November 2, 2006

Is the CW Wrong on Violence and Porn?

An article in Slate called “How the Web Prevents Rape” discussed what the data shows when you look at levels of rape in different parts of the country as their access to internet porn increased, and also the levels of violent crime when violent movies are released in theatres.

The bottom line on these experiments is, “More Net access, less rape.” A 10 percent increase in Net access yields about a 7.3 percent decrease in reported rapes. States that adopted the Internet quickly saw the biggest declines. And, according to Clemson professor Todd Kendall, the effects remain even after you control for all of the obvious confounding variables, such as alcohol consumption, police presence, poverty and unemployment rates, population density, and so forth.

I think this bucks the conventional wisdom. Researchers argue that previous experiments on the effects of pornography on whether a man was likely to have misogynistic way were limited by the environments of the lab.

The data is also interesting on violent crime, implying that people who are likely to be violent are probably off watching a movie instead of causing trouble, if a suitable movie is in the threatre. But the effect seems to last the night.

What do you think?

Posted by James at November 2, 2006 6:42 AM
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I'm trying to picture a murderer or rapist weighing his options for the evening. "Holy crap, Mortal Kombat IX is playing at the Cineplex? Awesome! In that case I'm afraid the ladies are just going to have to wait."

I don't know that there is a "conventional wisdom" on this issue. Or at least not a consensus. I know that some very vocal, well-funded people believe that porn, etc. increase misogyny and violence, but I think most people (who enjoy some of these entertainments) believe that they're a harmless outlet for improper urges. Unfortunately, there's not as much money, politically speaking, in an "anti-decency" position.

Posted by: Julie at November 2, 2006 9:44 AM

That's pretty cool. I'd love it if there was some follow up research on this. I'm not sure about the violence aspect, but the internet porn and rape thing I can see.

Posted by: leslie at November 2, 2006 11:03 AM

Interesting. Yah, I've never bought into the Meese Commission findings or any of that.

If access to internet porn somehow lowers the rate of rape, I think the differentiation is between crimes of oppportunity or crimes of calculation.

Some sicko that has latched onto someone and is stalking them is probably not dissuaded by the easy release 'net porn offers. Whereas an amoral person with poor impulse control, who commits offenses based on whim, may be less likely to offend, if they took care of those urges at home.

The same might be true for movies and other types of impulsive offenses. If a person is entertained, they're probably less likely to feel the need to offend. They already "got a rush".

Posted by: Chuck S. at November 2, 2006 2:28 PM

According to the article, if I'm not mistaken (James read excerpts aloud to me), crime returns to normal the day after the violent movie release. So is the urge satisfied, or just delayed, or is it inflamed/informed? I believe the "principle of social proof," or copycat behavior, is a factor here. Does the violent criminal/rapist (and please let's not forget that rape is a violent crime) come away from the movie/internet session with fresh ideas? There are certainly instances of copycat behavior that I can recall from the news and from nonfiction books I've read that chill me to the bone.

I personally don't believe that artists/movie companies should be contributing to our culture in this way. I think it's despicable.

I'd like to know if there's a society with less rape and violent crime, and why. It's interesting that we can keep our current sick individuals entertained, but I doubt we're doing them (or their future victims) any favors.

I realize that many people who read this probably enjoy violent movies and/or porn, but don't we all enjoy *good* movies? And do we really need the violence? If it weren't there, wouldn't our lives actually be better?

Is there a "desensitization" factor?

Can we, as a culture, get beyond cock fights and hangings (and Fox news) as entertainment?

Posted by: Maggie at November 3, 2006 7:00 AM

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