The Controversy Behind Internet Porn and Criminal Behavior

The Controversy Behind Internet Porn and Criminal Behavior

Summary: Interviews with one convicted pedophile and UK researchers conclude that Internet porn makes monsters, while National Geographic sets to air a similarly dubious segment of their series "Taboo." Violet Blue thinks their fear of technology proves they're stuck in the past.

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TOPICS: Browser
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Internet porn is ubiquitous, and most people view it with a shrug and move on their lives. Especially Generation Y.

But UK researchers and now National Geographic have renewed their determination to prove the evils of Internet porn, despite a glaring lack of scientific accuracy and common sense. More than ever, these pundits appear tech-phobic, and their wild internet porn theories prove they’re stuck in a completely different world.

In America, National Geographic is preparing to run a sex- and Internet porn addiction scare segment (Taboo: Sex Addiction, May 9). Their choice of experts shines a troubling light on the aging brand’s credibility.

NatGeo relies on the claims of Doug Weiss, a Christian “sex addiction expert.” Weiss runs a big business on sex and Internet porn addiction – despite the fact that he has no curriculum vitae online, nor a single peer reviewed publication to his name.

In the NatGeo Taboo teaser, Doug Weiss frames himself as an expert on neurobiology – while getting his facts wrong about dopamine and sex, in addition to mentioning enkephalins, which have no known role in orgasm.

Add this to the past week’s assertion from UK researchers that Internet porn leads to the creation of sex criminals, and we may have reached the heights of hysteria.

The Daily Mail led the charge with Psychologists warn of 'causal link' between Internet porn and rise in sex offences.

In it, we’re told that psychologists and researchers claim that “the rise in deviant pornography online” is creating “an increase extreme illegal behaviour in real life.”

Look, I’m as concerned about the effects of Internet porn as anyone. And porn online, without context and used irresponsibly can make people miserable. But I actually read the research – and I make sure it’s real research, because I am serious about knowing the truth.

As like with NatGeo’s so-called expert, closer investigation reveals that the new online porn scare proponents come up less trustworthy than sleazy Internet porn rebillers. Or Facebook.

The Telegraph asserts as fact: Internet porn 'encourages sex offenders’ - Pornography on the Internet is normalising extreme fantasies and increasing the risk of sexual offences, psychologists have warned.

But the articles reveal the fraud in motion behind the headlines:

Dr Tim Jones, a senior lecturer in cognitive psychology at Worcester University and other psychologists, including Britain’s leading criminologist Prof David Wilson of Birmingham City University, carried out a research project which involved a series of interviews with a convicted paedophile known only as James at Grendon Prison, Bucks, which specialises in the therapeutic treatment of sex offenders. He is serving a 14-year sentence for multiple sex offences against children.

Based on this,

Dr Jones said he believed that there was a “causal link” between internet pornography and sex offences.

One person. They interviewed one criminal.

Personally, I think that to distort a topic this serious is criminal in itself.

There are currently two increasing trends in articles about the impact of lots of free Internet porn. I think we’re all interested in what’s being said here in general about the way Internet’s porn on tap is, or may be, changing how we relate to masturbation, sex, and our love relationships.

Aside from the technophobic foundation of Internet porn hysteria, there are two competing fears they’re trying to sell us.

One is that “drowning in internet porn” results in numbness, or even “the vanishing male libido.”

The other is that unlimited access to porn makes men into uncontrollable rapists. This new trend supports the harmful anti-porn myths that porn leads to harder stuff, and that men who “need” porn can’t have real relationships.

None of these assertions have been proven. And I’m certainly not going to believe a Christian profiteer with sketchy credentials or – a pedophile.

No, we don’t expect Daily Mail or Telegraph to present an unbiased or balanced perspective on any given topic – but they should.

We do expect NatGeo to do their homework. And because they didn’t, they’re just as guilty of creating digital age sexual hysteria akin to anti-masturbation “hair on your palms” myths as the newspapers making one pedophile the basis of anti-internet-porn claims.

