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August 01, 2011

Porn Causes Less Rape, But More Dysfunction?

First theory: the drenching of the world in pornography might actually be reducing sexual assault. (Full article at Townhall.)

I have to note this is actually an old, old article by Steve Chapman, from 2007. It seems to have been republished now because Chapman is on vacation, and they're printing some old, less-time-sensitive columns.

[I]n the past two decades, we have essentially conducted a vast experiment on the social consequences of such material. If the supporters of censorship were right, we should be seeing an unparalleled epidemic of sexual assault. But all the evidence indicates they were wrong. As raunch has waxed, rape has waned.

This is part of a broad decrease in criminal mayhem. Since 1993, violent crime in America has dropped by 58 percent. But the progress in this one realm has been especially dramatic. Rape is down 72 percent and other sexual assaults have fallen by 68 percent. Even in the past two years, when the FBI reported upticks in violent crime, the number of rapes continued to fall.

...

In a paper presented at Stanford Law School in 2006, he reported that, after adjusting for other differences, states where Internet access expanded the fastest saw rape decline the most. A 10 percent increase in Internet access, Kendall found, typically meant a 7.3 percent reduction in the number of reported rapes.

For other types of crime, by contrast, he found no correlation with Web use. What this research suggests is that sexual urges play a big role in the incidence of rape -- and that pornographic websites provide a harmless way for potential predators to satisfy those desires.

I'd skip republishing an old piece except that Naomi Wolfe is writing about porn too. She claims the ubiquity of hard-core pornography is making men crazy, or at least screwing with their brains to de-sensitize them to normal (and real) sex.

She alludes to the Internet adventurism of Anthony Weiner and Chris Lee -- why are what appear to be normal men taking what would previously be thought to be insane risks?

Six years ago, I wrote an essay called “The Porn Myth,” which pointed out that therapists and sexual counselors were anecdotally connecting the rise in pornography consumption among young men with an increase in impotence and premature ejaculation among the same population. These were healthy young men who had no organic or psychological pathology that would disrupt normal sexual function.

The hypothesis among the experts was that pornography was progressively desensitizing these men sexually. Indeed, hardcore pornography’s effectiveness in achieving rapid desensitization in subjects has led to its frequent use in training doctors and military teams to deal with very shocking or sensitive situations.

Given the desensitization effect on most male subjects, researchers found that they quickly required higher levels of stimulation to achieve the same level of arousal. The experts I interviewed at the time were speculating that porn use was desensitizing healthy young men to the erotic appeal of their own partners.

Both claims make sense to me. Not that any policy implications flow from that -- a study may be true, and yet no law or government program need be created due to the consequence of that study being true.

It's odd that I have to say that, but we are in an age when the default assumption seems to be "We have a study, now we need a law."

The nation has become itself addicted to such instant-gratification, impulse-driven political pornography.

Not every damn problem requires the intervention of the state.

This is actually something I've begun internalizing, based on commenters' arguments, over time. My first impulse used to be to make arguments based on the futility or imprudence of such measures. Little by little I've begun beginning with the more elemental question: What business is this of the state? Who authorized the state to patrol for this? Where did we collectively agree to even entertain a state function in such affairs?

It's a good starting question. One that I've only lately begun to start with.

I used to deem these sorts of questions "theoretical" rather than practical. Well, they are theoretical. But they're also foundational.



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posted by Ace at 01:58 PM

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