Oct 30 2006

More tales from the Study Institute

Click the Jack Lord-lookin’ guy to read my hilarious tragic strip wherein Professor Shrike of the Study Institute sets Ted and Lon straight on internet porn.

A Tale of Two Academics

Blogger David Friedman flits along to a seminar to hear economics professor Todd D Kendall present a paper. The paper is called “Pornography, Rape, and the Internet.” Friedman reports back that the paper purports, among other unlikely novelties, to support the hypothesis that teenage boys ‘benefit’ from internet porn. This benefit seems to accrue in the shape of less jail time for rape, those lucky boys. Friedman appears to be under the impression that if you ask Todd D Kendall — whose gift to Western civilization was to analyze data concerning internet porn availability and rape arrests in specific locations — he’d tell you that increased access to internet porn decreases the number of rape complaints where the perps are between the ages of 15 and 19. Surmises Kendall, cheap and ubiquitous internet porn keeps the nation’s young ne’er-do-wells smacking off in front of their computers where they belong, rather than running the backstreets smacking bitches around.

Kendall’s paper is long and tedious and full of wobbly ‘facts’, and life is short, but before I cried uncle I did notice that he sees fit to include a paragraph wherein he wisely declines to actually endorse internet porn, since it (the porn) might have “other deleterious effects besides rape, both on the consumer and on society.”

Geeze, Todd, ya think?

Would it be very tiresome of me to complain once again that I am (a) less than devastated by the ‘deleterious effects’ on the bleary-eyed internet porn ‘consumer’, and (b) dumbstruck by the urgency with which dudes yearn to perpetuate the legitimization of porn? The latter is a goal toward which an enormous branch of patriarchal ‘scholarship’, word, and deed is devoted, since it can be accomplished only when culture manages to fully dehumanize women.

Dehumanizing women may seem to us like a walk in the park, since none of us is alive who has ever met a fully actualized female human, but in actuality it is no mean feat. In fact, maintaining women’s status as the sex class requires round-the-clock surveillance, brutality, and male honky legislation, because the truth is, the case for women’s actual humanity is pretty iron-clad to even the partially enlightened mind, and every now and then one of us breaks away from the Stepford pack and shakes a humorless hairy frigid fist in support of that truth*.

One of the greasiest stains on this chicks-are-bots agenda is the tendency to gloss over the fact that the women in these porn flicks actually exist, and that they’re actually getting fucked. And by “fucked” I mean fucked. Take the second of today’s entrants from the Study Institute, Todd L Kendall, Ph.D. Todd L Kendall, Ph.D professes economics at Clemson. He has authored another paper on ‘misbehaving’ celebrity basketball stars, so I assume he enjoys men’s basketball (arguably not one of human endeavor’s less misogynist professions). Social policy that might mitigate women’s oppression is not Kendall’s field. One can expect his approach to our topic to be coolly academic, and it is: his concerns are the economics of internet porn, how demand for it drives the development of the internet to ever more dizzying heights of jizzed-out glory, how interesting are its ramifications on criminal behavior.

Where Kendall’s mind is a kind of pornonuclear winter, our first representative, the aforementioned David Friedman, appears to live in a red satin wonderland — or at least to be wholly unacquainted with the physical mechanics of videography — when he calls porn “imaginary sex.” I guess he thinks the women in those videos are chimerical illusions made of faerie duste and Astroglide, and the directors are snuggled up in bed dreaming onto videotape with tube socks on their dicks.

Porn’s relationship to rape is chicken-or-the-egg stuff, an asinine, pointless question. Because rape is rape, whether it’s on your computer or in your low-ego-emissions Jetta sedan.

* Don’t nobody like to see that fist. For instance, the honky male liberals smack the fist back down, telling us to shave it, or that we’re just not getting the joke, or that they’ll get around to abortion rights just as soon as they take care of A, B, and C, or that we’re just not in touch with their — I mean our — sexuality.

[Gracias, Alexandra]


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  1. acunningplan.typepad.com

    First, I would so make out with you Twisty.

    Second, I notice that there is a correlation between the availablity of porn and the “reporting” of rape. So maybe rape is still happening but women and girls aren’t saying anything.

    I just read about how rape convictions are declining in the UK while reporting and charges are increasing. You think there’s more to this??? Maybe that rape is still seen as something women deserve or that is difficult to prosecute or is okay since they do it in porn!!!!! You know who I blame.

    I hate economists–they take all the people and social structures out of their discussions of behaviour.

  2. Ridiculous!! I posted on David Freidman’s blog.

  3. cypress.typepad.com

    “Imaginary sex.” People frequently make arguments about how it is a good thing for children to watch informative television shows, or documentaries, or the like, because they will be educated by the words and images. Other people argue that somehow pornographic material does not teach anyone anything. How, I want them to explain, the hell does that work?

    Enflimflamulation perhaps?

