Legislators Urge Ban on Media Shown to Reduce Rape

Women’s groups have been in a state of hysteria lately over Republican efforts to restrict abortion rights, but they’ve been curiously silent about the efforts from BOTH sides of the aisle to restrict women’s other sexual rights.  For example, they’ve said nothing about the recent attempt by over 100 senators and congressmen to “crack down” on certain widely-available materials which have been demonstrated to decrease rape rates, namely porn.

Radley Balko of The Agitator isn’t a sex worker rights activist, but he’s a staunch defender of the rights of people to do what they like with their own bodies, including sex work.  In this article from April 7th, he demolishes the congressmen’s false claims about the “dangers” of porn with statistical proof of the social problems which have decreased as porn has become more widespread:

And in fact, every single one of these problems are trending in the opposite direction. And it isn’t even close:

  • Sex crimes against children: Down 53 percent between 1992 and 2006.
  • Abortion: The abortion rate has dropped by about 25 percent since 1993.
  • Teen pregnancy: In 2009, teen pregnancy hit its lowest rate in the 70 years that the federal government has been tracking the statistic.
  • Divorce: The U.S. divorce rate is at its lowest level since 1970.
  • Domestic violence: The rate of reported domestic violence in the U.S. dropped by more than half between 1993 and 2004.
  • Rape: The forcible rape rate in the U.S. has dropped from 41.1 per 100,000 people in 1990 to 28.7 in 2009. That latter figure is also an all-time low.

These numbers are overwhelming. What’s more, there are at least a couple of studies suggesting that the widespread availability of pornography is partially responsible for some of these trends, especially the drop in reported rapes.

Balko has recently been hired by Huffington Post, which means his eloquent voice for decriminalization will soon be heard by many more listeners than ever before.  I urge sex workers to read his column often; he’s definitely an ally.

10 Responses

  1. Wait, the *forcible* rape rate? Please, don’t confuse forcible rape with the vast majority of cases that aren’t.

  2. I suspect many have been silent about it because porn is also partially responsible for promoting harmful attitudes about women’s pleasue, women’s roles in sexual encounters, the women’s bodies “should” look, women’s sexual availability, etc. Also pornography has a very ugly history with consent. Also, what the previous commenter said … wtf is “forcible” rape?
    I don’t buy that “the internet” is proof that porn is responsible for a reduction in the rape rate, but I’ll read the links anyway. It’s conversely possible the internet is responsible for a REDUCTION IN RAPE REPORTAGE, since now perpetrators and apologists can stalk the victim over the internet, find out where zie lives, post a google map of zer home on a forum, and flood zer inbox with emails saying zie should be raped and killed…

  3. Not to mention that rape is so HUGELY underreported that a drop in reported rapes means very little. It could very well mean that victims have been more reluctant to come forward. In fact, rape crisis counselors are telling us that a number of high profile rape cases in which the victims were dragged through the mud and received death threats have had precisely this effect on reporting rates.

    Conversely, it’s well established that an increase in the number of reported rapes does not necessarily mean that more rapes have been committed. It could actually mean that society is becoming more egalitarian and taking rape more seriously, so victims are less likely to believe that reporting would be an exercise in futility. For instance, between 1960 and 1980 the number of reported forcible rapes soared from 9.6 per 100,000 people to 36.8 per 100,000.

    Finally, correlation does not equal causation. Even if rape is really down (and that’s a very big if as far as I’m concerned), that doesn’t mean it’s because of porn. The D’Amato “study” is, frankly, ridiculous. Anti-rape education is a “minor factor” but the ability to watch “Deep Throat” on a laptop surely must have had a profound impact?!? Is this a joke? Not to mention the lovely rape culture tropes he perpetuates, what with men raping because they just can’t help themselves.

  4. I always find it fascinating when an obvious shill makes two posts one after the other, using different names but posted only one minute apart in exactly the same writing style. I guess it’s because anti-sex work activists think we “prostituted women” are too stupid to notice stuff like that, so they don’t even bother to make elementary efforts to cover their tracks.

  5. I’m not a shill, and I’m not an anti-sex work activist. I’m pro-sex, pro-responsibly-produced-pornography, pro-people doing what they want to do. If we sound alike, maybe it’s because we went through similar education systems or read the same authors. I don’t know who that person is, not that you’ll believe anything I say.
    I’m just saying, as a social scientists, that the study is crap and Sasha CA is right, correlation does not equal causation.
    Which is not to say I think porn should be banned. I just think that what I stated before are some possible reasons that no one has heard outrage from “women’s groups” whichever women’s groups the OP means, about attacks on pornography. It does generate outrage, but honestly? I’m more worried about the autonomy of my uterus than porn that I don’t often consume. And it’s not because I’m anti-sex and anti-porn, it’s because I think it’s VERY unlikely that porn is actually responsible for a reduction in rape rates. Rape isn’t about needing to get off so bad you don’t care. Rape is about power, control, and lack of respect for consent.

