Summary for Violent and Nonviolent Sexually Explicit Materials

Part: 
Four
Chapter: 
3

In evaluating the results for sexually violent material, it appears that exposure to such materials (1) leads to a greater acceptance of rape myths and violence against women; (2) have more pronounced effects when the victim is shown enjoying the use of force or violence; (3) is arousing for rapists and for some males in the general population; and (4) has resulted in sexual aggression against women in the laboratory.

Malamuth's (In Press) research has further demonstrated that such attitudes as rape myth acceptance and acceptance of violence against women are correlated with arousal to such materials and with "real-world" sexual aggression and that subjects who have demonstrated sexual aggression in the laboratory are also more likely to report using coercion and force in their actual sexual interactions. The validation of the measures used in his studies, the use of physiological measures of arousal, and the attempt to systematically examine patterns among different populations with a variety of measures, arousal, attitudinal and behavorial, all tend to provide the type of convergent validation we feel is required of social science evidence.

We are less confident about the findings for nonviolent sexually explicit materials and we hasten to add that this is not necessarily because this class of materials has no effects but because the wide variety of effects obtained needs to be more systematically examined and explained. We can speculate, as have others, about potential explanations regarding some of these differences. For example, Check and Malamuth (1985) have pointed to the differences between Mosher's (1970) lack of effects on sex callousness and Zillmann and Bryant's (1982) finding of greater sex callousness from exposure to nonviolent sexually explicit stimuli (using the same scale developed by Mosher) as possibly attributable to a difference in stimulus characteristics. Mosher's film, based on his own descriptions, depicted "more affection than is typical of much pornography,", while Zillmann and Bryant's (1984) material tended to portray women as "nondiscriminating, as hysterically euphoric in response to just about any sexual or pseudosexual stimulation, and as eager to accommodate seemingly any and every sexual request" (p. 22). Check and Malamuth (1985) maintain that the portrayal in Zillmann and Bryant's study suggests "a dehumanized portrayal of women, which had the effect of generating disrespectful, anti-female attitudes in both male and female subjects" (p. 205).

This explanation could conceivably hold for the differences between Linz's (1985) findings and those of Zillmann and Bryant (1984). Because specific attributes that may characterize these films (other than the fact that they contain no violence) and explain their effects are either confounded (i.e., more than one factor is emphasized, making it difficult to attribute results to a particular one), or are not clearly explicated, it is more difficult to say definitively that this particular class of materials has a particular pattern of effects. There are very tentative suggestions that the manner in which the woman is portrayed in the material (i.e., whether she is portrayed in a demeaning or degrading fashion) might be an important content factor but this is clearly an area that should be investigated. Certainly, the theoretical, (and many will argue the common-sensical) reasons for mediating effects on the basis of content cues are already available from social learning theory (Bandura, 1977; Bandura, et al., 1975).