The internet and pornography providers are happy to oblige. There is a cesspool of strange and disturbing pornography out there: incest, rape, child, animal, violent. You name it, it's online. And there is an audience.
Violent pornography, specifically rape pornography, generally depicts men in a display of power and control over women. It can be real or simulated.
It's important to note that when I say "rape pornography" I don't make a distinction between "physically violent" rape and rape in general. Rape in itself is a violent act; with or without the actual or implied threat of physical violence.
Fantasy or reality?
It's naive -- and dangerous -- to believe that linking sexually violent, misogynistic and aggressive imagery to sexual arousal doesn't harm women.
If we erase history perhaps it is nothing more than fantasy, but we can't do that. Against a cultural backdrop of patriarchy (where women are abused, beaten, raped, denied rights and equality, objectified, silenced and earn less) it is more than fantasy -- it is reality. It is a reality for 1 in 5 women who will be raped in their lives. It is a reality for the two women a week who are murdered by current or ex partners. It is reality for the 1 in 7 women who will be raped by their husbands. It is a reality for the 1 in 20 children who have experienced sexual abuse. It is a reality for the women and children who fall prey to sexually motivated murderers. It is reality and it's happening every day.
I am not declaring that viewing rape pornography will necessarily make men rape, but its mere presence contributes to a culture in which violence against women is acceptable; a culture in which women are denigrated, objectified and discriminated against. It normalises violence against women.
In 1986, before the arrival of widely-available internet access, the US Attorney General published the Meese Report (the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography). Section 5.2.1, which examined sexually violent material, stated:
…[C]linical and experimental research … [has] focused particularly on sexually violent material, [and] the conclusions have been virtually unanimous. In both clinical and experimental settings, exposure to sexually violent materials h as indicated an increase in the likelihood of aggression. More specifically, the research, … shows a causal relationship between exposure to material of this type and aggressive behaviour towards women.
…The assumption that increased aggressive behaviour towards women is causally related, for an aggregate population, to increased sexual violence is significantly supported by the clinical evidence, as well as by much of the less scientific evidence. This is not to say that all people with heightened levels of aggression will commit acts of sexual violence. But it is to say that over a sufficiently large number of cases we are confident in asserting that an increase in aggressive behaviour directed at women will cause an increase in the level of sexual violence directed at women.
Since the clinical and experimental evidence supports the conclusion that there is a causal relationship between exposure to sexually violent materials and an increase in aggressive behaviour directed towards women, and since we believe that an increase in aggressive behaviour towards women will in a population increase the incidence of sexual violence in that population, we have reached the conclusion unanimously and confidently, that the available evidence strongly supports the hypothesis that substantial exposure to sexually violent materials as described here bears a causal relationship to antisocial acts of sexual violence and, for some subgroups, possibly to unlawful acts of sexual violence.
Evidence also suggests that exposure to rape pornography decreases empathy to survivors of rape and sexual assault. Rape pornography has been demonstrated, time and time again, to increase the acceptance of rape myths -- that women enjoy (and desire) being sexually violated, assaulted and coerced.
Real life cases
John Maden was convicted of raping and murdering his 12-year old niece, Tia Rigg. Maden had an "obsessive interest" in rape, child and torture pornography and literature. He re-enacted scenes from violent pornography on Tia.
- an act which takes or threatens a person's life
- an act which results or is likely to result in a person's severe injury
- rape or other non-consensual penetrative sexual activity
- sexual activity involving (directly or indirectly) a human corpse
- an act which involves sexual activity between a person and an animal (or the carcass of an animal)
Until last month, pornography depicting rape was legal to own in England & Wales. David Cameron, following a petition, declared he was going to close the loophole and make rape pornography illegal.
Obviously making it illegal throughout the rest of the UK won't eradicate it. I know this, but it is a step in the right direction. It's sending a clear message that eroticising rape is unacceptable in society. It's one step in the fight to eradicate violence against women.