Research Spotlight

Male Peer Support and Sexual Assault: The Relation Between High-Profile, High School Sports Participation and Sexually Predatory Behaviour

Amanda Goodson, Cortney A. Franklin, and Leana A. Bouffard

Journal of Sexual Aggression 27, no. 1 (2020): 64-80, doi:10.1080/13552600.2020.1733111.

Key Takeaway:

A survey of 280 undergraduate male college students found that those who more frequently consumed pornography expressed a greater likelihood to rape if they were assured they would not be caught. Endorsement of rape myths was the strongest predictor of likelihood to rape and increased odds of sexual assault perpetration by 4.83 times, however the role of pornography in the formation of rape myths was not considered in the analysis. The influence of pornography on likelihood to rape and actual sexual assault perpetration may be greater than these researchers surmised if pornography’s influence on formation of rape myths had been taken into account.

Study Highlights

This study of undergraduate male college students (n=280, age 18 to 41 years old) explored whether males involved in high-profile sports during high school were more likely to endorse higher levels of hostility toward women, sexual entitlement, endorsement of rape myths, frequent consumption of pornography (and other behaviors), as well as engage in actions meeting the definition of sexual assault compared to men who did not participate in high-profile high school sports. The study also probed the role of both adolescence and Male Peer Support Theory in the development of sexually hostile and predatory behavior in college-aged males. Contrary to expectations and prior research, participation in high-profile high school sports was not a statistically significant predictor of maladaptive attitudes or sexually predatory behavior in this study.

The study found the following:

  • . . . “men who more frequently consume pornography more readily expressed a desire to act out their sexual fantasies that involve coerced, intoxicated, or forced sex and sexual assault, but only if they were assured they would not be caught”—referred to as a “likelihood to rape.”
  • Surprisingly, this association did not hold for actual sexual assault perpetration.
  • Fraternity membership increased the odds of sexual assault perpetration by 4.27 times, and frequency of alcohol consumption increased the odds by 1.67 times, but neither were associated with likelihood to rape.
  • Finally, endorsement of rape myths was the strongest predictor of likelihood to rape; it also increased the odds of sexual assault perpetration by 4.83 times.

Commentary

As cross-sectional research on the predictors of behavior, this study demonstrates that within male groups, certain attitudes, violence against women and pornography are correlated, not whether pornography or sports participation causes violence against women or self-reported likelihood of rape.

While this study found that endorsement of rape myths was the strongest predictor of likelihood to rape, and that men who consume pornography more frequently express a greater likelihood to rape, it did not explore the role of pornography in supporting the formation of rape myths. It is no secret that mainstream pornography presents acts of physical aggression of men against women as sexually pleasurable1 and presents women as always sexually available. Other research has found that pornography contributes to the formation of “sexual scripts” that influence a range of sexual experiences,2 as well as men’s endorsement of rape myths and sexual aggression.3 Thus, the influence of pornography on likelihood to rape and actual sexual assault perpetration may be greater than these researchers surmised if pornography’s influence on formation of rape myths is taken into account.

Other research leaves little doubt that, “on average, individuals who consume pornography more frequently are more likely to hold attitudes conducive to sexual aggression and engage in acts of sexual aggression than individuals who do not consume pornography or who consume pornography less frequently.”4

Footnotes

  1. Niki Fritz, Vinny Malic, Bryant Paul, et al., “A Descriptive Analysis of the Types, Targets, and Relative Frequency of Aggression in Mainstream Pornography,” Archives of Sexual Behavior (July 2020), doi: 10.1007/s10508-020-01773-0; Eran Shor, “Age, Aggression, and Pleasure in Popular Online Pornographic Videos,” Violence Against Women (2018): 1-19, doi: 10.1177/1077801218804101.
  2. Chyng Sun, Ana Bridges, Jennifer Johnason, et al., “Pornography and the Male Sexual Script: An Analysis of Consumption and Sexual Relations” Archives of Sexual Behavior (2014), doi: 10.1007/s10508-014-0391-2; Paul J. Wright and Ashley K. Randall, “Internet Pornography Exposure and Risky Sexual Behavior among Adult Males in the United States,” Computers in Human Behavior 28 (2012): 1410–1416, doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2012.03.003; Paul J. Wright, “U.S. Males and Pornography, 1973-2010: Consumption, Predictors, Correlates,” Journal of Sex Research 50, 1 (2013): 60–71, doi: 10.1080/00224499.2011.628132.
  3. John D. Foubert, Matthew W. Brosi, and R. Sean Bannon, “Pornography Viewing among Fraternity Men: Effects on Bystander Intervention, Rape Myth Acceptance and Behavioral Intent to Commit Sexual Assault,” Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity 18 (2011): 212–231, doi: 10.1080/10720162.2011.625552; Elizabeth Paolucci-Oddone, Mark Genuis, and Claudio Violato, “A Meta-Analysis of the Published Research on the Effects of Pornography,” The Changing Family and Child Development, ed. Claudio Violato, Elizabeth Paolucci, and Mark Genuis (Aldershot, England: Ashgate Publishing, 2000), 48–59; Michael Flood, “The Harms of Pornography Exposure among Children and Young People,” Child Abuse Review 18( 2009): 384–400, doi: 10.1992/car.1092; Vanessa Vega and Neil M. Malamuth, “Predicting Sexual Aggression: The Role of Pornography in the Context of General and Specific Risk Factors,” Aggressive Behavior 33 (2007): 104–117.
  4. Paul J. Wright, Robert S. Tokunaga, and Ashley Kraus, “A Meta-Analysis of Pornography Consumption and Actual Acts of Sexual Aggression in General Population Studies,” Journal of Communication (2016), p. 19.

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