Thursday, August 24, 2006

A feminist in favor of porn? Is that possible?

When I finished writing my earlier piece on porn (Yes means yes), I looked at the statement "I am in favor of porn" and thought: "Gosh, that's an awfully strong statement -- maybe I should change it to 'I am not opposed to porn.'"

After all, take a look at the "Playboy attitude" that tells men that the good life is to be part of a boys' club that doesn't treat women as equals. Isn't it obvious that that's degrading to women?

But not all porn has the same theme and style. If you don't like the attitude of Playboy for example, it's not as if Hugh Hefner invented porn.

Yet, if some porn promotes a negative attitude towards women, why favor porn? Why not just be indifferent towards it?

Because looking at the evidence, I am absolutely convinced that porn decreases hostility towards women, increases acceptance of women's sexual autonomy, and makes ordinary women safer.

Here's a simple example that you have seen in your own lifetime.

Since the appearance of the Internet, there has been a massive increase in porn consumption in the US. There has been a phenomenal explosion not only in the amount of porn consumed but also in the proportion of the population that consumes porn regularly. Now where is the corresponding increase in the number of rapes? There is none. Indeed, rape has decreased significantly in the US over the same period. So even though this isn't proof that porn prevents rape, it certainly demonstrates that porn does not cause rape. It shows that increased availability of pornography doesn't lead to more danger for the average woman on the street.

I lifted that example from this article where the author showed that rape decreased the most -- by a wide margin -- in places with the most Internet access. And we all know what's on the Internet. (Note that the Feminist Law Profs have provided a critique of this argument.)

It's just a correlation, but this inverse correlation between porn and rape is strong enough that it's worth at least asking ourselves if maybe there's something to it. At the very least, it's compelling enough that -- if our real goal here is for women to be safer -- it warrants seriously re-analyzing the current feminist orthodoxy on the relationship between pornography and rape.

And really, I think it's perfectly reasonable to expect that porn consumption would decrease a man's inclination to commit rape for one big reason:

Positive erotic materials train males to make a strong distinction between wanted and unwanted sexual contact.

Traditional religious training teaches young men the following: that acting on their sexual impulses is bad in all circumstances (until marriage at some distant, indefinite point in the future). Indeed, even having such urges is a moral failing. No woman worth having wants to have sex -- those who consent are worthless trash.

The resulting sexual frustration can lead to feelings of shame, anger, and hostility, often directed at women in general as they are the focus of the thwarted desire. This mindset can lead to rape and other abuses.

(Note, I'm just talking about straight males here -- gay male sexuality is a completely different discussion.)

This model creates a climate where sexual release is always bad -- the woman's consent (or lack thereof) is irrelevant.

In theory, if males could be trained to completely suppress their sexual urges and feel aroused only on cue, that would solve the problem. However that is quite impossible. Aiming for that ideal creates a situation where occasionally the dam is going to break, and when it does, the stage is already set to interpret a lack of an explicit "no" as a "yes" and to see an explicit "no" as unimportant.

A constructive alternative is to provide a positive message about sex. Spread the word that sexual desires are not inherently bad or wrong. There exist harmless ways of enjoying your sexuality, in particular fantasy and masturbation, possibly in conjunction with published erotic materials.

Pornography (with masturbation) gives strong positive reinforcement for the idea that there exist women who consent to sexual expression and circumstances where sexual release is harmless and good.

And why be a monster when you're given the opportunity to be a lover instead?

33 comments:

Ann Bartow said...

Your thesis relies in part on the assumptions that more people are consuming more porn than ever before. Is there evidence of this?

Is it your position that porn and rape are not linked, or that porn actually decreases rape?

C.L. Hanson said...

Hi Ann, thanks for commenting!!!

My position is that it is very possible that porn actually decreases rape.

The evidence for increased porn consumption is the amount of porn traffic on the Internet and the revenue it generates. This is discussed in the article I linked to.

I don't claim to have done the statistical study myself nor do I claim to have a watertight proof that porn consumption decreases the propensity to rape. However, I do feel like the case is compelling enough that -- if the primary concern is making women safer -- we should open this question back up and discuss it seriously.

I'm interested in including those who disagree with me in this discussion.

I know this is an issue that elicits very, very strong feelings, but I'm confident that it's possible to keep the discussion civil and constructive.

Saint'n said...

