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OPINION

Column: Porn fuels misogynistic thoughts

Dan Armstrong

Headlines splash across screens and newspapers showing powerful men accused of inappropriate behavior toward women. Which begs us to wonder, what could possibly give these men the idea that it’s OK to mistreat women?

Science gives us valuable insight. A study conducted by Indiana University’s Dr. Dolf Zillmann and The University of Alabama’s Dr. Jennings Bryant in the 1980s helps us understand what could be a major contributing factor: pornography.

The study observed 80 men and 80 women separated into three groups. All of the participants watched five hours of media over six weeks. The first group, called the Massive Exposure Group, watched 36 pornographic clips. The second group, called the Intermediate Exposure Group, saw 18 pornographic scenes and 18 non-pornographic scenes. The third (control) group, called the No Exposure Group, viewed 36 non-pornographic videos.

At the end of six weeks, participants were asked whether they supported women’s rights. The results were staggering. Just 25 percent of men in the Massive Exposure group said they supported women’s rights, while 71 percent of men in the No Exposure group said they did. Forty-eight percent of those who watched half porn and half non-porn videos said they supported women’s rights.

But it’s not just men who had a lower view of women after watching porn according to the study. Women who watched the most porn had the lowest support for women’s rights, just 52 percent. Women who watched no porn supported women’s rights by 82 percent.

Several of these powerful men who have recently been accused of sexual misconduct, including Charlie Rose and Louis C.K, claim that they thought the women they abused had shared feelings for them and that they were mistaken or misread them. The Zillmann and Bryant study shows those who watched the most porn believed the stereotype of female porn actresses to be true. The study says, “They were more likely to believe all women are really ‘as hysterically euphoric in response to just about any sexual or pseudosexual stimulation, and as eager to accommodate seemingly any and every sexual request.’ ”

A new Australian study reveals how the digitally-shaped sexual appetites of teenage boys are changing the landscape of relationships. Teenage females report sexual harassment and abuse online as daily occurrences and that their relational worth is measured mostly on whether they can sexually satisfy teenage boys. “Sex before the first kiss” isn’t an uncommon request. This, despite 80 percent of the teenage female respondents saying it’s unacceptable for boyfriends to request nude images of them. Porn is not only shaping the sexual templates of men and boys, it’s also conditioning women to see sexual performance as a prerequisite to significance. They are seen as mere objects meant to satisfy sexually charged boys.

It’s clear that in the world of porn, being predatory is not only accepted, but encouraged and rewarded. The acts these powerful men are accused of are taken directly from smut storylines. As a hyper-sexualized society, we shouldn’t wonder why these things happen. They are natural outgrowths of feeding a fantasy rather than investing in authentic love. And as the Zillmann and Bryant study shows, when fantasy becomes reality, it can have devastating consequences.

Dan Armstrong is the corporate communications specialist at Covenant Eyes.