  4. feministlawprofs.law.sc.edu

    A couple of idiot law professors have also speculated about the Magical Healing Properties of Porn:

  5. Okay, academic egghead here — I actually went and skimmed the study itself. A few admittedly-out-of-context quotes:

    p. 3: “Sociological and feminist scholarship over the last 25 years has typically treated rape as a crime of violence or “power”, not lust. Under this theory, therefore, consensual and masturbatory
    sex are not substitutable for rape. However, this view has been criticized by other scholars on empirical grounds (Ellis and Beattie, 1983), and through the arguments of evolutionary biology (Thornhill and Palmer, 2000).” [He goes on to say that his findings just can’t say which is true. But this statement is disingenuous: note the privileged position of evBio in his rhetorical positioning, and at pp. 15-16: “…it may be that rape proclivities and consumption of pornography are simultaneously driven by some unmeasured factor, such as the inability to attract a mate…” — a statement that requires the assumption that rape is about sex, rather than power.]

    p. 6, note 6, to back up the historicity of porn: “The Venus of Willendorf” figurine, found in Austria, dates to as early as 24,000 B.C.E., and is believed to have served a pornographic purpose. See Lane (2000).” [Note to authors: passive voice signals a weak position, or possibly a straw-man argument]

    p. 10: “By many accounts, pornography was crucial in the development of the internet, fueling demand for streaming video and credit card acceptance applications […] According to Ropelato (2006), 12% of all internet websites, 25% of all search engine requests, and 35% of all peer-to-peer downloads are pornographic. ” [Okay, I don’t even wanna think about this.]

    And don’t even get me started on his bibliography, about a third of which is non-scholarly, or only semi-scholarly at best. It’s the kind of bibliography I’d accept from an undergraduate, but would send even a beginning grad student back to the drawing board with.

    I could go on, but I won’t. Faugh.

  6. feministlawprofs.law.sc.edu

    Wait, sorry, I didn’t realize before commenting that David Friedman was also a law professor. The idiot part, however, I pretty much had already assumed based on your post.

    You would think with living in the Bay Area that Friedman might have read the San Francisco Chronicle’s multi-part series on sex trafficking, which documents among other things that a majority of the women held in virtual slavery as prostitutes are also forced to “perform” in pornography. Links to that series here: http://feministlawprofs.law.sc.edu/?p=1086

  7. katelynsack.com

    This is so clearly a reporting issue. Fewer reported rapes does not equal fewer rapes. It was estimated that 90% of sexual assaults went unreported BEFORE that video came out in Britain, of police officers basically convincing a woman to not put in a report.

    How can a victim check that her statistic has even been counted in American today? If I look up reporting data for an institution (like a university) or a locale (like a city), I’m getting numbers — no names, since that data is privileged. If I’ve reported, I can’t know if my report counted.

    Don’t I trust the police and justice system writ large to correctly recount this information even if it makes them look bad, since the proportion of rape cases that go to trial and result in conviction is absolutely dismal?

    Don’t I trust that all doctors at all hospitals correctly record and report all cases of sexual and domestic violence, despite massive disincentives to doing so?

    Don’t I trust that, if an epidemic of violence against women really existed, posing a greater threat to national security than terrorism, pollution and driving combined, efforts to eradicate these forms of torture would be proportionally funded?

    No, I do not trust. I blame. I blame the patriarchy.

    Thanks for the super art-comic, Twisty.

  8. This is just a wild, wacky, far-out guess here, but I’d be willing to say that maybe, just maybe, the correlation between more porn and less rape reportage is a function of *women’s* exposure to pornography. If the porn star is the ultimate in desirability, well then, letting people do pornographic things to you must be desirable too. Makes perfect sense.

  9. buttercupia.blogspot.com

    cafe siren, Venus of Willendorf, a pornographic purpose? In a pig’s eye. that is one of the most ridiculous pieces of tripe i’ve ever read.

    damn straight it’s a straw man argument. and thanks for skimming the article so we don’t have to.

  10. Thanks, Buttercup. The work he cites to back up this assertion is a lightweight, non-scholarly study of pornography.

    Even more infuriating for footnote-watchers? The “Thornhill and Palmer (2000)” book he cites in favor of a EvBio explanation for rape (“Don’t blame me; blame Darwin!”) is actually the odious Natural History of Rape. (y’all remember that one?)

    I hope the Stanford Seminar people gave him what-for.

  11. Some other mysterious correlations that I think the apparent glut of broke and bored law profs should jump on right away:

    In the past few years, more men have been sent overseas to Iraq to die, could they have been rapists or potential rapists? Are they raping in Iraq and we don’t know here in the states?

    In the past few years, I have noticed an increase of SUV’s on the road, particularly the Hummer, could the Hummer be contributing to the decrease in rape reporting? Someone needs to get on it, possibly GM might fund a study.

    In the past few years, I’ve noticed that rape actually increased by two in my part town, could there be something different in this area that someone needs to look at? Could there be a lack of availibility to porn rape sites? Last I knew, cable services work here as well as anywhere else, but could be that potential rapists are being locked out of the relief valve.

    Also, in the past few years my toenail fungus has gotten worse and I’ve also noticed that I’ve been looking at less porn that I used to, could there be a correlation? Could untreated toe nail fungus lead to less viewing of porn and thus possibly be leading to the increase of rape in my area, assuming that untreated toe nail fungus is probably on the rise in the population? Hummm…someone get on that right away!