But that’s boring, you say. It’s way more exciting to think that internet porn is making monsters and destroying relationships and will eat your children. For a readership hooked on horror stories, sure. But we have enough real-life horror stories, thank you. We don’t need to invent more.

Talking about the fallacies of so-called Internet porn addiction is way more interesting. Especially when it comes from practicing psychologists dealing with the fallout from anti-internet-porn foolery.

Psychologist and author Dr. Marty Klein just blogged an exasperated post about his clients and Internet porn in, Porn Addict or Selfish Bastard? Life Is More Complicated Than That.

One thing’s for sure. Internet porn is making some people act crazy - but it’s not the people that are watching it for recreation.

Photo by Kevin Dooley, under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic license, via Flickr.

UPDATE: Zack Whittaker from iGenration weighs in - 'Porn link to sexual deviancy': Why this criminologist is sceptical. See also: Explaining Porn Watching With Science.

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    zara123-24071979798149429401169429270186
    • RE: The Controversy Behind Internet Porn and Criminal Behavior

      @zara123: Agreed.
      bradavon
      • RE: The Controversy Behind Internet Porn and Criminal Behavior

        @bradavon A long time ago I dated an attractive and intelligent woman who was writing her PhD thesis on the influence of pornography on single men; she would pay homeless men twice mini<a href="http://vb.maas1.com/">m</a>um wage to sit in a room for two hours and watch porn videos. Her grant was exhausted long before she ran out of volunteers, but her methodology was so flawed that the only conclusion I could draw from the results she shared with me was that her thesis advisor was ei<a href="http://www.tran33m.com/vb/">t</a>her a complete idiot or was purposely setting her up for failure. We broke up long before she submitted her results, but her <a href="http://www.tran33m.com/vb/">?????</a> handling of what she insisted were "facts" left me with a healthy skepticism for this type of "research. "
        alasiri9
    • RE: The Controversy Behind Internet Porn and Criminal Behavior

      @zara123 Dude, we are all blind to our own blindness. Porn is wrong.
      bigredcape
      • Why?

        @bigredcape
        I have heard a lot of people proclaim that porn is wrong, but very few people give a cogent argument as to why this is supposedly the case. Care to give it a go?
        use_what_works_4_U
      • RE: The Controversy Behind Internet Porn and Criminal Behavior

        @bigredcape

        why?
        fairportfan
      • RE: The Controversy Behind Internet Porn and Criminal Behavior

        @bigredcape
        There is quite a bit of very real data to support that viewing pornography leads men (and women, too, actually) to view their partners as less attractive, to rate their sex lives as less fulfilling, to believe in the myth that women sometimes want to be "taken", and to view crimes of sexual assault as less severe. All this is fact.

        Now, whether that means porn should be illegal or is "wrong" I wont say, anymore than the facts that increased exposure to high-calorie, high sodium foods is a health risk. In the end, personal responsibility plays an important role. Some would say candy-bars are wrong...

        That said, let me flip the argument: what good does porn do?
        x I'm tc
      • I disagree

        .
        use_what_works_4_U
      • Fact: I am invisible.

        @jdakula:

        See, It's true. I said it was a fact, and Zap! You can't see me.

        Fact: I am a trillionaire.

        OK, I'm sure that is true now that I've stated it's a fact. I just haven't found the checkbook to my account yet.

        You see, correlation IS causation, regardless of what those co-conspirators in middle school, high school and college told you. It's a FACT. You just need to be smart enough to see through the babble. Take for example, the known phenomenon that when ice-cream sales increase in the US, so does the violent crime and murder rate. Aha! Ben and Jerry's CAUSES people to chop up their lover. See? Works every time. And because I said "ice-cream" first, we know that it's not the case that shooting your classmates makes you crave H?agen-Dazs, but the other way around. You have to pay attention to the details here, or you miss out on this important stuff.

