The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

Sharing the love

Still controversial, though it really shouldn’t be: Ms Naughty reviews the weight of research which seems to indicate that porn does not cause rape. This doesn’t mean there are no problems in the “porn industry”, or that particular individuals don’t experience problems with porn, but on a population basis, the idea that porn causes (or “fuels”) sexual violence simply doesn’t stack up.

Contrary to what many people believe, recent research shows that moderate pornography consumption does not make users more aggressive, promote sexism or harm relationships.

Would that Shelley Bridgeman had read this.

What the hell, Canada, we thought you were cool. Transgender people banned from flying.

Octavia Spencer is honoured for her work in The Help, and OF COURSE all the focus is on her weight. So she hits back:

Then I started thinking, would these questions ever be asked of my male counterparts? Better yet, underweight actors or actresses? Nah, I don’t think so! Anyway, I answer: “Women would be alot happier if they ate…However, it is society that has told them and continues to tell them that you are less valued if you are of a certain age, or weight…something has to change. “

An interesting piece from Denny about adversity: Adversity – forging steel under great heat.

It’s a bummer, but we don’t grow in peace and contentment, we grow in adversity. Some of my best thinking and inspiration has happened under pressure, not moments of quiet reflection.

A deeply nuanced post with a comments thread that’s worth reading too, about the politics surrounding breastfeeding from Spilt Milk – Breastfeeding support: less is not more.

What we need are real choices, not rock-and-hard-place compromises. And for that to be possible, much more needs to change than the message they put on posters in the maternity ward waiting room.

Check out Cath Elliot’s excellent piece of serendipity.

This week’s pretty: a fabulous skirt from New Zealand designer, The Carpenters Daughter. It’s called the Delilah skirt.

Description: Straight skirt, black with white polka dots. I (Deb) want it.

11 responses to “Sharing the love

  1. M February 5, 2012 at 3:51 am

    I was very interested reading the link about how porn does not cause rape. It makes a lot of logical sense, however how does that then fit into our analysis of rape culture? Or do you (‘you’ being whoever wants to answer!) not believe in the validity of rape culture?

    Am I right in thinking that you don’t believe the over representation of women as objects in porn, plus the way they are represented, contributes to the way society views women? Do you believe the over representation of women as objects in advertising, and they way they are represented contributes to the way society views women, and as such rape culture generally? If so, what is it that you think makes porn different?

    I realise of course that you acknowledge the issues in the porn industry, representation I imagine being one of them, but I am having a hard time reconciling my support of the porn industry on the one hand and my anger at the advertising world on the other. If we say porn is fine as long as everyone consents, how can we then criticise movies / advertising etc for its disappointing portrayal of women if they have consented to such a portrayal?

    Sorry for the novel! I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts 🙂

    • Emma February 5, 2012 at 1:09 pm

      Okay, please note, nobody said “porn is fine”. Also, you may like to read our guide to talking about pornography. So when you say “the over-representation of of women as objects in porn”, that’s not representative of the kind of porn I watch, some of which doesn’t have any women in it at all.

      What makes advertising different from “porn” I think is actually pretty obvious: far more people view far more advertising than they do sexually-explicit material. It’s everywhere we go, it’s far more pervasive.

      And yes, of course I “believe” in the concept of rape culture. The thing is, the situation is improving, not getting worse. That sounds quite mad until you think about it like this: is sexual violence more or less acceptable now than it was fifty years ago? And the answer is pretty obvious. Is porn more or less readily available than it was fifty years ago? Again, the answer is pretty obvious.

      And I’m not “supportive of the porn industry” any more than I’m “against the advertising industry”. Different advertisers and different production companies do different things, and I feel it’s good to support those who “do it right”, just as it is to criticise companies like Hell and Mammoth who get it so badly wrong. Or should we condemn Astrid Glitter because it’s porn so it must be bad?

  2. BNN February 5, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Great questions, M; I too felt, after reading the Ms Naughty blog post, that the blogger completely (conveniently?) left rape culture out of the equation entirely. The notion that an increase in porn usage correlates to a reduction in rape rates? Even to suggest a mere correlation is drawing a pretty long bow from some pretty non-conclusive data. To me its almost as nonsensical as the notion that sex work stops rape.

