While many people in recent years have complained that watching pornography causes negative attitudes about women, a recent Canadian study has found that this is not actually the case.
In fact, typical viewers of adult entertainment might actually possess more favorable views toward women than non-viewers.
Researchers at London, Ontario’s Western University stated in a paper that pornography enthusiasts might even be “useful allies” in helping women fight for equality in work, income, and public office.
Predictably the paper is already receiving intense criticism.
The study unequivocally challenges the widely-held belief that watching pornography is damaging. The leader of the study and post-doctoral fellow in psychology Taylor Kohut said, “I’d rather not live in a culture where our government, lawmakers decide to regulate, outlaw behaviour or material because they assume it’s harmful. I’d rather they demonstrate it is, first.”
The study examined data that was obtained from 35 years of the General Social Survey. The survey interviewed roughly 24,000 men and women on a variety of issues on an annual basis.
The results showed that 23% of people who watched pornography in the last year were no more or less likely than abstainers of porn to identify as feminists or voice support for the traditional family.
Surprisingly, porn viewers expressed more positive attitudes towards women in positions of power on average. They also showed fewer negative perceptions about abortion and women in the workplace.
However, some anti-porn academics are challenging the study, claiming that it goes against the vast majority of research in the area. Sociology professor at Boston’s Wheelock College, Gail Dines, said, “The easy and free access to often-aggressive sexual clips on the Internet has spawned a ubiquitous new porn culture that is warping young men’s sexual behavior and attitudes as never before.”
Dines continued, “Maybe some of these guys do believe in abortion more, maybe they do believe women should hold office more, but they still want to ejaculate on the woman’s face and they still want threesomes and all that. Men have less interest in actual sex with a real woman; they want to act out the porn sex.”
Dines also questioned the validity of the study, since the average age of respondents, 45, is not representative of teenagers and young men.
Yet the era of the internet has shown an increase of indicators of male aggression, as instances of rape and domestic violence have become more commonplace, despite questions over whether it’s porn related or more a derivative of increased communication in society at large.
However, other individuals believe that the new study is congruent with the current literature which offers an unclear picture on the effects of pornography. While some studies focus on the negative impact of porn, others suggest that it can actually be positive.
Psychology professor at Texas A&M International University said, “Any tiny effect that porn is having is being washed out by a lot of other, more important things. I think if porn were going to ruin society, it’s already had 20 years to do it, and it’s not happened.”
Kohut mentions that the once widely-held view that pornography is a malignant force has been largely dismissed by society. But controversy is still present. The moralistic arguments of prior generations have been replaced by notions that porn promotes “women hating”, or a sense that women are objects of sexual exploitation for men. However Kohut argues that there exists almost no empirical data to support such a viewpoint.
According to Kohut, the study offered insights which go beyond just simply male attitudes. The study suggested that female porn viewers were equally egalitarian as others. This goes against the common belief that pornography trains women to simply accept subjugation.
Kohut also stated that the results might be somewhat explained by the fact that watchers of pornography are typically more liberal individuals, and non-watchers are usually more likely to be socially conservative or religious.