The Science: Pornography Can Actually Reduce Rapes

Breitbart London yesterday reported that a greater number of children in Britain are being arrested for rape and sexual assault as a result of 'sexting,' sending explicit images via a mobile phone and access to hard-core pornography on the internet. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has understandably expressed its dismay. 

 Peter Wanless the CEO of the NSPCC went on to add that "for very young children, such as those of primary school age or younger, we have to question the environment in which they are growing up in that has led to them behaving in this way."

One could be forgiven for thinking the implication is that the internet needs greater controls. Indeed, David Cameron has been championing "child-friendly" filters. In November 2013, he said they were important in stopping children "stumbling across hardcore legal pornography". What is intriguing is that Britain’s main internet providers – BT, Talk-Talk, Virgin and Sky – have seen a very low take up of filters, with less than 15 percent of households opting in.

Many people fear that government tampering with the internet will be a long, tortuous journey towards censorship, no matter how noble reducing or eliminating underage exposure to pornography and other undesirable content may be.

In addition, government involvement may have unintended consequences and the NSPCC’s stance may be a counter factual.

Firstly, the gut-churning child pornography is harder to access than just typing in a few key words entered into Google. Paedophiles generally are to be found using The Onion Router (TOR). It is a peer-to-peer form of communication that goes through 5,000 relays and is impenetrable by secret services, including the American National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK’s GCHQ.

The counter-factual is that the world’s best research strongly suggests that teenagers and adults with easy access to pornography actually commit less rape and sexual assault.  This paper written by University of Clemson Economist Todd Kendall found, “Internet access appears to be a substitute for rape; in particular, the results suggest that a 10 percentage point increase in Internet access is associated with a decline in reported rape victimization of around 7.3 percent.”

He further mentioned, “I find that the effect of the internet on rape is concentrated among those for whom the internet-induced fall in the non-pecuniary price of pornography was the largest – men ages 15-19, who typically live with their parents.”

Kendall’s work is not unique. Post Second World War, the Americans imposed draconian censorship laws but by 1995 starting in the 1970s hardcore pornography flourished. Milton Diamond, Ph.D. and Ayako Uchiyama published in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry on 1999 that established, “The incidence of rape has progressively declined from 4677 reported cases 1972 to in 1995 an incidence of 1500 cases; a dramatic reduction in incidence of some two-thirds.” On teenagers, they noted:

“The number of rapes committed by juveniles has also markedly decreased. Juveniles committed 33 percent of the rapes in 1972 but only 18 percent of the rapes perpetrated in 1995.” Most interestingly on youth rape they say: “The number of juvenile offenders dramatically dropped every period reviewed from 1,803 perpetrators in 1972 to a low of 264 in 1995; a drop of some 85%.” The authors then observed similar patterns elsewhere.

“These findings are similar to, but are even more striking than, those reported with the rise of sexually explicit materials in Denmark, Sweden and West Germany.”

 Further irony can be inferred from teenagers today who are drinking alcohol, smoking and taking drugs at their lowest levels for ten years.  Instead, they are the internet and Xbox Generation. The NSPCC and the government would be wise to review their cause-and-effect conclusions.


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