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THE CONTENT OF PORNOGRAPHY
"I've seen some soft-porn movies, which seem to have the common theme that a great many women would really like to be raped, and after being thus 'awakened to sex' will become lascivious nymphomaniacs. That... provides a sort of rationale for rape: 'they want it, and anyway, it's really doing them a favor'" -- Male respondent, Hite, 1981, p. 787.
Don Smith did a content analysis of 428 "adults only" paperbacks published between 1968 and 1974. His sample was limited to books that were readily accessible to the general public in the United States, excluding paperbacks that are usually available only in so-called adult bookstores (1976). He reported the following findings:
- One-fifth of all the sex episodes involved completed rapes.
- The number of rapes increased with each year's output of newly published books.
- Of the sex episodes, 6% involved incestuous rape. The focus in the rape scenes was almost always on the victim's fear and terror, which became transformed by the rape into sexual passion. Over 97% of the rapes portrayed in these books resulted in orgasm for the victims. In three-quarters of these rapes, multiple orgasm occurred.
A few years later, Neil Malamuth and Barry Spinner undertook a content analysis to determine the amount of sexual violence in cartoons and pictorials in Penthouse and Playboy magazines from June 1973 to December 1977 (1980). They found that:
- By 1977, about 5% of the pictorials and 10% of the cartoons were sexually violent.
- Sexual violence in pictorials (but not in cartoons) increased significantly over the five-year-period, "both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the total number of pictorials."
- Penthouse contained over twice the percentage of sexually violent cartoons as Playboy (13% vs. 6%).
In another study of 1,760 covers of heterosexual magazines published between 1971 and 1980, Park Dietz and Barbara Evans reported that bondage and confinement themes were evident in 17% of them (1982).
Finally, in a more recent content analysis of videos in Vancouver, Canada, T.S. Palys found that 19% of all the scenes in a sample of 150 sexually-oriented home video involved aggression, and 13% involved sexual aggression (1986, pp. 26-27).
Of all the sexually aggressive scenes in the "adult" videos, 46% involved bondage or confinement; 23%, slapping, hitting, spanking, or pulling hair; 22%, rape; 18%, sexual harassment; 4%, sadomashochism; and 3%, sexual mutilation. In comparison, 38% of all the sexually aggressive scenes in the triple-X videos involved bondage or confinement; 33%, slapping, hitting, spanking, or pulling hair; 31%, rape; 17%, sexual harassment; 14%, sadomasochism; and 3%, sexual mutilation (1986, p. 31).
While Palys' analysis focuses largely on the unexpected finding that "adult" videos "have a significantly greater absolute number of depictions of sexual aggression per movie than triple-X videos, "the more relevant point here is that violence against women in both types of pornographic videos is quite common, and that rape is one of the more prevalent forms of sexual violence depicted. Moreover, I would expect a comparable content analysis of videos in the United States to reveal more rape and other sexual violence than was found in this Canadian study, as the Canadian government has played a more active role than the U.S. government in trying to restrict the most abusive categories of pornography.
Palys did not find an increase in the amount of sexual violence portrayed in these videos over time. However, as he points out, it was not clear whether this was because some proprietors had become sensitized to issues of sexual violence as a result of protests by Canadian women, or whether they hoped to avoid protests by selecting less violent fare in recent years (1986, p. 34).
In a comparison of the contents of sexual and non-sexual media violence, Malamuth (1986) points out the following important differences between them:
- While the victim is usually female in pornography, he is generally male in non-sexual portrayals of violence on television (p. 5).
- "Victims of nonsexual aggression are usually shown as outraged by their experience and intent on avoiding victimization. They, and at times the perpetrators of the aggression, suffer from the violence" (p. 6). In contrast, "when sexual violence is portrayed, there is frequently the suggestion that, despite initial resistance, the victim secretly desired the abusive treatment and eventually derived pleasure from it" (p.6).
- Unlike nonsexual violence, pornography is designed to arouse males sexually. Such arousal "might result in subliminal conditioning and cognitive changes in the consumer by associating physical pleasure with violence. Therefore, even sexual aggression depicted negatively may have harmful effects because of the sexual arousal induced by the explicitness of the depiction" (pp. 6-7).
In summary: pornography has become increasingly violent over the years--at least in the non-video media--and it presents an extremely distorted view of rape and sexuality. --http://www.dianarussell.com/porncontent.html [Jun 2004]
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