Sunday, May 25, 2008

People are weird; or the more porn, the fewer sex crimes.

Pornography occupies some weird liminal position here in America. Somewhere around 90% of men view it (I've had trouble finding actual statistics), but it is widely seen as a horrific societal evil. Recent posts at feministmormonhousewives.com have docmented sad tales of men so "addicted."

I decided to do a review of the literature to see what science says about such sad stories. What did I find out? Human sexuality = paradox. Every "common sense" argument is not only wrong, but produces the opposite effect you would suppose.

Two countries, Denmark and Japan, greatly liberalized their pornography laws in the 1960s and 1990's respectively. Both countries had spectacular declines in the number of sex offenses. Denmark even allows "child pornography"--it saw a 50% drop in such crimes, after the liberalization of pornography. Astonishing. Please understand that I am not condoning raping the occasional child for the good of the whole here, I find the idea reprehensible. I'm just reporting on the data.

Japan, who dramatically liberalized its pornography laws in the mid 1990's (or at least reinterpreted its existing laws much more broadly) saw an even more astonishing decrease -- an 85% decrease in sex crimes against children . If such an easy fix is available for such a horrific crime, we should all follow suit--in some non-horrific fashion; and yes, I realise that ay, there's the rub. To sleep, perchance to dream....

The most dramatic decrease in sex crimes was seen when attention was focused on the number and age of rapists and victims among younger groups (Table 2). We hypothesized that the increase in pornography, without age restriction and in comics, if it had any detrimental effect, would most negatively influence younger individuals. Just the opposite occurred. The number of juvenile offenders dramatically dropped every period reviewed from 1,803 perpetrators in 1972 to a low of 264 in 1995; a drop of some 85% (Table 1). The number of victims also decreased particularly among the females younger than 13 (Table 2). In 1972, 8.3% of the victims were younger than 13. In 1995 the percentage of victims younger than 13 years of age dropped to 4.0%.


Most significantly, despite the wide increase in availability of pornography to children, not only was there a decrease in sex crimes with juveniles as victims but the number of juvenile offenders also decreased significantly.


Another quote

"Other researchers have found the same effect. In Denmark homosexual child molestation decreased more than 50 percent from 74 cases in 1966 to 20 cases in 1969 (Ben-Veniste, 1971; pp. 254). These decreases in sex crimes involving children are particularly noteworthy since in Japan, as in Denmark, for the time under review, there were no laws against the personal non-commercial possession or use of depictions of children involved in sexual activities; so-called "childporn" (Kutchinsky, 1985a; pp. 5). Considering the seriousness in how sex crimes against children are viewed in both cultures, this drop in cases reported represents a real reduction in the number of offenses committed rather than a reduced readiness to report such offenses."


I looked at rape statistics by nation to determine where Denmark and Japan fit in world-wide.


US is at #9. Denmark is at #23, while Japan is at #54.

In retrospect, at right around 1995 this portal into the Hellmouth (no, wait, that's Sunnyvale), into the demimonde, previously only available to the wealthy or those willing to venture into the skeevier parts of town, was now but a click away, and in the privacy of your own home. Here, there, and anywhere with a dial-up phone line. This increased availability of porn coincides (mostly) with a similar drop in rape cases in the United States, so even if the the events in Japan and Denmark are correlative, not causative, something's happening here, even if what it is ain't exactly clear.

11 comments:

snapdragon said...

thats not tiny

djinn said...

True enough; perhaps I should have a "somewhat less than tiny" arguments link. But I aready have about a zillion.

Mossie said...

I have no stats, but anecdotally, plenty of women watch porn too. They might not be as forthcoming about admitting it, however.

djinn said...

You're right. I shouldn't have left them out--I'll see what I can find.

Steve said...

Good post. Another support is that nudity in Europe has been much widly accepted forever compared to the US, take for instance female topless sunbathing, and sex crimes and other "addictions" tend to me much lower. Plus, they all have a much more nuanced and mature approach to nudity there. You don't see 13 year old boys freaking out over trying to watch HBO late at night or finding a old Playboy like you do in the US. This allows them to talk about sexuality more openly and honestly than in our Puritanical cloths here. BTW, I found your blog from Nosurf's less than interesting discussions on pornography on her blog. I feel like most of the commenters on there are the same people that still have Bush bumper stickers and think sex should only be enjoyed in the missionary style before doing your Sunday prayers.

djinn said...

Thank you for your kind comment, Steve. The point I am trying to make, and perhaps should make more bluntly, is that Mormons are creating the very sort of sexually-disfunctional sex-obsessed porn addicts by the church's very behavior. For one thing, they talk about it constantly. In a way that is less than helpful. THe whole idea that sexual feelings are turned on by external influences (barring those that happen due to abuse) is completely and idiotically incorrect, and leads those who feel them to believe that they've sinned. Wow.

All such sheltering and repression (oooh, a shoulder!) does is create that guilt and shame and obsession spiral one can read about on divers religious sites. Doesn't seem to be a problem here at all (well, within reason) in laid-back Portland.

How do you tell people to just chill. Doing nothing is, sometimes, the answer.

Steve said...

I totally agree. And porn isn't the only issue in "the church". I had so many issues with their hypocracy and demonizing that I had to stop going. This is just one other thing that is making Mormon relationships worse instead of better.

djinn said...

I disagree, Steve; Mormons are just people, doing their best. And, I do hope, when there are aspects that are totally wrong, to the extent that they harm the innocent, they can be modified. So.....

tamar said...

Although it is possible that the access to child porn helps some people indulge their fantasies without actually harming a child, it also seems possible that the reduced rates of sexual predation could have been partially caused by increased awareness of this issue. People are much more protective of their children now I find.

Child pornography is a very challenging issue in virtual worlds. If the host company is based in the US, then the content has to comply with American notions of acceptability. This means that participants from around the globe have to abstain from anything suggesting child pornography. So, even if a virtual world is restricted to people over 18, members cannot have an avatar that appears juvenile participate in anything sexual.

In Second Life (A major virtual world), many members have chosen to have animal avatars. This brings us to a really important question:
What is the age of consent for a weasel?

djinn said...

Good thing I wasn't drinking my coffee when I read that comment. I suggest age of consent being measured in "weasel years," a concept that also applies on other fields, as well.

djinn said...

Let's try again; a concept that applies to other fields, as well.