EVANSTON, Ill. – Anyone who hasn't been listening to Scare-TV (i.e., Fox News) for the past 25 years may well have noticed that rape hasn't been in the news much recently, and Anthony D'Amato, a law professor at Northwestern University, has discerned the reason: Porn.
D'Amato noticed that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) figures for rape and attempted rape declined 85% between 1980 and 2004, the most recent year for which figures are available; from 2.7 rapes or attempts per 1,000 people in 1980 to 0.4 per 1,000 in 2004.
And D'Amato further noticed that there's been no shortage of official explanations for the decline, including less crack addicts and other would-be rapists on the streets because they're already in prison for other crimes; sex ed classes impressing impressionable youth with the concept that "'No' really does mean 'No'"; and the idea that women have been taught to avoid unsafe situations.
And while the incarceration explanation seems somewhat plausible – after all, the U.S. has more prisoners per capita (just over 2 million) than any other civilized country on earth – the abysmal failure of Bush's and his predecessors' "abstinence-only" so-called "sex education" classes can hardly have convinced women to "avoid unsafe situations" (like bars and dance clubs), or fledgling macho businessmen and frat boys that the women who attend their parties or go out on dates with them don't necessarily want to fuck them.
"There is, however, one social factor that correlates almost exactly with the rape statistics," D'Amato claims: Porn on the Web.
And he's got the stats to prove (or at least strongly suggest) it. AVN and AVN Online readers already know that roughly 20% of the Internet is adult content, but potential viewers of the material don't have as much access to it in some states as they do in others. According to D'Amato, data compiled by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in 2001 reveal that the four states with the lowest per capita access to the 'Net were Arkansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, and West Virginia, while the four states with the highest per capita access were Alaska, Colorado, New Jersey, and Washington.
What makes D'Amato's work award-worthy, however, is that he's compared the change in rape rates in each of those eight states, and come to the astounding conclusion (well, not quite so astounding to adult industry members) that those states whose residents were more capable of accessing adult content saw a 27% decrease in rape over the 24 year period from '80 to '01, while the four states whose residents were least capable of accessing adult content saw a 53% increase in rapes.
D'Amato says his interest in the subject was piqued when he noticed the disparity between President Nixon's 1970 Commission on Obscenity and Pornography (to which D'Amato served as a consultant) and President Reagan's similar "study," best known as the Meese Commission.
"Although the Reagan Commission had at its disposal all the evidence gathered by psychology and social-science departments throughout the world on the question whether a student’s exposure to pornography increased his tendency to commit antisocial acts, I found that the Commission was unable to adduce a shred of evidence to support its affirmative conclusion," D'Amato states. "No scientist had ever found that pornography raised the probability of rape." (D'Amato undoubtedly means, in that last sentence, the reputable, unbiased kind of scientist, rather than the agenda-ridden ones who turn out bogus studies for Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America and similar groups.)
D'Amato published an analysis of the Meese Commission Report in 1990, in which he suggested that one reason for the decline in sexual violence even then might be due to the idea that "some people watching pornography may 'get it out of their system' [i.e., masturbate] and thus have no further desire to go out and actually try it," adding that another possibility is that human bodies in the modern era don't present the mystery that they did in, say, Victorian times, when "[t]he sight of a woman’s ankle was considered shocking and erotic." (
One problem with both of those explanations, as former AVN Online Editor Kathee Brewer points out, is that rape is mainly a crime of violence and dominance rather than of sex ... but the de-mystification of the human body, due partially to the prevalence of porn, might easily play a role in a potential aggressor's choice of whether to attempt rape or to commit some other violent act in order to gain dominance over his victim.
"I am sure there will be other explanations forthcoming as to why access to pornography is the most important causal factor in the decline of rape," D'Amato asserts. "Once one accepts the observation that there is a precise negative correlation between the two, the rest can safely be left to the imagination."
Hopefully not; what's needed are more controlled studies of the type conducted and reported on by Drs. Edward Donnerstein, Daniel Linz and Steven Penrod in their 1987 volume, "The Question of Pornography," who found results similar to D'Amato's.
But research into the effects of adult content on the average person simply cannot be left to the "imaginations" of Drs. Judith "Erototoxin" Reisman and Mary Ann "Pornography Distortion" Layden. That way lies madness.