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Does Porn Prevent Rape? No. Here’s Why.

Last Updated: August 4, 2020

Matt Fradd

Matt Fradd is the author of Delivered: True Stories of Men and Woman Who Turned from Porn to Purity. After experiencing a profound conversion at World Youth Day in Rome in 2000, Matt has worked through full-time lay ministry in Australia, Ireland, Canada, and Texas. He has served as an apologist for Catholic Answers and has traveled all over the world, speaking to tens of thousands of teens and young adults. He and his wife Cameron have four children and live in North Georgia.

In recent years, economics professor Todd D. Kendall and law professor Anthony D’Amato have made the argument: potential rapists perceive pornography as a substitute for rape. They believe the rise in access to Internet porn accounts for the decline in rape. States that have adopted the Internet more quickly have seen a greater and faster decline in rape than other states.

But I’m skeptical of these conclusions…

First, the supposed decline in rape rates could be due to a number of factors, like greater measures being put in place to protect women, or more education about rape.

Second, the claim that rape is actually on the decline, as reported by the National Crime Victimization Survey, might just be false. Many organizations have challenged these findings, saying they were based on poor data collection.

The evidence points in another direction. We’re not saying that men who watch porn all become rapists—that is patently false—but porn shapes how men see women, and when you have a whole culture of men who are fed on porn, you create a culture where women become sexual commodities, which is an ideal environment for sexual abuse to flourish.

Take the idea of “rape myths.” A rape myth is a pervasive cultural belief that reduces a person’s empathy for rape victims.

For instance, you’ll hear people saying things like: “Did you see what she was wearing? She was asking for it,” or, “She went home with him, so it wasn’t rape,” or “She said no, but her body said yes.” When people hold to these beliefs, they take instances of rape less seriously.

One meta-analysis of 46 separate studies concluded that consuming pornographic material correlates to a 31% increased risk of accepting rape myths. A culture for which porn has become the norm is a culture less able to empathize with victims.

Seriously…should men be congratulating themselves when they say, “I’ve never raped anybody,” when, at the same time, they’re turned on by films that objectify women and depict sexual acts that are degrading and dominating, films where women are paid to pretend to like that they’re being objectified, and even raped?

Is that really the standard we want for our men in society: he doesn’t rape, he just likes watching it? If this is the standard of what it means to be a man, then we have fallen woefully far from the way things should be.

Whatever we think the link is between porn and sexual violence, it should be clear: in order for a man to violate a woman’s body, some part of that man must first believe she is an object to be used rather than a person to be respected—and porn is quite possibly the most efficient delivery method endorsing that belief.

Learn more about the impact of porn on the human mind in the free book, Your Brain on Porn.