For those who wish to study the effects of pornography, real-world studies seem rare. Depending upon the field of the experimenter and his/her expertise, different research methods are employed.
Teaching psychologists usually use random samples of people but most often employ students, either volunteers or not, as subjects, These subject are then presented with a sequence of exposures to different media, usually video or film clips for varying periods of time. Then some paper and pencil test or artificial situation is fabricated to measure what the experimenter thinks is a reflection of the subject's experience. The experimenter can ask of the subject's subsequent masturbation, or coital frequency, attitudes toward hypothetical situations or even place the subject into a manipulated situation in which he or she is supposedly reacting in a way molded by the exposure experience. This is often contrived with the use of a confederate to goad the subject to react. Examples of such studies are those of Zillmann and Bryant (Zillmann, 1984; Zillmann & Bryant, 1982; 1984; Zillmann & Weaver, 1989), Malamuth & Donnerstein (Donnerstein, 1984; Donnerstein, Donnerstein, & Evans, 1975; Donnerstein, Linz, & Penrod, 1987; Malamuth & Donnerstein, 1984).
Another research technique, somewhat closer to the real world, is often used by clinicians. These investigators interview persons who have committed some sort of sex offense and compare their experiences with pornography with those who have not committed sex crimes. Here come to mind the work of Abel (Abel, Barlow, Blanchard, & Guild, 1977; Abel & Becker, 1985; Abel, Mittelman, & Becker, 1985), Becker (Becker & Stein, 1990; 1991) and Kant and Goldstein (1970) (Goldstein, Kant, Judd, Rice, & Green, 1971; Goldstein & Kant, 1973).
Comparably, one can research either the victim of sex crimes or interview police investigators and record how pornography might or might not have figured in any criminal incident. Unfortunately, there is usually no official police record kept of the (more common) occasions when no pornography is involved while it is common to record when it is found to be involved. These studies consist mostly of anecdotal or hearsay materials with little or no control on recall, bias, or selection of spokespersons interviewed. Crusaders for either side of the issue on pornography are fond of this anecdotal "research" technique. Most noted for using such stories on the anti-porn side, those for censorship, are the sex-negative feminists Andrea Dworkin (Dworkin, 1981; 1985; Dworkin & MacKinnon, 1988) and Catherine MacKinnon (MacKinnon, 1989; 1993) the members of "Women Against Rape" (WAR) and members of "Women Against Pornography" (WAP). Also notable here is Susan Brownmiller (1975) and her well known work Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape.
Those against censorship also use this technique, although much less frequently. They include authors such as Beatrice Faust (1980) with her book Women, Sex and Pornography. Usually, those against censorship show how it is devastating to art, education and social order. That approach is exemplified by such groups as "Women Against Censorship," the Feminist Anti-Censorship Task Force (FACT) and the "National Coalition against Censorship (NCAC)."1
An excellent research technique, only occasionally used due to its cost, is to interview a cross-section of "normal" randomly chosen individuals and compare the experiences of those who have voluntarily consumed pornography with those who have not. Large selected populations too can be canvessed, Investigators who use this technique search to see if more of those exposed to sexually explicit materials (SEM) were involved with sex crimes or other anti-social activities than those who have not been similarly exposed. It may be difficult to get honest answers to actual illegal or anti-social behaviors such as rape, child or spouse abuse, however. Polls and surveys, if done well, nevertheless, often approach this technique. Gebhard, Gagnon, Pomeroy, & Christenson (1965), Smith (Smith & Hand, 1987), Diamond and Dannemiller (1989), Lauman, Gagnon, Michael and Stuart (1994) and others have used this method. Major national opinion polls typically use such techniques.
Lastly, one can compare how pornography has effected total societies when the material has gone from being illegal and relatively scarce to being legal and plentiful. Or vice versa; one can investigate what happens when a community goes from having relatively large amounts of sexually explicit materials to relatively small amounts. Researchers using this technique question: "What happens over the years to sex crimes and other anti-social activities?" These comparisons can also be made, within a single society, where different geographical areas --individual states or provinces for instance-- have relatively large amounts of pornography in contrast with those that have little or none. Perhaps the best known of these societal studies are the works of Berl Kutchinsky of Denmark who studied different countries [see, e.g., Kutchinsky, 1978; 1985a; 1990; 1991].
This paper focuses on these last types of studies. It will attempt to show how the prevalence of pornography in a locale has or has not had an influence on sex crimes, particularly rape. The focus on rape reflects the opinion of those most opposed to available pornography. They claim the more sexually explicit material present in a community, the more rape. Or, as it has been alleged: "Pornography is the theory and rape is the practice." (Morgan, 1980). Findings around the world are reviewed with initial attention to the countries of Denmark, Sweden, and Germany. Then, I focus on Japan, a country quite different from those in the West. In regard to pornography, in Japan the swing from prudish and restrictive to relatively permissive and nonrestrictive was dramatic. Some limited data from Shanghai and new data from the United States follow. Several conclusions are then offered. These real world types of findings most accurately reflect the broad crime-related effects pornography has on modern societies.
Pornography, is a term in popular use but can also be a legal term. For the purposes of simplicity in the present discussion, pornography is broadly defined as any sexually explicit material primarily developed or produced to arouse sexual interest or provide erotic pleasure. It can be so-called soft-core or hard-core and it can extend from pin-ups which might be offensive to XXX fetish or materials involving children (so-called "child-porn"). The term is often, in itself, seen as perjurative. I view it as neutral. It can be in any media and it might be legal or illegal. Pornography, to be illegal, generally has to further be found obscene. Here too obscenity is a legal term and each jurisdiction, e.g., country, province or state, defines such material differently.
In the 1960s the U.S. Supreme Court issued rulings that dramatically changed how our country was to, thereafter, deal with censorship. These were rulings regarding the imported books: Lady Chatterley's Lover, Tropic of Cancer, and Fanny Hill (Rembar, 1968). Before 1966 these books could not legally be published in America; afterwards writings that had literary merit were no longer to be considered obscene regardless if they contained material considered sexually explicit. These books and others like them not only became available but widely popular and are still considered as classics. (Suffice it to say that, in their time, and later, proven literature such as Aristophanes, Balzac, Boccaccio, Chaucer, Galileo, Maimonides, Ovid, Shakespeare, Socrates, Spinoza and Swift have all suffered from the censor's prejudice.)
The response to the Supreme Court decision regarding these now recognized literary treasures, from the conservative, moralistic populace (a possible majority at the time), was outrage and fear that obscenity would flood the country. The New York Daily News fueled some of this with a headline that read "BLAME COURTS FOR FLOOD OF PRINTED FILTH." Significantly, two years later, The Wall Street Journal published an article on the Daily News detailing how the News attained their readership, the second largest in the nation, by exploiting -you guessed it- sex in its photos and stories (Rembar, 1968). But the stage was set. There was a clamor against pornography and an attempt to identify what was obscene. In response to this clamor, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed a commission to study the problem.
This presidential Commission reported (Pornography, 1970), no such relationship of pornography leading to rape or sexual assault could be demonstrated as applicable for adults or juveniles. This Commission , chaired by William B. Lockhart, past President of the Association of American Law Schools, sponsored various surveys and research studies and concluded: "In sum, empirical research designed to clarify the question has found no evidence to date that exposure to explicit sexual materials plays a significant role in the causation of delinquent or criminal behavior among youth or adults. The Commission cannot conclude that exposure to erotic materials is a factor in the causation of sex crime or sex delinquency (pp. 27)."2 Indeed, the Commission concluded that pornography has a sex education effect that can be beneficial.
When President Ronald Reagen entered the White House, to placate his conservative constituency, he rejected the findings of the President Johnson Commission and, in 1984, appointed a commission to be headed by his Attorney General.3 In 1986 the findings of this United States' Attorney General's Commission were released (Meese, 1986). This commission found, in contrast with the previous Presidential Commission, that: "substantial exposure to sexually violent materials . . . bears a causal relationship to antisocial acts of sexual violence and, for some subgroups, possibly to unlawful acts of sexual violence (pp. 326) [emphasis mine]." In distinction to the Presidential Commission, however, this Attorney General's Commission was politically, not scientifically, constituted.4
This "Meese" Commission was primarily composed of nonscientists who did no research of their own and commissioned none. It solicited testimony mainly from specific parties and organizations which it anticipated would be sympathetic to its goals while ignoring testimony from those it suspected would be disagreeable. Many critics took this Meese Commission to task for the bias of their work; e.g., Lab (1987), Lynn (1986) and Nobile & Nadler (1986).
