Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Does access to porn prevent rape?

Steven Landsburg asserts that internet access to porn prevents rape. This is wholly against conventional wisdom and the conservative argument that porn puts misogynistic images in a person's mind, making them more likely to act out the things they see on screen. However, Landsburg quotes some convincing statistics:


"A 10 percent increase in Net access yields about a 7.3 percent decrease in reported rapes. States that adopted the Internet quickly saw the biggest declines."


I'd be interested to see the study that these numbers came from. And even if the studies do confirm that there's a correlation, that's not evidence that access to internet porn causes instances of rape to decline. The classic example that professors use to reinforce the difference between correlation and causation deals with ice cream and crime. Ice cream consumption and crime rates both generally go up during the summer, but does that mean that ice cream causes people to commit crimes? Obviously not.

But the connection between porn and rape is much more substantial than anything connecting ice cream and crime. Although I'm not fully convinced of his argument, it is plausible.

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