I agree with your thesis, so long as your thesis is that positive sexuality, which includes masturbation and the use of porn, results in happier, healthier, sexual humans. Where I am stuck, however, is on your definition of the word "porn"?

This leads to a considerable problem in my thoughts about life (especially considering that I enjoy using porn in my sex life). The difficulty is that there are forms of pornography that do not lead to healthy attitudes toward women, or even towards sex. Deficating on a woman's face is not a healthy act, and its sole purpose is to demean. The women is not viewed as a happy participant in a sexual act, especially where she is pictured bound and gagged and covered in shit. Not a pretty image? I agree.

Does this and similar images lead to a decrease in a sadomasochists desire to actually rape a woman? Maybe, but at what cost? Foucault pointed out quite some time ago that shifting the locus of punishment from the human body (i.e. torture), to the human mind (i.e. imprisonment), was not evidence of enlightenment, but just a shift of cruelty. My point is that if demeaning porn does indeed lead to a decrease in actual rapes, has it achieved a positive outcome by shifting negative attitudes about women away from physical rape and towards attitudes about women as nothing more than living toilet bowls?

I don't know the answer to this, by the way. Maybe it is, I just don't know?

I would add that this creates a huge problem for advocates of freedom and porn (like myself), as it forces me to wrestle with the question of whether a line should be drawn somewhere, and if so, where. I ultimately take the position that no line should be drawn, as I see porn metaphorically. Ultimately, it is an artistic representation (there is not enough room here for me to express why I think garbage like defication porn is art), and, like all forms of expression, it can negativly influence certain people, but the exact same image can also have no effect or even a positive effect for another person. Limits on expression will not stop human actions that society deems improper. Rape existed before porn, and will exist after porn.

Anyway, great blog entry. With it, you have bitten into a quagmire of complexity and emotion -- but you wouldn't be Chanson if you did not!

Bored Dominatrix said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Holly said...

First of all, there are lots of sex- and porn-positive feminists. Nothing unusual about that.

Positive erotic materials train males to make a strong distinction between wanted and unwanted sexual contact.

There are two assumptions that really needs to be challenged: what makes you think that porn consists primarily of "positive erotic materials?" And what makes you think that many of the images found on the web "train males to make a strong distinction between wanted and unwanted sexual contact"--or to give a shit if they DO make that distinction?

And do you REALLY believe that in our culture at large, there exists "a climate where [male] sexual release is always bad"? I watch enough mainstream television that I have to challenge that assertion. Guys getting off is pretty much depicted as a positive thing.

I'd call myself a porn-neutral feminist, I guess. I'm not OPPOSED to porn--I don't think we need measures to prevent its existence; and I'm all for positive depictions of consensual activity between adults.

But I think it's very naive to ignore the fact--and I admit I think you are guilty of this, despite your acknowledgement that there's more to porn than Playboy (Playboy! for god's sake, which is about as tame as porn can be)--that porn depicts an extremely wide range of sexual situations. I know a guy who admitted to me that every single morning, he would find internet porn that depicted a woman either being raped, or at least forced into submission in some B&D scenario. I doubt this guy ever raped a woman, but he admitted to me that he felt ashamed that in order to have an orgasm while masturbating, he had to think of a woman in a sexual situation she didn't really want to be in.

Let me spell this out: in the porn this guy preferred, it wasn't just that the woman's lack of consent was irrelevant; it's that the woman's lack of consent was part of the turn-on in the first place. It was entirely relevant, and the availability of internet porn made it easy for him to find a new depiction every single morning.

I had a friend in grad school who'd taken a class on the politics of porn at another institution. When she arrived at our institution, someone had just finished teaching a class on porn the previous semester. Everyone who took it was very pro-porn and she asked them about what they'd studied. She finally told one guy, "You guys have NO CLUE what's really out there. Everyone who signed up for my class was very pro-porn at the beginning too, but within the first month of the semester, every single person in my course had stopped having sex entirely, because the images we saw were so horrendous and degrading. It absolutely killed our libidos, especially when we learned how large the audiences for this stuff were. Some people still haven't recovered their sex lives."

So I guess that's one way porn reduces rape--and everything else.

Could the decrease in rape you cite be linked to other things? Education of men about the consequences of rape? High profile cases like the Duke case that make potential rapists afraid of consequences? Education of women on how to avoid rape?

