Does Pornography Cause Violence?

Questions of Sex and Violence

Does ‘porn’ lead to violence? Gwydion M. Williams looks at the notion, and questions the way in which various completely different types of sexually explicit material are included in or excluded from the definition of ‘porn’ that is said to encourage rapists.

Attila the Hun never read a comic book in his life. Torquemada, founder of the Spanish Inquisition. was a celibate monk. Rapists in prison are no more likely to be fond of pornography than other prisoners whose crimes were not sexual. Why, then, all the fuss about explicit descriptions of sex? Why the persistent confusion of sex and violence? Why does British censorship think it fine to show a maniac attacking women with an axe, but a criminal offence to show a loving couple copulating?

In the 1960s, there were signs of a more rational attitude emerging. Sexual taboos were being discarded. But there was a reaction against sixties permissiveness, and the Feminist movement in Britain and America started hurling anathemas at anyone who didn’t agree with their. definitions of what was proper in sexuality. Mrs Grundy is dead, long live Ms Grundy!

The Feminist movement claims to represent 50% of the human race. In fact, it is mostly a movement of the middle-class intelligentsia. Women in general are asserting themselves much more than they used to. Ideological feminists are a minority, but they are the only large body of politically active women. They can thus use. the guilt feelings of men in a still largely male power structure to advance their own interests.

Women within the sex industry have been asserting themselves and trying to advance their own interests. But the ideological feminist movement prefers to make use of them and to make propaganda out of their exploitation, while arguing against any of the measures that might improve those women’s lot This applies particularly to female heterosexual prostitution.

It would be logical to remove those laws that make it impossible for prostitutes to operate without breaking the law. Please note, prostitution as such is not illegal. The man who pays a woman for sex is doing nothing illegal. But as the laws are framed and interpreted, the woman will have had to do something illegal in order to advertise that she is a prostitute. No lawful form of advertising exists. There. are clubs where women make themselves available for prostitution. and others where customers are merely tricked into paying absurd prices for drinks. You also get women standing about on the street, harassing passers-by who may or may not be interested. You get cards offering ‘massage’ displayed in newsagents’ windows. Much more explicit adverts, often offering very unusual sexual services, are to be found stuck on the windows of phone booths in parts of London.

The present British set-up is the most awkward, indecent and inconvenient that one could easily imagine. People who only want to use the phone find themselves faced with offers of bizarre sex. People who are actually looking for either normal or bizarre sex can get it, but not easily or conveniently, and not necessarily when they feel an urgent need for it (There have been cases of men who start off looking for a prostitute, and then when they can’t find one going on to commit rape.)

Given that prostitution is unlikely to vanish in the foreseeable future, some rational provision should be made for it The simplest would be to allow magazines, similar to existing pornographic magazines, where prostitutes could explicitly advertise their services. Similar to the ‘Contact’ magazines that already exist, in fact, except that there would be no need for pretence, and no confusion with genuine ‘swingers’. With such a system,’ there would be no need for explicit sexual adverts in public places, no intrusion upon people who think it should all be a matter for love.

What about pornography? I would not take the doctrinaire libertarian view that no one should be stopped from doing or displaying anything. People have a right not to see explicit sex, if that is their choice. Some practices are antisocial and should be discouraged as strongly as possible – under-age sex, for instance, or the use of drugs. Out-and-out criminality, murder and rape, are shown far too often and far too freely. (An alien judging us by our television programmes might think such things much more widespread than ordinary sex.)

A simple principle to apply to pornography would be if it is legal to do, ii is legal to show it being done. The principle of what is offensive or indecent should be dropped completely. There are too many different opinions on the matter. Hard-line Muslims, for instance, are offended by the ordinary standard dress of British women, and consider it very indecent

Permissiveness should cut both ways. If people are to be free to see sexually explicit material, they should equally be free not to see it Tastes vary a great deal. The ‘legal to do, legal to show’ principle would undoubtedly permit a great deal of material that I personally wouldn’t be interested in seeing – some of which I would definitely wish not to see.  I’ve no wish to see male homosexual pornography, for instance – but I accept that those who wish to see it have a right to do so.


