'Rape Culture' in Crisis: The Connection Between Porn and Sexual Assault


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Hugh Hefner died after changing the cultural landscape forever by shattering the boundaries around the recreational use of pornography for millions of men.  

He has been lauded as a courageous defender of freedom of speech, a savvy businessman, and a playboy extraordinaire. But what about the dark side of pornography that libertines refuse to discuss — the connection between porn use and sexual assault?

On January 24, 1989, one of the most notorious serial murderers met his end in the electric chair at Florida State Prison. Ted Bundy was executed after confessing to the sexual assault and murder of 36 women and girls. The actual number may never be known, as experts believe he may be responsible for the death of more than 100.

But just hours before he was scheduled to die, he was allowed to speak on camera to give a final warning about pornography use.

In a final interview with Dr. James Dobson, psychologist and founder of Focus on the Family Ministries, Bundy explained how exposure to pornography warped his view of women and fueled the inner demons that eventually led him to violently rape and kill his victims.

In spite of growing up in a loving home with parents who tried to diligently protect the hearts and minds of their children, Bundy was exposed to softcore pornography like Playboy magazines in drug stores and grocery stores, which desensitized him to harder-core porn he found in garbage cans in his neighborhood.

While careful to take full responsibility for his actions, he explained the effect of pornography in leading to his crimes:

“I knew it was wrong to think about it, and certainly, to do it was wrong. I was on the edge, and the last vestiges of restraint were tested constantly, and assailed through the kind of fantasy life that was fueled, largely, by pornography.”

While researchers are careful not to draw a definitive causal relationship between porn use and violent sexual acting-out behavior, there is plenty of research that points to a strong correlation.

Convicted criminals other than Bundy admit to the influence of pornography:

  • Arthur Gary Bishop, who raped and murdered five boys in the 1980s, confessed that “pornography's effect on me was devastating.”
  • Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed 17 boys and men, described how he hunted for his victims after “just using pictures of his past victims...the pornography videos, the magazines…”
  • Dennis Rader, known as BTK (bind, torture and kill), had what he called his “mother lode” collection of porn. Ten people died at his hand.

Criminologist Eric Hickey explains in his book, “Serial Killers and their Victims,” that “millions of people read pornography without hurting anyone ... Still the fact that certain serial murderers have insisted that pornography was a major factor in their killing young women and children cannot be ignored.”

Our brains are wired to repeat what we see. The reoccurring themes in pornography that all women want sex all the time from all men, women enjoy all the sex acts performed on them or demanded from them, and women who do not at first realize this can be easily turned with a little force are a concern to researchers.

They believe with continued exposure to these messages, pornography can contribute to the way users look at women, affect their perceptions of reality, and influence their behavior.

To set up an experiment to conclusively prove the connection between pornography and violent sexual behavior is not feasible, researchers say.

An article on the website FightTheNewDrug.org references a 2003 study by K.J. Anderson and explains that to do so would require “a sampling of more than 1,000 males exposed to porn through puberty and adolescence, while another group is totally isolated from all forms and varying degrees. Each group would then have to be monitored through the commission of violent crimes or not.”

I don't know of any parent who would volunteer their son for such a research project.

But even without such an experiment, the anecdotal and corollary evidence that porn use contributes to sexual abuse of women and other vulnerable victims should be enough to give those concerned about “rape culture” ammunition to condemn it, not celebrate it as a sign of a sexually liberated society.

Dobson asked Bundy during the interview what his life would have been like without the influence of pornography. This was his answer:

“I know it would have been far better, not just for me, but for a lot of other people — victims and families. There is no question it would have been a better life. I'm absolutely certain it would not have involved this kind of violence.”

Hugh Hefner's real influence in the lives of millions of people is darkness, despair, and death. In our society's rush to glamorize the sexual revolution, we cannot forget these unmentioned victims.

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