I'm pretty much a libertarian when it comes to things like sex between consenting adults, and if someone wants to be filmed being bound, gagged, blindfolded, shat upon and then fucked anally by half a dozen guys in leather masks (and yes, I know that's a pretty tame scenario, but I didn't want to completely gross everyone out), that's their business. If someone really loves the Story of O and finds it liberating, well, yippee for them.

But I admit I find your argument kind of, well, blithely optimistic, given the unexamined assumptions that underlie it.

p.s. Are you willing to tell us if you consume much porn, and if so, what kind? I had a friend who watched plenty of the tame stuff with her husband; she felt it improved their sex life. I had another friend who did that for a while and then quit because she didn't like how it made her and her husband reliant on external stimulation. I admit I was fascinated by mainstream cable porn when I first discovered it but found it got really boring really quickly--a weekend, and I was over it.

Holly said...

Oops--sorry for the deleted comment--blogger was having "technical difficulties" and I ended up posting the same thing twice.

Ann Bartow said...

I don't doubt that plenty of people access porn over the Internet, but
that doesn't necessarily mean that proportionately more people are using porn.

I also think that linking increased Internet access and decreased reports of "forcible" rape requires quite a bit more in the way of substantiation before a causal relationship is established.

There is some evidence that watching violent acts increases acts of violence among spectators. Assuming this is true (and I have concerns about these studies too, as I do with most social science research), why would rape be so diametrically different? Watching punching leads to increased hitting, but watching penetrative sex leads to less pursuit of penetrative sex?

Could it possibly be true that gentle porn and violent porn have the same efefct on a viewer? I'm willing to assume some porn depicts sex in a healthy way, but it is pretty clear that some porn glamorizes rape and violence, and links it to sex. I have a hard time believing that all porn, regardless of how the sex is portrayed, affects all viewers the same way. Yet one would have to accept that this is at least mostly true to accept that porn as the primary factor in the decrease in reported rapes.

There are other things I wonder about too. Areas with lots of Internet access are likely more affluent than areas without. Maybe people with Internet access are hiring prostitutes as an alternative to rape; while poorer people don't have this option? I have no idea if that is true or likely, but there are so many factors besides access to Internet porn that are likely to affect behavior. Has prostitution increased or decreased during the ascendancy of Internet porn? Don't you think that could be relevant?

Other types of crime also decreased along with rape from 1992 on, but surely you wouldn't link the decrease in murder over the same times period (see e.g. this: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/hmrt.htm#longterm ) to porn? Note also the decrease in violent crime generally over the same interval: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/glance/viort.htm
I submit that the decrease in robberies had nothing to do with porn either, but I'll bet there are fewer robberies in areas of higher Internet access - correlation is not causation.

C.L. Hanson said...

Hey Saint'n!!!

When talking about porn here, I mean sexually explicit materials intended to arouse. Depictions of harm or violence may be sexually explicit or may have nothing to do with sexuality. They are two separate categories and there is no particular reason to equate them.

If it can be shown that depictions of violence or sexual violence increase the propensity to commit rape and other crimes, that may be a reason to suppress such images, but it is a separate question.

Hey Holly!!!

I realize that Playboy is kind of a silly example here, but I don't think it's irrelevant. When people talk about the harms of porn, they mean the harms of the stuff like the rape porn you mention, but since they use this blanket term, the really tame stuff like Playboy ends up being implicated and suppressed by association.

Regarding the fact that male orgasm is glorified in the media: Yes, American culture has a strong sex-positive current in general. I think you'll agree that those people who are glorifying the male orgasm are the same people who are looking at porn.

Those people who most want to suppress porn do not glorify the male orgasm. This is true of religious fundamentalists within the US, as you know from your own experience.

When I talk about consent being irrelevant, I'm not talking about cases of guys who are specifically aroused by a rape fantasy. I'm talking about cases where males are taught that girls always say no on principle, hence in their minds consensual sex is rendered nearly impossible.

Regarding cases like the guy who gets off on rape: It's true that in this case, the porn does not express a positive attitude towards sexuality. Not all porn does, although I think a lot of it does. And even in his case, the fact that he's not actually raping people is not irrelevant. Also, one would have to examine his case more closely to determine the role of porn in his situation. Did it cause him to fixate on a rape fantasy? Or is it a safely valve for this dangerous fantasy? Or encouraging him to fixate on it to the point where he may one day actually commit rape? It's not clear...

