Porn As An Outlet

Greg Mankiw quotes a study by a Clemon economist:

The arrival of the internet caused a large decline in both the pecuniary and non-pecuniary costs of accessing pornography. Using state-level panel data from 1998-2003, I find that the arrival of the internet was associated with a reduction in rape incidence. However, growth in internet usage had no apparent effect on other crimes. Moreover, when I disaggregate the rape data by offender age, I find that the effect of the internet on rape is concentrated among those for whom the internet-induced fall in the non-pecuniary price of pornography was the largest – men ages 15-19, who typically live with their parents.

At first I was skeptical; the study focused on the correlation between internet access and rape rates. It seemed like a stretch to assume that pornography usage and internet usage are one and the same. But now that I notice that rape was the only statistic affected, and that the drop was mainly focused on the most heavily pornified segment of the population, I find the conclusion much more plausible. The study poses a potent challenge to the old-school feminist notion that rape is about power, not sex; that the same urges that lead to rape can be channeled through porn seems to suggest that rape is, in fact, a sexual act. On the other hand, if these potential rapists were looking at violent porn, which isn’t that unlikely, the rape-power connection stands. More research needs to be done, of course, but at the very least Catharine MacKinnon should be making some apologies.

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