Rape and Pornography

The scientific community has long wondered whether there is a connection between exposure to pornography and the incidence of rape in society. Pornography, by definition, is visual material that “displays sexual organs” with the purpose of “stimulating the viewer” erotically, rather than to present some form of artistic medium. (Merriam-Webster, 2018).  The term “rape” is defined by most jurisdictions as a sexual act which is perpetrated from someone onto a victim without any consent. This report utilized two sources to determine whether there may be a connection between exposure to pornography and any incidence of rape, as defined.

Potential Correlation between rape and pornography

            According to Garcia (2016), the question on whether there is a correlation between pornography and rape incidence has been formulated since the early 1970s, when the then-named Commission on Obscenity and Pornography failed to present a clear and concise correlation between the two.  Still the report did demonstrate that the attitudes toward women, and the sexual act itself, were definitely changed by prolonged exposure to pornography. Part of the reason was because people who are constantly exposed to something that produces shock value, such as pornography, no longer find it shocking, or even unattainable. (Garcia, 2016)

The main issue with exposure to pornography is that it desensitizes people from the graphic nature of what is presented. Rather than showing normal intercourse, pornography is meant to present an extra-detailed version of intercourse that touches upon fantasy, at times even morbidity, more than reality. In this version of sexual intercourse, people are engaged in sexual activity without inhibitions. As such, normative factors, such as protection from sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, are not considered. Other factors, such as knowing the partner before intercourse, or respecting sexual boundaries are also neglected. In fact, the negation of boundaries and the encouragement for engaging in unabashed sexual activity are the central goals of pornography, and the part of it that is meant to entice people to model the same behaviors.  The more people watch this activity, the less shocking it becomes. Moreover, watchers may even feel that other people feel that the pornographic material is acceptable and expected during intercourse.

Garcia’s rationale regarding the correlation between pornography and rape

Conclusively, Garcia’s (2016) opinion is that pornography does not directly influence the commission of rape. It does not statistically raise the incidence, and it has not made a significant difference in the amount of rape reports that have occurred throughout time, even though pornography is becoming more and more licentious and available thanks to the internet. Therefore, while pornography does not cause people to go and commit rape, it does have an effect in individuals, albeit different.  It indirectly makes the watcher of pornography assume that what takes place on film may also be expected to happen in real life. It normalizes the activity in the mind of the watcher, and it may create false expectations in those who may have never engaged in sexual activity before. This is the biggest nuisance when it comes to pornography, according to Garcia’s study.

Kutchinsky, 2014

In another study, this time by Kutchinsky (2014), from the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, the author cites a study by Morgan (1980), which was considered vanguard research on pornography. Kutchinsky states that this 1980 study was first propelled by feminists who took on the mainstream media of the time with the hypothesis that  “pornography is the theory and rape is the practice.” (Kutchinsy, 2014)  Just like Garcia, Kutchinsky also argues that there is no direct correlation between incidence in rapes and exposure to pornography.

Kutchinsky’s rationale regarding the correlation between pornography and rape

Kutchinsky’s own study and literature reviews support the findings that there is not enough evidence to link pornography to rape. He explains that rape is committed with the purpose of hurting, humiliating and punishing the victim. It is also an act of power, control and submission. Sex would be the weapon of choice for this type of punishment because of the vulnerability factor:  it renders the victims even more weakened and humiliated than with any other crime. However, the objective of pornography, which is sexual satisfaction and enacting fantasies, is rarely the primary reason to commit rape. Rape-like sexual activity such as sadomasochism, bondage, and other sex-related violence is often performed by people who seek others with the same tastes. They do it in order to indulge further in the act, rather than hide from the consequences of it. (Kutchinsky, 2014)

A different perspective: Peter and Valenburg, (2014)

Garcia and Kutchinsky agree that pornography and rape are not interconnected. However, Peter and Valenburg (2014) offer a reason why the correlation between these two variables, pornography and rape, continues to evade those who believe in the hypothesis that they are indeed related. The authors claim that the studies done under the premise that pornography causes rape have all looked for the wrong answer. According to Peter and Valenburg, what really should have been studied is the underlying processes that take place in the mind of a rapist, compared to the underlying mental processes that go on in the mind of someone who is really into pornographic material. If there is a correlation to be established, it is not whether pornography increases the statistics of rape. Instead, the connection that should be made is that of which specific personality types are more prone to commit sexual activity, based on what they are constantly watching on TV (Peter, Valenburg, 2014).

Another point for consideration is to create studies that reveal whether the younger generations, who have had much more exposure to pornography due to the advent of the World Wide Web, are also prone to want to rape people based on their pornographic habits, alone.  Unless a study is conducted on that specific matter, that question cannot be answered in all validity.

The big divide between pornography and rape

Back to Kutchinsky (2014), his analysis explains that a true rape is all about control, and not about the experimentation of sexual dynamics. The most rapes occur in jails, from inmate to inmate, to establish territorial control. Other rapes occur among pedophiles, in dysfunctional marriages, and in violent rape cultures. Rape is all about a predator taking hold of its prey. Pleasure comes from control and cruelty rather than from normal bodily functions. Moreover, during an act of rape, the predator is more concerned about ruining the state of mind of the victim, rather than sexual satisfaction.

Pornography, on the other hand, is about showing off sexual prowess and talent in bed. Those who watch porn excessively would agree that the goal is to attain the level of pleasure and mutual sexual satisfaction that is apparent in those films. The goal of pornography is to entice viewers to feel aroused and to continue to watch pornographic content. Additionally, average pornography adepts use this medium because they are too shy to go out and try these acts on their own. Pornography is a form of catharsis for them, not a dictum of their next escapade (Kutchinsy, 2014).

The combination of all these factors, which are realistically a part of the pornography culture, go amiss in the typical mind of a rapist. Again, rape is about brutality, control, punishment, and anger. The perpetrator’s goal is far from that of wanting to feel like a “porn star.” What is to be achieved is the submission of the victims, as well as their generalized humiliation.  All this said, pornography and rape are two completely different things whose only commonality is the sexual activity itself.

Conclusion

The dictum of “pornography is the theory- rape is the practice” is erroneous. The supposition that pornography in any way influences rape is not a valid notion because no study has been able to finalize a conclusion on that regard. In fact, most studies agree that these two variables never really explain pornography as a causative factor in any increase of rape incidence. The only thing that these failed hypotheses has agreed on is that pornography does desensitize people from the graphic nature of the sexual act. Also, that pornography may exaggerate the expectations that people have when engaging in sex. However, there is still a long divide between that and assuming that erotica and pornography are the roots that cause people to go after a victim and force themselves into them.

 

 

 

References

Gomez, P. (2013) Watching Pornography: Gender Differences Violence and Victimization: An

Exploratory Study. SAGE Journals.

Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21997464

 

Kutchinsky, B. (2014) The Effect of Easy Availability of Pornography on the Incidence of

Sex Crimes. Journal of Social Issues (29) 30, P. 161-181

Retrieved from https://spssi.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1540-4560.1973.tb00094.x

 

Peter, J & Valenburg, P.(2014). Adolescents’ Exposure to Sexually Explicit Internet Material,

Sexual Uncertainty, and Attitudes Toward Uncommitted Sexual Exploration: Is There a Link? Communication Research  (35) pp. 579-601.

Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/249683186_Adolescents%27_Exposure_to_Sexually_Explicit_Internet_Material_Sexual_Uncertainty_and_Attitudes_Toward_Uncommitted_Sexual_ExplorationIs_There_a_Link