Critique of “Is Pornography Really about “Making Hate to Women”? Pornography Users Hold More Gender Egalitarian Attitudes Than Nonusers in a Representative American Sample” (2016)
The authors of this study framed egalitarianism as: (1) Support for abortion, (2) Feminist identification, (3) Women holding positions of power, (4) Belief that family life suffers when the woman has a full-time job., and oddly enough (5) Holding more negative attitudes toward the traditional family. Secular populations, which tend to be more liberal, have far higher rates of porn use than religious populations. By choosing these criteria and ignoring endless other variables, lead author Taylor Kohut knew he would end up with porn users scoring higher on his study’s carefully chosen selection of what constitutes “egalitarianism.” Then he chose a title that spun it all.
Update: In this 2018 presentation Gary Wilson exposes the truth behind 5 questionable and misleading studies, including this study (Kohut et al., 2016): Porn Research: Fact or Fiction?
In reality, Kohut’s findings are contradicted by nearly every other published study (see this list of over 25 studies linking porn use to sexist attitudes, objectification and less egalitarianism). An excerpt from this 2016 review of the literature: Media and Sexualization: State of Empirical Research, 1995–2015.:
Sexually objectifying portrayals of women are a frequent occurrence in mainstream media, raising questions about the potential impact of exposure to this content on others’ impressions of women and on women’s views of themselves. The goal of this review was to synthesize empirical investigations testing effects of media sexualization. The focus was on research published in peer-reviewed, English-language journals between 1995 and 2015. A total of 109 publications that contained 135 studies were reviewed. The findings provided consistent evidence that both laboratory exposure and regular, everyday exposure to this content are directly associated with a range of consequences, including higher levels of body dissatisfaction, greater self-objectification, greater support of sexist beliefs and of adversarial sexual beliefs, and greater tolerance of sexual violence toward women. Moreover, experimental exposure to this content leads both women and men to have a diminished view of women’s competence, morality, and humanity.
Taylor Kohut has a history of publishing ‘creative’ studies designed to find little or no problems arising from the use of porn. In this 2017 study, Kohut appears to have skewed the sample to produce the results he was seeking. Whereas most studies show that a tiny minority of porn users’ female partners use porn, in this study 95% of the women used porn on their own (85% of the women had used porn since the beginning of the relationship)! Reality: Cross-sectional data from the largest US survey (General Social Survey) reported that only 2.6% of women had visited a “pornographic website” in the last month.
Kohut’s new website and his attempt at fundraising suggest that he just may have an agenda. Kohut’s bias is revealed in a recent brief written for the Standing Committee on Health Regarding Motion M-47 (Canada). In the brief Kohut and his coauthors are guilty of cherry-picking a few outlying studies while misrepresenting the current state of the research on porn’s effects. Their distorted and laughable description of the published neurological studies on porn users leaves no doubt as to their bias.
J Sex Res. 2016;53(1):1-11. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2015.1023427.
According to radical feminist theory, pornography serves to further the subordination of women by training its users, males and females alike, to view women as little more than sex objects over whom men should have complete control. Composite variables from the General Social Survey were used to test the hypothesis that pornography users would hold attitudes that were more supportive of gender nonegalitarianism than nonusers of pornography. Results did not support hypotheses derived from radical feminist theory. Pornography users held more egalitarian attitudes–toward women in positions of power, toward women working outside the home, and toward abortion–than nonusers of pornography. Further, pornography users and pornography nonusers did not differ significantly in their attitudes toward the traditional family and in their self-identification as feminist. The results of this study suggest that pornography use may not be associated with gender nonegalitarian attitudes in a manner that is consistent with radical feminist theory.
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