March 20, 2019

Institutions of Higher Violence: The Influence of Pornography on College Sexual Assault

1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are raped or sexually assaulted while in college. Out of an average community college class of 25-35 students that is 5-7 women and 1-2 men approximately, making sexual assault more prevalent than other crimes on college campuses. Looking around a classroom it is highly unlikely there will be no victims of these awful offenses. How did a space of higher education, entrusted with preparing the future leaders of America become the notorious breeder of sexual violence? To comprehend how an institution of self-improvement could house such awful crimes, one must look deeper into the societal factors and pressures affecting this age group.

For most this is a period of discovering new found freedoms, many of which revolve around sexuality. In this day and age exploration is no longer solely based on relationship development but has begun to lean upon the shaky pillar of pornography to replace other forms of maturation. Using pornography in place of sex education or a human relationship may seem commonplace behavior for this young group however its results are anything but average and correlate to the high levels of violence we see.

Society may be correct about one thing; pornography usage seems to be the norm at this age. 64% of those ages 13-24 seek out pornography weekly or more. While this may be viewed as healthy sexual curiosity by some, the common forms of pornography today sway further from a respectful relationship and closer to abuse. Of the 50 most common pornographic videos an analysis found that 88% of scenes contained physical violence and 49% contained verbal aggression. A study surrounding PornHub found that an alarming 15% of videos contained nonconsensual aggression. Not only do these materials promote violence itself, they encourage the damaging rape myth that victims enjoy these violations. Out of these violent scenes a study found that 95% of the female actor’s responses were either neutral or expressed pleasure. Alarmingly these statistics are just as visible in materials containing young actors. Out of the previously mentioned study on PornHub videos, it was found that in those containing visible aggression towards teenage actresses 90% of them expressed pleasure while only 54% of those in videos not containing aggression did. Pornography encourages aggression under the guise that this is what the other party wants.

More terrifying than the promotion of such material is the rate at which youth believe it. Women come to believe this is normal sexual behavior; as one study found that girls ages 14-19 that watched pornography were significantly more likely to become victims of harassment or sexual assault. In addition, with all other factors homogenous, pornography alone increases, by a factor of almost 2, a battered woman’s likelihood of being sexually abused. Women who were exposed to pornographic materials earlier on are more likely to have sexual fantasies involving rape and a greater belief in common rape myths. Men on the other hand begin to believe that this behavior is normal and expected of them. One study found that males who viewed pornography were significantly more likely to have sexually harassed or have forced someone to have sex. Research found that across the board, men who viewed pornography were less likely to intervene if a bystander to sexual violence, report an increased behavioral intent to rape and higher likelihoods of believing rape myths.  While pornography ranges from the more “mainstream” to the “hardcore” another study found that there was no type which did not increase intent to commit rape if the subject believed they would not be caught. A meta-analysis of 22 studies has found that regardless of gender, viewing of pornographic material is linked to increased physical and verbal aggression.

Due to the influential nature of pornography on the young, the high rates of viewership and the high rates of campus sexual assault are undeniably intertwined. While universally concern may be expressed for the survivors of these crimes, to truly make an impact on these statistics we must look at what creates an offender. Understanding the role of pornography in leading to these violent acts is vital to protecting all around us from not only being victims but becoming perpetrators. To get involved in the fight against pornography and sexual assault click here.

Tiffany Powell

Intern

Tiffany Powell is a senior at Brigham Young University studying Public Health with an emphasis in promotion. She is hoping to pursue a masters degree in Physicians Assistant Studies. She hopes to combine her aspirations by focusing on women’s and children’s health and continuing to work with advocacy groups of the same nature. Advocating for vulnerable populations has always been a passion of hers that she hopes to involve in all areas of her life. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, skiing and visiting museums.

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