Porn and Rape

Saturday, Mar 26, 2011

I find that internet access appears to be a substitute for rape; in particular, the results suggest that a 10 percentage point increase in internet access is associated with a decline in reported rape victimization of around 7.3%. Given the limitations in my measure of pornography consumption, plus the usual concerns regarding omitted variables, functional form assumptions, and other confounding factors, such results by themselves may be unconvincing. Thus, I support this claim by showing that the internet has no apparent substitution effect on any of 25 other measured crimes, with the exception of the only other well-defined sex crime, prostitution. Moreover, I show that the effect on rape is concentrated among states with the highest male-to-female ratios, and that by age, the effect on rape is concentrated among teenage men, who are the prime consumers of pornography, and for whom the internet induced the largest change in availability.

In a similar vein, Dahl and DellaVigna (2006) find that film violence is a substitute for violent crime, and Gentzkow and Shapiro (2006) show that television viewing among children may improve test scores.

By October, 2003, Nielsen Net Ratings surveys indicated that 25% of internet users admitted to accessing an adult web site within the month... 12% of all internet websites, 25% of all search engine requests, and 35% of all peer-to-peer downloads are pornographic (Ropelato, 2006)

Kutchinsky (1973) does consider a potentially exogenous and significant event – pornography legalization in Denmark in 1965 – and finds that rape did not increase subsequently, and some forms of sexual violence actually decreased. Most similar to my research is Wongsurawat (2006), who focuses on a different privacy technology for transmitting pornography – post office boxes – and also finds that rape and pornography are net substitutes as well.

Pornography, Rape, and the Internet, Todd D. Kendall, Ph.D. Economics, University of Chicago, July, 2007, http://www.toddkendall.net/internetcrime.pdf.

Nine percent of surveyed women and 1.9 percent of surveyed men said they were raped by any type of assailant before age 18. Forty percent of surveyed women and 53.8 percent of surveyed men said they experienced some type of physical assault by an adult caretaker as a child.

Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice, November 2000, http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/183781.pdf.