  6. Rape is not and never has been about “power, control, and lack of respect”; I’m amazed they’re still teaching that pap. If it were, how would you explain the most common form of rape, acquaintance rape? To explain that with your “theory” would require ignoring the repeated protests of the men that they believed they had consent, which is ABSOLUTELY an anti-male view and a simplistic one at that. The naive notion that rape is asexual ignores primate behavior, the dynamics of actual rapes and the stated goals and observable behavior of rapists, the necessity of an erection for the accomplishment of the act and last but not least the fact that, as any BDSM enthusiast could tell you, power and control are often sexual. I suggest you read a bit more evolutionary biology and fewer “women’s studies” texts if you wish to really understand rape and thereby combat it effectively instead of just promoting a political agenda.

    Women’s groups are not reacting to ANY attacks on sex work; it isn’t just about pornography. They have ignored, and continue to ignore, the widespread equation of legitimate adult sex work with “trafficking” and reduce adult women to permanent adolescents by their support of the “Swedish model”. So their silence is not about disbelieving “x” study and all about a unified anti-sex work agenda.

  7. Maggie, I agree with you that blaming pornography for rape is an overly simplistic explanation, and takes responsibility away from the rapists, like they could just say “porn made me do it”.

    However, not everybody looks at rape through a strictly biological framework, as there are societal factors too. For argument sake, even if the evolutionary biology framework were correct in saying that sexual causes rape, that doesn’t automatically make issues of power, control, and lack of respect irrelevant. No matter what motivates somebody to rape, they are still taking power and control over somebody’s body and sense of safety and well-being, and disrespecting the person as well as their right to their own body.

    I also totally disagree with comparing non consensual rape rape to consensual BDSM. With consensual BDSM, each party is a willing participant, which isn’t the case with non-consensual rape. Also, with consual BDSM, there are safe words that submissives can say and the dominant respects that and stops. This isn’t the case with non-consensual rape. There’s a big difference between a submissive who finds pleasure in being dominated and somebody who is raped non-consensually and receives trauma and fear rather than pleasure out of this.

  8. Hi, Advocate! I’m not really comparing the two; all I’m doing is pointing out that the refrain “rape is a crime of power and control but not sex” disingenuously presents them as two things different as chalk and cheese, while BDSM proves they aren’t. Sex and power are deeply entangled with one another in the mammalian mind, so while some rapes almost certainly involve a stronger dominance element than others, it’s childish and simplistic for rape activists to pretend that there is NO sexual desire involved when the presence of an erection proves otherwise.

  9. I didn’t say that rape lacked any element of sexual desire, I’m saying that the human sex drive does not require rape to fulfill it. People don’t rape because they have blue balls, they rape because they believe their right to a person’s body for their sexual relief trumps that person’s right to bodily autonomy and safety. Although, btw, it is possible to rape without an erection. Non-male people do rape, and male people sometimes use object penetration instead of their own bodies to violate others.

    There have been several intriguing studies in recent years that demonstrate that, even in the case of acquaintance rape, most people aren’t really confused about whether or not they had consent (ie they knew they didn’t). I can find the links if you would like. Also, if you are unsure, checking whether or not you have consent is about the easiest thing in the world, so they should have asked. The BDSM community is very careful about consent, which to my mind, as sexworkeradvocate said, makes them completely different. There is a different kind of power and control being exerted when someone is willingly giving themselves up to you, rather than forcing someone to submit against zir will.

    I am not anti-male. Studies demonstrate that around 91% of rapes are committed by serial rapists – a small percentage of the male population. Who, given that they are serial rapists, cannot possible reasonably be under the illusion that they have consent. Who also read things like “what about all the men who believed they had consent” with glee because the statement inherently implies the victim was at fault for not speaking up louder, resisting, etc. which perpetuates the horrible idea that victims are responsible for NOT BEING RAPED, instead of perpetrators being responsible for NOT RAPING.

    You suggest that a societal explanation is not sufficient, I suggest that a biological one isn’t either. Humans have sex drive. What is considered acceptable and societally sanctioned outlets for sexual desire are socially determined. Given that, in the US, 0.35% of reported rape cases end in a prison sentence, I would say we have a serious problem with socially excusing rapists – as you are, intentionally or unintentionally.

    Lastly, I was a science major with special interest in the field of animal behavior. I am fully aware of the dynamics of rape in other species. I refuse to hold human men to such a low standard and I believe societal sanction is a much more important factor in the prevalence of rape than sex drive.

    Lastly, I am not a part of any women’s groups who do not condemn and work against trafficking, attacks on sex workers, and any kind of restriction on consensual sex (paid or unpaid, filmed or unfilmed) and particularly reproductive and sexual autonomy of women. I suggest you look harder.

  10. “People don’t rape because they have blue balls, they rape because they believe their right to a person’s body for their sexual relief trumps that person’s right to bodily autonomy and safety.”

    In forcible rape you’re exactly right, but in acquaintance rape that isn’t always true, and when both parties are impaired (as so often happens) it certainly isn’t true.

    You seem very sure that men who rape are intrinsically different from other men, but I’ll tell you this: Both times I was raped on the job, the men acted pretty much exactly like other clients before, during and after with the sole exception of disregarding my “no”. Obviously, that’s anecdotal evidence, but I’m far from the only one who’s had that sort of experience. It seems to me you’re allowing your ideology (“I refuse to hold human men to such a low standard…”) get in the way of practical measures in much the same way that those with a philosophical opposition to “vices” often oppose harm-reduction strategies for those vices.

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