September 7, 2016

Pornography Fuels The Myth That Some Victims of Sexual Assault “Ask For It”

I want to take this opportunity to scream from the rooftops about the excuses I hear over and over again in the media from abusers and judgmental onlookers who think a sexual abuse victim was “asking for it.”


  • The coed says yes, and then changes her mind.
  • That young boy happens to be sleeping in the room down the hall after you get done watching porn and feel an urge to act out.
  • She’s your wife.
  • That curvaceous and flirty 16-year old resembled a consenting adult.
  • He texted a nude image to his young, single, female teacher.

These situations do not give permission for, or mitigate. sexual abuse.

They certainly don’t lessen the trauma experienced by the victims.

Our porn-saturated culture has normalized sexual violence to the point where the law doesn’t even recognize that a rape occurred if a young woman is violated while passed out drunk behind a dumpster at Stanford. It assumes she must have wanted it.

The latest excuse I’ve heard comes from Subway’s famous representative, Jared Fogle, who is suing the parents of a young girl he sexually abused. He claims the girl’s parents are also at fault for her abuse at his hand, because “they frequently fought and abused alcohol in front of ‘Jane Doe,’ which caused her to suffer major depression and engage in ‘destructive behaviors.'”

So now it’s OK to sexually violate a child because she is sad and her parents aren’t providing strong enough support for her?

While many are with me in saying, “WHAT?!,” there is a growing group of other individuals who think that some of these instances of sexual violence are just minor incidents.Why are more and more good people changing their mind about what constitutes sexual violence and what to do about it?

I posit that the answer is pornography. With its insatiable utilitarian consumption of human beings for selfish sexual pleasure, its raw, brutal, debasing, violent and hate-filled themes, pornography is the script that teaches people to minimize the sexual trauma of others.

The pornography of today has created an unprecedented epidemic of sexual harm. Since the 1950s generations of pornography users have grown up watching pornography. During the course of the intervening decades, pornography has become increasingly available and normalized.

This should come as no surprise, as pornography users, who often start out as teenagers, grow up to become individuals who work as librarians, law enforcement officers, lawyers, judges, reporters, corporate executives, and Hollywood screen writers, etc. Naturally, the amount and type of pornography they consume eventually colors their judgments, values, and beliefs, and for some, becomes a perspective that is superimposed on their relationships, both private and professional, and ultimately culture writ large.

The evidence of this is all around us. From fashion magazines, the offerings of cable television and Internet service providers, popular entertainment, the “sexting” phenomenon, to the local grocery store checkout isle, American culture has been porned and is facing an epidemic of sexual violence as a result.

Users (men, women and children) of mainstream pornography are consuming media, which these days include depictions of sex with persons who look like children, teens, scenarios portraying incest, and other paraphilic interests such as sex with animals or excretory activities, and violence against women, including rape and torture. Today “ . . . mainstream commercial pornography has coalesced around a relatively homogenous script involving violence and female degradation.”

A meta-analysis of 46 studies reported that the effects of exposure to pornographic material are “clear and consistent,” and that pornography use puts people at increased risk for committing sexual offenses and accepting rape myths.

Studies indicate that adult exposure to pornographic media is connected to:

  • Believing a rape victim enjoyed rape
  • Believing women suffer less from rape
  • Believing women in general enjoy rape
  • Believing a rape victim experienced pleasure and “got what she wanted”
  • Believing women make false accusations of rape
  • Believing rapist deserve less jail time

America, we have to wake up. We will never solve the problems of sexual violence if we continue to ignore the prevalence and mass consumption of pornography in our society today.

Dawn Hawkins

Chief Executive Officer

Dawn Hawkins is CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, the leading organization exposing the connections between all forms of sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking, prostitution, pornography, and child sexual abuse. Dawn’s energy, creativity and mobilization skills are deployed to build a world free from sexual violence, with freedom and human dignity for all.

Dawn is deeply committed to bipartisan political solutions at the federal and state level. Her issue expertise, visionary initiatives, and innovative strategy have led to groundbreaking change in the legislative arena and in multimillion-dollar corporate policies.

Dawn has been instrumental in re-imaging the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. She has centered the need to address buyer demand for commercial sex, called out corporate entities facilitating exploitation through the annual Dirty Dozen List, fostered an international movement, and constantly: advocates for survivors. Her work has sparked change at Google, Hilton Worldwide, Comcast, Walmart, the Department of Defense, Instagram, TikTok, and other influential firms. Dawn has appeared on many television programs, including CNN, Fox & Friends, and Good Morning America. She regularly authors articles and speaks around the country addressing the public health harms of pornography, curbing demand for sex trafficking, protecting children and families in our digital world, and more.

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