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More Violence Would be an Improvement

March 9, 2012

Garth Zietsman says that the widespread availability and consumption of pornography probably reduces rates of sexual violence (H/T Marginal Revolution):

We can dismiss the feminist (and sociological) charges of porn increasing sexual violence and leading to sexism. The USA, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands and Japan were just some of the countries that suddenly went from no legal pornography to quite widespread availability and consumption of it. These studies all found that greater availability of, and exposure to, pornography does not increase the rate of sexual assaults on women, and probably decreases it. Japanese porn is quite frequently violent and yet even there rape decreased from an already very low base. It’s interesting that an increase in porn exposure decreases sexual violence only, and has no effect on other crime. Economists would put this down to a substitution effect.

I tend not to view such results in a positive light. Suppose this is right. And suppose similarly that rates of violence and crime decrease as a result of increased video-game playing. Is that a good thing? Probably not. Overall, I think it would be better if men didn’t play video games or watch porn, and instead left the house more, even if that meant getting into trouble a bit more often. Since women are always complaining about prolonged male adolescence, they’d probably agree.

Zietsman has some further results that confirm that way of thinking for me:

The sociological and religious charge that pornography undermines monogamy and family values does however receive support. From GSS (and controlling for IQ, education, income, age, race and ideology) I found that men who are pro legalizing porn are less likely to marry and are more pro cohabitation. There was no such association for women. A higher propensity to watch porn movies is also associated with a lesser likelihood of marrying but is unrelated to cohabitation attitudes—in both men and women. So a pro porn attitude is consistent with a reduced respect for marriage.

. . .

Being pro the legality of porn, and porn viewing, are associated with unhappiness with the family or marriage – especially for men. Those who are pro porn also tend to have a greater number of sexual partners and are more likely to have a sexual affair. This supports the 1984 and 1988 discoveries of Dolf Zillman and Jennings Bryant that the effects of repeated exposure to standard, non-violent, commonly available pornography includes: increased callousness toward women; distorted perceptions about sexuality; devaluation of the importance of monogamy; decreased satisfaction with partner’s sexual performance, affection, and appearance; doubts about the value of marriage; and decreased desire to have children. Later research studies further confirm their findings.

This is a case where there are simply trade-offs. I myself would strongly prefer to see porn disappear.

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On topics of this sort, people often adopt an “if it doesn’t hurt anybody it’s not wrong” attitude. This is morally obtuse, because it always ignores subtler sociological and psychological implications.

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On his front page, Zietsman declares that he has an IQ of 185. But his blog is called ‘FreakoStats,’ which is embarrasingly derivative, and doesn’t even work as a pun. Odd.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2012 7:01 pm

    Also, I’d be interested in the question of whether people aren’t harmed directly. I’m going to look into it more, but for example I found these quotes from Jenna Jameson (famous porn star):

    “Most girls get their first experience in gonzo films – in which they’re taken to a crappy studio apartment in Mission Hills and penetrated in every hole possible by some abusive asshole who thinks her name is Bitch. And these girls, some of whom have the potential to become major stars in the industry, go home afterward and pledge never to do it again because it was such a terrible experience.”

    “In a worst-case scenario, a gonzo director will take a girl to a hotel room and have their friends shoot a cheap scene in which she is humiliated in every orifice possible. She walks home with three thousand dollars, bowed legs, and a terrible impression of the industry. It’ll be her first and last movie, and she’ll regret it – to her dying day.” (Pg. 325)

    I’ve also heard, but haven’t found evidence of it yet, that women going into porn are also much more likely to have been sexually abused (Jenna Jameson, who I was just quoting, was apparently gang raped when young).

    Anyways, things kinds of things, if they have substance to them, would suggest there’s a lot of direct harm – in the sense of a very predatory and degrading experience.

  2. March 9, 2012 7:07 pm

    Another note: society doesn’t know what to think about porn yet it seems. Partly, I think, because people haven’t bothered to clarify just what the harm is.

    But the problem is much more widespread than porn – the problem, I mean, of sexually degrading institutions and beliefs. Just look at the issue of misogyny in the music industry that I blogged about. Also, look at some of the most popular tv shows, like 2 & 1/2 men – totally vile.

    • March 9, 2012 7:26 pm

      You have to think that porn is driving some of the broader changes though.

      People just a few years younger than us have grown up in a world where all of their male peers are surrounded by porn as they mature sexually. I remember one of my (very liberal) peers in grad school expressing surprise at how crass the undergrads were.


  1. Porn vs Marriage « Johann Happolati
  2. In Praise of Sexual Violence

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