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Introduction

An impact of pornography on human behavior is one of the most debatable questions.  A great amount of literature and studies are devoted to the issue of pornography influence. Scholars examined whether there is an association between pornography and aggression, pornography and sexual crime. Also experts study the impact of pornography on sexual behavior, on marriage and the family, on women and so on. One may observe that the effects of pornography are studied in many areas. In other words, an impact of pornography is a rather broad question. Current paper focuses on one of pornography effects, which is the impact on the rape myth.

What are Rape Myths?

The theory of rape myths appeared in 1970 (Bohner et al, 2006). The theory refers to “beliefs that are thought to sustain male sexual violence against women within society” (Bohner et al, 2006). Rape myths often serve to justify male sexual aggression against women. Burt (1998) categorizes rape myths into four groups: “nothing happened”, “no harm was done”, “she asked for it and deserved it” and “she wanted or liked it”. The “nothing happened” myths are characterized by the denial of a rape incident (Burt, 1998). These myths support the idea that women wrongly accuse men of rape. Also many people share the belief that women use rape accusations in order to get back at men or to cover out of wedlock pregnancy (Burt, 1998). At the same time such contentions can be classified as myths since the analysis of police reports demonstrates that the likelihood of false rape reports is not higher than the likelihood of false reports for other serious crimes (Burt, 1998). The “no harm done” myths deny that any damage was done by rape incident, and thus, an incident cannot be qualified as a real rape (Burt, 1998). An example of the “no harm was done” myth is the belief that “a woman who is raped might as well relax and enjoy it” (Burt, 1998; Bohner et al, 2006). In other words, supporters of the “no harm done” myths deny violent and harmful nature of rape. Also the “no harm done” myths are based on the assumption that once a woman agreed to have sex with a man, she can never say “no” to this man again (Burt, 1998). The “she wanted or liked it” myths are based on the assumption that rape results in victim’s sexual arousal. In other words, these myths contend that women actually get sexual satisfaction from rape acts. The “she wanted or liked it” myths are permeated by the idea that it is women who want and provoke rape in the first place (Bohner et al, 2006). In particular, such rape myths are permeated by such beliefs as “women ask for rape”, “any healthy woman can resist a rapist if she really wants to”, “only bad girls get raped” (Burt, 1980). Rape myths also suggest that women provoke rape when they wear revealing clothes, go alone to bars, or even walk the streets at night.

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A common feature of all rape myths is an attempt to defend male sexual aggression (Bohner et al, 2006). The main point of such defense is that men often cannot control their sexual behavior (Bohner et al, 2006). Some psychology experts believe that the acceptance of rape myths contributes to sexual aggression. For instance, Burt (1980) finds that the rape myths acceptance is a part of a broader attitude, which is the acceptance of interpersonal violence. Furthermore, research supports a view that strong belief in rape myths may serve as a predictor of male aggression against women (Malamuth & Check, 1989). In other words, one may observe that acceptance of rape myths may contribute to sexual aggression.

Pornography and Rape Myths

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Various scholars claim that there is a strong connection between pornography or sexually explicit material and the acceptance of rape myths. Some experts suggest that negative depictions of women in pornography may form “the basis for schemata or scripts about women and sexuality that direct thoughts and behaviour” (Perse, 1994). Furthermore, social learning theory claims that pornography content is likely to be learned and copied (Perse, 1994).  However, these are largely theoretical contentions.

At the same time, there is a lot of empirical research, which illustrate how pornography affects the acceptance of rape myths. Thus, a number of empirical studies in 1980s were devoted to connections between pornography and acceptance of rape myths. In particular, Malamuth and Check (1980) revealed that rape depiction portraying a victim as having sexual arousal made perception of rape less negative and perception of the victim’s experience as less traumatic (Malamuth & Check, 1989). Furthermore, the field experiment by authors has illustrated that portrayal of sexual aggression as having “positive” consequences heightened male’s acceptance of interpersonal aggression against women (Malamuth & Check, 1989). Also longstanding experimental exposure to pornography is linked to the increased acceptance of rape myths in males as well as females (Perse, 1994). One of the studies finds that substitution of sexual intercourse with a partner by use of pornography leads to a greater acceptance of rape myths (Perse, 1994).  In other words, people who resort to pornography instead of having real sexual intercourse are more likely to accept rape myths. Perse (1994) draws attention that such a finding brings a need to study connection between social and dating skills and the use of pornography.

Also, there are studies that examine the pornography impact on the rape myths acceptance among women. Such studies reveal that women exposed to rape myth supportive pornography (e.g. portrayal of a victim who enjoys being raped) tend to decrease perpetrator’s responsibility and to increase victim blaming (Davis et al, 2006). Scholars explain that the main factor that determines the impact of pornography on the rape myths acceptance by females is sexual arousal. In particular Davis et al (2006) specifies that in response to eroticized depictions of rape women may experience increased sexual arousal. Perhaps, such experience makes them accept rape myths. Female sexual arousal during exposure to pornography rape depictions is an important predictor of rape myths acceptance. These contentions are asserted by some experimental studies (Davis et al, 2006). One of the experimental studies illustrated that females, who experience sexual arousal during exposure to rape depictions portraying a victim enjoying rape, tend to be more supportive of rape myths (Davis et al, 2006).

Conclusion

Overall, one may observe that pornography can contribute to sexual aggression through increasing the acceptance of rape myths. In other words, one may speak of indirect effect of pornography on sexual aggression. Theory claims that there is a strong association between pornography and acceptance of rape myths. The theoretical contentions that pornography is strongly associated with the rape myths acceptance are supported by numerous empirical studies. In particular, studies reveal that a portrayal of victim enjoying rape results in the increased acceptance of rape myths. Interestingly, exposure to pornography depicting rape has the same effect on both male and female in terms of acceptance of rape myths. In simple terms, the rape myths acceptance increases among males and females. As far as females are concerned, the key factor that defines their attitude to rape myth is sexual arousal they experience during exposure to pornography depicting a victim, who enjoys rape. 

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