Soft-Core Porn May Increase Sexism, Belief in Rape Myths

Man looking at images on computerSoft-core pornography, such as images of semi-nude women, may produce sexist ideas in viewers and increase belief in rape myths, according to findings from a new study presented at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Forensic Psychology last week.

Pornography, Sexism, and Rape Myths

To weigh the effects of soft-core pornography, researchers recruited 143 participants. Just under half (46%) were male, with an average age of 19. Participants reported on their exposure to soft-core pornography, then answered questions about rape myths and attitudes toward women. The team also asked participants which images they would describe as pornographic.

Compared to participants with low exposure to soft-core pornography, those with high exposure reported decreased sensitivity to pornographic images. This means they were less likely to view images as pornographic. They also had more negative attitudes toward women, and they were more likely to endorse rape myths.

The study’s authors are unsure whether soft-core pornography causes sexist views, or is merely correlated with them. It could be that people who already hold sexist views are more likely to seek out soft-core pornography, not that pornography itself causes those views.

Understanding Rape Myths

Rape myths are false beliefs that blame victims, excuse perpetrators, or contribute to an unsafe culture. A number of recent high-profile cases—including that of Brock Turner, the man convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman—have drawn attention to the power of rape myths to excuse abusive behavior. Common rape myths include the idea that alcohol turns people into rapists, that certain clothing or behavior can cause a person to be raped, and that a person who consents to some sexual contact has consented to all sexual contact.

Laura J. Reagan, LCSW-C, a Maryland therapist who specializes in trauma therapy, said rape myths directly undermine a survivor’s ability to heal.

“Rape myths include the idea that women say no when they mean yes, and that they must be talked into having sex,” Reagan said. “Coercion is not consent. People who believe rape myths may say that women often lie about rape. Rape myths ignore the reality of rape—that anyone, regardless of gender, age, size, or how they are dressed, can be victimized, and that perpetrators are often people who are known to the victim rather than strangers. These attitudes and beliefs contribute to the problem of victim-blaming, which can significantly disrupt a survivor’s healing process and limit successful prosecution of these crimes.”

Both activists and researchers have previously expressed concerns about hard-core pornography, particularly violent pornography. This study is one of the first to link tamer forms of pornography to sexist views.

The Omnipresent Nature of Pornography

Pornography is highly accessible, even to young people. One in five mobile searches are for pornography. Ninety percent of boys and 60% of girls are exposed to pornography before age 18. Research shows marital satisfaction may figure prominently in the decision to view pornography; happily married men are 61% less likely to seek out pornographic images.

References:

  1. Mienta, M. (2013, September 8). Pornography increases sexist attitudes among men, but not women. Retrieved from http://www.medicaldaily.com/pornography-increases-sexist-attitudes-among-men-not-women-256020
  2. Shire, E. (2013, September 18). Does watching porn make you sexist? Retrieved from http://theweek.com/articles/459925/does-watching-porn-make-sexist
  3. Stack, L. (2016, June 6). Light sentence for Brock Turner in Stanford rape case draws outrage. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/07/us/outrage-in-stanford-rape-case-over-dueling-statements-of-victim-and-attackers-father.html?_r=0
  4. Stack, S., Wasserman, I., & Kern, R. (2004). Adult social bonds and use of internet pornography. Social Science Quarterly, 85(1), 75-88. doi:10.1111/j.0038-4941.2004.08501006.x
  5. Whiteman, H. (2016, June 18). Soft-core pornography may fuel negativity toward women, endorse rape myths. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/311000.php
  6. Wolak, J., Mitchell, K., & Finkelhor, D. (2007, February 1). Unwanted and wanted exposure to online pornography in a national sample of youth internet users. Pediatrics, 119(2), 247-257. doi:10.1542/peds.2006-1891

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 7 comments
  • Leave a Comment
  • Betsy

    Betsy

    June 23rd, 2016 at 3:04 PM

    Yeah people want you to be all like okay yay porn, I can get down with that, but here is even further proof that it can very much be a danger not only to a relationship but to the overall health of women in general.

  • Murray

    Murray

    June 23rd, 2016 at 5:48 PM

    I would be more concerned about the hard core stuff.

  • patsy

    patsy

    June 24th, 2016 at 12:55 PM

    All I know is that it seriously harms women in the way that society and their husbands and boyfriends think about them.’They start to think that all of us have to look like these porn starts with fake everything and it all gets into our heads. I would love to say that my husband doesn’t look at porn but I know that that is pretty naive to think that. I at least hope that he can tell the difference between what he sees in that world and what he has in real life and would always choose me over that, but you know, it does things to the self esteem of women sometimes that is just irreparable.

  • Layne

    Layne

    June 26th, 2016 at 12:15 PM

    The more exposure that one has to these images then the less they will be disturbed by them. I think that over time this will set up men to especially have a very negative view of women and to expect things that are quite unrealistic form us in the bedroom. You sort of wish that none of it even existed just for a bit so you could get the men back to a level of reason and I think that more women would be willing to try new things if they felt that they were not being held up to such unreasonable standards.

  • Seth

    Seth

    June 26th, 2016 at 4:58 PM

    I am slightly inclined to believe that men who feel this way will feel this way regardless of whether they watch pornography or not. It is all about how you were raised and the attitudes that you already have about women in general.

  • ellie

    ellie

    June 27th, 2016 at 1:24 PM

    It isn’t just one thing that can cause this. It is the combination of multiple issues within our society that has caused many of these issues for women.

    And for the ladies, we simply have to stand up for what is right and stop allowing our images to be misused in this way that causes us the most harm.

  • Trey

    Trey

    June 28th, 2016 at 11:45 AM

    And yet there are certain people and couples even who can view porn together and who openly say that this adds something very rich and diverse to their sexual relationship.
    In other words they are not harmed by what they see, but they are taking what they do see and using it to their advantage in their relationship with their partner.
    I think that this is overall what porn is intended to do anyway.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.