Monday 15 November 2010

Pornography: Does it lead to crime? Part 2

If convicted mass murderer Ted Bundy had said that watching Bill Cosby reruns motivated his awful crimes, he would have been dismissed as a deranged sociopath. Instead, Bundy has said his pornography addiction made him do it--which many people treated as the conclusion of a thoughtful social scientist. Why?
- Dr. Marty Klein - March 1998
Why “Sexual Addiction” Is Not A Useful Diagnosis — And Why It Matters

The Effects of Pornography: an international perspective
Author: Milton Diamond, Ph.D.
Published in: Porn 101: Eroticism, Pornography, and the First Amendment
Editors: James Elias, Veronica Diehl Elias, Vern L. Bullough, Gwen Brewer, Jeffrey J. Douglas & Will Jarvis
Promethius Press
There was a clamor against pornography and an attempt to identify what was obscene. In response to this clamor, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed a commission to study the problem.

This presidential Commission reported (Pornography, 1970), no such relationship of pornography leading to rape or sexual assault could be demonstrated as applicable for adults or juveniles. This Commission , chaired by William B. Lockhart, past President of the Association of American Law Schools, sponsored various surveys and research studies and concluded: "In sum, empirical research designed to clarify the question has found no evidence to date that exposure to explicit sexual materials plays a significant role in the causation of delinquent or criminal behavior among youth or adults. The Commission cannot conclude that exposure to erotic materials is a factor in the causation of sex crime or sex delinquency (pp. 27)."Indeed, the Commission concluded that pornography has a sex education effect that can be beneficial.

When President Ronald Reagen entered the White House, to placate his conservative constituency, he rejected the findings of the President Johnson Commission and, in 1984, appointed a commission to be headed by his Attorney General.3 In 1986 the findings of this United States' Attorney General's Commission were released (Meese, 1986). This commission found, in contrast with the previous Presidential Commission, that: "substantial exposure to sexually violent materials . . . bears a causal relationship to antisocial acts of sexual violence and, for some subgroups, possibly to unlawful acts of sexual violence (pp. 326) [emphasis mine]." In distinction to the Presidential Commission, however, this Attorney General's Commission was politically, not scientifically, constituted.

This "Meese" Commission was primarily composed of nonscientists who did no research of their own and commissioned none. It solicited testimony mainly from specific parties and organizations which it anticipated would be sympathetic to its goals while ignoring testimony from those it suspected would be disagreeable. Many critics took this Meese Commission to task for the bias of their work; e.g., Lab (1987), Lynn (1986) and Nobile & Nadler (1986).

The Meese Commission's own minority report, by two of the only three women on the panel (Judith V. Becker, & Ellen Levine), --one of whom had a great deal of experience in sex research with sex criminals (JVB) -- dissented from the majority report in saying the findings were not in keeping with the amassed social science data (Meese, 1986) The statistical methods as well as research methods were also significantly found wanting (Smith, 1987). Parenthetically, nation-wide studies in the United States, done essentially at the same time as the Meese's Commission's work, also seemed to find no strong evidence that rape rates were associated with porn as measured by circulation rates of pornographic magazines or the presence of adult theaters in a community (Baron & Strauss, 1987; Scott & Schwalm, 1988a, b).

In Britain, the privately constituted Longford Committee (Amis, Anderson, Beasley-Murray, & al., 1972) reviewed the pornography situation in that nation and concluded that such material was detrimental to public morals. It too dismissed the scientific evidence in favor of protecting the "public good" against forces that might "denigrat(e) and devalu(e) human persons." The officially constituted British (Williams) Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship, however, in 1979 analyzed the situation and reported (Home Office, 1979): "From everything we know of social attitudes, and have learnt in the course of our enquires, our belief can only be that the role of pornography in influencing the state of society is a minor one. To think anything else . . . is to get the problem of pornography out of proportion (p. 95)."

