Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Porn Generation

This is not new news - many researchers have shown links between porn and sexual violence and harrassment before. I don't even understand why we need research to demonstrate a link - isn't it obvious? Still whenever I mention it I am always scrutinised for the exact details of the research in an incredulous way so I'm posting up the link since it's in the news today.

"young boys who see pornography are more inclined to believe there is nothing wrong with pinning down or sexually harassing a girl"

Now I know that young people today have more access to porn than the did a few years back. Did you know that the average amount of time per week that teenage boys spend watching porn is 90 minutes? I'm not sure what exact age range this (shoddy journalism) is but it's frightening because there is a real sense I hear from people that there's no point passing laws to keep kids away from porn, they're going to see it anyway. Well I understand they'll spend a couple of minutes curiously peering at it, and I can cope with that. 90 minutes a week? That's more than they spend studying science in some schools! No wonder they come out with a totally messed up attitude towards women.

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20 Comments:

Blogger Andy Hudson said...

The abstract for the paper is remarkably uninformative - it neither quantifies the correlation, nor does it mention any other variables (if any) that were controlled for. A correlation is hardly surprising given the likely social backgrounds of children that a) have easy access to pornography and b) think violence to women is acceptable. Causation, which is needed to justify effort to reduce porn exposure in the interest of reducing violence, would be a much bolder claim though - do you know of any evidence for such a link?

9:58 am  
Blogger Gappy said...

Violence against women, sexual or otherwise, spans all the social classes Andy.

I'm afraid there is no 'likely social background' for children that have easy access to porn or who think violence against women is acceptable.

As much as perhaps you'd like to believe that these problems are confined to 'sink estates', nothing could be further from the truth. I have worked in domestic abuse service provision and have seen the evidence with my own eyes.

11:29 am  
Blogger Andy Hudson said...

I have no expertise on this subject but I find the idea that social class is not a risk factor for violence against women to be highly surprising.

How would you square your claim with the home office's 2004 report on the British Crime Survey findings (http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs04/hors276.pdf). There's some data in there, here's a salient quote:

"women in households with
an income of less than £10,000 were three and a half times at risk than those in
households with an income of over £20,000"

As for my assertion that social class would also correlate with access to pornography as a child; I admit that is an assumption for which I have no evidence, although I consider it highly plausible.

Just to clarify, I think reducing exposure to pornography (for everyone, not just children) would probably be a good thing. I just doubt the quality of the evidence that it would effect a corresponding reduction in sexual violence.

4:16 pm  
Blogger Cruella said...

Really? You "doubt" reducing access to porn for young people would cut sexual violence. Aside from the research -and yes as usual the abstract contains only a summary of the full report - that's how researchers make money - just type "porn" into google and tell me the first 10 video clips that come up don't normalise violence against women.

Porn in this day and age is violence against women andletting children view that has to normalise it.

5:08 pm  
Blogger Andy Hudson said...

I said I doubt the quality of the evidence, not that I doubt the result. I have no real opinion on the hypothesis.

Researchers don't make money through journal subscriptions, that's how journals make money. There's a perfectly good business model for open access journals, which is why they are prolific in some fields. But that's something of a tangent. Even when the full paper is not available, it is usual practice to include quantitative results and key points about the study in the abstract.

As I'm at work I'll take your assertions about the first 10 video hits for "porn" on trust rather than checking it out for myself. But it does not necessarily follow that watching a video showing violence against women makes the viewer more likely to perpetrate violence themselves. It's a plausible conjecture, but it needs research to determine whether such an effect exists and if so how strong it is.

5:25 pm  
Blogger Gappy said...

I would square my claim by saying that although middle class women are just as likely to experience domestic abuse as working class women, they are less likely to report it.

There are many reasons for this - they may have more to lose financially, they may have more reason to fear jeopardising their own or their partners professional reputation, they often fear the stigma of being a victim of domestic abuse more acutely - after all the myth that that sort of thing just doesn't go on in middle class households is alive and well isn't it Andy?

6:14 pm  
Blogger Andy Hudson said...

The data I quoted was from the British Crime Survey - an anonymous questionnaire survey - so I'm not sure any of your reasons are valid. You might be right and there's still a systematic underreporting bias, but I can't think of a better way of getting accurate data.

after all the myth that that sort of thing just doesn't go on in middle class households is alive and well isn't it Andy

A ratio of 3.5 to 1 hardly makes the level of abuse in households with >£20K insignificant. It just means income, or some proxy, is an essential variable to include in any statistical analysis of risk factors for sexual violence.

