Whether pornography contributes to sexual offending may depend btl on the type

Whether pornography contributes to sexual offending

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Whether pornography contributes to sexual offending may depend b~tl~ on _the type of por. nography and the characteristics of the offender. Some researche_rs also d1stingu1sh pornography from erotica which refers to "sexually explicit material that depicts adult men and women con. sensually in~olved in pleasurable, nonviolent, nondegrading, sexual interactions" (Seto, Marie & Barbaree. 200 I. p. 37). Pornography, on the other hand, may be described as depictions of sex~al contact where one of the participants is portrayed as powerless or nonconsenting, or is little more than an object for the pleasure of the other_ participant or particip~ts. In additi~~• _some pomog. raphy depicts one or more persons in physically violent or degrading and hmmlmtmg situations. In each case, the pornography portrays sexual interactions as impersonal and without affection or consideration of the actors as individuals. Child pornography is a totally different situation because it involves the exploitation of children; possession and distribution of child pornography is illegal and carries prison penalties if convicted. Child pornography will be covered in the next chapter. Overall, Seto et al. (200 I) were able to conclude from a critical review of the research literature that there is little support for a direct causal link between pornography use and sexual aggression. However, some early research evidence suggested that under certai11 conditions, pornography facilitates aggressive, sexual behavior. Studies by Donnerstein ( 1983) and Malamuth (Malamulh & Check, 1981; Malamuth, Haber, & Feshbach, 1980; Malamuth, Heim, & Feshbach, 1980) indicated, for example, that a general statement that pornography does not negatively influence people needs several qualifiers. In a series of ongoing experiments, Donnerstein found evidence that three facto~ influence the relationship between pornography and human aggression: (I) the level of arousal elic-ited by pornographic films, (2) the level of aggressive content, and (3) the reactions of the victims portrayed in these films and photographs. Donnerstein and others (e.g., Meyer, 1972; Zillman, 1971) angered male subjects in a variety of ways, then found that pornography shown to these aroused subjects significantly increased their aggressive behavior toward others. Because of their arousing properties, the pornographic stimuli apparently may promote aggression under certain conditions. This finding accords with Berkowitz's theory (discussed in Chapter 5) on the relationship between arousal and aggression. Anything-sexual or not-that increases the arousal level of an already aroused subject will increase aggressive behavior in situations where aggression is the dominant behavior. The increased arousal may also draw the subject away from his own internal control or self-regulatory mechanisms, thereby allowing him to be less concerned about the consequences of his behavior.

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