Anti-love or anti-repression?
A rebuttal to ‘Pro-sex/Anti-love’
Content warning: sexual assault
“‘Abby’ — we’ll call her—” This was the beginning of an all-too-familiar story in the April 2020 edition of The Mercury titled “Pro-sex, anti-love” by Michael Lockwood. This opinion’s claims of how pornography ruins relationships and leads to sexual violence sparked controversy across the UTD student body. However, one of the studies cited was from an organization specifically looking to promote an anti-porn agenda and failed to provide both sides of the argument. The consumption of porn has neither a definitive positive nor negative effect on one’s relationship as it is completely up to the individual, nor has it been shown to affect crime statistics at all.
Claim #1: Porn is bad for relationships
In a 2014 study, a Georgia State University doctorate student Stacy Gorman explored both the positive and negative effects that porn has on relationships. When asking 400 people “What positive impact, if any, do you think porn has on your relationships,” four main types of answers arose from the responses: sexual enhancement or improvement, sexual arousal, sexual outlet or learning techniques. She found that about a third of respondents used porn to open up and help communicate to each other new things they would like to try in the bedroom. Couples often find it difficult to verbalize a new position or style of sex they would like to try, so porn is a very useful tool in getting the message across. It can also introduce couples to things they may not have even thought of, yet find extremely arousing and enjoyable.
However, with positives always come negatives. When asked the same question about negative impacts, four main answers arose: porn isn’t real sex, porn being chosen over relationships, addiction and infidelity. 104 responses followed one of the four main answers to the question. Thirty-four of the responses were “porn sex isn’t real sex,” and the confusion of the two can be detrimental. This is an important distinction to make early on, and it is a reason why sexual education should become normalized. However, it should also be noted here that a total of 386 people in total were asked that question, and 282 gave a response along the lines of “none.” Most of these respondents found no evidence of harm being done to their relationships by porn.
Claim #2: Porn leads to sexual violence
The erroneous claims made in the previous op-ed that porn inspires sexual violence have been disproven many times over. In fact, a look at the National Crime Victimization Survey, the nation’s most forefront method of gathering data on crime and victimization, shows that sexual assault rates have fallen by 60% since 1995. This was also the year that porn became widely available on the internet. If the claims made in “Pro-Sex/Anti-Love”were true, we would instead see those numbers climbing substantially. In his claim that “those who use porn are more likely to believe the myth that women actually enjoy getting raped,” Lockwood cites another study in which respondents are shown rape porn and then asked if they think the performers enjoyed it. Aside from Lockwood’s cited study being an ineffective study as the methods were applied to yield a desired result, Gorman’s study found that category to be the least viewed category of porn, and about 90% of respondents had never watched it. Additionally, when participants were asked to rate how arousing they found different types of pornography, rape and violent sex were two of the three least arousing types.
The article also cites a study in which respondents who watched porn were more likely to state “they would rape someone if they knew they wouldn’t get caught.” This is a classic case of correlation not equalling causation. These results can more likely be explained by a criminology theory called the routine activity theory, which states a crime is more likely to occur when these following elements intersect: an offender, a suitable target, and the lack of a capable guardian. When an offender (the rapist) feels he will not get caught (lack of a capable guardian) and has a suitable target, that is when the crime will occur. No other outside stimuli are required.
The suggestion that porn is to blame for rape is part of the reason only 25% of rapes were reported to police in 2018, and even fewer ever found justice. In a 2015 study over commonly held justifications for rape, Rhiana Wegner and colleagues explored the most commonly held rape supportive attitudes. Some of these attitudes, defined as “attitudes and beliefs that are generally false but are widely and persistently held, and that serve to deny and justify male sexual aggression against women,” included “no can mean yes,” dressing provocatively, being intoxicated, and being alone with a man. These are the same excuses often given as a defense in the courtroom to attempt to justify rape. Victims may fear reporting this heinous crime because statements like “(porn) makes men think it’s ok to rape women” give the offender yet another excuse for their actions to use in the courtroom.
Claim #3: You should stop viewing porn
There is a safe, legal way to do it and if it is done in that way, there is no problem. If you don’t like it, ignore it. If you want to consume porn, do so in a safe and legal way. Be of age. Use legal content, as in content that is on legal websites and does not feature children. Even consider paying independent content creators!
In the end, everyone has their own opinions and own convictions on this subject. Everyone is entitled to these opinions and convictions. However, the line should be drawn when that turns to shaming others for not holding those same opinions. There should never be any shame put onto sexuality, whether it be on how it’s practiced or explored. Articles such as “Pro-sex, anti-love”do just that: shame based off the author’s own personal convictions. If you don’t want to consume porn, you don’t have to. Don’t shame other people for their desire to do so.
Isabella Fluhr Chapman is a senior in Criminology from California.