C.L. Hanson said...

Hey Ann!!!

Very good objections.

I would tend to agree with you that porn increases one's desire to seek out sex.

At the same time, I think that -- Holly's example notwithstanding -- most pornography encourages men to see sex as something positive and fun and not something inherently dark and shameful, and hence encourages them to bend over backwards to try to get positive, consensual sex and to shun ugly, monstrous (non-consensual) sex.

You make a good point about the link with affluence. I don't know about the relation to prostitution, but affluent people have more access to education in general, and (as I said in a comment to my previous porn and feminism post) increased Internet use may decrease rape just because it increases people's education level overall for both men and women, which I assume should normally decrease sex crimes.

Like I said, I don't think correlation is proof of causality. I just think the correlation is strong enough that it warrants investigating whether there isn't something to it.

verbify said...

(Hi CL. I'm waiting for my boss to leave so I can get outta here, and I hopped over from Holly's site. 'Figured I'd join in the fray.)

What's troubling me most in this discussion is the unexamined assumption that rape is a consequence of sexual desire. Tying rape to pornography in the Seeing Women as Less Valuable Beings and Therefore Taking What I Want From Them sense seems a helluva lot more logical to me than the Porn Has Sated My Desire for Sexual Fulfillment and I Therefore Shall Rape No More sense. With or without porn, a guy can get himself so sexually excited that he wants sex whether his partner is consenting or not--but actually taking the sexual contact from a nonconsenting partner requires a belief that he has the right to take from the woman what she is not offering. In that sense, rape is an outgrowth of control and power rather than sexual desire. Thus, even if one satisfies the sexual desire through porn (or, as Ann suggested, prostitutes), the control and power issues remain, and may be triggered by any number of situations or emotions. You say, "if males could be trained to completely suppress their sexual urges and feel aroused only on cue, that would solve the problem." Would it really? As Robin Morgan discussed in her Guardian article earlier this week, rape is a weapon of war. Bodies, especially women's, are conquered. It seems to me that's what it's always been about.

Holly said...

ditto to what verbify said.

Holly said...

I think you'll agree that those people who are glorifying the male orgasm are the same people who are looking at porn.

No, I won't agree with that, in part because I have met sex-positive feminists who consume porn, and who do not glorify the male orgasm.

When people talk about the harms of porn, they mean the harms of the stuff like the rape porn you mention, but since they use this blanket term, the really tame stuff like Playboy ends up being implicated and suppressed by association.

SOME people mean that, but SOME people object to all eroticized depictions of the human body.

Those people who most want to suppress porn do not glorify the male orgasm. This is true of religious fundamentalists within the US, as you know from your own experience.

What? I would say that the people who most want to suppress porn ABSOLUTELY glorify the male orgasm! To such people, sexual activity isn't acceptable unless it leads to a male orgasm inside a vagina--and attempts to prevent conception are objectionable to such people as well!

Sex in Mormonism is ALL ABOUT the male orgasm! What do you think this passge is about

61 And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.
62 And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified.
63 But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.


besides the male orgasm?

p.s. You and I obviously have very different opinions on this position. You don't have to agree with me, but please, at least pay me the compliment of not telling me what it is that I "know from my own experience." That is a very Mormon move, and one I find profoundly insulting.

Ann Bartow said...

I've been think about this all day, sorry to keep commenting like this, I'll try to be briefer this time. But one thought that brought me up cold was this: Would an increase in the availablity of child porn lead to less pedophilia? I don't think so. There seems to be a lot of evidence to the contrary. Also even with Internet porn there are an awful lot of trip clubs and massage parlors and other sex related businesses around. So if porn does not decrease sexual interest in desire in other contexts, why would it lead to less rape? I'm still open to the possibility that porn doesn't lead to more rape, if the porn is nonviolent and depicts consensual sex, but *less* rape? Just doesn't make sense to me.

C.L. Hanson said...

Holly, Mormonism is about Joe Smith having an orgasm and Joe Schmo not touching his "little factory."

Glorifying reproduction is not the same thing as glorifying the male orgasm.

Hi Verbify, thanks for your input!!!