        Now, sure some simpletons would have you believe that the two are unrelated, that say, there have been well-controlled studies demonstrating in humans and animal models that when you raise the temperature (as some other people would have you believe happens more often in the summer time) aggressive behavior increases. And sure those same people might try to sell you that people crave ice-cream more often when suffering from a heat stroke and sub-burn than when stuck in a snow storm, but that's pure hog-wash. It's a conspiracy, and they are selling you snake oil. Strawberry ice-cream also causes shark attacks since they are correlated too! I think it's because sharks like ice-cream as well, though I recently heard on TV that they like chocolate and peanut butter, so we should look into that as well.

        Conspiracy is here to stay. See, if you try to rightfully assert that running your furnace causes snow storms, you'll get laughed right out of a meteorological society meeting. It's a closed system with the odds stacked against you and facts like that cramp their stile.

        The sex studies field is no better. Especially in peer-reviewed journals. Even more in those with "impact factors" (what a joke) above 2. Thank goodness for unbiased, hard-core scientific media outlets like the O'Reily Factor and the Telegraph. Phew! We're not safe yet, but we can forge forward and one day the truth will be out.

        And some the biggest conspirators? The Governments (a least most). They won't even allow so called "controlled" studies where we take a few hundred monozygotic twins and force feed one snuff porn while sheltering the other, release them when they're 18-32 into the wild and see how many each one rapes and kills. With limitations like this, I mean, how are we supposed to meet those arbitrarily high standards of control? Tell me? No, no, we can easily rest on the "correlation is really causation, they just don't want you to know" premise, which, as I stated before is a FACT. Let's vote new people in office so we can start out these trials and make our facts truly irrefutable.

        I'm right with you. Pedophile do not buy deviant porn beCAUSE they are deviants, they are pedophiles beCAUSE they were given such porn (note the word CAUSE in beCAUSE, it's right there!). Ipso ergo, and so forth, it is an established FACT that porn causes rape, sexual deviance, and hairy palms to boot. They are just secretly spraying keyboards and mice with Neat Hair Removal products just like they've been doing with Penthouse and Playboy.
        Mr. Copro Encephalic to You
    • RE: The Controversy Behind Internet Porn and Criminal Behavior

      @zara123 -- so, can you stop, or are you hooked?
      Bit-blitter
      • I can stop

        @Bit-blitter

        I've done it a thousand times. (paraphrasing Mark Twain)
        Mr. Copro Encephalic to You
      • RE: The Controversy Behind Internet Porn and Criminal Behavior

        @Bit-blitter <br><br>Personally, I think that to distort a topic this serious is criminal in itself.<br><a href="http://www.sanjosedentistdds.com">San jose dentistry</a><br><a href="http://spas-sanfrancisco.com">San Francisco spas</a>
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        samjenko
    • RE: The Controversy Behind Internet Porn and Criminal Behavior

      @Mr. Copro Encephalic to You

      I said only that it was fact that "there is quite a bit of very real data to support" harms from pornography. By the way, much of it is experimental not just correlative, although experimental data are just a special kind of correlative data. Is there data to support that you are invisible? I'd like to see it. I did not suggest that correlation implies causation (although, at the end of the day, it is the /only/ thing that /ever/ does), nor did I say that it was a fact that pornography causes harms, just that it is a fact that there are data supporting that it causes harms. It is possible -- however unlikely (usually about 95% unlikely) -- that those data are wrong.

