Posted by Julia Daniels | For Men, For Women, Pornography Facts, Prevention
Reading Time: 13 minutes

(Please note that this article could be triggering to those recovering from pornography. However, for the sake of domestic violence and sexual abuse victims, we feel this is a needed topic.)

We believe that porn has helped fuel certain toxic ideas that influence and motivate some sexually violent behaviors.

We will also address several ways porn has been linked to sexual violence including domestic violence, intimate partner violence, image-based sexual abuse, and dating violence.

Sexual Violence and Porn – Undeniable Evidence

Is porn sexually violent? Collective evidence says yes, according to the National Center On Sexual Exploitation, a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C. and dedicated to the eradication of all forms of sexual abuse, violence, and exploitation.

Real-life stories of men and women in the porn industry also confirm sexual violence as a normal script in pornography. That’s why porn and sexual violence is a topic we’ve touched on briefly in different articles. However, the relationship between sexual violence and porn  – and the resulting consequences – needs to be explored more fully. 

Whether we like it or not, our young people have a high likelihood of early exposure to pornography. They are also likely to view sexual violence in porn. Studies done in the last ten years show a link between porn and sexual violence in our younger generation that highlights a growing need for more research. 

“Dating violence (DV) and sexual violence (SV) are widespread problems among adolescents and emerging adults. A growing body of literature demonstrates that exposure to sexually explicit media (SEM) and sexually violent media (SVM) may be risk factors for DV and SV.”

Even college sociology textbooks, such as one used by the University of Minnesota, are beginning to link pornography with sexual violence:

“…much of what we call pornography still degrades women by depicting them as objects that exist for men’s sexual pleasure and by portraying them as legitimate targets of men’s sexual violence. These images should be troubling for any society that values gender equality…”

Toxic Effects of Porn and Sexual Violence On Men

Right off the bat, we want you to know that regardless of your gender identity, we respect and value you. This article is not intended as any sort of male-bashing!

Rather, our purpose is to clearly identify current ideologies about porn and sexual violence that are harming human beings. Admittedly, it’s a hard topic that we need to have open conversations about, since porn is almost unavoidably everywhere we turn.

Porn normalizes violent sexual behaviors.

Dan Savage, a sex columnist, was quoted by The Atlantic about an upsurge of reported choking during sex: “Instead of learning that what they see in porn might not resemble real life, young people watch porn and come to believe that it’s what their partners want.” 

This is only one example among many. Sadly, even if young people don’t like what they see, porn misleads them to try more extreme sexual behaviors, including violent sexual acts. The violence even carries over into committed relationships, to the dismay of the partner on the receiving end.

As one psychologist notes in Psychology Today, “sex after or together with violence” is often an unwanted sexual behavior. 

The dangers of blurring the lines of sexual consent are many. For example, it can lead to out-and-out rape or an abnormal, toxic mindset towards sexual intimacy.

Change is only possible when we step back and critically examine our own thinking. Re-examining our cultural ideologies invites a peaceful revolution. One such idea that needs rethinking is that men are just naturally violent.
porn and sexual violence -- effects on men

Sexual violence and porn validates toxic ideologies.

“To err is human; to admit it, superhuman.” – Doug Larson

That’s a wonderful take on the well-known line of  Alexander Pope’s poem An Essay on Criticism, Part II , 1711. “To err is human: to forgive is Divine.” 

We all err in our thinking on some points.

Change is only possible when we step back and critically examine our own thinking. Re-examining our cultural ideologies invites a peaceful revolution.

One such idea that needs rethinking is that men are just naturally violent. 

Are men just naturally violent? 

If you believe this, you’ve probably experienced toxic masculinity. To be utterly clear, we disagree with any idea that to be male is toxic. All people are of great value!

Toxic masculinity is a real problem, though, not just an “urban dictionary” term. It’s an ideology that is causing harm. This idea is prevalent enough to be defined by the Cambridge dictionary:

“1. ideas about the way that men should behave that are seen as harmful, for example the idea that men should not cry or admit weakness… The idea that “men are just naturally violent” is a manifestation of toxic masculinity.”

Now this world would be a very boring place if all men were all alike. Like women, men’s personalities and talents differ widely. But embracing or simply ignoring sexual violence as inherently male is a dangerous ideology that sneaks into mainstream society.

Consider this recent commentary and feedback over the 2022 Superbowl half-time line-up that included Snoop Dogg and Eminem:To put it charitably, the NFL is sending mixed messages about how seriously they take their stated commitment to working to end domestic and sexual violence.”

The commentator protests promoting public figures who are known for abusing women or portraying violence against women in their artistic works. 

It’s dangerous to turn a blind eye to a real problem in our society that’s influencing our younger generations. Unfortunately, the porn industry is also feeding a mentality that men are “just naturally violent”. 

Porn is a dangerous example.

Even worse, porn is a toxic role model for the younger generation because it implies that sexual violence is acceptable and even enjoyed by women. Porn creates a kind of “grey area” for women when they experience sexual behaviors they dislike.

Author Rachel Thompson, who recently released her book Rough on the topic of sexual violence, said in a Huffington Post interview, “That grey area did not stay a grey area for me,” she says. “I realised and came to terms earlier this year, right before my book was due, that actually, this was a sexual assault.” 

So let’s think about another underlying factor contributing to normalizing sexual violence. Should watching violent porn be socially acceptable?

“To be male is to watch porn!?”

Let’s debunk another toxic idea that “to be male is to watch porn”. We disagree with Psychology Today’s perspective on porn viewing: …“one myth must be debunked, the notion that only “bad” men (and women) watch porn. Actually, virtually all men with Internet connections do. For one study, Lajeunesse hoped to compare the sexual attitudes of men who either watched porn or had never seen it. He couldn’t find a single man who hadn’t seen it. To be male is to watch.

Such a viewpoint is disturbingly similar to the “boys will be boys” mentality displayed by those who excuse sexual harassment and cover up sexual abuse. This is a true manifestation of toxic masculinity. 

Good men disagree with both toxic ideologies. 

Safe, non-toxic men are alive and well in today’s society, thankfully. Case in point? Men have researched and written entire books on the harms of pornography for men, women, and society in general.

Plenty of men and women also currently speak out on the destructiveness of porn. Multiple organizations now exist to help those who are being harmed by sexual violence. Many men support and promote these organizations.

While all men may have seen porn at some point, not all men watch porn. In fact, many will admit they’ve worked very hard to entirely rid their lives of porn. We applaud your courage and true masculinity in facing a problem head-on!

Because porn and sexual violence are current problems, we want to clearly demonstrate specific ways that porn feeds and normalizes sexual violence. We cannot fix what we do not identify clearly.

Unfortunately, since porn is by its very nature sexual, we see the effects of violence in porn most clearly in our intimate relationships.

man and woman's face porn and sexual violence

Intimate Partner Sexual Violence And Porn

A recent study published in Sage Journals noted that Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and Intimate Partner Sexual Violence (IPSV) have long been connected to pornography use – though studies of this topic have been limited.  As far back as the 8Os, and the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography (the Meese Commission), there is evidence linking IPV and IPSV to porn. 

“This evidence presented at the hearings suggests pornography was being used as a way to groom or coerce wives and girlfriends into accepting certain sex acts. For example, one woman who testified at the Meese Commission stated,

He told me if I loved him, I would do this. And that, as I could see from the things that he read me in the magazines initially, a lot of times women didn’t like it, but if I tried enough I would probably like it and I would learn to like it. (quoted in Russell, 1998, p. 144)”

An Australian article “Pornography, Violence and Sexual Entitlement: An Unspeakable Truth” shows that law enforcement and front-line service providers agree:

“Not only does the research implicate the role of pornography, but front-line service providers are witnessing this firsthand. Nathan DeGuara, manager of the Men’s Referral Service, has seen a strong correlation between pornography and domestic violence, with increasing sexual expectations directly linked to porn use.”

Image-Based Sexual Abuse of the LBGTQ Community

Image-Based Sexual Abuse (IBSA) otherwise known as “revenge porn” is reported to be affecting the LBGTQ community disproportionately.  A UK study through the University of Birmingham is underway to further document this problem. “Revenge porn” is basically the non-consensual sharing of nude or sexual pictures. 

Not all violence is physical. Mental and verbal abuse qualify as sexual violence, too. 

An unfortunate result of revenge porn is “sextortion” and severe mental distress often results from this type of bullying.