I can see how the frustration of sexual repression could lead to feelings of hostility and aggression, displaced towards women. I don't see any connection between an image of a nude woman or a film of two people having sex and perceiving women as less valuable beings.

I'd like to make a distinction here between images of sexuality and images of violence and coercion. Suppose we could suppress all images of violence and coercion and were left only with images of nudity and consensual sex. Do you think that these images alone would inspire men to see women as less valuable beings? Or are you arguing that such images necessarily lead to viewing violent images which affect men's perception of women?

Hi Ann!!!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think your argument is the following: Pornography depicts all sorts of sex acts, including violent and coercive ones, and the rape images logically inspire people to rape.

I would argue that the vast majority of sexually explicit images do not portray rape. I know I'll reap the whirlwind for saying that, but I've looked at mainstream porn -- men's magazines and the adult room of video rental places -- and the stuff that's readily available to ordinary people depicts non-violent sexual expression.

My argument is that non-violent sexual images are the ones that have a positive impact.

As far as violent images are concerned, I contend that fetish porn appeals to people who already have fetishes. I don't see any reason to believe that fetish porn inspires fetishes. Similarly with rape porn, the image is the expression of the fantasy, not the cause of it. I am not certain what are the effects of sexualized violence, however if the effects are negative, they appear to be outweighed by the positive effects of non-violent erotic images.

Ann Bartow said...

No, that is not what I meant, I didn't express myself well.

I'm not a social scientist, but neither are Glenn Reynolds or Tony D'Amato. It's not enough for any of us to say: "porn goes up, rape goes down, obviously this is/isn't related." First we need some numbers: Did the prportion of porn users in the population truly increase, and by how much? What kinds of porn? Did the number of consensual sex acts increase, decrease or stay the same during this interval? How about purchased sex?

There also needs to be some behavior explanations. Does porn lead to more masturbation but less consensual sex with others? Or to more of both kinds of sex? If it leads to a general increase in sexual desire, as some evidence indicates, particularly concerning pedophiles, why would it lead to *less* rape?

Finally, I really wonder what percentage of porn depicts sex in a way that is all realistic. Again, this is not an area I know a lot about, but just as televisions shows don't look much like real life, whether they are sitcoms, soap operas, or courtroom dramas, neither does most porn, I wouldn't think.

There is some evidence that violence on tv leads to increased violence by observers. This evidence is certainly not dispositive, but I don't think anyone seriously claims that watching violence leads to LESS violence by observers.

Other porn depicts fetishes, bestiality, group sex, etc. and watching these things may not increase the likelihood of rape, but again, it makes no sense that it would decrease it. Either watching porn effects rape or it doesn't. If it does, why would the effect always be negative?

C.L. Hanson said...

I don't think that pornography decreases overall sexual activity. I think it increases sexual desire, consensual sex, and especially masturbation.

However, I think it decreases non-consensual sex. It does this by encouraging people (male and female) to see sex as something ordinary and out-in-the-open that they feel comfortable talking about rather than seeing it as always a dirty, ugly, shameful taboo.

Regarding the specifics of the correlation, I saw an interesting article (with more details on which types of crime went up and which went down) about the correlation between porn and rape in Japan here.

I can't really vouch for this article since it's just something I found using google, but it looks like legitimate peer-reviewed research.

Ann Bartow said...

if you mean the D'Amato article, you c can download the whole thing here:
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=913013

The article from Japan is interesting, but read the last few sentences of this paragraph I copied from it:

Over the same period the incidence of sex assault had also decreased from a 1972 incidence of 3,139 cases to fewer than 3,000 cases for the years 1975 to 1990. In 1995, however, the incidence of reported sexual assaults rebounded to 3,644 cases. Since these figures represent actual cases rather than rates, it can be seen that even the proportion of sex assault cases did not increase. During these intervening years the population of Japan had increased more than 20 percent, from approximately 107 million in 1970 to more than 125 million persons in 1995 (Nihon no Tokei, 1996). Thus, the actual rate decreased slightly from .0292 to .0290 per thousand persons. It is also noteworthy that during this period, according to J.N.P.A. records, the rate of convictions for rape increased markedly from 85% in 1972 to more than 90% in the 1980s and more than 95% in the 1990s. This might be because, increasingly, in these latter years the rapist was less likely to be known to the victim; proving lack of consent became easier.

