AKRON, Oh. - Columnist Bob Dyer of the Akron Beacon Journal noticed something interesting about sex crimes among juveniles in his county: They're at their lowest rate since Summit County began keeping records of such things back in '89.
This being Ohio, however, "Officials are baffled as to why," Dyer reported.
Dyer also was interested, and began researching the subject - which led him to, among other sources, the Akron Family Institute, where a pair of psychologists opined that since rape is usually not so much about sex as it is about "control and power," the decrease has to do with women being more able to protect themselves, or perhaps the cops have been charging juveniles with lesser offenses so they don't wind up in the sex offender database for the rest of their lives.
Dyer didn't buy it - nor did he buy the idea that stricter laws have led to the decrease, nor the idea that more sex crimes are going unreported.
What he was willing to buy was the idea that since sexual material is much more available on the Web than it was in '89, and since computer access by juveniles has been steadily increasing over the past 20 years, the kids are getting off on watching porn on their computers so they don't have to get off by assaulting their friends or strangers.
"My gut says that, although easy porn might not be the total explanation, it's a big part of it," Dyer wrote.
It's not as if Dyer doesn't have a fair amount of scientific evidence to back him up. As AVN noted one year ago in our article titled Northwestern Univ. Law Professor: Porn Decreases Rape , Prof. Anthony D'Amato examined the U.S. Department of Justice's statistics for rape and attempted rape from 1980 to 2004, and noticed an 85% decrease - and also noticed, from data compiled by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, that the four states with the most per-capita Internet access - Alaska, Colorado, New Jersey, and Washington - had a 27% decrease in rape over that period, while the four states with the least per-capita Internet access - Arkansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, and West Virginia - saw a 53% increase.
Of course, as the scientific maxim goes, correlation is not causation - but Dyer also looked at a paper authored by Todd D. Kendall, an Assistant Professor at the Clemson University Department of Economics, in Sept., 2006, who concluded that, "The results above suggest that potential rapists perceive pornography as a substitute for rape . With the mass market introduction of the world wide web in the late-1990's, both pecuniary and non-pecuniary prices for pornography fell. The associated decline in rape illustrated in the analysis here is consistent with a theory, such as that in Posner (1994), in which pornography is a complement for masturbation or consensual sex, which are themselves substitutes for rape, making pornography a net substitute for rape."
Kendall warned that due to "limitations of the data," any policy decisions based on his data should be taken with care, but stated, "Nevertheless, the results suggest that, in contrast to previous theories to the contrary, liberalization of pornography access may lead to declines in sexual victimization of women."
And now, thanks to Dyer, even folks in anti-porn strongholds like Cincinnati may get an inkling that the hysterical screeds from Citizens for Community Values may not be the last word as to the social effects of sexually explicit material.