Another a large-scale Australian study notes: “…80 percent of victims of “sextortion” reporting high levels of psychological distress, consistent with moderate to severe depression…”

This type of sexual harassment is very difficult to stop. However, necessary legislation is in the works to make revenge porn and sexual violence not just a crime, but a federal crime.

teens with mental health issues porn and sexual violence

Sexual Violence and Porn: Destructive Pairings For Women

A 2019 study, published in The Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy , reported that almost 25% of U.S. women surveyed felt “scared during sex”.

The types of sexual behaviors they reported as frightening mirror behaviors that are likely to be seen in mainstream porn.

“a common set of violent behaviours, such as choking, gagging, slapping and spanking, are hallmarks of so-called ‘gonzo’ pornography—i.e. the type of pornography most often found on mainstream porn sites…” 

Another study published in 2017 analyzed rural women in the process of divorcing. Nearly half of them suffered abuse and linked porn as a cause of sexual violence in their relationship.

Yet another study on problematic porn use (PPU) and interpersonal violence (IPV) of 273 men in batterer intervention programs concluded: “After accounting for psychiatric symptomology and substance use and problems, results revealed a positive association between PPU and both physical and sexual IPV perpetration.”

Porn and sexual violence promotes negative racial stereotypes

The National Center On Sexual Exploitation published a recent article with key takeaways from a study about porn and racial stereotypes. Unfortunately, the clear conclusion is that mainstream porn is responsible for promoting toxic ideologies such as “black men are sexually violent”.

“A content analysis of 1741 scenes from XVideos and Pornhub found that these pornography sites promote racist stereotypes by depicting black women as targets of sexual aggression and black men as more sexually aggressive and less intimate with their partners than their white counterparts. Depictions of aggression towards women were highest in scenes featuring black couples compared to all other racial pairings.”  – NCOSE 

Rape Culture: a product of porn and sexual violence

Is “rape culture” just another urban catch-phrase? Actually rape culture is so widespread that multiple universities are recognizing and addressing this problem. Here’s how Marshall University describes rape culture. “Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.”

Some identifiable parts of rape culture, according to Marshall University, include:

  • Victim blaming
  • Excusing or covering up sexual assault
  • Objectification of women’s bodies
  • Sexually explicit jokes
  • Teaching women how not to get raped instead of teaching men not to rape
  • Pressure on young men to “score”

Rape culture definitely includes the glamorization of sexual violence and porn – more than any other media – feeds that glamorous image. Even worse, porn portrays a false image that women actually enjoy rape, since the industry promotes searches for rape porn.

In fact, as Exodus Cry notes: “You could put these rape porn titles next to the spring break headlines and not know which was porn and which was “real life.”

While we purposely seek to avoid porn triggers, we have to identify rape porn as a major evil that is harming people.

Women using violent porn believe lies about themselves

When Pornhub releases their “Year In Review”, one of the more startling statistics is that women are increasingly watching more violent porn. Perhaps another evidence of this is the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey

This phenomena deserves more attention and study. From a research standpoint, one potential reason for this trend is that women, too, are believing the unhealthy lies of rape culture.

As Collette said in this interview for Relevant magazine:
“I craved my next porn fix all day long. I hid from my family and loved ones in order to feed my increasingly disturbing appetite. I taught my body to respond only to very specific stimulation, and this carried over into my marriage. I taught myself that I deserved to be hurt, like the women in porn are hurt. I taught myself that I deserved only domination, pain, disrespect and abuse…I taught myself that I had to let men do what they wanted to me.”

Other potential reasons why women consume violent porn might be ties to childhood trauma or sexual abuse.

two Asian boys looking at laptops porn and sexual violence

Porn And Sexual Violence: The Insidious Effects On Children

Professor Dines, founder of Culture Reframed and author of Pornland notes, “If girls watch it from a young age, their whole concept of what constitutes a normal sexual relationship shifts. It grooms girls into accepting male sexual mistreatment as normal.” 

Child Sexual Abuse Materials 

We’ve already addressed the topic of Child Sexual Abuse Materials (CSAM) being illegal, yet still a rampant problem. Portraying sexual violence against children in porn media is a crime! We can all agree that CSAM is a public health harm. 

So how is legal porn still promoting porn titles of sexual violence against minors? Here’s a hard, shocking, and dismaying truth.