A dramtic increase in rape convictions could have dissauded rapists a lot more effectively than porn! Changes in the legal and social environment other than the availability of porn are given short shrift, which seems problematic to me.

Holly said...

Glorifying reproduction is not the same thing as glorifying the male orgasm.

Given that human cloning is only a possibility, not a reality at this point, and given that even in vitro fertilization still requires production and procurement of sperm, it seems safe to say that human reproduction requires male orgasm and ejaculation. Thus an equation of glorifying human reproduction with glorifying male orgasm seems safer and more logically sound than the simplistic generalization you initially made and resisted complicating: that porn is generally this choice-affirming, female-positive depiction of sex. That variety of porn certainly exists, but there are MANY, MANY others, and I defy you to produce evidence that choice-affirming porn is the dominant, preferred or most influential variety.

Rebecca said...

Okay, I'm WAY out of my league here, but this is pretty interesting, so I wanted to be the tag-along anyway.

I've always had a fascination with violent crime, and in the past year I've read a few books about it. One book was by a bigshot FBI profiler who worked a lot of rape an murder cases. According to his research and experience (which included working alongside psychologists to profile rapists), male rapists fall into four categories:

"power-reassurance rapist" (driven by feelings of inadequacy)

"exploitive" rapist (impulsive driven and overtly macho)

"anger" rapist (who uses sex to displace his rage)

"sadistic" rapist, who gets aroused from sexual sadism.

(I got this from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapists - and I think the book I read it in is called "Mindhunter" - there are more detailed explantions of each type in the book)

As Verbify suggests, rape is, in criminology and psychology circles, generally thought of as a crime of power and control, not of sex. Your reply to that states, "I can see how the frustration of sexual repression could lead to feelings of hostility and aggression, displaced towards women."

However, I've never read anything that states sexual repression leads rape because it leads to aggression and the need to control. I'm not saying it's not true, or that it's not possible, just that everything I've read seems to suggest (in my interpretation) that it's sort of the other way around: rather than sexual repression leading to the need to control through rape, it's about the need to control that manifests itself through a violent sexual act.

I suppose it's entirely possible that one feeds off the other in a sort of circular cycle, but again, I've never read that.

I have NO IDEA how porn affects rape, and I'm not willing to take a stand one way or the other, but I do think the psychology behind rape is relevant. If it really is entirely about control and not about sexual desire, then I'm not sure porn COULD cause an increase or a decrease in the incidence of rape.

The Sinister Porpoise said...

I'm going ot have to disagree, human cloning, like stem cell research, is a reality, but people are exaggerating the moral issues around it.

It's simply illegal in the U.S. There's a difference.

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

Good discussion here cl...

I have found that porn (which does not include violence or other types of fetishes including child stuff) can be a great addition to a happy couple. ;-)

C.L. Hanson said...

Ann:

There are many factors at work here. Human sexuality is a complex thing! That doesn't mean there's no reason to examine this correlation.

Holly:

My point is that Mormonism makes men feel ashamed of their sexual desires instead of affirming them.

Rebecca:

It is my impression that sexual frustration can lead to aggression. I didn't realize this was a controversial idea, but perhaps it is.

Sinister Porpoise:

Okay, I'm dense, but I don't understand your comment.

Cynthia:

Thanks for pointing out that it's possible for erotica to be positive and affirming. :D

The Sinister Porpoise said...

Unless they put something in the Ranch sauce of that snack wrap I had the other day, I thought someone said something about cloning.

I was just pointing out that human cloning is something we currently have the technology to do, but do not dobecause of moral issues surrounding it. That and there is a law passed in the U.S. that made it illegal.

I think the moral issues surrounding it, like those surrounding stem cell research have been exaggerated and are not well understood.

I really couldn't comment on the porn thing, other than I'm sure anyone with an Internet connection has at least seen it. I'm sure the vast majority of the people who search it out are male, but I have no data on that either.

Ann Bartow said...

C.l. Hanson said:
There are many factors at work here. Human sexuality is a complex thing! That doesn't mean there's no reason to examine this correlation.

I don't think you can fairly read any of my comments as suggesting there is "no reason to examine this correlation." Quite the contrary, I thought I was clear that I think a lot more examination is warranted. It's the quick jumping to conclusions that I see as the problem.

Just one of many said...