    Sure, porn doesn’t in and of itself cause rape, but I’m pretty convinced that much of it plays a role in rape’s ‘cultural scaffolding’.

  3. M February 5, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    Thanks so much for your reply Emma and I’m sorry I didn’t qualify what I meant by saying ‘over representation of women as objects in mainstream, large-industry porn’ or something (although I’m certain that’s a problematic way of putting it too). I am mostly taking issue with the statement that ‘porn does not cause rape’ as to me that really does seem to separate porn from all the other types of media we are supposedly influenced by under this theory of rape culture, but I can’t understand why? And if advertising is just less pervasive than porn, shouldn’t we nevertheless be critical of the mainstream porn industry’s effects on perceptions of women in society?

    Your point about the decrease in acceptance for sexual violence aligning with an increase in access to sexually explicit material is indeed very compelling. But again, could we say the same statement about more ‘sexually suggestive advertising’ existing today than fifty years ago? Ie we would have to say that the over representation of women being objectified sexually in advertisements does not affect how society perceive women considering that the acceptance of sexual violence has decreased.

    I guess perhaps what is going on here is that the article you posted, without qualifying further, seems to say that no porn has ever influenced a person to be sexually violent, while you seem to be advocating that the type of porn you watch would never do so. I would perhaps agree with the latter statement but I’m not sure how I feel about the first?


    • Emma February 8, 2012 at 12:37 pm

      seems to say that no porn has ever influenced a person to be sexually violent

      That’s individual vs population, and I’ve mentioned that both right here where I linked to the article, and in the column I linked to in my earlier comment. And when you’re dealing with individuals and issues like this, it’s almost impossible to isolate cause from effect. ie does this person like violent porn because they’re sexually violent, or are they sexually violent because they like violent porn?

      Your point about the decrease in acceptance for sexual violence aligning with an increase in access to sexually explicit material is indeed very compelling.

      It’s compelling because it’s incontrovertibly true. Or you could look at the treatment of women in countries where pornography is very strictly controlled – Malaysia, Qatar, Iran…

      To me (and this is a personal opinion), all this indicates that there are things which are much more important in influencing the acceptability of sexual violence (and what we consider to be sexual violence) than either “pornography” or sexualised advertising. Like when we decided it was actually possible for a man to rape his wife. Or when we legalised male homosexuality and prostitution, so that if a gay man or a prostitute were raped, s/he could go to the police without fear of arrest. When we acknowledge that most women experience sexual desire, so it actually matters whether she wants to have sex or not.

      Or. How does a piece of art which depicts a woman enthusiastically consenting to – or indeed pursuing – sex promote an attitude that rape is acceptable?

  4. M February 8, 2012 at 12:20 am

    What I mean is – what is it I am missing in this debate which allows the theory of rape culture to be valid, while we at the same time think porn does not cause rape. Maybe the author of the article does not believe in the rape culture theory? Otherwise, what is it inherently about porn (any type) that exempts it from this analysis?

    Or is it is more important that we celebrate women enjoying / being involved in porn than that we criticise it for its affect on society’s views of women? Even if that is the case, I wouldn’t have thought we can say porn does not cause rape.

  5. Moz February 9, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    M, you seem to be eliding the diversity of porn, and porn consumers as well as rapists and rape victims. As well as the fuzziness of causation when applied to individuals. Emma has mentioned those, but you don’t seem to be acknowledging that. The gap between “a culture that encourages rape” and “a thing that directly causes rape” is huge.

    Porn can be part of rape culture while at the same time leading to a reduction in rape. Just as sexualised advertising can be. Causation, even at a whole-society level, is sufficiently complex that a fine-grained analysis is generally needed to make sense of what is happening. The high level “what I currently think of as porn causes what I currently think of as rape” is so fuzzy that it’s pretty much useless except to the media.

