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Pornography Leads to Rape Essay

There is an argument to be made when questioning exposure to pornography and the likelihood this exposure causes an individual to commit rape. The answer is not as simple as yes and no. Diana Russell and Anthony D’Amato offer two very different opinions on the matter of pornography leading to rape. Russell’s main argument centers on the violence in pornography, while D’Amato discusses the decreased occurrences of rape due to the accessibility of pornography on the internet. Though both articles provide evidence to substantiate their claims, Russell and D’Amato present a very black and white argument with their own biases included; whereas, my opinion derives from the history of pornography and rape I know, from these articles, and from my own experiences. Perhaps my opinion can be considered the gray area of this controversial topic because it centers on a person’s propensity to rape. Russell’s Argument:

The article Diana E.H. Russell was written in 1998. It begins with the notion that pornography itself is rape. Therefore, porn cannot just have a correlation with rape, porn is actually the cause of it. Russell claimed that people only pay attention to the victims of rape and not the actors and actresses of a pornographic movie. One of her sources she used in her article is testimony from the Commission hearings in Los Angeles. They provide for some compelling evidence that pornography itself can be violent. Directors and producers would make girls do things that they would not want to. Most of Russell’s argument centers on pornography which depicts questionable sexual consent, with very little mention of nonviolent pornography.

Russell mentions the male propensity to rape by viewing pornography. Her source to prove her claim was from a study done in 1980, in which 25%-30% of male college student admitted that they would rape a woman if they would not be caught. The study included college students from the United States and Canada. In another study mentioned, which was conducted by Jacqueline Goodchilds and Gail Zellmann, male and female high school students were asked when it was acceptable for a person to commit rape. The students were given certain circumstances to choose from and asked to rank these situations based on the justification. Seventy-nine percent came back with at least one of the nice situations, claiming force would be justifiable at certain times. The result of this study found that “both male and female adolescents see rape of females by males as an ‘ever-present and sometimes acceptable possibility’ in women’s lives.”

When making the argument that pornography causes rape, Russell uses the tobacco industry as an example. The tobacco companies say that not all smokers will develop cancer yet some nonsmokers will. Therefore, saying smoking causes cancer is incorrect. We should view it as a correlation not as a causal relationship that some smokers die of cancer. Russell argues that there is a similar though process among people who argue that pornography does not cause rape. She lists two definition for the word cause- simple causation and multiple causation. This is where her article is a bit confusing. Simple causation seems to mean that there is only one reason for why a certain event ended the way it did. Russell says that rape and pornography cannot be placed in this category of causation. However, it would fall under multiple causation, which means there are a variety of possible causes for a certain event.

There is a section that specifically educates on the role of pornography in predisposing some males to rape. This section is divided up into four parts, the first being that pornography predisposes by pairing of sexually arousing stimuli with portrayals of rape. Meaning that males can learn how to rape a woman. And this does not just include rape, it includes all types of violence against women. Russell makes mentions of a researcher, S. Rachman of the Institute of Psychiatry, Maudsley Hospital, London, who performed an experiment with a woman’s boot. His subjects were not aroused by boots but repeated exposure proved that men can learn to become aroused. The same then can be said of depictions of rape in pornography- it can be a learned arousal. The next part talked about how pornography predisposes by generating rape fantasies.

Russell used a source, Neil Malamuth, who performed a study using twenty-nine male student. Based on their responses to the questionnaire, Malamuth categorized the students as sexually force-oriented or non-force-oriented. They were assigned to listen to audio of a rape or an audio of consensual sex. The outcome of this study illustrated that those who were exposed to the rape audio had a higher arousal rate: Self-reported sexual arousal during the fantasy period indicated that those students who had been exposed to the rape version of the first slide-audio presentation created more violent sexual fantasies than those exposed to the mutually consenting version…

The end result of this study proved to some extent that males who had no interest in violent pornography would become aroused by such when exposed. The other two sections mention were that porn predisposes by sexualizing dominance and submission and predisposes by creating an appetite for increasingly stronger material. Russell discusses some nonviolent pornography in these sections, claiming that nonviolent porn promotes a dominant and submissive relationship between a man and a woman. Furthermore, she mentions that males exposed to porn always want more- they graduate themselves from nonviolent to violent pornography. With the data she presented in her argument, Russell concludes that pornography is problematic and if illegalized would lower the rate of violence against women. D’Amato Argument:

