In the last year, I have been approached to consult on a number of legal cases that center around disputes over whether a given sex act constituted consensual BDSM or sexual violence. This prompted me to do more extensive research into the area of BDSM and the law, which led me to a recent book titled Consensual Violence: Sex, Sports, and the Politics of Injury by Dr. Jill Weinberg, who happens to be both a sociologist and a lawyer. I decided to give it a read and I’m glad I did because it was nothing short of fascinating.Read More
The mental health community has long been interested in developing treatments for persons who are attracted to prepubescent children with the goal of preventing sexual offenses. In fact, if you search for “pedophilia treatments” or “pedophile therapy” on Google Scholar, you’ll get thousands of hits.
Numerous treatment approaches have been tested, with many focusing on finding a “cure.” For example, some studies have explored use of aversion therapy, in which something unpleasant (such as a very bad smell) is paired with child stimuli with the goal of reducing pedophilic desires. Others have looked at orgasmic reconditioning, which involves thinking about or speaking aloud socially appropriate fantasies while masturbating to orgasm in an attempt to learn new fantasies that are pleasurable.Read More
Today in my study abroad course on sex and culture in the Netherlands, we're focusing on sex work, especially the link between prostitution and mental health. Many studies have been conducted on the mental health of people (mostly women) who sell sex for a living. Most of this research has found that female sex workers suffer from rates of depression, anxiety, and PTSD that are much higher than the rest of the female population. However, virtually of all of this research is based on studies of female sex workers who live in countries where prostitution is illegal.
So what about places, like the Netherlands where sex work is permitted under the law?Read More
When comparing the number of women who say they’ve been sexually assaulted to the number of men who admit to perpetrating sexual assault, the numbers are highly discrepant. In fact, the number of self-identified female victims is about three times higher than the number of admitted male perpetrators. So why is that? Is it because a small number of men are committing a large number of sexual assaults? Or is it because men are underreporting their sexually aggressive behaviors? A recent study published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence offers some support for the latter explanation.Read More
The war on porn has reached a fever pitch. Political elites, religious authorities, and a number of other public figures are coming out in ever larger numbers to warn us about the inherent dangers of pornography. Among other things, they claim that porn is "addictive," that it's causing men to commit rape and sexual assault, and that it's completely destroying our sex and love lives. In other words, they're pretty much arguing that porn is the cause of virtually all of the world's sexual problems.
However, when you take a look at the research, what you see is that these claims just don't add up.Read More
There’s a war on porn taking place right now.
A growing chorus has emerged claiming that porn is addictive, that it’s causing misogyny and sexual violence, that it’s leading people to have riskier sex, that it’s creating an epidemic of erectile dysfunction, and that it’s destroying our relationships. These are just some of the many reasons the US state of Utah recently went as far as to formally declare porn to be a “public health crisis.”
Is porn really such a destructive force, though? It’s difficult to come to that conclusion when you actually look at what the research says. Here are five things scientists have found by studying the effects of pornography that challenge the notion that porn is responsible for so many problems.Read More
In the last few years, a growing media panic has emerged about the dangers of pornography. Much of this has centered around the concepts of "pornography addiction" and "porn-induced erectile dysfunction." However, a fair amount has focused on how porn supposedly affects the way that men view and treat women, with some claiming that porn is a major contributor to misogyny and sexual violence. So what does the research say? Is there really a link between pornography consumption and hatred of women?Read More
Although internet pornography is frequently criticized for depicting gender inequality, surprisingly little research has examined the actual gendered content of online porn. Moreover, what little research does exist in this area has focused largely on still images and erotic stories, which means that we know even less about the gendered content of the most widely consumed form of online porn: videos. A new study just published in the Journal of Sex Research offers a rare look into how gender is represented in pornographic videos from the internet today.Read More
This week, the Swiss city of Zurich unveiled a novel ideal for making sex work safer: drive-in sex garages. The way it works is that the city is turning over a small park to sex workers, who will simply stand along the side of a roadway where customers can drive up and negotiate their desired sexual activities and rates. When a deal is struck, the client will pull into a private garage in order to complete the transaction. The garages will not be luxurious (see an example here), but they will be equipped with bathrooms, lockers, and laundry facilities. The garages will be open all night every night (from 7:00 PM until 5:00 AM), and will contain signs reminding workers and clients to use condoms.Read More
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” – Todd Akin, Republican Senate Candidate from Missouri
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably seen a ton of headlines over the past few days referencing Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s comments about rape. Akin’s remarks were asinine on multiple levels because not only is it patently offensive to suggest that some rapes are “legitimate” while others are not, but there is absolutely nothing to back up his provocative claim that women’s bodies have mechanisms in place to prevent rape-related pregnancies from occurring. In fact, research has actually found the opposite of what Akin suggested: specifically, the per-incident pregnancy rate is higher for rapes than it is for consensual sex.1
Although the Akin controversy has stoked a lot of public anger, the silver lining is that his remarks have prompted a public dialogue about sexual assault that we desperately need to have. I have read so many excellent articles this week that are providing some much-needed attention to this important issue. If I may add one small bit to this, I would like to talk briefly about the definition of rape and how the wide variability in legal definitions of this crime may be contributing to confusion about what rape is and distracting us from the bigger issues at stake here.