Because I'm such a dedicated blogger, I spent a good part of my Saturday googling things like "pornography rape correlate" so that I could write you all a blog entry about porn as promised.
Does porn cause rape?
This is a fundamental question to ask when deciding whether porn is good or bad.
My impression from reading the various articles I found is that there is a lot of very solid evidence that if any correlation between availability of porn and incidence of rape exists at all, it is a negative one (i.e. more porn = less rape).
Rather than give you a bunch of links and my reactions, I encourage you to consult your favorite search engine and see for yourself. You'll see plenty of articles arguing both sides (some saying pornography causes rape, some saying pornography prevents rape), and it's instructive to look at them side-by-side and compare them.
In the interest of full disclosure, I'll tell you my bias: I am a feminist, and I am in favor of porn. (Consenting adults only, and in an appropriate time and place.)
I am in favor of porn because I am a feminist. My right to my own body and to my sexuality is a huge part of feminism for me. It's not the only facet of my feminism, but the idea that I can feel good about myself as a woman and as a sexual person at the same time is one of the aspects of feminism that I feel most passionate about.
Because of the feminist claim that pornography causes rape, the correlation between these two items in particular gets a lot of attention (as opposed to a lot of other stray statistical differences one could explore between a more open society and a more repressive society).
It's not certain, but maybe there is a cause-and-effect relationship. The theory seems to be that the frustrated guy who might otherwise be out making trouble for all of the many women who don't want to have sex with him is instead sitting at home at his computer masturbating after having looked at a few nudie pics and having IM cybersex with an old granny far away who gets off on pretending to be a dirty-talking twenty-year-old online...
However, I think it's likely that the availibility of porn and the prevalence of rape are also both tied to something else, namely how permissive a culture is towards consensual sex. A huge factor a lot of porn/rape correlation articles neglected to mention is the ability to give meaningful consent and refusal.
I agree with most feminists that getting out the message that "No means no" is of vital importance for preventing sexual assault. And that's is why it's critical that both options exist -- yes as well as no -- in a meaningful way.
In a repressive society, some women want sex. Yet no women are allowed to want sex. So you get a situation where the women who really mean no say no and the women who don't mean no also say no.
See the problem here?
In a society where sexual expression is less stigmatized, men know that the women who want to have sex with them will feel perfectly comfortable and confident saying so. So when a guy meets up with a woman who says to him "No, I don't want to have sex with you," there is no confusion about it. The guy is less likely to doubt or try to second-guess her.
That's why it's so important to allow women to feel like it's okay for them to consent to sexual expression -- including producing and consuming erotic materials -- if that's what they actually want.
Do you really want no to mean no? Then don't force a yes to be a no.