Anthony D’Amato’s article was written in 2006 and its purpose was to show how the rise of pornography has decreased the number of rapes. His primary source were statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice dating back to 2004. He makes the claim that there had been an 85% decrease in sexual violence over a period of 25 years. He further explained that the reason the rates were so low was due to the accessibility of porn on the internet. Charts showing the rape statistics for states that had the lowest internet access had higher incidences of rape than those with the highest internet access did with the exception of Alaska. D’Amato made these charts with information he researched from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Aside from the statistical data, D’Amato also argues that correlation and causation are two different things. He arrives at this conclusion based on his time as a consultant to President Nixon’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. The commission found that pornography material did not cause rape or other sexual assault. This changed when President Reagan had his own commission reevaluate pornography and crime. Through picking the people with the same ideas, Reagan’s commission found some sort of causal relationship between pornography and sex crimes. D’Amato assures his readers that this was brought on by political motivation rather that factual data.

D’Amato concludes his article by stating possible causes for the declination of rape. He thinks that people watching porn become somewhat immune to it, more specifically ‘get it out of their system.’ He defends his opinion by offering that people find themselves not wanting to try whatever sexual act they witness and were attracted to. Seeing it over and over makes it seem unimportant in the end. Moreover, D’Amato made mention of a concept called the “Victorian Effect,” which was the idea that throughout history the more the women were clothed the more men wanted to know what was hiding beneath it. That being said, the rise of the internet and the availability of porn have “de-mystified” sex in today’s society. We no longer have to play the guessing game of what is underneath a bunch of clothes, we can just go to google images and type in the word “naked” to see a woman or man in the nude. My Argument:

Do I believe that exposure to pornography leads to rape or even increases the rates of rape? The answer is possibly. There is no denying that some of the research Russell uses to defend her argument is factual. Indeed, there is a correlation between violent pornography and rape. But the keyword is violent. Most of the pornography Russell mentions in her article is of a violent nature. Matter of fact, as I did research on this topic, most of the studies I came across rarely mention nonviolent pornography. Therefore, I would suggest that there are multiple types of pornography based on what I have observed in this genre. There is the nonviolent type which demonstrates consensual sex.

There is that porn that caters to the world of BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism). Some of this pornography is often times perceived as more violent and hateful towards women. Often times this is due to society’s inability to accept (an example
of this would be the inability to legalize gay marriage because society thinks their right by saying only a man and a woman should be allowed to get married). Then there is the pornography specific to rape and torture. I know this because I have viewed many different forms of porn for either a class or to satisfy my own curiosity on this subject. What I further understood by watching these movies is that there were actors and actresses that were being paid for playing their part. Even in the more violent porn, actors and actresses are compensated in some way.

To suggest that most if not all participants in a porn are victims is ludicrous. I felt that the pornography Russell was referring to was of illegal content, perhaps actual rape or even child pornography. It just seemed too centered on the idea of violence. To prove my point, I watched one of the movies she made mention of- “Galaxina.” According to Russell, this was movie was pornography but was not made for the adult movie houses. Because she considers the “sexist and degrading combination of sexuality and bondage” in “Galaxina” violent, Russell states that the movie is pornographic. However, anyone can watch the movie on youtube.com and come to their own conclusion. I felt that I was watching a terrible 80s comedy with no nudity and a scene where the main character, a woman, gets captured by the obvious bad guys. Now Russell also included a quote from Peter Bogdanovich, who wrote for about Dorothy Stratten, the actress from this movie. Bogdanovich claims that in the scene where Stratten is captured by the bad guys and subsequently tied up, the producers kept Stratten bound for a several hours in order to depict a more realistic capture.

He went on to say that at one time she is crying real tears. Now I watched that scene and I cannot tell if indeed she was there for a long time because the acting was not brilliant (this was a spoof on “Star Wars” I think.) But my argument here is actors and actresses subject themselves to poor conditions frequently for a part in a movie. Russell is a feminist and assumes that all pornography is geared toward degrading women with the ability to influence males to commit sexual violence against them. As for D’Amato’s article, it was rather short but consisted of stable statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice. But there is also a problem with relying solely on statistics to make an argument.

This goes for Russell’s work too. When I did my research on pedophilia and child molestation rates, the U.S. Department of Justice noted on their website that self-reporting is unreliable. Some people will not report crimes or they might by lie. There is no reporting agency or reporting system that will be one hundred percent reliable. With that being said, I can agree with D’Amato that people would have less of a reason to rape when they have an abundance of porn available at their disposal. The more desensitized people become the more the need to indulge will dissipate. I believe that those with a propensity for violence, who watch porn, will more than likely act on their desires.

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