While researching this article, I easily pulled up first page Google search terms to multiple pornographic sites that productize the vulnerability of foster care children or teens by their very title names.

I have my evidence in the form of a saved screenshot that I cannot share here. Not only does Google need to do a much better job of policing porn search terms, society needs to hold Google’s feet to the fire. Clearly there’s a market that’s driving this type of sexual violence. 

What might be harder to see is how mainstream porn combined with sexual violence is harming our children in every day life. First, though, we need to acknowledge that children are viewing porn in larger numbers than we may realize. And many children are unfortunately getting their questions about sex answered by porn – a harmful sex-ed teacher.

Harms of a pornified sex education 

  • Creates an unrealistic picture of healthy sexual relationships

The Guardian notes in a UK study released in 2021 that more than half of children ages 11 to 16 had viewed porn, and porn influenced their ideas about sex. 

“The majority of children questioned, 53%, said they had viewed online pornography, and while some chose to seek it out, they were as likely to have come across it by accident, often via pop-up ads.

Of those who had viewed the material, 53% of boys said they believed it presented a realistic depiction of sex, while 39% of girls thought the images were realistic.

  • Encourages teen dating violence

The National Institutes of Health studied potential links between Teen Dating Violence (TDV) and violent porn in 10th graders. “Violent pornography exposure was associated with all types of TDV, though patterns differed by gender. Boys exposed to violent pornography were 2–3 times more likely to report sexual TDV perpetration and victimization and physical TDV victimization, while girls exposed to violent pornography were over 1.5 times more likely to be perpetrate threatening TDV compared to their non-exposed counterparts.”

  • Feeds Child On Child Sexual abuse

Child On Child Sexual Abuse is a growing problem. One very damaging form of this is Sibling Sexual Abuse (SSA). A Canadian public health service guide to SSA links childhood access to pornography as one reason for this type of sexual violence. 

  • Fuels a multi-generational domestic violence crisis

When young people access porn to learn about sex, porn’s influence may be helping fuel a domestic violence crisis, according to an Australian news source. Survey results of 3,000 Sydney youth aged 12-14 revealed alarming answers about what is acceptable in a relationship.

“The survey found one in three young people believed “exerting control over someone is not a form of violence”.

Questionnaires revealed one in four people did not think it was serious if a man who was normally gentle slapped his girlfriend when he was drunk.

One in six respondents believed women should know their place, and one in four thought it was normal for men to pressure women into sex.” 

Based on scientific research, current studies, and the stories of real people, we believe that porn is fueling sexual violence. We’ve also looked at specific trends and ideologies that are evident in our society today. 

This can be discouraging! Porn feels like a giant monster that is impossible to defeat. 

However, if we all unite against a common enemy, there are ways to stop the spread of sexual violence through porn.

Child Sexual Abuse Material Infographic www.everaccountable.com

3 Simple Ways You Can Fight Porn and Sexual Violence

1. If you’re a victim of sexual violence, reach out for help.

First, if you’re reading this and you – or someone you love – are currently a victim of any kind of sexual violence, please call RAINN’s free hotline to get help: 1-800-656-HOPE(4673). The sad truth is that we’re still suffering from pandemic-related domestic violence.

Sometimes one simple act of bravery sets in motion important life changes! When you bravely ask for help, you help stop the spread of porn and sexual violence. You also fight the cycle of toxic ideas when you get the help you deserve.

2. Support and promote legislative change. 

In 2019 the UK began working on legal policy changes requiring age verification to make it harder for children to access porn online. So has France. We’re hoping to see similar changes in the U.S. and globally. Any step forward is positive.

So, another way to help is to support and encourage laws that will protect people from accessing sexual violence in porn – especially our children. We’re living in a time that requires us to be responsible digital citizens. One such bill designed to protect children from easy access to online porn is the “EarnIt Act” now headed to the US Senate.

3. Be accountable for your personal actions. 

Finally, as always, we ask you to consider the impact consuming porn has on your life and the lives of others.

Perhaps after reading this article, you can see some of the reasons we’re passionate about helping people quit porn through the power of personal accountability. Set up safeguards to protect yourself and those you love from porn and sexual violence! 

Have questions? We’re here for you and more than happy to help. 

 *”Ever Accountable’s blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or therapy, though we often link to medically reviewed studies.”

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