I am 33 and just discovered porn. I think porn enters the arena of moral relativism. ANYTHING can be wrong, harmful, etc. I personally find sex/masterbation to have multiple benefits. When I was a member of the LDS church I railed against their stance on masterbation, which they claimed led to higher incidences in premarital sex. I told others that if you are to receive pleasure from your spouse...you should be able to tell him/her what pleases you. Self exploration is necessary in order to feel sexual assertive.
My feeling on porn are as follows:
No one forces them to participate in porn, No one forces you to watch, yes, it can be addictive (so can gum chewing). In order to be a true feminist, you have to allow women the ability to choose whether to participate in porn or not. Both in the acting or the watching of porn.
A true feminist realizes that we take responsibility for our own actions. Our body, our independece, our equality...the 1980's seem so far away!! The sad thing is that women tend to continue reinforcing the double standards of porn/sex...most men I know love, encourage, and respect the independent nature of women. We are our own worst enemy!

C.L. Hanson said...

Hey Sinister Porpoise!!!

Thanks for clarifying. I guess I had missed that part of the discussion.

Hey Ann!!!

I mean this to be a proposed theory to explain the data, not a foregone conclusion. Thanks for your perspective and participation in this discussion.

Hey Joom!!!

You're a feminist after my own heart!!! :D

Personally I agree that feminists shouldn't be limiting other women's sexual choices.

I know some feminists will tell you that you're wrong, and that all of the women in the porn industry are forced into it. But there are articulate female activists in the porn industry who will tell you otherwise. I'm re-reading my Susie Bright (a.k.a. Susie Sexpert) books right now. :D

And those who want out of the porn industry should be helped out, and those that don't should have their sexual choices respected.

Anonymous said...

I'm a forensic psychologist in Britain.If you have a sadistic or psychopathically sadistic personality which has formed over many childhood years through biology and cognitive association,
then porn has the propensity to encourage oneto physically engage in rape. This would be the most serious type ofrape, the anger-excitation mode. For the other types ofrape an innocent viewing of internet porn whilst drinking, thena fight with your mom ,dad or girlfriend
could result in rapeand these are merely used as trite exmaples. a sexual fetish is formed either by childhood abuse involving some exposure to the object of the fetish, abnormal brian development. escalation from a simple fetihs to a more complex sexually explicit fetish or through cogntive imprinting ie. a young boy sees his mothers panties, whilst wanking in the toilet and an unconscious association is formed.

Anonymous said...

Also I seem to be a garbage typer. It's my first time blogging

C.L. Hanson said...

Hi anonymous!!!

Thanks for your input -- this is an important point of discussion.

The thing is that in the cases you cite, exposure to pornography is not the root cause of the problem but rather part of a complex family of triggers.

If porn exposure were shown to increase propensity to rape across the board -- or even in a majority of cases -- I would be in favor of appropriate restrictions. But the evidence simply doesn't bear it out.

If we're talking about pathological individuals with personality disorders and other problems, as your examples illustrate a lot of random things can be factors triggering them to lash out. But there's no evidence to show that porn is more of a trigger than anything else, i.e. no evidence that porn turns otherwise harmless individuals into rapists.

The human brain is a complex thing. There is no shortage of cases one can point to where a person with various problems turns to religion, takes it to a fanatical degree, and commits horrible crimes (thinking that he's doing God's will but exacting punishment on sinners or something). Yet overall, the effect of religion on the human brain appears harmless or positive.

I'm not giving this example to be facetious or as a rhetorical game -- apparently there are some books on the best-seller list right now presenting serious arguments that religion is dangerous.

However, since increassed availibility of erotic materials in a community or culture has not been shown to increase sexual assault (indeed the opposite), I conclude that the overall effect of porn is positive. If and when the evidence changes, I'll re-evaluate my position.

byrdeye said...

It's certainly an interesting theory.

Men are the constant water pressure, but women control sex at the tap.

And porn serves as a safety release valve for that pressure - that otherwise might bust through a few closed taps.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Byrdye!!!

Yeah, essentially. Not just porn though: I mean a healthy, positive attitude to sexuality overall, instead of avoiding sexual release at all costs out of a sense of shame or sin.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
C. L. Hanson said...

Dear Anonymous,

I'm sorry, but I had to delete your comment as spam. Relevant links (combined with relevant comments!) are fine, but I can't have people just posting long lists of links like that, otherwise the constructive discussion gets swamped.