The Meese Commission's own minority report, by two of the only three women on the panel (Judith V. Becker, & Ellen Levine), --one of whom had a great deal of experience in sex research with sex criminals (JVB) -- dissented from the majority report in saying the findings were not in keeping with the amassed social science data (Meese, 1986) The statistical methods as well as research methods were also significantly found wanting (Smith, 1987). Parenthetically, nation-wide studies in the United States, done essentially at the same time as the Meese's Commission's work, also seemed to find no strong evidence that rape rates were associated with porn as measured by circulation rates of pornographic magazines or the presence of adult theaters in a community (Baron & Strauss, 1987; Scott & Schwalm, 1988a, b).5
In Britain, the privately constituted Longford Committee (Amis, Anderson, Beasley-Murray, & al., 1972) reviewed the pornography situation in that nation and concluded that such material was detrimental to public morals. It too dismissed the scientific evidence in favor of protecting the "public good" against forces that might "denigrat(e) and devalu(e) human persons." The officially constituted British (Williams) Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship, however, in 1979 analyzed the situation and reported (Home Office, 1979): "From everything we know of social attitudes, and have learnt in the course of our enquires, our belief can only be that the role of pornography in influencing the state of society is a minor one. To think anything else . . . is to get the problem of pornography out of proportion (p. 95)."
A 1984 Canadian study found similarly. A review by McKay and Dolff for the Department of Justice of Canada reported "There is no systematic research evidence available which suggests a causal relationship between pornography and the morality of Canadian society . . . [and none] which suggests that increases in specific forms of deviant behavior, reflected in crime trend statistics (e.g., rape) are causally related to pornography (McKay & Dolff, 1985)." The Canadian Fraser Committee, in 1985, after a review of the topic, concluded the evidence so poorly organized that no consistent body of evidence could be found to condemn pornography (Canada, 1985).
Among those European/Scandinavian societies investigated for any relation between the availability of pornography and rape or sexual assault, again no such correlation could be demonstrated (Kutchinsky, 1985a; 1991). For the countries of Denmark, Sweden and West Germany6, the three nations for which ample data were available at the time, Kutchinsky analyzed in depth the crime statistics and pornography availability for the years from approximately 1964 to 1984. Kutchinsky showed that as the amount of pornography increasingly became available, the rate of rapes in these countries either decreased or remained relatively level. These countries legalized or decriminalized pornography in 1969, 1970 and 1973 respectfully. In all three countries the rates of nonsexual violent crimes and nonviolent sex crimes (e.g., peeping, flashing) essentially decreased also.
According to Kutchinsky, only in the United States did it appear that, in the 1970s and early 1980s as the amount of available pornography increased, did some increase in rape occur (Kutchinsky, 1985a; 1991). But Kutchinsky also noted a change in how rape was recorded which could account for the apparent increase in the American sex crime rate.
Following Kutchinsky's work no other large scale study has been reported. Considering the volume and intensity of debate still current in Europe and the United States and elsewhere surrounding the possible link between pornography and sex crimes it is valuable to see how another nation, one quite different from those in the West, compares in the availability of SEM and the occurrence of rape and other sex related crimes. Japan, an Asian culture with its ancient tradition of male prerogative and female subservience and 13 year post World War II period of legal prostitution provided a sufficient cultural contrast to that of the United States and the other Western countries investigated (see Diamond & Uchiyama, 1999).
Presently in Japan, sexually explicit materials which cater to all sorts of erotic interests and fetishes are readily available. These include video tapes, books, and magazines as well as sexually obvious comic books (manga) without age restrictions as to availability. Public phone booths in commercial areas and city newspapers contain advertisements for sexual liaisons of every sort.
However, this availability of modern pornography is relatively new. Essentially since the end of World War II with the imposition of American military rules, which lasted until 1951, there was prohibition of any sexually explicit material. In Japan almost all sexually explicit visual material was seen as legally obscene. This continued under the Japanese government into the late 1980s; until then, images or depictions of frontal nudity were banned as were pictures of pubic hair or genitals. No sex act could be depicted graphically.
There are many indications that document an increase in the number and availability of sexually explicit materials in Japan over the years 1972-1995. Under the auspices of "Juvenile Protective Ordinances" formulated within and for each prefecture (except Nagano prefecture), data had been collected of items that might be "considered harmful for juveniles." Once items are so designated they are forbidden to be sold or distributed to minors under 18 years of age. Collected by local authorities, these are statistics on items such as sexually explicit films, books, magazines and video tapes. It also included explicitly violent materials. These data are forwarded yearly to the Youth Authority in Somicho (Government Management and Coordination Agency). Items so listed increased almost four-fold from some 20,000 items in 1970 to roughly 76,000 in 1996, the last year for which such data are available. Since 1989 the greatest increase in such materials were accounted for by sexually explicit video tapes. Despite any such categorization, these materials remain readily available to persons of any age.
The main concern, however, was not against videos but against sexually explicit comic books available to children. Conservative groups and the media began to call for government action to stem the rising tide of pornography they saw occurring. For instance the citizens of Wakayama prefecture loudly called for the control of sexually explicit manga directed at children (Mainichi-shinbun, 1990).7
For reasons that are unclear, these calls were not effectively heeded. Indeed, while the laws themselves were not modified, interpretation of them changed. Judges during this period became increasingly liberal allowing more pornography of wider scope to be considered "not obscene." Concomitantly with this, as might be reflected by the widely reported uproar regarding a case of rape by American servicemen of a young Okinawa girl in 1995, this crime is taken quite seriously in Japan (Desmond, 1995).
In 1991, twenty-one prefecture governments designated 46 specific sexually-oriented publications as being "harmful to juveniles" and complained of them to the publishers (Burrill, 1991). The companies involved accepted the criticism and its industry's "Publishing Ethics Council" voted for self regulation and advised its member firms to place an "Adult Comics" mark on sex oriented manga (Anonymous, 1991a). The Council further advised their distributors to maintain these comics in the "adult corner" of their stores. This advice was not always followed. Sales of such sex-filled comics totaled more than ¥ 180 billion in 1990, a figure up 13 percent from the year before (Burrill, 1991).
Production of the classic Japanese love film Ai no corrida ("In the Realm of the Senses") was banned from Japan due to its nudity and erotic content. This film by Nagisa Oshima was produced in France in 1976 and quickly became a sensation at film festivals in New York and Cannes. When first shown in Japan, however, in October of 1976, the film was seized by authorities. Based on a true story well known in Japan, its content --involving the vivid depiction of asphixiophilia-- was, nevertheless, considered too obscene for public viewing in Japan. The producer and script writer were taken to court and charged with obscenity but found not guilty (Okudaira, 1979; Oshima, 1979; Uchida, 1979). A cut expurgated version of the film was subsequently released. Frontal nudity was permitted to appear on film for the first time at the 1986 Tokyo film festival (Downs, 1990).
The American college sex text book Sexual Decisions (Diamond & Karlen, 1980) was republished in a Japanese edition in 1985 (Diamond & Karlen, 1985). Depictions of sexual positions and other images were allowed only after the book was edited to reduce the number of illustrations with pubic hair or exposed genitalia. It was the first college level sex text in that country. The first art photo book with full frontal nudity of women was also published in 1985 (Downs, 1990). As with the text, Sexwatching, a trade book for general readership illustrated with some 300 images, first published in England and the United States in 1984 (Diamond, 1984) was published in Japanese in 1986 (Diamond, 1986). Again, several of the original illustrations, considered middle-of-the-road in the United Kingdom and the United States, had to be replaced with images considered less sexually explicit.
Change in Japan from the conservative posture of the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s began to most markedly shift toward permissive in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Magazines such as Playboy and Penthouse, due to their display of public hair, were banned totally in Japan until 1975. They were then allowed to be imported into Japan if the offending images of genitalia were "sand-papered" or otherwise rendered opaque.
This original ban against the display of pubic hair was applied so routinely that objective commentators noted that obscenity standards occasionally blocked distribution of serious art works but were ineffective in slowing the increasing availability of sexually explicit materials (Anonymous, 1992). In June 1991 the Japan Times described the influx of pornographic comics into the market as showing a rampant growth that "depict sexual perversions and violence, including the utter debasement of women, in graphically appalling detail even if pubic hair is not shown." (quoted in Woodruff, 1991). Almost simultaneously, the Asahi Shinbun newspaper reported that police would no longer prosecute "pubic hair" pictures for obscenity since the social trend has moved to accept photos of this type and concluded "the decision not to prosecute indicates that pubic hair is no longer a uniform standard for obscenity" (Woodruff, 1991).
In the early 1980s, European and American pornographic video tapes were the most prevalent form of contraband seized by Japanese custom agents from travelers returning from aboard (Abramson & Hayashi, 1984). These materials were routinely confiscated. Now such tapes are locally produced and available. They often contain minors as actresses. There is a "Child Welfare Law" in Japan which prohibits child prostitution. However, there are no specific child pornography laws in Japan and SEM depicting minors (particularly uniformed school girls) is readily available and widely consumed. Most charges of obscenity presently are related to portrayal of group or violent rape or realistic and graphic film or video descriptions of sexual behaviors considered deviant and dangerous (as in Ai no corrida).
In 1989 a survey of manga in book shops and magazine stalls by a voluntary citizen's group, the "Tokyo Bureau of Citizens and Cultural Affairs," found that more than half of the stories depicted sex acts. They reported: "in many cases, female characters were treated simply as sex objects for the satisfaction of men" (Anonymous, 1991a).
Again in 1989, a report by the Japanese "Publishing Science Research Institute" presented statistics for the legal production of Japanese publications. Playboy and Penthouse were among the best selling adult men's magazines. Semi-annual sales figures for Playboy averaged some 900,000 monthly for each issue in 1977. The monthly value of magazines with sexual content increased from ¥ 3,264 million in 1984 to ¥ 3,665 million in 1988 (Shupan Nenkan, 1988, 1997).
In February 1991 the Liberal Democratic Party asked its members to introduce legislation to regulate sexually explicit manga (Anonymous, 1991a). The motion failed but again served notice that the increase in pornography available to children was of widening social concern. In that year a "Survey on Comics among Youth" by the "Japanese Association for Sex Education" (J.A.S.E., 1991) found that among Middle School students 21.6 percent of males and 7.6 percent of females regularly read "porno-comics." In 1993 a survey by the Youth Authority of Somucho (Government Management and Coordination Agency) (Somucho, 1993) found that approximately 50 percent of the male and 20 percent of the female Middle and Upper High School students were found to regularly read "porno-comics."8
Another index of sex related materials available in Japan might be reflected in the number of sex related industries (fuuzoku kanren eigyou) registered with and monitored by the police. These industries include strip theaters, so-called "love hotels" (rooms available by the hour), "adult" sex shops (for the purchase of pornography or paraphernalia associated with sexual activities, and "soap lands" ("massage" or "shampoo" parlors known to offer sexual services). The authorities use such statistics in monitoring potential influences on minors. According to statistics from Roposensho, the Japanese National Police Agency (J.N.P.A.), an organization akin to the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.), these numbered approximately 7,500 establishments in 1972 and more than 12,600 in 1995. The largest segment increase was seen in the number of so-called "fashion massage parlors" in operation which offered sexual services. A newer type of "body shampoo parlor" is also now available (Roposensho, 1995).
Telephone sex lines have become increasingly common. In the first 18 month period since they started operation, a commercial business information service, "Dial Q2", which at first provided sports results, advertisements and medical guidance, in 1991 switched more than one-fourth of its lines to telephone sex services (Anonymous, 1991b). This remains a popular form of sexual commerce even though, unlike here in the United States where anyone can call such services, individual households must initiate a special request to even participate. "Telephone clubs" have also proliferated. In such clubs men wait for calls from girls and women. The phone numbers to call are widely advertised as free for the female caller; "excitement" and "romance" are promised. This is often an outlet for prostitution contacts (Stroh, 1996). It is also of general social concern since informal surveys by the police have found that some one-fourth of high school girls have made contact via a telephone club.
While, in 1992, authorities occasionally continued to cite magazines and newspapers for public indecency if they showed nude pictures, or if genitals or any pubic hair were visible, police confiscation became uncommon and prosecutions inconsistent. Peculiarly these legal challenges might have occurred even when these images were clearly artistic works (Anonymous, 1992). By 1993 that type of prosecution became rare.
In 1993 the Shukan Post became Japan's top-selling magazine. This appeared due to photos containing glimpses of pubic hair and feature photos of nude girls and articles on sex. Circulation jumped from about 850,000 in the first six months of 1993 to about 867,000 for the first six months of 1996. This popularity spawned two additional magazines which were even more sexually explicit: Shukan Bunshum and Shukan Shincho. In 1995 these magazines had average weekly sales of more than 600,000 copies (Shupan Nenkan, 1988, 1997).
The changing public attitude toward pornography might be considered reflected by the number of police cases where the arresting charge was "distribution of obscene materials." Despite the rise in available SEM, arrests and convictions for the distribution of obscene materials significantly declined in Japan from 3,298 in 1972 to 702 in 1995 (Roposensho, 1995) [Table 1].
Currently, not only are visuals with pubic hair and exposed genitalia present, but available are cartoon images of hard-core sexual encounters in manga as well as in adult reading materials. These can be pictures and stories involving bestiality, sadomasochism, necrophilia and incest; the characters involved may be adults, children or both. Essentially, anything goes.
Two additional measures of erotica available in Japan are noteworthy. The first is that reported by Greenfeld (1994) that approximately 14,000 "adult" videos were being made yearly in Japan compared with some 2500 in the U.S. And the average Japanese watched nearly an hour more of TV a day than did Americans. The second measure is a recent report by Keiji Goto, a senior official at the Japanese National Police. Roposensho estimates that about 1200 commercial child pornographic internet sites exist in Japan. And there are no anti-child porn laws in Japan (Anonymous, 1998a). And while a bill to outlaw child-porn, on and off the internet, was introduced into the Diet in 1998 the bill did not make it onto its agenda and is not likely to come up for consideration (Anonymous, 1998a).
While all these changes were occurring we investigated how the occurrence of sex crimes in general and rape in particular correlated with the increasing availability of pornography. For comparison and as "control" measures the incidence of Murder and nonsexual Violent crimes for the same period was looked at. We particularly attended to any influence the introduction of widely available pornography might have had on juveniles (Diamond & Uchiyama, 1999).
The period chosen for investigation includes the twenty-three years from 1972 to 1995. These are years for which official data from Japan are available. Prior to 1972 the data collection methods and associated definitions used in Japan were significantly different from those presently in use and are not suitable for comparison. These years, 1972 - 1995, cover a time period during which Japan transitioned from a nation whose laws, or their interpretation, relating to pornography changed from sexually prudish to a country whose sex censorship laws can now be classified as permissive.
In application, when Japan was in its prudish phase, not only might pornography include so-called hard core erotica, but until the 1970s and into the 1980s this included material that graphically presented genitals, pubic hair, or frontal nudity. Depictions of any sexual act in educational material or work of art might fall under this definition. Public and official attitudes toward such materials, appeared to gradually relax from the 1970's on. Particularly in the years 1990 and 1991, major shifts became apparent in how this law was interpreted; fewer materials were being charged as obscene and even fewer convictions obtained. The reasons for this shift are not obvious.
The jury system is not used in Japan. Final determination of which materials or acts meet any criteria of criminality are typically decided by a panel of 3 judges to whom the material or incident is presented. In Japan, the laws are applied nationally but often interpreted regionally; judges in the cities are often more lenient regarding pornography than are those in rural areas. To promote uniformity across the country, approximately every three years the judges are rotated to a different prefecture. As in other countries, initial determination of criminality is first made at a lower level, e.g., the local policeman or custom agent. Alleged obscene material is confiscated with a determination of actual obscenity to be made later.
Data on the actual number of reported sex crimes in Japan are from the files of Roposensho. The J.N.P.A. has been maintaining crime statistics for Japan since 1948. Basically yearly reports from all 47 Japanese prefectures including Okinawa are collated. These official crime records are based on independent police investigations. During the period under review there has been no known change in the method of collecting and recording of data.
Data regarding sex crimes, consistently and regularly recorded in police records, are clearly more available and definitive than those for quantitative or qualitative measures of pornography. It is readily obvious from the data that the incidence of rape and other sex crimes had steadily and dramatically decreased over the period under review [Table 1].