      Thus, it was a very nice rant, but wholly misdirected. I am not passing judgement on pornography, intelligent minded people (not sure if you qualify or not) can evaluate and come to their own conclusions about the data. The existence of those data is, however, fact.
      x I'm tc
      • The problem with most data about porn

        @jdakula
        is that it is self reported data. Self reported data is notoriously inaccurate, and how exactly would you set up a blind study of porn consumption vs. criminal activity? This is the problem that many of us have with "lots of data". The <b>quality of the data</b> is crucial and with porn usage, that data quality is highly suspect.
        use_what_works_4_U
      • RE: The Controversy Behind Internet Porn and Criminal Behavior

        @macadam

        Some no doubt is self report. But no, much of it is experimental data, with a control group. That is, send randomly assigned subjects off with a stack of pornographic DVDs and instructions to watch a certain number of hours per day, and others with non pornographic material. Ask them back some number of weeks later, and evaluate their responses/performance/skin conductance/brain activity/etc. in a masked fashion on certain tasks or while being exposed to certain images or statements.

        In other words, so called hard data. Note that subjects who viewed the porn are less likely to see sexual assault of a woman as a serious crime, are more likely to agree with the statement that women sometimes want to be "taken", report decreased satisfaction with their lovers, show signs of elevated anxiety, have reduced limbic system activity when viewing sexual violence toward women, show decreased arousal when presented with "beautiful" people, etc.

        These effects are modest. And as is correctly pointed out by many other posters, most people, even those who view a lot of pornography, do not commit sexual assaults. As a libertarian, I am not suggesting that we outlaw porn. The men and women who produce it are typically consenting adults and there is certainly no shortage of people who are willing to perform. If people want to make porn, that is their right, as far as I am concerned.

        That said, I don't think there is much of an argument to be made that porn is somehow "good." On the whole, I think it is a sad thing that there is so much of it. I doubt many pornographers are truly glad of their career choice. For those who seem to rush to porn's defense, I pose the counterargument: what good does it do? One common response is that it serves as a "release." However, the scientific data strongly reject this notion. Those who view porn are /more/ likely, not less, to aggressively seek out sexual encounters.
        x I'm tc
      • Let me be less tongue-in-cheek

        @jdakula: I don't believe your are either generally ignorant or stupid. I think you -- as I have done and will do again, and everybody does -- incorrectly made the correlation to causation jump AND, as it turns out, made the "this thing was proven which implies this other this, which is not supported by the study" jump as well.

        (an aside: Can you see me? No? Therefore I'm invisible: see OED definition for more humor)

        A fallacy of the latter jump is that simply because you cannot imagine another conclusion, does not prove the only conclusion you can come up with. The ice-cream and murder study still holds an enduring lesson, but let's switch focus to the "this implies that problem".

        Let's say, for example, that I have male subjects come in for a study. I randomly divide 1,500 subjects into three groups:

        Group A: Those who watch "Not a Love Story: A Film about Pornography" (a somewhat compelling and vehemently anti-porno flick)
        Group B: Those who watch Sponge Bob Square Pants
        Group C: Those who watch simulated rape scenes in an adult soft-core film

        After watching, we ask all subjects to answer one simple question (for the purposes of this example): How do you feel about rape? Rate the thought of rape from 0 (makes me hurl) to 10 (pretty exciting)

        And we find, not surprisingly, that Group A's mean is -12, Group B's mean is 3, and Group C's mean is 8. We set our confidence interval at 95% and find that our data greatly exceed that. Yeah! We hit it out of the ball park. Out p value is 1x10-13. Done. We have proven beyond reasonable doubt that.... uh... what?

        Well we've proven that after watching a movie portraying a subject (rape/porn) matter in one light vs another will on average change someone's opinion on that subject matter immediately following the viewing. Now, sex psychology is not my field of interest in the Neuroscience and cognition, so I'm not so good at pulling up sex psych research. But I recall a study not dissimilar to the above scenario being published some time ago.

        Here is the problem: you can only state with 95% confidence what the study tested. No more. No less. And the study, as controlled as it might have been, cannot make any causative inferences outside of the areas tested. I'd be surprised if the authors made any such claims. Those of us who publish make sure that if we were wild enough to make such a claim, we put in a lot of "could", "may", "under some circumstances", etc. etc. to cover our behinds when we are often proven wrong.

