Soft-core pornography can fuel female negativity, support rape myths

Individuals who frequently look at photographs of semi-naked women and other forms of soft-core pornography can become desensitized to such images, hold more negative attitudes towards women, and endorse rape myths, suggest a new study.

A lady removing har bra
Frequent viewers of soft-core pornography may have less positive attitudes toward women, researchers suggest.

Study co-author Dr Simon Duff of Nottingham University in the United Kingdom and colleagues recently presented their findings at the Annual Conference of the Division of Forensic Psychology (DFP) of the British Psychological Society in Brighton, United Kingdom.

Previous studies on access to hard-core pornography have shown, according to the study, that audiences may be more likely to participate in sexual harassment, sexual deviance, have greater tolerance of rape myths, and have more negative attitudes toward romantic relationships.

The team points out, however, that little work has been conducted into the impact of soft-core pornography on thought and behaviour.

Dr. Duff and his colleagues clarify that viewers are frequently exposed to soft-core pornography, such as photographs of women wearing lingerie for advertising ads or pictures of semi-naked women in newspapers.

With this in mind, the team says it’s shocking that further work has not been done into the consequences of soft-core pornography.

Sensitivity to soft-core pornography reduced with frequent exposure

The researchers recruited 143 participants averaging 19 years of age for their study, of which about 46 percent were males.

The team undertook to investigate how frequency of soft-core pornography involving women’s images – measured by self-reported exposure across various media forms – affects three areas:

  • Sensitivity to soft-core pornographic images
  • Attitudes toward women
  • Acceptance of rape myths.

Compared to participants with a lower exposure to soft-core pornography, those with repeated exposure were less likely to identify the images as pornographic, suggesting desensitization to the pictures.

Moreover, participants desensitized to soft-core pornography were less likely to have supportive attitudes towards women, and more likely to support stereotypes about rape.

The researchers agree that their results can not establish cause and effect, so they can not say that repeated exposure to soft-core pornography changes women’s attitudes.

“For example, people who do not hold positive attitudes towards women can then search for soft-core pornography,” Dr. Duff says.

“Nonetheless,” he adds, “there is a relationship between frequency of soft-core pornography exposure and attitudes towards women that warrants further investigation.”

If such a correlation is verified, the authors suggest that increased media control and censorship of women’s soft-core pornography may help resolve the issue.

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