A 1984 Canadian study found similarly. A review by McKay and Dolff for the Department of Justice of Canada reported "There is no systematic research evidence available which suggests a causal relationship between pornography and the morality of Canadian society . . . [and none] which suggests that increases in specific forms of deviant behavior, reflected in crime trend statistics (e.g., rape) are causally related to pornography (McKay & Dolff, 1985)." The Canadian Fraser Committee, in 1985, after a review of the topic, concluded the evidence so poorly organized that no consistent body of evidence could be found to condemn pornography (Canada, 1985).

Among those European/Scandinavian societies investigated for any relation between the availability of pornography and rape or sexual assault, again no such correlation could be demonstrated (Kutchinsky, 1985a; 1991). For the countries of Denmark, Sweden and West Germany6, the three nations for which ample data were available at the time, Kutchinsky analyzed in depth the crime statistics and pornography availability for the years from approximately 1964 to 1984. Kutchinsky showed that as the amount of pornography increasingly became available, the rate of rapes in these countries either decreased or remained relatively level. These countries legalized or decriminalized pornography in 1969, 1970 and 1973 respectfully. In all three countries the rates of nonsexual violent crimes and nonviolent sex crimes (e.g., peeping, flashing) essentially decreased also.

The author goes on to study data from various countries from 1972 to 1995, a period which saw a measured increase in the pornography available to the public.


The concern that countries allowing pornography and liberal anti-obscenity laws would show increased sex crime rates due to modeling or that children or adolescents in particular would be negatively vulnerable to and receptive to such models or that society would be otherwise adversely effected is not supported by evidence. It is certainly clear from the data reviewed, and the new data and analysis presented, that a massive increase in available pornography in Japan, the United States and elsewhere has been correlated with a dramatic decrease in sexual crimes and most so among youngsters as perpetrators or victims. Even in this area of concern no "clear and present danger" exists for the suppression of SEM. There is no evidence that pornography is intended or likely to produce "imminent lawless action" (see Brandenberg v. Ohio, 1969). It is reasonable that the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently rejected the principal that speech or expression can be punished because it offends some people's sensibilities or beliefs. Compared with "hate speech" or "commercial speech" there seems even less justification for banning "sex speech."

Sex abuse of any kind is deplorable and should be eliminated. Rape and sex crimes, like any criminal activities are blights on society which should be expunged. The question remains "How best to do this?" Most assuredly, focusing energy in the wrong direction, or taking actions just to placate victims, politicians or irate citizens will not solve the problem or help. Nor will spreading myths or misinformation. Removing pornography from our midst will, according to the evidence, only hurt rather than help society.

I think it is better to expend our energies in two directions. 1) Make better pornography so that preferred role models are portrayed and more segments of society can come to appreciate or at least understand and tolerate its value; and 2) turn our research to other directions to eliminate or reduce the social ills of rape and other sex crimes. The best place to look is probably in the home during the first decade of life. But it is only by research that we can continue to understand how to most effectively meet this social challenge. Governments as well as the pornography industry itself would do well to finance and encourage such research.

Final Word
..a massive increase in available pornography in Japan, the United States and elsewhere has been correlated with a dramatic decrease in sexual crimes...

As odd as this may sound, I have a difficult time conceiving that a man, or anybody for that matter, would have the strength to commit a crime after having exhausted themselves by masturbating to pornography. Personally, I would want to take a nap.

In my blog Abortion: My final word on unwanted pregnancy I talked about the book Freakonomics. Common belief said that a noticeable reduction in crime during the 1990's was due to improved policing. The authors proved a legitimate correlation between reduced crime and the introduction of legalized abortion around 1980 which resulted in lower birth rates in a segment of the population which was statistically more susceptible to produce youth who ended up involved in crime.

In the same blog I point out how the use of contraceptives is inversely correlated to the number of abortions performed: more contraceptives, fewer abortions. Pro-life groups who oppose abortion were apparently shocked to discover that their own campaign against contraceptives based on the argument that contraceptives encouraged sex and hence abortions, was in fact increasing the number of abortions performed.

Correlation does not imply causation. (Wikipedia)


Pornography: My investigative series


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