The incidence of rape has progressively declined from 4677 reported cases with 5464 offenders in 1972 to the 1995 incidence of 1500 cases with 1,160 offenders; a dramatic reduction in incidence of some two-thirds [Table 1]. The character of the rape also changed markedly. Early in our period of observation many of the rapes were gang rapes (more than a single attacker) thus accounting for the number of offenders exceeding the number of rapes reported. This has now become increasingly rare. In 1972, 12.3 % of the rapes by juveniles were conducted by two or more offenders. Over the years, the percentage decreased so that in 1995 only 5.7% of the rapes were of this category.
The number of rapes committed by juveniles has also markedly decreased. Juveniles committed 33% of the rapes in 1972 but only 18% of the rapes perpetrated in 1995. 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% [Table 1].
For this same period the incidence of sex assault had also decreased from a 1972 incidence of 3,139 cases to fewer than 3,000 cases for the years 1975 to 1990. In 1995, however, the incidence of reported sexual assaults rebounded to 3,644 cases. Since all figures in these Tables represent actual cases rather than rates, it can be seen that even the proportion of sex assault cases did not increase. During these intervening years the population of Japan had increased more than 20 percent, from approximately 107 million in 1970 to more than 125 million persons in 1995 (Nihon No Tokai, 1996). Thus, the actual rate decreased slightly from .0292 to .0290 per thousand persons. It is also noteworthy that during this period, according to J.N.P.A. records, the rate of convictions for rape increased markedly from 85% in 1972 to more than 90% in the 1980s and more than 95% in the 1990s. This might be because, increasingly, in these latter years the rapist was less likely to be known to the victim; proving lack of consent became easier.
The data regarding public indecency (e.g., flashing) was more in keeping with those for rape than assault. The incidence of reported public indecencies decreased about one third over the period. Considering the concomitant increase in population this corresponds to a rate decrease of some 50% [Table 1].
Police statistics use the victim age categories: 0-5, 6-12, 13-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-39, 40-49, etc. The first three age categories reflect ages associated with "preschool," "elementary and beginning middle school," and "later middle school and high school" years. It also reflects the Japanese consideration of 20 being the age at which one reaches legal majority.
The most dramatic decrease in sex crimes was seen when attention was focused on the number and age of rapists and victims among younger groups [Table 2]. We hypothesized that the increase in pornography, without age restriction and in comics, if it had any detrimental effect, would most negatively influence younger individuals. Just the opposite occurred. The number of victims decreased particularly among the females younger than 13. In 1972, 8.3% of the victims were younger than 13. In 1995 the percentage of victims younger than 13 years of age dropped to 4.0%; a reduction of greater than 50%.
In 1972, 33.3 % of the offenders were between 14-19 years of age; by 1995 that percentage had decreased to 9.6%. Thus, over the period in question, there was a major shift in the proportion of victims and offenders away from the younger categories to older categories.
Lastly, in Japan, while the total number of rapes decreased, the percentage of rapes by a stranger increased steadily from 61.6 % of the rapes reported in 1979 to 79.5% of the rapes in 1995. Thus, date rape and familial rape decreased significantly.
As a statistical control measure of sorts we analyzed the cases of murder and non sexual violent physical assaults reported during the years 1972 to 1995 [Table 1]. Here also dramatic decreases occurred over the period reviewed. Murders dropped by some 40 percent and non sexual physical assaults decreased by about 60 percent. In these last two categories of crime, however, there was no comparable shift in the age groups involved in these activities either as victim or offender.
Within Japan itself, the dramatic increase in available pornography and sexually explicit materials is apparent to even a casual observer. This is concomitant with a general liberalization of restrictions on other sexual outlets as well. Also readily apparent from the information presented is that, over this period of change, sex crimes in every category, from rape to public indecency, sexual offenses from both ends of the criminal spectrum, significantly decreased in incidence. Most significantly, despite the wide increase in availability of pornography to children, not only was there a decrease in sex crimes with juveniles as victims but the number of juvenile offenders also decreased significantly.
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. The findings from Europe were, in turn, more dramatic than those reported for the United States. Kutchinsky (1991) studied the situation in Denmark, Sweden, West Germany and the U.S.A. following the legalization or liberalization of the appropriate pornography laws in those countries. The first three countries mentioned, decriminalized the production and distribution of sexually explicit materials in 1969, 1970, and 1973 respectively. In the U.S.A. there was no widespread decriminalization or legalization but, as in Japan, interpretations of the laws seemed to change and prosecution against SEM decreased markedly. Concomitantly, the availability of pornography increased commensurably. Kutchinsky studied the course of sex crimes for the 20 year period 1964 to 1984. Thus his period of study overlaps with the first half of ours.
Kutchinsky (1991) found that in Denmark and Sweden adult rapes, for the years studied, increased only modestly and in West Germany not at all. Indeed, by 1989 (the last date for which data were availabe to Kutchinsky and the year in which East and West Germany were reunited) in West Germany the rape rate continued to decline since 1983 to a historic low ever reported; 8.0 cases per 100,000 (Kutchinsky, 1994, pp. 6); a 27 percent decrease in the last six years. In all three countries, nonviolent sex crimes decreased. The slight increase in Denmark and Sweden, was thought by some most probably due to increased reporting as a result of greater and increasing awareness among women and police of the rape problem (Kutchinsky, 1985a), pp. 323). In Japan too, over the two decades reviewed in the present study, there was also most probably an increasing likelihood of reporting which makes the decrease in sex crimes seen in Japan even more impressive.
Similar to our findings in Japan, in Denmark and West Germany the most dramatic categories of sex crime to show a significant decrease were rapes and other sex crimes against and by juveniles. Consider: 1) Between 1972 and 1980 the total number of sex crimes known to the police in the Federal Republic of Germany decreased by 11 percent; during the same period the total number of all crimes reported increased by 50 percent; 2) Sex offenses against minors (those under 14 years of age) had a similarly slight decrease of about 10 percent during this period. For those victims under six years of age, however, the numbers decreased dramatically more than 50 percent (Kutchinsky, 1985a).
Other researchers have found similarly. In Denmark homosexual child molestation decreased more than 50 percent from 1966 to 1969 (Ben-Veniste, 1971). These decreases in sex crimes involving children are particularly noteworthy since in Japan, as in Denmark, for the time under review, there were no laws, and still are no laws, against the personal non-commercial possession or use of pictures of children involved in sexual activities; so-called "child-porn" (Kutchinsky, 1985b); pp. 5; Anonymous, 1998a). Considering the seriousness in how sex crimes against children are viewed in both cultures, this drop in cases reported represents a real reduction in the number of offenses committed rather than a reduced readiness to report such offenses.
The decrease in gang rapes in Japan had been similarly reported to occur elsewhere. In West Germany, from 1971 to 1987 group rape rates decreased 59 percent. In contrast with findings in Germany where rape by strangers decreased 33 percent (Kutchinsky, 1991) pp. 57), in Japan the number of rapes committed by individuals known to the victim, decreased and rape by strangers increased. Since rapes by strangers or groups are more likely to be reported than date or marital rapes, again there is little doubt these findings in Japan represent real differences. It is also noted that the Japanese police focused more heavily on the control of rape by strangers than on date rape or rape by a known assailant.
Some might, e.g., Court (1977) attribute the overall decrease in the number of sex crimes recorded in Japan as reflecting a public attitude change concomitant with the increasing availability of pornography. This is doubtful. While it might be true for relatively minor offenses as those of public indecency, rape has always been taken seriously. Indeed, one can argue that the inhibitions to reporting have decreased. The case can be made that the increased prevalence of SEM makes it easier for children or women or likely victims to be less inhibited in talking with their parents, partners or authorities about sexual matters; particularly about any sex offense.
