Once a taboo entity, only found in seedy movie theaters and sold behind closed doors, pornography has now become increasingly more visible and accessible to the public. Today, the access of pornography is as simple as a few clicks of a computer mouse, and those clicks afford the viewer a vast collection of sites and images that would otherwise be unavailable without technology or the media. With this accessibility comes a new issue: is pornography at all to blame for sexually deviant behavior? It seems as though sexually deviant crime is taking place at unheard of rates, and the link to pornography has been cited before. However, the question of whether these crimes are on the rise or just hyped by the media remains to be seen. One factor that has played a part in the debate is the issue of pornography, and the link between the two seems to hold valid evidence to prove some sort of connection.
How Does Pornography Affect Us?
Pornography undeniable affects each person who views it in some way. Whether these individuals find the content stimulating, exciting, or disturbing is subjective, but research has shown that men, women and children have the tendency to act in a certain manner when studied in groups rather than on an individual level.
Children may be the most affected group when it comes to viewing pornography, and have the tendency to shape their future actions on what they have seen. According to Dr. Catharina Welin (2006), “because of the widespread availability of pornography in the media, youths are exposed to violent or bizarre sexual activities long before they have had any personal sexual experience” (p. 293). In this case, children with little to no knowledge of sexual activity, having viewed such material, begin to associate sex in their own personal lives as relatable to sex in these videos or images. This can play a significant part in how this child will grow to view sex as an act, their own sexuality, and the stigmas they associate with different genders. A child who has viewed pornography, maturing into an adult who engages in his or her own sexual experience will no doubt have a different view of the act than an individual who did not view such material in childhood.
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Women who view pornography as adults tend to have a distaste for what they are seeing and for the porn industry in general. For most women, sexuality is considered a private matter, especially in terms of their own sexual encounters. Women prove to be more emotional about sex rather than men who are geared to view it in a more physical sense. Women tend to believe that pornography is degrading to themselves and to their gender as a whole, showing the objectification of women as mere objects for men’s sexual gratification. Ann Gary (1978) notes that “pornography leads to behavior and attitudes showing disrespect for women, and pornography itself shows disrespect for women” (p. 232). Although some women may find pornography sexually stimulating in the bedroom, the overall stigma associated with pornography by the female gender seems to be vastly negative.
Lastly, one must view how men tend to view pornography. As males tend to commit sexually deviant crimes in a far more frequent manner than women, it can be said that viewing pornography may be a factor in looking at this statistic. Men tend to see sex as an enjoyable physical release before viewing it as an emotional connection, which may attest for the way women are portrayed in most pornography as merely the attractive tool to be used in order for the man to achieve sexual gratification.
Pornography and the Sexual Deviant
Having looked at the ways that pornography tends to affect different groups on individuals, one can look further into the research that has been done to prove a link between pornography and the sexual deviant.
Researched Michael Goldstein (1975) notes several cases of sexual deviant criminals
citing the desire to commit such acts after viewing them in a pornographic film. He writes,
“Motorcycle films containing violence and ‘gang bangs’ frequently nourished erotic dominant fantasy. As one rapist put it, ‘I’d think of some of the girls I had raped, and some of the girls that got raped in the movies during my sexual encounters. I’d place myself in the villain’s place instead of the hero’s, so I’d have a rough, hardened image” (p. 102).
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The tendency of these types of men to engage in sexually deviant or criminal behavior after watching these types of films shows some relationship between the two, and the prominence of research on this correlation does much to back up the claim of relationship. Researchers Addison, Koss, and Malamuth (2000), found that “exposure to nonviolent and violent pornography results in increases in both attitudes supporting sexual aggression and in actual sexual aggression” (p. 44). Further, found that men who watch porn were more likely to view women as promiscuous and therefore available to them regardless of their own will. Dolf Zillman (1989) notes, “Men behave as if they were entitles to sexual access with women who readily granted it to other men, and those who feel entitled can view their actions as a misdeed rather than a criminal offense against a woman” (p. 100).
Sociological Theories and Deviance
Pornography and sexual deviance in a sociological context can be considered related as the actions and behaviors that may ensue after viewing pornography violate the culturally accepted norms of sexuality and can lead to going against formally enacted-rules of the government in terms of sexually deviant criminal activity. Of all the three major theoretical perspectives in sociology, that which seems to most closely relate to the issue of pornography as a factor in sexual deviance is that of symbolic interactionism.
Symbolic interactionism places emphasis on smaller scale social interaction, which in this case can be compared to the porn industry and its customers and viewers. Herbert Blumer (1969), who coined the term “symbolic interactionism” noted that “humans act toward things on the basis of the meanings they ascribe to those things” (p. 45 ). In this case, this can be attributed to viewers of pornographic materials seeing the violent and deviant actions performed upon women in porn, taking these actions from the media they witness, and enacting this type of behavior in their own lives.
Sociologist Darryl Hall (2009) notes that the symbolic interactionism view of sexual deviance (which can relate to the issue of porn and sexual deviance) is as follows: “Symbolic interactionists suggest that the need of men to validate their sexual prowess or reaffirm their masculinity is an important factor in their seeking out pornography or prostitutes” (p. 2). Such a notion can explain the rising level of sexually deviant crime in society, and can in turn associate this with the viewing of pornography as a man’s need for sexual validation and masculinity.
As seen, the rise of pornography to a near norm in society has heightened the search to link the viewing of this material to sexual deviant behavior in society. Although a direct link is not conclusive, it is clear that the research in terms of this question is growing too slowly but surely supports some link between the two.
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