The case for porn and video violence

As teen-agers revel in online pornography and videogame violence, they’re less likely to be reveling in the real thing. Glen Reynolds makes the connection:

When teen crime and pregnancy rates were going up, people looked at things that were going on — including increased availability of porn and violent imagery — and concluded that there might be something to that correlation. It turned out that there wasn’t. Porn and Duke Nukem took over the land, and yet teenagers became more responsible and less violent.

Maybe the porn, and the videogames, provided catharsis, serving as substitutes for the real thing. Maybe. And maybe there’s no connection at all. (Or maybe it’s a different one — research indicates that teenagers, though safer and healthier, are also fatter — so perhaps the other improvements are the result of teens sitting around looking at porn and videogames until they’re too out-of-shape and unattractive for the real thing.)

Or it’s just possible that “correlation isn’t causation.” Killjoy.

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Comments

  1. I can’t remember which comedian said it (and I’m only paraphrasing here), but, with all the stress in the world, sometimes people just need to shoot s**t. It’s better when it’s a video game.

  2. The correlation put forth in the conventional wisdom is framed as causation–exposure to violence/sex leads to more violence/sex. This is so widely accepted as true that laws have been written limiting that exposure

    Despite those laws the overall levels of exposure to both violence and sex(Glenn makes a good point in that sex requires work to avoid in many cases these days) have gone up.

    Yet the rates of violent crime and teen pregnancy(which is not actually an indicator of teen sex) have gone down.

    Obviously these correlate in the opposing direction. But they also correlate to a well known phenomena that the initial CW ignores…

    Familiarity breeds contempt.

    Overexposure to something can lead to boredom with that thing–and that can lead to the rate drops that have been noticed.

  3. Richard Brandshaft says:

    The same correlation goes into the past. My generation was raised on Westerns. It was understood the good guys and the bad guys carried guns. The difference was how they were used. Then we went to “abstinence only education” — guns are bad. Liberals did for violence education what conservatives did for sex education. Violence rates went way up.

    But while the timing is clear, as Ms. Jacobs points out, that doesn’t prove causality. In fact it’s an old game:

    Over years, things get worse/better. Pick another change you disapprove/approve of over the same years. Say what you disapprove/approve of “obviously” caused the change everyone would agree is bad/good.

  4. Lou Gots says:

    When you want some input on what the giants upon whose shoulders we stand thought about a subject, just ask a geezer. The Poetics of Aristotle sets it out, and modern experience bears it out: media depiction of strong emotions aids the well-disposed to work out their passions and improves their character. Some few evilly-disposed or sick individuals may be given ideas for further evil, but they may be controlled with the prison and the gallows.

    Think of censorship by analogy as gun-control of the mind. You thereby deprive the many because the few cannot handle the responsibility of possessing the means for violence. Violent video games are used by the military for training, and thus provide society with the virtue offered in prior generations by huinting and other forms of sport shooting. Interestingly, Dr. Tim Grossman, the Army shrink who writes on this subject has suggested in interviews that censorship of video games is a Second Amendment as well as a First Amendment issue.

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