        Although it is reasonable to state that watching rape scenes where the woman ends up "getting into it" on average makes people less disturbed about rape in general, it is not reasonable to assume that watching those same scenes makes people more likely to engage in rape. And here is one (of many) reasons why - the rape scenes that had this effect were scenes where the woman in fact did seem to "get into it" and it was unlikely that the subjects believed what was being depicted was real rape.

        Now, I have not tested this theory myself, but I would be pretty surprised to see a real rape victim act in the same way. Call me silly.

        Moreover (and without any proof what-so-ever) I would be willing to bet that if anyone were ever to do the same 1,500 men study with a real rape-and-snuff film, the acceptance of rape (after cleaning up the burritos and pizzas that college students tend to ingest sometime before showing up for these studies) would in fact NOT go up but would in fact go down, particularly if the subjects believed it to be a real snuff film. In fact, I'd be willing to bet a fresh, not pre-digested pizza that if you asked men in such a study if they wanted to have any consensual sex with a beautiful and willing partner, on average their enthusiasm for that too would go down (though knowing college students, not too much). Yes, I'd be willing to bet. Even more than a pizza.

        Sure you may find some of the subjects getting excited during the film (and they may even have prior criminal complaints if you look into it), but this could easily mean that rapists like watching rape, which, aside from not being particularly surprising, proves nothing about a causal relationship between porn and deviance. Pedophiles like child porn, zoophiles like, well, you get the picture.

        Unfortunately, those pesky IRBs and human subject study regulations might prevent us from doing any such study. Which brings me to my previous post, in which I "very seriously" suggested allowing people to endanger the physical and psychological health of the masses so we can once again prove that cause and causation are the same thing.
        Mr. Copro Encephalic to You
      • RE: The Controversy Behind Internet Porn and Criminal Behavior

        @Mr. Copro Encephalic to You

        If your point is only that there is no proof that porn causes sexual assault, I wholeheartedly agree. I never said it did. If you are arguing that people shouldn't assume that there is some relationship, I say again, intelligent minded people can reflect upon the data for themselves.

        The bottom line is that there /is/ data suggesting that porn does harm. I would argue it is almost an a priori fact that porn does harm to those who make it. I say this only because I have a daughter and would not be pleased with her making porn.

        You are wasting a lot of time and effort making a very weak point: we aren't 100% sure what porn does to the mind. Welcome to the uncertainty of life. I am fully aware of how difficult it can be to extrapolate findings from the laboratory to life.

        /Probably,/ it does harm. No one has yet offered any evidence that it does good.

        Anyway, you made your very minor point, albeit unnecessarily since no one has stated anything otherwise. I hope it was worth all those words.
        x I'm tc
  • RE: The Controversy Behind Internet Porn and Criminal Behavior

    Free the porn! There is nothing wrong with porn today. I've been looking at it for years and have had no problems.
    LoverockDavidson
    • RE: The Controversy Behind Internet Porn and Criminal Behavior

      @LoverockDavidson

      Agreed.... I get angry when I see articles like this, because they automatically assume that porn watching = sex offender.

      Frankly, from what I have researched during college for my psychology class, I found that sex offenders were LESS likely to have viewed porn in their lives.
      The true sex offenders who have forcibly raped people usually haven't seen any porn at all.
      Lerianis10
      • RE: The Controversy Behind Internet Porn and Criminal Behavior

        @Lerianis10
        Both of your assertions are wrong.

        First, since most people have viewed pornography, no one is (seriously) claiming that viewing porn causes all people to become sex offenders. However, there is evidence that viewing porn and *thinking* about how serious a crime certain sex offenses are is negatively correlated. The logical extrapolation is that lots of porn viewing by lots of people might cause a small number of people to commit sexual offenses.

        Second, sex offenders are very often guilty *only* of viewing porn, for instance, consumers of child pornography.
        x I'm tc