Another factor to encourage reporting is that special police rape investigation units sensitive to women's issues were established in September, 1983 and women no longer are treated as if they are the offenders. This was often so in the 1970s. Also significant is that Japan, in the 1990s, established a women-run rape crises center in Tokyo and women's centers in major cities throughout the country. In 1996 the police also started public awareness campaigns which encouraged the victims of sex crimes to report. Sex educators too deserve credit. Sex education, K-12, is standard in Japanese schools and has been so since the 1970s. Sex educators have increasingly become schooled in rape theory, prevention, and reporting, and added such materials to their classroom presentations.9
It is accepted that the application of the appropriate laws or the social forces at play might not have been consistent over time. Any short term glitch in how the data were volunteered, solicited or recorded, however, should not effect the overall trends. Regardless, it is safe to say that over this prolonged period, interpretations of the definitions of obscenity have been getting less rigid with more material passing as acceptable and entering public awareness while the prosecution of laws relating to rape and sexual assault have been getting tougher. Currently less sexual "license" for sex crimes is accepted by the general Japanese population or by victims than was true 25 years ago. And surely one can not attribute the decrease in murder and nonsexual violent assault to a reluctance to report concomitant with an increase in SEM.10
It has been said that "pornography historically has been an integral part of Japanese culture" (Abramson & Hayashi, 1984). It is more true to say that erotic and fertility themes have been a traditional part of Japanese culture. Indeed religious shrines, ribald stories and both suggestive and explicit art have incorporated sexual icons and representations without shame and without the sin aspect associated with sex in the West. Traditionally these views of sex were in keeping with cultural or Confucian themes seen as enhancing family solidarity through child bearing and as a form of sex education (Abramson & Hayashi, 1984) and a way to enjoy the "good life."
This attitude essentially remained with the people even with the modernization of Japan ushered in with the 1868 Meiji Restoration. However, the government of the Meiji era, to enhance respect from the West, began to modify Japan's attitudes toward sex by adopting some of the West's comparatively restrictive and conservative mores. For example, the then common practices of nudity and mixed bathing, were newly forbidden in public bath houses (Dore, 1958). This ordinance was actually randomly enforced and basically only in the major cities. But this was a small part of the Meiji government's plan which came to be called wakon-yoosai (Japanese spirit and Western technology); a plan to develop and strengthen the nation by melding Western knowledge and technology with the Japanese spirit and culture (Hijirida & Yoshikawa, 1987).
During World War II many sexual restrictions were relaxed in Japan as they were in the West. Following the war, the United States' forces occupying Japan imposed Western ideas of morality and law. The Japanese slowly came to adopt some of these ideas and practices. The wakon-yoosai attitude reemerged (Hijirida & Yoshikawa, 1987). Negative ideas of pornography, foreign to Japanese culture, were accepted and particularly applied to visual images since they were the ones most likely recognized and thereby criticized by Westerners. Little attention was given to written SEM since foreigners would be unlikely to read Japanese and thus would not notice and criticize these (Abramson & Hayashi, 1984). Other visible sex related matters were bent to Western ways. Prostitution, for instance, previously legal and accepted, was declared illegal in 1958.11 In the late 1950s and early 1960s separate-gender toilets and public baths began to replace the ubiquitous uni-sex facilities. Interestingly, while visual depictions of erotic themes were increasingly restricted, written pornography was slowly becoming more prevalent, more risqué and more fetishistic in tone. This was seen by some as a liberating reaction to the restraints of both Confucian feudalism and Western morality (Kuro, 1954). These were the laws and situation that basically existed in Japan during the early years of our study.
In the ensuing years, sexually explicit materials, first gradually and then in the late 1980s and into the 1990s rapidly increased in prevalence. The years 1990 and 1991 seemed a watershed. Major shifts developed in how much pornography was produced and how the obscenity laws were interpreted. Fewer materials were being charged as obscene and even fewer convictions recorded. Once more this was similar to findings elsewhere.
In Denmark the repeal of the ban on pornographic literature in 1967 was a consequence of provocative publishers producing and distributing to a waiting market and increasingly permissive court rulings (Kutchinsky, 1973b). In Japan the production and relaxation of control seemed to occur simultaneously; not one obviously causing the other.
The types of pornography available in Japan is also of interest relative to sex crime. The SEM produced caters to every taste and fetish and is typically much more aggressive and violent than that seen in the United States. And there are rarely enforced age restrictions in the purchase of or posing for these materials. This too was essentially similar to the situation in Denmark (Kutchinsky, 1978). Kutchinsky further found that while the available SEM increasingly became fetish oriented and aggressive, such materials were not necessarily more often used. It appeared to remain a small portion of the pornography available. In Denmark, Kutchinsky (1978) estimated hard core sadomasochistic materials and the like comprised no more than approximately 2% of all obtainable. Winick (1985) found about the same among U.S. materials. Giglio (1985) argued that Kutchinsky's data may not be applicable elsewhere considering a climate where violent pornography may be more prevalent. While we did not analyze in detail the pornographic materials in Japan for sadomasochistic or violent content it appears from inspection that such content is certainly much higher in Japan than in Denmark, the U.S.A. or elsewhere (Abramson & Hayashi, 1984; Yamada, 1991).
Kutchinsky (1973a), in his studies, found that the least serious sex crimes decreased the most and rape the least. On the other hand, the opposite was found in Japan. In Japan, rapes decreased 79 percent while public indecency decreased 33 percent. The reason for the difference is not clear. The compulsivities generally associated with the crimes considered under the public indecency law are probably less easily modified than is rape. Also, the incidence of peeping and flashing might already have been at a low incidence close to a base line. Public shame and interpersonal relativism is an extremely strong social force in Japan (Lebra, 1976) and can be a major factor in controlling public indecency.
Findings regarding sex crimes, murder and assault are in keeping with what is also known about general crime rates in Japan regarding burglary, theft and such. Japan has the lowest number of reported rape cases and the highest percentage of arrests and convictions in reported cases of any developed nation. Indeed Japan is known as one of the safest developed democratic countries for women in the world. This not withstanding, Japanese social critics and feminists think things can be better still (Radin, 1996). Many women's advocates think the police authorities can be more responsive to women's concerns and women themselves less reluctant to complain. This comment can probably be applied everywhere. But, in essence, Japan can be rightly proud of these findings of diminished sex crimes in all categories and its non-censorship of sexually explicit materials.
Parenthetically, some data from Shanghai, China are of comparative interest. The era of Classical China, particularly of the Ming (1368-1644) and Ching (1644-1911) dynasties still have a rich history of erotic art (Humana & Wu, 1984) and literature (Ruan, 199l). Nevertheless, government censorship against erotic (and politically sensitive) materials developed particularly in the 13th to 15th Century but decreased from the 16th to the 20th. For the modern period, the censorship policy of the Republic of China (1911-1949) was inconsistent; at times restrictive, at times permissive. During the Republic period prior to World War II authorities were often even critical of anatomy or physiology texts considered too explicit. Distribution of such texts was often restricted (Dikötter, 1995).
Contemporary China, however, is considered much more conservative in regard to sexual matters. After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 the government imposed a complete nationwide ban on erotic fiction and SEM of any kind (China1, 1949; Ruan, 1991). During the Cultural Revolution (~1965-1968 ) the Red Guards were particularly destructive not only of Western images and pornography but even classical Chinese art was subject to their ravages. The destruction and confiscation was so effective that from the 1950s to the mid 1970s "almost no erotic material was to be found (Ruan, 1991)." What remains to the present from preCultural Revolution days had been buried or hidden. Presently even consensual nonmarital sex among adults is considered a serious crime (CKCKCK). Nevertheless, and not surprisingly, sexual artifacts and writings continue to be of interest. In 1997 a museum of classical Chinese erotic art open to the public has been permitted in Shanghai under the directorship of Professor Dalin Liu [CKCKCK] (Liu is considered the Alfred Kinsey of the P.R.C.) And, with a curious relaxastion in attitude, a library in Guangzhou was allowed to host an exhibitions of nude photographs to thousands of viewers (Liu & Watson, 1999).
Despite the ban, a rapid increase in available pornography was ushered in with the influx of increased tourism and lowering of trade restrictions following Nixon's visit to Beijing in 1972 and the United States' official recognition of the P.R.C. in 1979. These products were introduced mainly through Hong Kong. The government strongly reacted to this influx. A new anti-pornography law was instituted in 1985 with much harsher punishments than indicated in the 1949 law (China2, 1985). Then, in 1987, the government began to enact most draconian policies. To be sure these repressive tactics were also used as political measures since the definition of pornography used was vague (Ruan, 1991). Nevertheless, the suppression of SEM was extensive and could have been more political than sexual. From 1985 to 1987, 217 publishers were arrested and 42 publishing houses were forced to close (Ruan, 1991).
