Sex Offenders and Pornography

Part: 
Four
Chapter: 
3

A common contention is that exposure to pornography leads to the commission of sex offenses. There are two ways one can examine this contention: (1) by looking at the relationship between sexual offenses statistics and the availability of pornography, and (2) by examining interview data from sex offenders, investigating the mechanics behind the onset of deviancy and the role of pornography in the commission of sex crimes.

The examination of aggregate social indicators of pornography availability and sexual offense statistics provides another view of the potential relationship between pornography and these offenses. It offers another way of validating results of the laboratory studies or from individual surveys. For example, if the results indicate a higher incidence of sexual aggression in the laboratory studies as a consequence of exposure to particular types of stimuli, and if surveys reveal that individuals who report higher levels of exposure to similar materials also tend to exhibit higher levels of sexual aggression, and if these findings are corroborated with a correlation between aggregate measures of availability and offenses, then we have reason to be more confident in an assertion that exposure to the class of materials in question has a substantial relationship to sexual aggression.

In the case of sex offenders, a comparison of their arousal patterns to those of nonoffender groups is vital, particularly as these patterns correlate with sexual aggression and attitudinal measures. It is reasonable to suggest that findings among nonoffender males who are aroused to coercive sexual themes and who also tend to be more sexually aggressive would be more meaningful if matched by similar patterns among those identified as sex offenders.

From the perspective of the offenders and society as well, understanding their behaviors is crucial because of the social costs in terms of victimization. While the number of sex offenses reported by incarcerated sex offenders appears to be small, results of clinical interviews, conducted with outpatient sex offenders (with great lengths taken to assure confidentiality) reveal that the number of crimes committed by the average sex offender is far greater than generally has been estimated (Abel, Mittelman, and Becker, 1985). Data from two psychiatric clinics obtained from 411 sex offenders revealed a staggering number of multiple victimizations per offender. These offenders attempted an average of 581 sex offenses and completed typically about 533 offenses each, with a mean number of 336 victims each. These attempted or completed offenses were over an average period of twelve years (Abel, Mittelman and Becker, 1985).