The sexy thing to do these days when it comes to internet pornography is to regulate. The Federal Government is into it, with proposals to amend the Broadcasting Services Act to tighten internet content regulation. Federal Labor has joined the party too, with Beazley screaming out that the Australian Communications and Media Authority should ban international websites which contain graphic sexual material.
It is time for an informed debate about the influence of internet pornography in our community. Rather than regulation, what is needed is education.
If we were to stop for a moment and take the time to properly assess the community impact of internet pornography, it would soon become clear that internet pornography is not the height of evil which do-gooder parliamentarians and parental groups profess. Indeed, it is probably one of the main factors contributing to a notable reduction in violent crime over the last decade.
Our community is safer and more peaceful thanks to internet pornography. This may sound counter-intuitive, but there are recent figures to back up the argument.
In a paper just released in the United States titled Porn Up, Rape Down, Northwestern University Law Professor Anthony D’amato crunches the numbers to reach the conclusion:
The incidence of rape in the United States has declined 85 per cent in the past 25 years while access to pornography has become freely available to teenagers and adults. The Nixon and Reagan Commissions tried to show that exposure to pornographic materials produced social violence. The reverse may be true: that pornography has reduced social violence.
Professor D’amato explains that the Internet is now the predominant way in which people access pornography, noting that purveyors of internet pornography in the US earn an annual income exceeding the total of the major media networks in the country.
The main point that Professor D’amato highlights in his paper is that there is a positive correlation between the recent explosion of household internet access in the US, and a decline in incidents of rape (measured in different ways, including police reports and survey interviews) during the same period.
According to Professor D’amato, the four US states with the lowest internet access had the highest increase in rape incidents (53 per cent increase) between 1980 and 2004, whereas the four states with the highest internet access, experienced the largest decrease in rape incidents (27 per cent decrease).
Professor D’amato suggests there are two predominant reasons why an increase in the availability of pornography has led to a reduction in rape. First, using pornographic material provides an easy avenue for the sexually desirous to “get it out of their system”.
Second, D’amato points to the so-called “Victorian effect”. This dates back to the old Victorian era where people covered up their bodies with an immense amount of clothing, generating a greater mystery as to what they looked like naked. D’amato suggests that the free availability of pornography since the 1970s, and the recent bombardment of internet pornography, has de-mystified sex, thus satisfying the sexually curious.
You may well ask while this positive correlation between an increase in pornography (specifically internet pornography) and a reduction in rape has been demonstrated in the United States, do the statistics in Australia present a similar positive correlation? They certainly do.