One example of the extreme government prudishness is illustrative of the extremes to which the government moved. A high ranking government official, author and former deputy minister of the Cultural Ministry of the State council, Zhou Erfu, was removed from his vice-president's post of the Association for Foreign Friendship and expelled from the Chinese Communist Party for having visited an "adult sex" shop and patronizing a prostitute while on a visit to Japan (People's Daily, 1986).
The move against pornography reached a low point in 1988 when the Standing Committee of the 6th National People's Congress declared that major porn dealers shall be sentenced to life imprisonment and Deng Xiaoping, China's Head, declared that some publishers of erotica even deserved the death penalty (Centre Daily News, cited in Ruan, (1991) pg. 103).
For the period 1965 to 1990, data on the cases of rape in Shanghai were collected; so too were the number of pornographic items confiscated by the government. These data are usually handled confidentially as government secrets in China but were made available for research purposes. During the five year interval 1986-1990 there was a 25 fold increase in the number of pornographic items seized by the Shanghai police. Nevertheless, as seen elsewhere in the world, there was no change in the incidence of rape which has remained relatively constant over the 25 year period reviewed. This is particularly noteworthy considering the in-migration to the city population rise over the same period [Table 3].
Data from the United States are equally persuasive. By whatever methods of documentation, it can be stated that the amount of pornography available now in the United States is considerably greater than thirty or even twenty years ago. One can consider alone the increase in home video rental and sales; more than one in ten women and two in ten men bought or rented an "adult" rated film or tape in the year 1993 (Laumann, 1994) and estimates are that 600 million porn videos were rented or bought in the U.S. in 1997 --more than two for every person in the United States (Phillips, 1998). Hotel guests in 1996 spent some $175 million to receive sex films in their rooms and those at home spent some $150 million to receive pay-per-view in their homes (Schlosser, 1997). And considering the volume and number of internet/web porn sites, over the last decade --with a market value of some $750 million to $1 billion in 1998 alone (Leland, 1998; pp. 65)-- a dramatic increase in the availability of pornography, even of the XXX type, cannot be denied. Such sexually explicit materials is available to satisfy almost every paraphilia including a minority of illegal child pornography (e.g., Thornton, 1986, U.S. Customs, 1994).
Since the times of the Presidential and Attorney's General commissions the standards for obscenity have been changing. Presently the basic decision of whether something is obscene depends upon proving three prongs (the so-called Miller v. California, 1973, test): (1) the average person, applying contemporary community standards would conclude that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to prurient interest --a demanding drive to sexual fulfillment; (2) it depicts sexually explicit conduct, specifically defined by law, in a patently offensive manner; and (3) it lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. These are increasingly difficult tests to meet especially since no major community in the U.S. has decided that anything other than child-porn was outside its standard (Diamond & Dannemiller, 1989).12, 13
Despite this availability of SEM, according to F.B.I. Department of Justice statistics we can see that the incidence of rape declined markedly over these last twenty years from 1975 to 1995. This was particularly seen in the age categories 20-24 and 25-34 [Table 4]. In the other categories, the rate of rape essentially did not change. During the years 1980 to 1989 the contrast is great between the rates of rape, declining or remaining steady, while the rates of non-sexual violent crimes continued to increase (Flanagan & Maguire, 1990 pp. 365). The decreases in criminal victimization to sex crimes are particularly dramatic when attention is focused on the latter years, 1993-1996 [Table 5] for which data are available. This is especially so for the last years for which full data are at hand. In those years there has been a decrease by some 60 percent in the incidence of rape, but all categories of crime associated with rape also declined. Indeed, in the latest F.B.I. announcement, they report that murder in 1997 dropped 8.1 percent to its lowest rate in 30 years and that rape declined in number and rate in every region of the country (Anonymous, 1998b). Attorney General Janet Reno reported that in 1997 rape, in number and rate, has declined in every region of the country (Anonymous, 1998b).
A further consideration is that, while teen drug use continued to rise, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported "a steady decline" in the proportion of high school students who have ever had sex, a trend that began in 1991. "Boys accounted for nearly all of the decline (Leland, 1998; pp. 64)." Part of this may be accounted for by increased sex education classes in the U.S. and a concomitant or independent increased awareness of AIDS.
With these data from a wide variety of countries and cultures, we can better evaluate the thesis that an abundance of sexual explicit material invariably leads to an increase of illegal sexual activity and eventually rape (e.g., Liebert, Neale, & Davison, 1973; MacKinnon, 1989; Morgan, 1980). Similarly we can now better reconsider the conclusion of the Meese Commission that there exists "a causal relationship to antisocial acts of sexual violence and . . . unlawful acts of sexual violence (Meese, 1986; pp. 326)." Indeed, the data we report and review suggests that the thesis is myth and, if anything, there is an inverse causal relationship between an increase in pornography and sex crimes.
Christensen (1990) argues that to prove that available pornography leads to sex crimes one must at least find a positive temporal correlation between the two. It appears from these new data from Japan, the United States, and Shanghai, as it was evident to Kutchinsky (1994) from research in Europe and Scandinavia, that a large increase in available sexually explicit materials, over many years, either has no effect on the incidence of sex crimes or is correlated with their decrease.
Objectivity now requires that an additional question be asked: "Does pornography use and availability prevent or reduce sex crime?" This hypotheses seems to have been tested and substantiated, over prolonged periods, in Denmark, Sweden, West Germany and now in Japan and the USA and somewhat in Shanghai, China.
The first question/concept we discussed, that of sex crime cause, is quite different from that of sex crime prevention. And the two concepts are not even mutually dependent although they seem to be so intuitively. Accepting or rejecting one thesis is independent from accepting or rejecting the other. Kutchinsky (1994), considering the political implications of these questions, has written:
Criminalizing or legalizing pornography should depend on whether it can be shown to be seriously harmful or not; not whether it is found to be harmful or beneficial. If pornography cannot be shown to be seriously harmful, it should be legalized (emphasis in original).
In a similar vane additional evidence is available which should be considered. The countries of Singapore and Union of South Africa as well as the Australian State of Queensland, during the same period investigated by Kutchinsky (1964-1974), were firmly against any pornography. Their anti-obscenity laws were quite broad. In Singapore rape rates increased by 69 percent, in South Africa the rape rate increased by 28 percent and in Queensland the increase was 23 percent (Court, 1984).14
There are reasons to believe increases in available SEM can lead to legal sexual expressions but no measure was taken of such activities. Couples might have increased their love making frequency, artists might have created newly inspired works of art,15 multitudes might have used the pornography as vehicles for sex education and not a few have probably used the material for reading or viewing pleasure and masturbation. All of these are positive, legal and constructive, or at least nondestructive, social outlets. In Japan, as elsewhere, publishers and others maintain that erotic stories, even in comics, serve as a means of relaxation for adults who feel suffocated in Japan's' "controlled society" (Burrill, 1991). This probably holds similarly for all societies.
Many individuals, in polls and surveys around the USA and Japan have indicated that porn has been useful in their own love-making and relaxation and not a few, even among senior citizens, have indicated it has also often been instructive and pleasurable (Brecher & Editors, 1984). Further, in general, no American state-wide community ever polled has voted to ban pornography; even Maine (1986) and Utah (Fahy, 1984; Seldin, 1984), typically considered conservative American states, have refused to do so (Diamond & Dannemiller, 1989).16
While no population study has demonstrated a link between pornography and sex crimes, there are, however, occasional research reports of a linkage. One, for example, stated:
Retrospective recall provided the basis for estimating the use of sexually explicit materials by sex offenders (voluntary outpatients) and non offenders during pubescence, as well as currently . . . Rapists and child molesters reported frequent use of these materials . . . Current use was significantly related to the chronicity of their sexual offending . . . (Marshall, 1988).
The actual evidence in this report, however, seems at closer scrutiny, to indicate that pornography used by adult sex offenders is viewed immediately prior to their offense. Unstated, but contained within the Marshall study, is evidence that was usually absent from the offenders' experiences during formative years.
