should in fact be arguing that rapists shouldn’t rape.

As a feminist, I believe that rape can and will be prevented by education about consent and respect, better justice for victims and an end to rape culture. Pornography that more often than not portrays women as objects to be hurt and degraded; that portrays women as objects of violence; and that encourages men and boys to associate sexual pleasure with violence and degradation is not a solution to sexual violence.

*I am referring to men in this article as men are overwhelmingly the consumers of pornography. TOPTenReviews.com reported that in 2006, 96% of those using search terms including the word ‘porn’ were men; these are the most recent stats I could find


Sources:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-sunny-side-of-smut
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/jul/02/gail-dines-pornography
TopTenReviews.com page, page 152 The Equality Illusion (1st edition)
Douglas Fox quote ‘We don’t sell sex for a living’, Northern Echo, 7 August 2006
Linda Lovelace – Gloria Steinem essay in ‘Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions’

6 comments:

rmott62 said...

This is nonsense - but then it is like most "science" about porn, it decides the answer before exploring the question.

It does not include any violence done to those inside porn, mostly women and girls - for it not viewed as "real" violence, for they not viewed as humans, so they do not count.
So then it ok for them to be raped and sexually tortured, coz in the stupid theories it prevent sexual violence to "real" women.

But of course, there is much evidence that is not true. It is spoken by women in domestic violence, it is spoken about with date rape, it is spoken about with child sexual abuse - that much of the sexual violence is copying or influenced by porn. But as the words as spoken by women and girls - it is dismissed, and made invisible.

Whilst women inside porn are treated as consumable and disposable - they are in the line o violence - but that is written out of history.

Innocent Dave said...

The conclusions of the research are completely unsubstantiated by the research itself. For the statement "Sexual violence decreases when internet access increases" to lead to "Sexual violence decreases when porn increases", you need to assume that "The internet contains only porn" that "Porn can only be found on the internet", and that "Internet access and sexual violence are not both effects of an external cause".

The statistics are interesting and merit further study; the conclusions drawn are short-sighted, wildly hypothetical, and frankly insulting to a lot of people.

Great article, btw :)

sian and crooked rib said...

Thank you! And yes, I agree!

Ginger Tabard said...

(couldn't find an email address for you but hopefully this will work as well)

Dear Sian,

I'm the 'nwd' who commented on your Liberal Conspiracy article in a quite mean-spirited way. I would like to apologise for doing that - reading back what I read prompted that horrible realisation that I was being 'that' person.

It may sound stupid (it is pretty stupid), but I had committed the sin of forgetting that authors read and are affected by the comments on their posts.

My frustration was with the editors, and it was to them that I was targeting my weak attempts at satire (it always seems that little bit funnier in the moment of righteous indignation) rather than to you as the author.

There was a serious point to my comment but this was not best expressed in the manner I chose, especially since that manner involved rudeness towards you.

Apologies again for being a dick,

Niall

sian and crooked rib said...

Hi niall

Thank you for your apology, I appreciate (and, of course, accept) it.

I appreciate you taking the time to get in touch.

Thanks and all the best,
Sian

JENNIFER DREW said...

But, but but porn is not real filmed male sexual violence because the porn industry and its avid porn apologists constantly claim porn is 'fantasy' not filmed acts of sadistic male sexual violence predominantly committed against women, girls and increasingly female babies.

However, if we believe porn has to exist because men are incapable of controlling/choose not to commit sadistic sexual violence against women since men are supposedly ruled by their biological sexual impulses then men as a group present a danger to all women and girls. The obvious answer if we believe men are not rational; objective male humans but ruled by their penises is for men to kept isolated 24/7 from all females. But this will never happen because men demand that women and girls be made sexually available for them 24/7 and at the same time excuse/minimalise/deny their accountability in not challenging this misogynistic belief that women and girls are men's disposable sexual service stations.
But men want it both ways - to have 24/7 sexual access to women and girls; view filmed acts of male sexual violence against women and continue to claim 'but porn does not reinforce men's hatred and men's contempt for women because no human (sic) is harmed when porn is made.'

Pro-porn apologists commonly claim radical feminists are essentalist but reality as shown by yet another piece of pseudo research is the porn industry and pro-porn apologists are the essentalists whereby they all claim men are 'slaves' to their biological sexual feelings.

Men who believe porn is their right commonly claim it is radical feminists who claim 'all men are rapists' whereas in fact it is the porn industry and pseudo research such as this latest one which makes such claims.

Not all men need to commit sexual violence against women in order to maintain male domination over women - as feminist research has demonstrated. It is very easy to dehumanise the majority of the human race - aka females and one very successful method is malestream porn which is now widespread and increasingly accepted as 'fantasy.'

Radical feminists have always stated and evidence proves that men are not ruled by their sexual organs but rather it is our male supremacist system which continues to proclaim the myth men alone are the default human whereas women and girls are not human.

However holding men accountable for promoting/condoning male sexual violence against women continues to be viewed as 'male-hating' whereas porn and its brother the prostitution industry is not seen as deliberate male dehumanisation of women and girls because women and girls are not human and hence do not suffer pain or harm by being entrapped into the porn industry or being forced by male partners/boyfriends to submit to sadistic male sexual violence because the male 'considers her to be a disposable masturbatory aid to his sexual pleasure and release.

That is the meaning of living in a male supremacist system - one wherein men's views and ideas are the supposed default truth with women and girls perceived as men's disposable sexual service stations.

This link demonstrates how male supremacist society views women and yes these images are malestream and not kept hidden out of sight.

http://www.oneangrygirl.net/human.html