    Porn is not singular, homogenous or unvarying. Neither is rape. The gulf between 1940’s “saucy postcards” and 2010 “live webcam amateurs” is so great that I cannot imagine them both having the same effect, even on similar cohorts of people (say, of 19 year old male working class naval recruits from New York. And I really think you’d need to go to that level of detail to be able to talk meaningfully about direct causation).

    There are enough confounding factors that porn is hard to isolate as a rape cause. The explosion of porn has paralleled and been a consequence of other social changes. From increased equality of the sexes to the ubiquity of digital cameras to bizarre legislation, it’s very hard to even compare things across time (is a polaroid photo of your new baby naked on a rug in 1970 the same type of child pornography as a cleavage shot from a teenage girl on Facebook?) If the age of sexual consent changes, do we use the 1800 one or the 2012 one when discussing statutory rape? Do we adjust it to account for the change in median age of onset of puberty or not?

  6. M February 20, 2012 at 4:27 am

    Thanks for your thoughts and Moz the messages weren’t loading correctly which is why it looks like I hadn’t taken Emma’s thoughts on board sorry! Generally speaking your arguments seem to use a different notion of ‘rape culture’ than my notion of it, and I am unconvinced with your reasoning as to why. However you have given me a lot to think about so thank you.

  7. Moz February 22, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    M, my definition of “rape culture” is pretty broad (and broadly) the aspects of our cultures that encourage rape. Whether that’s the non-punishment of celebrity rapists or encouraging a victim not to make a fuss. I’d like to hear your definition and more about what/why you disagree with what I’ve said.

    My objection to the “porn causes rape” is all about “cause” not the terms each side of it. I’m equally leery of statements like “alcohol causes violence” and “christianity causes murder”. Since they’re social causes rather than physical ones I think the standard of proof to show causation is going to be very hard to meet. “burning coal causes global warming” is trivial by comparison. Which is why I tend towards statements like “some types of porn make some people more likely to rape”.

    I realise some people use “cause” in social science to mean “make more likely” rather than “force to happen barring counteraction”. I’m not happy with that usage, as we have perfectly good words for that already without making an existing word ambiguous (like “encourage”, “facilitate”, “incite” or “promote”). To me, gravity causes things to fall, money encourages corruption.

    At a different level, allowing “porn causes rape” would be a great let-out for rapists. “I was unwillingly/unwittingly exposed to porn and thus was forced to rape” is not a defense I’d be happy with. But if we allow the causation theory to stand, I can’t see how we’d disallow that defense.

  8. M February 23, 2012 at 2:17 am

    Hi Moz thanks for getting back to me. I now understand why I was disagreeing with you, and I think we are far more on the same page than I had previously thought.

    I think I can probably agree with this statement of yours: ‘…I tend towards statements like “some types of porn make some people more likely to rape”. I realise some people use “cause” in social science to mean “make more likely” rather than “force to happen barring counteraction”. I’m not happy with that usage, as we have perfectly good words for that already without making an existing word ambiguous (like “encourage”, “facilitate”, “incite” or “promote”). To me, gravity causes things to fall, money encourages corruption.’

    I was indeed using ’cause’ to mean ‘makes more likely to..’ and I agree words such as ‘encourage’ or ‘promote’ are more appropriate. But if we are to agree that some types of porn does encourage some people to rape some of the time, can we at the same time say, without doubt (as was stated both in this blogpost and the article it linked to), that porn *does not* cause rape? I guess I have a problem about being so black and white about it, and much prefer your way of phrasing it. I would have thought we could say ‘for the most part porn does not effect the phenomenon of rape but, as with all media in our society, some porn has the capability of influencing societal myths etc around rape’ or something?

  9. M February 23, 2012 at 2:23 am

    Having just re-read wat I posted I think I can guess that you will, very logically, say that yes we can say porn does not ’cause’ as the causal link is too difficult to prove, as you have said above! I guess I need to look further into the research / literature but would researchers and authors who say without doubt that porn does not cause rape, also agree that it could encourage it? Ie do they agree with the same semantic distinction you have made between ’cause’ and ‘encourage?’ If so then I can perhaps agree with that, however I might guess they don’t believe porn even encourages it, considering how strongly they advocate for their point of view.

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