This lack of early exposure to pornography seems to be a crucial consideration. Most frequently, as it was found in the 1960s before the influx of sexually explicit materials in the United States, those who committed sex crimes typically had less exposure to SEM in their background than others and the offenders generally were individuals usually deeply religious and socially and politically conservative (Gebhard, Gagnon, Pomeroy, & Christenson, 1965). Since then, most researchers have found similarly (e.g., Ward & Kruttschnitt, 1983). The upbringing of sex offenders was usually sexually repressive, often they had an overtly religious background and held rigid conservative attitudes toward sexuality (Conyers & Harvey, 1996; Dougher, 1988); their upbringing had usually been ritualistically moralistic and conservative rather than permissive. During adolescence and adulthood, sex offenders were generally found not to have used erotic or pornographic materials any more than any other groups of individuals or even less so (Goldstein & Kant, 1973; Propper, 1972). Among sex offenders, violent rapists had seen no more pornography than had sex peepers or flashers (Abel, Becker, Murphy & Flanagan, 1980). Walker (1970) reported that sex criminals were several years older than non-criminals before they first saw pictures of intercourse. Thirty-nine percent of convicts surveyed by Walker agreed that pornography "provides a safety valve for antisocial impulses." It thus seems that early exposure to sex, rather than late exposure, is socially more beneficial.
Increased exposure to pornography is also, I believe, a major reason we are seeing a downturn particularly in sex crimes with juveniles either as perpetrators or victims. Youngsters, particularly in the past, but still somewhat at present, have fewer outlets for their sexual curiosity or desires than do adults. Available pornography and other SEM allows an outlet for developing sexuality and natural curiosity that was heretofore unavailable; the sexual drives and needs of minors can now be somewhat satisfied by fantasy and education (even if flawed) offered by pornography.
Many who deal with rapists feel rape is a sexual act for a non sexual problem, e.g., a defeat or frustration at work might motivate rape (Groth, 1979). Some see rape as an expression of power (Groth, Burgess, & Holstrom, 1977). Goldstein and Kant concluded that "few if any" of the sex offenders they interviewed had been appreciably influenced by pornography. They concluded: "Far more potent sexual stimuli" are real persons in the environment for the sex criminal (Goldstein & Kant, 1973). Danish experts, including feminist criminologists who have studied rape in Denmark, also agree that there is no relationship between pornography and rape (Kutchinsky, 1985b).
Nicholas Groth, a specialist in the treatment of sex offenders, has written:
Rape is sometimes attributed to the increasing availability of pornography and sexual explicitness in the public media. Although a rapist, like anyone else, might find some pornography stimulating, it is not sexual arousal but the arousal of anger or fear that leads to rape. Pornography does not cause rape; banning it will not stop rape (Groth, 1979, pp. 9).
Wilson (1978) found that "Males who develop deviant patterns of sexual behavior in adulthood have suffered relative deprivation of experience with pornography in adolescence." He suggests that pornography not only can, but does, help to prevent criminal sex problems (pp. 176). Wilson claims exposure to sexually explicit materials can have therapeutic advantages and, among couples, help by promoting greater communication and openness to discuss sexual matters, and provide sex education. It can also help by providing an anxiety and inhibition-relieving function.
Several other explanations have been offered to account for the decreasing incidence of sex crimes in Japan and elsewhere. Abramson and Hayashi (1984) attribute the low incidence of rape in Japan to internal restraint which is part of the Japanese national character instilled by the tight society. While that might be so, it is difficult to imagine that restraint stronger in the 1990s Japan or anywhere in the world, than it might have been in the more conservative environment of the 1970s.
Kutchinsky (1973b) credits the reduction in sex crimes associated with the high availability of SEM in Europe and Scandinavia to "most of the population became familiar with pornographic literature: but very quickly the point of saturation was reached, mainly because the interest was based on curiosity rather than a genuine need." Some credit the overall decrease in crime in the USA to a decrease in drug use and availability (US News & World Report, 1998).17
Other factors associated with the decrease in rape and sex crimes are probably involved. For instance, over the period under review, 1972 to 1995, concomitant with the decrease in male sex crimes there has been an increase in female consensual sexual availability. In addition to females available as sexual partners via prostitution and other commercial sex outlets, the "girls next door" are now more ready to accept and even solicit nonmarital consensual sexual activities than was common two and three decades ago (Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin, & Gebhard, 1953; Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, & Stuart, 1994; Liu, Ng, & Chou, 1992; Tavris & Sadd, 1977; Uchiyama, 1996).
Many laboratory experiments are alleged to prove a negative societal influence from exposure to pornography. Results from different experiments supposedly demonstrated that exposure to pornography, particularly that which includes violence, leads to the degradation of women, the trivilization of rape and increased likelihood of aggression or acceptance of violence against women (for overview of this area see, e.g., Malamuth & Donnerstein, 1984; Zillmann & Bryant, 1989; Zillmann & Weaver, 1989).
The laboratory-school experiments or brief exposure experiments (less than a week to a semester or so) are hardly comparable to situations in the real world and may not be relevant at all. The typical laboratory experiment exposed college students to different types of pornography for various durations and attempted to measure their subsequent attitudes and behaviors. Further, and considered crucial, the situation was often manipulated so that the students were placed into situations that confounded the experimental design interpretations (e.g., Donnerstein, 1984; Donnerstein & Barrett, 1978; Zillmann, 1984; Zillmann & Bryant, 1984; 1989; Zillmann & Weaver, 1989). Often the findings themselves are inconsistent. For instance Zillmann and Bryant (Zillmann, 1984; Zillmann & Bryant, 1984; 1988a; 1988b) reported that their results indicated, on the one hand, that large amounts of exposure to pornography reduced the willingness of student subjects to aggress against another after erotic stimulation [inferred positive effect] but led to "a general trivialization of rape," decreased satisfaction with the present partner and supposed lessening of "family values" [inferred negative effect]. These laboratory studies have been seriously critiqued e.g., by Becker & Stein, (1991), Brannigan, (1987b; 1991), Brannigan & Goldenberg, (1986; 1987a,b), Christensen, (1990), Reiss (1986) and Rosen & Beck (1988), for being methodologically flawed and inappropriate for practical consideration. And even experimenters in this area of class-room research have significantly criticized how the data have been extrapolated for the court-room (e.g., Linz, Penrod, & Donnerstein, 1987).
Lab experiments typically do not take into account context and other crucial social and situational factors in considering the audience or the material. The real-world results we find for Japan, Shanghai and the USA, and those Kutchinsky reports for West Germany, Denmark, and Sweden, and Court has found for Singapore and elsewhere, are from huge diverse populations that have had years of exposure to sexually explicit materials. These materials could be chosen or not, used or not and modified or not to taste. No person was obligated to expose him or herself to experiences found distasteful while, on the other hand, anyone could exploit any available material or opportunity available. Individuals in real life could use the material alone in private or with partners. In real life, individuals can elect to experience some pornography for minutes or hours, at a single session, or over years. In real life, individuals are free to satisfy different sexual urges in ways unavailable to students in classroom or subjects in laboratory situations.
Kutchinsky (1983, 1987, 1992,1994), has discussed the relative merits of lab studies compared to events outside the laboratory. Basically Kutchinsky believes that pornography, in the real world, offers a substitution for the sexual and nonsexual frustrations that might, in other circumstances, lead to sexual offenses (Kutchinsky, 1973a). He wrote:
If availability of pornography can reduce sex crimes, it is because the use of certain forms of pornography to certain potential offenders is functionally equivalent to the commission of certain types of sex offences: both satisfy the need for psychosexual stimulants leading to sexual enjoyment and orgasm through masturbation. If these potential offenders have the option, they prefer to use pornography because it is more convenient, unharmful and undangerous. (Kutchinsky, 1994, pp. 21).
This too we believe is only a partial answer. There is also the liklihood that repeated exposure to SEM can lead to a response of habituation, boredom or fatigue.
What other societal factors, aside from an increase in pornography, might have led to the decrease in crimes in Japan or the USA? If pornography doesn't lead to rape and sex crimes, what does? Obviously these are complicated multifaceted questions. In response, we agree with many (e.g., (Brannigan, 1987b; 1987c; Fisher & Barak, 1991; Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1995) that crimes in general are not simply a matter of "monkey see - monkey do." It is not as Byrne (1977, pp. 346) suggests evident that "In this way, the erotic images prevalent in a culture become transferred to private erotic images which are later translated to overt behavior." Most sex crimes are usually opportunistic, given little forethought and typically committed by individuals with poor self or social control. And such individuals are often identifiable before they would be exposed to any substantial SEM. More than half of adult sex offenders were often known to be adolescent sex offenders (Abel et al., 1985; Knopp, 1984). As Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) state:
. . . the origins of criminality of low self control are to be found in the first six or eight years of life, during which time the child remains under the control and supervision of the family or a familial institution . . . policies directed towards enhancement of the ability of familial institutions to socialize children are the only realistic long-term state policies with potential for substantial crime reduction (pp. 272-273). [emphasis mine]
I believe this conclusion has great merit. Consider that in Japan the competitive nature of the educational and employment situation over the last two decades has pressured more time being devoted to school achievement starting in preschool and continuing through college; hours of home-work and extra tutoring after school (juckyu) are common (Effron, 1997). And Japanese mothers usually remain at home to supervise their children through the middle school if not the high school years. We believe this in itself reduces the opportunity for anti-social or criminal activity and helps socialize the child to avoid unlawful behaviors as an adult (Diamond & Uchiyama, 1999). How these ideas might apply in the U.S. is not clear. More populated neighborhoods or increased media coverage of sex crimes might lead to greater social oversight and personal insights.
