Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What happens on TV vs. What happens on the streets

Ihave always been skeptical of the studies that say watching violent movies makes people more violent, for roughly the same reasons that had Dick Cavett asking "There's so much comedy on television. Does that cause comedy in the streets?"

Anyway, Slate has a story on some studies that refutes that.



Anonymous said...

I could see the possibility of causation between having a popular gory movie in theaters, that would draw the age and gender group most likely otherwise to be out on the street committing crimes, and the decrease in violence. Because it's a week to week change, the difference is unlikely to be part of any longterm trends.

However, I didn't find plausible the claim about access to internet porn's causing a decrease in rape, partly because I don't agree with this statement: "it's easy to imagine how porn might serve as a substitute for rape." I can see how masturbating to hot 18 year olds could become a substitute for having consensual sex with your 50 year old wife -- hence all the concerns about "porn addiction" breaking up marriages -- but I suppose I'm still with the old feminist idea that rape isn't just about sex, and therefore is quite different from any other sexual act and requires a different mindset than simply being horny. (OK, I guess this separates me from the radical feminists who went around declaring all men to be potential rapists and all hetero penetrative sex to be of questionable consensuality because of the pre-existing patriarchal structure, but let's discount that minute minority opinion.) The existence of porn that simulates rape might seem to be a strong substitute for rape, but there's also the concern that it contributes to the idea that no doesn't mean no, that a woman will change her mind and start enjoying it once a strong man rips her clothes off. That doesn't exist with non-sexual violence; Hannibal's victims aren't depicted as changing their minds and suddenly finding ecstasy in being eaten.

I'm also somewhat prejudiced against most pornography because it reinforces gender hierarchies and trafficks in the visual subjugation of women. (The archetypal example of this to me is the prevalence of "cum shots" in which the male actor masturbates on the female actor's face. There's neither a biological imperative nor a physical pleasure in this -- it just allows the woman to be put in a subordinate position where she isn't even a partner in sex, merely the smiling recipient who is made "dirty.") Porn should be legal because of the First Amendment, but that doesn't make it a good thing. I'd have to see actual psychological studies before I would think that pornography, rather than some other aspect of internet access or correlating therewith, is the cause of fewer rapes. In particular, I'm wondering if the 15-19 year olds who otherwise are likely to commit rapes that are reported, are actually the ones whose parents were early internet adopters in various states.

Anonymous said...

Jim Lindgren of the Volokh Conspiracy has a more statistical and less hand-wavey argument against the porn prevents rape claim.

Chalicechick said...

The age that showed the biggest drop was teenage rapists.

Surely teenagers are the group where bravado, hormones, not being used to drinking, and social insecurity make the issues of consent muddiest. Ok, I don't know that for certian, but it sure makes sense.

But if a teenage guy has relieved his hormones somewhat recently and feels less desperate for release, I'm guessing all that stuff is a little less likely to happen.

That was my explanation for that correlation, which makes sense to me, but may not be true.


Anonymous said...


If you're saying that teenage rapists are the ones most likely to be sincerely mistaken about consent, I would think those also would be the situations where the person raped would be least likely to report it. People report rapes by strangers because they *know* that they were assaulted, that this was a crime, that there could have been no confusion about consent. Acquaintance rape still goes underreported because of confusion within the victim's own mind -- "we were making out, he just went a little too far," or "people will say I shouldn't have gone to his room," or "I wouldn't have said yes if I was sober but maybe I did say yes while I was drunk."

I guess I'm also surprised by the notion that teenagers really need that much assistance in masturbation. Whatever happened to the Victoria's Secret catalog's being enough to get a 15 year old off? If anything, this points to our culture's being over-sexualized to the point that models in skimpy underwear just aren't enough to get a jaded teen excited anymore.

Also, unless the teen has enough income that he can afford a computer with internet access in his own bedroom, who the *hell* jacks off where other family members can see, or where cleanup could be difficult? I suppose if there's one family laptop and a wireless connection, he can take it to the traditional site (a locked bathroom), but otherwise I feel like the guys doing these studies are a little too far removed from their own adolescences.

Anonymous said...

PG makes a good point there -- the couple of times I was raped I never reported it for exactly the kinds of reasons s/he cites.
Also, one study does not a fact make. I have seen studies that say that seven years after TV was introduced into an area that previously had none, the rape statistics suddenly went way up. Very few scientific studies go out seven years. Heck, seven days: I know that there are studies showing that chocolate doesn't, after all, cause zits, but I also know that it really does for me -- but there is a five-day delay. They just don't tend to acknowledge long delayed reactions much -- and it's a lot harder to do so.
I also agree that rape isn't sexual, it's a control and dominance issue.

Anonymous said...

I just re-read that and realized that it was unclear: it has apparently occured in several or many places that seven years after the introduction of TV the incidences of rape and violence jumped up. The offered explanation was that pre-adolescents exposed to violent TV were more likely to be violent when they were in their late teens and twenties-- about seven years later.
I gather there are plenty of studies on both sides of this issue about whether violent tv and movies cause violence or not. It's quite possible that it is true for some and not for others -- and that it's not random. See Andy Schmookler's essay on moral exo-skeletons and endo-skeletons: