'Porn link to sexual deviancy': Why this criminologist is sceptical

Summary:Is there a connection between online pornography and deviant sexual behaviour? Recent research suggests so, but this criminologist thinks otherwise.

Trying to gauge a connection or causality between Internet pornography and sexual offences is an unimaginably difficult project to crack. I'll say that from the word go.

For when I spoke to resident Pulp Tech columnist Violet Blue earlier on this morning to discuss the reported 'causal effect' between Internet pornography and committing acts of sexual deviance, it became apparent rather quickly how loose and imprecise this assertion is.

Porn causes people to commit sexual offenses just in the same way that violent video games causes young people to take a gun to their school and repeatedly pull the trigger -- in that they don't.

It is basic cause-and-effect, or rather perceived cause-and-effect. One relates a subject of similarity and connects it all but entirely to another, based on similar factors and seemingly rational motive.

Blue hits the nail on the head. The sample data they used includes only one convicted child sex offender, which will automatically sways the data, causing an imbalanced probability in the statistics, resulting in a Daily Mail-like headline.

Oh wait, the Daily Mail covered it. That, I am not surprised by.

In my criminological and academic opinion, it would not surprise me to discover that a convicted child sex offender may have discovered certain deviant behaviour through experimenting with various kinds of pornography and fetishes.

Rational choice theory innately forces the very vast majority of us to restrain from acting out our thought processes. Granted, if there are no situational preventative measures in place, the temptation to deviate is higher. In this case, CCTV to prevent shop floor thefts would be comparable to a governmental Internet firewall to filter out child abuse imagery.

Those suffering from psychological differences, who may go on to display sociopathic or psychopathic tendencies, are of the small proportion who may go on to commit acts of serious sexual deviance, based on prior exposure to web pornography.

You can see that these biological factors will pre-exist, thus all but negating the causal effect as comprehensively and correctly critiqued by Blue. These research-founded assertions connect are the kind of results which would cause many to think that by watching porn, it will make them want to take their actions out forcibly on others.

It simply isn't the case.

Young people in particular are demonised by the amount of pornography they view. Having said that, many do not take into account that the Generation Y may as well be called 'Generation Porn'; for reasons that we are the first generation to have content all but pushed to our screens for our viewing pleasure.

As I have said before, the Generation Z factor -- our younger brothers and sisters, who have been brought up on the Web in their entirety -- will be an interesting demographic to watch grow up. Whether or not they will drown in an over-liberalised web with .xxx domain names galore and free porn beyond belief, a full understanding of their behaviours will not be seen for at least a decade.

One could make a connection between the majority of child sex offenders being of the older Generation X demographic. But, as one has a balanced head and is acutely aware that the older generations outnumber the younger generation by at least five to one, it doesn't take a genius to conclude that research, by very nature, is innately flawed.

Especially, if you only interview one child sex offender and immediately run to the press with arms flailing.

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Topics: Browser

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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