Ellis (1989) attributes sex crimes to innate motives toward sexual expression and a drive to possess and control. The increased early age times under family jurisdiction can help modify these drives. So too can standard K-12 sex education programs take some credit. Sex education programs are routine school offerings in Japan, Denmark, Sweden and Germany (but not in China). Thus, socially positive proactive forces, in themselves, may account for much of the reduction in the crimes seen. Other forces responsible for the reduction of sex crimes rates have yet to be determined17, 18
A companion question also arises: "Might there be negative effects of the increase in pornography availability other than measured by our inspection of documented sex crimes?" Feminists, religious conservatives and other moralists consider pornography a problem even if it can not be proven that it leads to an increase in sex crimes (see e.g., Cline, 1974; Court, 1984; Dworkin, 1987, 1988; MacKinnon, 1984, 1993; Osanka & Johann, 1989).
Some see it as violence against women per se. Andrea Dworkin, for instance claims: "The question is not: does pornography cause violence against women? Pornography is violence against women, violence which pervades and distorts every aspect of our culture (Dworkin, 1981)." And Gloria Steinam (Steinam, 1983) has written: "pornography is about power and sex-as-weapon - in the same way we have come to understand that rape is about violence, and not really about sexuality at all (pp. 38)." Catherine MacKinnon (1993) considers even written pornography degrading and harmful to women by its mere existence.19
It must be simultaneously recognized that many feminists consider pornography to be liberating for women. They see SEM as expanding their social and sexual options; offering them choices of fantasies, behaviors and artistic expression. On the other hand, they see the stereotypic views of femininity and female roles in the popular. so-called "women's " magazines, to be stultifying and restrictive; keeping women in "their place." Such feminists include Wendy McElroy (1995) with her book "XXX: A Women's Right to Pornography" as well as Marjorie Heins (1993), Nadine Strossen (1995) --head of the American Civil Liberties Union-- and Leonore Tiefer (1995). As with so many other aspects of pornography, much is in the eye of the beholder and neither all feminists nor all religious conservatives can be painted with the same brush.20
Some contend that homosexual orientation is a product of viewing homosexual porn. Research does not support this claim. Green (1992) writes: "I studied two groups of young boys over fifteen years as they matured into adolescence and young adulthood. . . .what distinguished these two groups developmentally was their early childhood behavior at ages three through six. One group showed extensive cross-gendered behavior. They liked to cross-dress in women's clothes [and otherwise act as females]."(p.129). The other group showed typical masculine behaviors. In families of both groups heterosexual SEM were available. The behaviors seemed to evolve spontaneously and any interest in heterosexual or homosexual "erotic materials followed the emergence of sexual orientation."(p. 129).
There are certainly anecdotal reports of negative consequences, aside from atypical behavior or sex crimes, attributed to pornography. These range from domestic violence e.g., Sommers & Check, (1987), to child abuse e.g., Burgess & Hartman, (1987). There is, however, no evidence that pornography is in anyway causal or even related to such terrible and regrettable crimes (Howitt & Cumberbatch, 1990). These anti-social and criminal acts are, as mentioned above, more likely due to the poorly parented and inadequately schooled individuals with long lasting poor self or social control.
Another potential ill effect of pornography is reviewed by Howitt and Cumberbatch (1990); the possible negative effects of pornography on men. These authors review reports (e.g., Moye, 1985; Fracher & Kimmel, 1987; Tiefer, 1986) of men reduced to impotence by "performance anxiety" and not being able to match the ever-potent, hugely endowed, skilled studs in pornography. Howitt and Cumberbatch, despite an apparent selective anti-pornography bias in the data they consider, conclude that the factors actually responsible for impotence and performance anxiety eventually probably have nothing to do with pornography and have also yet to be determined. It is most probably that porn turns some people "on" while it turns other people "off." Actually, pornography is often the poor man's (and woman's) Viagra(r). There is little doubt that it provides many with positive returns and pleasurable and legal outlets for sexual urges.
A last thought: I believe it part of natures' evolutionary heritage that sexually erotic scenes be part of any individual's development. Since until recent times, privacy has been a luxury only afforded to the very few and then to the very rich. Only in modern times are children expected to develop without witnessing their parents or others, and certainly animals, in sexual activities. As such a basic feature of evolution, reproduction would not be left completely to chance. Attraction of so many to pornography and other sexual themes is most likely our biological and social heritage from this fundemental aspect of life. It is only culture and politics which makes it seem unusual.
The concern that countries allowing pornography and liberal anti-obscenity laws would show increased sex crime rates due to modeling or that children or adolescents in particular would be negatively vulnerable to and receptive to such models or that society would be otherwise adversely effected is not supported by evidence. It is certainly clear from the data reviewed, and the new data and analysis presented, that a massive increase in available pornography in Japan, the United States and elsewhere has been correlated with a dramatic decrease in sexual crimes and most so among youngsters as perpetrators or victims. Even in this area of concern no "clear and present danger" exists for the suppression of SEM. There is no evidence that pornography is intended or likely to produce "imminent lawless action" (see Brandenberg v. Ohio, 1969). It is reasonable that the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently rejected the principal that speech or expression can be punished because it offends some people's sensibilities or beliefs. Compared with "hate speech" or "commercial speech" there seems even less justification for banning "sex speech."21, 22
Sex abuse of any kind is deplorable and should be eliminated. Rape and sex crimes, like any criminal activities are blights on society which should be expunged. The question remains "How best to do this?" Most assuredly, focusing energy in the wrong direction, or taking actions just to placate victims, politicians or irate citizens will not solve the problem nor help. Nor will spreading myths or misinformation. Removing pornography from our midst will, according to the evidence, only hurt rather than help society.
I think it is better to expend our energies in two directions. 1) Make better pornography so that preferred role models are portrayed and more segments of society can come to appreciate or at least understand and tolerate its value23; and 2) turn our research to other directions to eliminate or reduce the social ills of rape and other sex crimes. The best place to look is probably in the home during the first decade of life. But it is only by research that we can continue to understand how to most effectively meet this social challenge. Governments as well as the pornography industry itself would do well to finance and encourage such research.
|Rape victims (total)||4,677||3,692||2,610||1,802||1,548||1,500|
|Rape offenders (total)||5,464||4,052||2,667||1,809||1,289||1,160|
|Rape offenders (juvenile)||1,803||1,319||958||658||346||264|
|Sex Assaults (events)||3,139||2,841||2,825||2,645||2,730||3,644|
|Sex Assault offenders (total)||1,915||1,570||1,420||1,334||1,143||1,464|
|Sex Assault offenders (juvenile)||641||439||440||497||341||321|
|Violent Crimes (events)||89,235||73,198||52,307||48,495||37,899||35,860|
Public Indecency = flashing, frottage, etc.
Violent crimes = includes those in which assault or injury occurs.
|Age of victims\Year||1972||1975||1980||1985||1990||1995|
|Part 1: Cases of Rape in Shanghai|
Part 2: Pornography arrests
|Age of Victim\Year||1975||1980||1985||1990||1995|
|12 - 15||1.6||1.3||1||3.4||2.2|
|16 - 19||4.7||5||4.3||2.5||5.7|
|20 - 24||4.7||3.9||3.4||3.5||3|
|25 - 34||2.3||2.2||2||0.9||2|
|35 - 49||0.4||0.8||0.6||0.5||1.4|
|50 - 64||0.4||0||0||0.1||0.1|
|Attempt or Threat Violence||34.9||36.4||32.8||29.6||-15.2|