7:07 pm  
Blogger Gappy said...

Well I really can't share your optimism that an anonymous questionnaire is a reliable method of collating statistics regarding sexual violence against women.

Especially if the perpetrator is someone you know, as in the vast majority of cases it is. Women are often so terrified that they can't even admit to their families what is going on. I can't imagine many of the women I have worked with being willing to bare all on a survey - anonymous or not.

I think you are wrong, and that you are waxing dangerously lyrical on a subject you clearly know nothing about, but there we are.

7:39 pm  
Blogger Andy Hudson said...

I do indeed know next to nothing about the statistics of sexual violence - which was why I was interested enough to look up the paper.

I would be genuinely interested to know on what evidence you base your conviction that the prevalence of sexual violence doesn't vary at all with social class/income. Just because I can't think of a less biased predictor than an anonymous survey doesn't mean that you can't!

8:03 pm  
Blogger Gappy said...

I think as a worker with experience of supporting survivors of sexual violence (and other domestic abuse) I'm in a good place to make a judgement.

I'd also like to ask you why you believe social class would be a factor. Men who use violence against women do so because they believe they are entitled to. Why would a man on a low income feel any more entitled than anyone else?

Also Cruella, I'm sorry, is this alright with you? I feel as though I've hijacked your post a bit...

8:19 pm  
Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

Andy you wanted proof - well here's the link to Michael Flood's research complete with references listing other international research all of which confirms it is overwhelmingly boys regularly accessing pornography. Causitive link? Well, how did the two boys convicted of committing sadistic and degrading sexual assaults against two other boys learn how to commit such acts? Was it via reading children's stories? Or did these boys imitate the degrading sexual acts from pornography they had accessed.

Likewise the Guardian report on Flood's research evidences one case wherein a primary school boy gained access to his father's cache of porn and then took some of these pictures to school. What happened? Why the boy enacted some of these sexual acts against other children. Causitive link? No, it was not another isolated example and of course the mother was to blame since she clearly abdicated her maternal duties.

We need not say anything about the father's proclivity to viewing pornography and amassing a huge collection.

http://www.xyonline.net/content/extent-exposure-pornography-among-children-and-young-people

Do you ever read newspaper reports concerning boys who have been charged with raping a girl/girls and increasingly these boys record their sexual violence committed against the girl/girls on mobile phones. Is there any causitive link to the mainstreaming and easy access to pornography? No, such cases are simply isolated annecdotal ones and have no relation whatsoever to how and why so many boys regularly consume pornography.

Take a look at Women's Aid website for evidence concerning intimate male violence being committed against female partners. Each and every week two women are murdered by their current or ex-male partners.

Why not type in End Violence Against Women and when you go to the link, click on facts - there you will find numerous reseach evidence concerning male violence against women and girls. But of course such research is always biased since overwhelmingly such research shows over and over - it is men who are the ones committing violence against women not the reverse.

Since Andy believes restricting pornography would have no effect on reducing male sexual violence against women I do wonder why we have laws concerning murder. After all individuals continue to commit murder and yes it is still men who continue to commit more murders than women. So, given murder has not been eliminated perhaps we should also dismantle laws concerning car theft, property crime, mugging males in the street. After all these crimes have not been eradicated.
Class and financial security is not a factor as to whether or not a man wil subject a female partner to sexual/physical/pyschological violence. But certainly the fact the woman is female and not male is a central reason - because women are apparently men's property.

11:19 pm  
Blogger Cruella said...

Yes I'm too busy to post myself but please do debate it here - that's what the blog's for!

2:10 am  
Blogger Andy Hudson said...

Thanks for the link. The article itself is on the extent of exposure to pornography, not its link to sexual violence, but a couple of the references might be relevant.

all of which confirms it is overwhelmingly boys regularly accessing pornography

Hardly surprising. Or relevant to the point being discussed.

it is men who are the ones committing violence against women not the reverse

Ditto.

Since Andy believes restricting pornography would have no effect on reducing male sexual violence

Please don't make up claims in my name. I am querying the research which alleges the link, not the existence of the link - on which I have an open mind.