Discussions about explicit sex are always confused by references to pornography that includes some element of violence. There could be a case for banning this specific type of pornography – just as there is a total ban in Britain on pornography depicting children or under-age teenagers. In fact, I have not heard anyone seriously argue for a ban on this specific type of pornography. Pictures of bondage or whipping – very much a minority interest – are used to shock and alarm, in order to influence people who would not be notably shocked and alarmed by mainstream porn. And two-thirds of even this limited sector is ignored. Nothing is said about the pictures of women fighting other women, or the pictures of women beating men. Only those which show men dominating women are ever discussed.

If you venture into a few Soho sex shops and see what they have on offer, you will find that:

  1. the majority of the material does not depict violence or domination of any sort.
  2. where there is violence, it is about evenly divided between men dominating women, women dominating men and women dominating other women. (And if you look over the Gay section, you’ll see various magazines depicting men dominating other men.)
  3. most of the ‘violence against women’ is of a trivial, fetishistic sort. You see a woman bending over a man’s knee and being spanked, say. It’s all made by paid models – and a lot of it’s probably faked anyway. It is quite different from the sort of serious domestic violence that some women do unfortunately still suffer from. You don’t see women being punched in the face or kicked in the stomach, say.

In other parts of Western Europe, more extreme material is available, showing bondage and whipping. Again, it’s evenly mixed between women doing it to men, men doing it to women and women doing it to other women. Almost anyone with a strong interest in such material could take a day trip and buy as much of it as they pleased. The Customs Men do not usually block small amounts of porn for private use, so the restrictions on the British trade are fairly pointless anyway.

So why do people bother protesting? Probably because the main point is to be able to protest, and to get people feel guilty. It may seem a rather senseless activity to outsiders, but those who do it no doubt find it great fun.


Feminists make their case against pornography by simply excluding that part of the evidence that does not suit them. For instance, an article by feminists Catherine Itzin and Corinne Sweet (The Independent. April 17 1989) places great emphasis on the small proportion of pornography which shows men dominating women. In connection with another point. The article says:

“Perversely, women were used to present the magazine’s contents (‘Miss Sadie Stearn’s Monthly’, ‘Susan Strong’s Exclusive’), implying that women had selected and approved the material.”

I was able to track down ‘Miss Sadie Steam’s Monthly’, and it turns out to be a magazine devoted exclusively to pictures and stories of women beating and dominating men. The article gave no hint of this – not even that such material exists. I’ve no idea if there really is a ‘Miss Sadie Stearn’, but there are women involved at a senior level in some parts of the pornography industry. Other arguments are on a similar level

Protests against ‘porn’ distract from the real struggle to complete the sexual revolution. Equality between the sexes is something that is likely to grow naturally as one generation succeeds the next. There are various coherent ways in which this process could be speeded up. But that takes serious thought protesting against life in general is much easier, and so much more fun.

The joke is, · ‘feminist’ ideology is actually not a female thing at all. Rather, it is a remnant of a left-libertarian ideology that was widespread in the 1960s, and has since lost favour among male radicals. The high point of this ideology was France 1968, where it was briefly one of the dominant political forces. People soon found that it was useless for getting anything done. The Women’s Lib’ movement, however, swallowed it hook line and sinker. Women’s Lib’ has since then achieved very little – it may in fact have slightly slowed and impeded the gradual process of equalisation between the sexes that was already occurring at the time.


This article appeared in May 1990, in Issue 17 of Labour and Trade Union Review, now Labour Affairs.  The pen-name ‘Dan Ackroid’ was originally used.

Three decades on, the Feminists have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.  And not achieved much, apart from getting more female snouts in the trough of Extreme Privilege for the Rich. 

You can find more from the era at