Sex is a certainly popular on the internet. 25% of all online searches are pornography related and 43% of internet users view porn online. So, like it or not, viewing pornography is a pretty main stream activity.
As a libertarian my views on pornography generally quite simple. As long as only adults are involved and nobody is forced to make it, or forced to watch it, then its none of my business. People should be free to do whatever they like, as long as they don’t harm others in the process.
David Cameron has announced that watching “Rape Porn” will become a crime.
The reason presumably is that he believes this is a particularly terrible form of pornography that does in fact harm others.
I don’t think that view stands up to logical examination for a number of reasons:
Evidence: The Facts About Exposure to Violent Pornography
However, the scientific evidence has stubbornly refused to play along with this view:
U.S. Commission on Obscenity and Pornography (1970) found no evidence of a causal link between pornography and rape
Examined what happened to the rape statistics in four countries (USA, Denmark, West Germany and Sweden) during periods where the availability of violent pornography went from extreme scarcity to relative abundance.
Quoting the report: “The results showed that in none of the countries did rape increase more than nonsexual violent crimes. This finding in itself would seem sufficient to discard the hypothesis that pornography causes rape”
More detail on the incidence of rape in the USA during the internet “porn explosion” can be seen in the graph below, taken from Anthony D’Amato, a Professor at Northwestern University’s Law School, essay titled Porn up, rape down
Another research paper, “Pornography and sex crimes in the Czech Republic” (2011) found:
“Following the effects of a new law in the Czech Republic that allowed pornography to a society previously having forbidden it allowed us to monitor the change in sex related crime that followed the change.
As found in all other countries in which the phenomenon has been studied, rape and other sex crimes did not increase.
Of particular note is that this country, like Denmark and Japan, had a prolonged interval during which possession of child pornography was not illegal and, like those other countries, showed a significant decrease in the incidence of child sex abuse.”
These studies show the exact opposite of what is being claimed. Increases in pornography seem to reduce the incidence of sex crimes. The evidence supports the common sense idea that pornography acts as a substitute for, and not a promoter of, sexual violence.
Double Standards For Men and Women
Whether the puritans or the feminists like it or not, it is a fact that many women enjoy rape fantasies as explained by this female journalist.
On a more scientific level, a 1988 study by Pelletier and Herold found that over half of their female respondents had fantasies of forced sex.
Nobody (quite rightly) suggests that women who expose themselves to this sort of “violent porn” literature, or who engage in sexual fantasies of rape are more likely to go out and put themselves into situations where they will be raped.
People clearly understand that there is a world of difference between enjoying rape as a sexual fantasy and the violent, painful reality of actual rape.
The same reasoning must logically apply to men who enjoy rape fantasy and rape porn. There is a world of difference between enjoying rape as a sexual fantasy and the violent reality of actual raping another human being.
To assert that women can enjoy rape fantasy, porn and violent BDSM literature without harm because they understand the difference between fantasy and reality, but men do not is nothing more than misandry
Enforcement: The Problem of Defining “Rape Porn”
The legal definition of rape covers a number of circumstances. High street sex shops such as the fairly respectable Ann Summers sell naughty schoolgirl outfits, but presumably watching porn featuring such outfits would risk a prison sentence as representing sex with a schoolgirl is representing sex with an under age girl and therefore rape.
What if the actress is 18 years old but in the authorities opinion she looks younger than 16, could this be “rape porn”
What about porn featuring people who are pretending to be drunk. The legal definition of rape means that if someone appears to be too drunk to give consent it is “rape porn”.
Then we have the problem of Hollywood movies featuring rape. If you have a copy of Oscar winning Hollywood film The Accused or The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in your DVD collection are you in possession of “rape porn” ?
David Cameron was unable to define pornography, so who can be 100% sure?
Before falling into the naive trap of assuming that the authorities will use good judgement to decide what constitutes “rape porn”, consider the case of Simon Walsh and his spurious prosecution for possessing “extreme pornography” under Section 63 of the 2008 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act.
Consistency: Watch Simulated Violent Murder But Not Simulated Violent Sex
If people genuinely believe that watching images encourages people to act out what they see, then why is there no outcry to ban horror movies?
Extreme horror movies often depict cannibalism, torture, mutilation and gruesome murder from beginning to end and yet people seem perfectly capable of recognising them as simple escapism.
Indeed if we were to accept the premise that underlies the demands to ban “Rape Porn” then it is a very small step to demand that we remove all violence from television, then all bad language and anti-social behaviour, then all people smoking drinking or eating junk food. Ultimately total state control of the media and the internet.
Whether it floats your boat or not, there is no reason to ban “rape porn”