I do wonder why we have laws concerning murder. After all individuals continue to commit murder and yes it is still men who continue to commit more murders than women. So, given murder has not been eliminated perhaps we should also dismantle laws concerning car theft, property crime, mugging males in the street. After all these crimes have not been eradicated.

Sorry but you've completely lost me here.

Class and financial security is not a factor as to whether or not a man wil subject a female partner to sexual/physical/pyschological violence

This assertion, contrary to the evidence of the BCS, is what I am interested in any evidence for.

9:59 am  
Blogger Dominic said...

There are stronger and weaker forms of the assertion that domestic violence is no respecter of class or income.

At its weakest, the assertion would be a) that domestic violence occurs within every stratum of income: none is exempt.

A stronger assertion would be b) that domestic violence is more common in the higher strata than assumptions based on class stereotypes would lead one to suppose. (There might be more the poorer you get, but the correlation isn't as strong as people tend to think it is; middle class women get battered rather more often than anyone lets on)

A still stronger assertion would be c) that domestic violence is absolutely evenly spread across all income strata. (There is no correlation whatsoever between income and the risk of exposure to domestic violence).

The strongest possible form would be d) that counter to stereotyped expectations, the likelihood of exposure to domestic violence actually rises with income. (At the extreme: only the wealthy really have a problem with it at all, the poor are largely exempt...)

I can believe a) and b) without difficulty; c) resists some of my intuitions about what life is like when people's life-expectations have been eroded by years of disadvantage, although these "intuitions" may well be down to class stereotyping and nothing else (too much TV drama), and d) would take a bit of explaining. The more data the better...

3:20 pm  
Blogger weeonion said...

I think another interesting aspect is the accounts of young women and their experiences of coming of age in this culture. Whilst they may not be in the majority in terms of consuming porn - they are well able to articulte the expectations placed on them to deliver a blow job in the "right" way ie a porn way. How they are told they dont make the "right" sounds when having sex and how they dont expect to really get pleasure never mind an orgasm from the sex they are having or more aptly giving. The pressure they feel, and are well able to articulate, to perform in sex as opposed to enjoying it.

4:27 pm  
Blogger Mary Tracy9 said...

Thanks for blogging about this.

7:26 pm  
Blogger sianandcrookedrib said...

weeonion
a point very well made

3:52 pm  
Blogger h2281n said...

Andy Hudson, you may be interested to know about a big review conducted in 2000 of all the research relating to pornography and sexual aggression ("Pornography and Sexual Aggression: Are there reliable effects and can we understand them?", Malamuth N, Addison T and Koss M, (2000), Annual Review of Sex Research, Vol 11, 26-91). This research showed a reliable association between pornography use and sexually aggressive behaviour, and the more violent the pornography, or the more aggressive the man using it, the stronger the link. Also interesting is this article from the New Scientist, written way back in 1990. Seems the damaging effects of pornography have been known about for a long time, but of course, profit always comes before people ...

5:12 pm  
Blogger Andy said...

Frankly I'm amazed that its only 90 minutes ! I certainly spent a far greater proportion of my youth wanking off than a mere 90 minutes a week. Does that mean boys of today are undersexed compared to 30 years ago - or maybe they spend a large proportion of their wanking time NOT looking at porn ? - in which case today's easy availability of "porn" (which could mean almost anything anyway) might have a negative effect on its "use".

There is certainly some shocking stuff out there but maybe the argument that kids can distinguish fantasy from reality in The Simpsons equally applies to pornography. I would be far more concerned at the effects of "normal" situations like Hollyoaks at influencing behaviour.

8:25 am  
Blogger Cruella said...

I hear this a lot Andy - the notion that porn represents "fantasy" and as such is exempt from any kind of analysis. Now warning: I'm about to discuss matters that some may find triggering so please stop reading now if that could be you.

Lets talk about ATM. Ass-to-mouth. A very common porn scenario - about a million links on google. In this scenario a woman is penetrated anally and then orally. Meaning effectively that her own feces are spread into her mouth. Now explain to me how this constitutes a "fantasy". Fantasy as I understand is is about magical things like inter-gallactic space travel and unicorns. I could understand sexual fantasy being about several beautiful women in a palatial setting in soft focus while harpists play in the background. Forcing a woman to taste her own feces is not about fantasy - it's about humiliation and degradation. If kids are exposed to this sort of thing we cannot assume it will not affect them.

3:32 pm  

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