    Oh, wait, I also noticed that there seems to be a correlation between bullshit studies used in an attempt to normalize behaviors considered socially undesirable or abhorrent. Oh, Friedman’s already on that. I wonder how much the porn industry paid him.

    I wonder if he thought of how many women will be raped on film to profit the porn industry and himself.

  12. Outstanding stuff. You are gifted, Twisty.

  13. the-reaction.blogspot.com

    Hi, Twisty, just a brief note to sing your praises. Your writing is amazing, but you’ve now rocked my world in a whole other medium. Brutal.

  14. This is just a wild, wacky, far-out guess here, but I’d be willing to say that maybe, just maybe, the correlation between more porn and less rape reportage is a function of *women’s* exposure to pornography. If the porn star is the ultimate in desirability, well then, letting people do pornographic things to you must be desirable too. Makes perfect sense.

    Exactly what I thought. There is so much porn imagery around that the average woman couldn’t avoid it if she tried. And the average woman is unequipped with a Blame Filter to process it.

  15. reclusiveleftist.com

    “The Venus of Willendorf” figurine, found in Austria, dates to as early as 24,000 B.C.E., and is believed to have served a pornographic purpose. See Lane (2000).”

    The pornographic interpretation of the so-called Venus figurines is 40 years out of date, and while it’s still cited as a possiblity, other interpretations are more prominent. There have been tremendous advances in the archaeology of Europe, including the Upper Paleolothic, since male archaeologists advanced the old-fashioned “porn” interpretation. There have also been tremendous advances in gender studies, which shed considerable light on why those male archaeologists would automatically assume that a figure of a naked woman was something to whack off to.

    A statement like this — strongly implying that the pornographic interpretation is the only or preferred one — is either tendentious or just fucking ignorant.

  16. buttercupia.blogspot.com

    violet socks, I’m gonna go with “fucking ignorant”. Occam’s razor, and all that.

  17. simplywondered.blogspot.com

    I’m a bit slow so can I try and sum up what clever people who know stuff tell us:
    Kids watch violence and become more likely to do it.
    Boys watch porn/rape and become less likely to do it – or is that ‘too busy hanging onto their red raw dicks’?
    … Nope… still not clever enough to get this one. Better leave it to some male professor to explain it to me.

  18. Check out the article on Slate.com


    Because, women who work in pornography aren’t real women, silly. It’s okay to support their sexual degradation.

    What really pisses me off though, is how the author (a man of course) discusses the would be rapists. It basically boils down to: “Oh, boys will be boys, and if they cannot have consensual sex with a woman or jerk off to internet porn, then they won’t be able to control themselves and will have to rape women. They aren’t monsters, that’s just how mother nature created those misunderstood teenage boys.”

    Fuck, why can’t our society ever blame men for rape?! Men rape people all the time, but it’s always because of thier natural biology or because a woman *gasp* went to a party unescorted.

    Fuck you, Steven Landsburg and, FUCK YOU, popular media.


    -a very pissed off teenage blamer who will have to suck it up and stay inside tonight, because her male peers are entitled to rape her.

  19. faultline.org/place/toad

    Another shout-out to the_amadaun’s excellent point up there, with Richard Thompson’s song “(I’ve) Read About Love” by way of background music.

  20. Also in reference to the_amadaun’s post:

    Exactly. If the society is completely over-saturated with images and iconography that problematically link and even equate sex with violence, how are the women living in it supposed to accurately differentiate? “Sure, he grabbed me forcefully, threw me down and ‘had his way with me’, but that’s not rape, it’s just sex. I’m supposed to want to get dominated. It’s hot. Just like that movie/TV show/magazine photo shoot/billboard in the middle of my town. Where the girl is all bound up and bruised and having a fabulous sexy time!”

    Conflating violence and sex has become NORMAL. When the lines are so fucking blurred, is it really that surprising that reporting AND convictions go way down? Yeah Friedman, Kendall et al, you’re right: it has a lot to do with porn. But the direction of correlation in your “findings” is kind of ass-backwards.

  21. Late to the party. But I have a super important question about the comic strip.

    Ted is photoshopped (call it shwopped) Twisty, right? And is Lon shwopped Stingray?

    Enquiring minds want to know.

    yrs, BDL

  22. Twisty

    I wish it were true, BDL. But I merely nicked a stock photo offa Getty. Don’t tell nobody.

  23. seabel.com/weblog.php

    I just posted this on David Friedman’s site, but since I heard it here first, I figured I should tell you what I told him:

    I notice that this paper is not published anywhere. My guess is that a peer review would find that CORRELATION DOES NOT ESTABLISH CAUSALITY. Ice cream sales are highly correlated to drownings, does that mean ice cream is responsible for these deaths? No, the answer is that it is summer and people are swimming more and buying more ice cream. This example demonstrates why correlation never establishes causality. A high correlation indicates more research could be done to determine why this correlation is so high. A high correlation is a clue to help solve the mystery, but does not provide the solution. There are over 3000 PUBLISHED studies linking violence in the media (rape is violence, the internet is media) to real life violence.

    Additionally, MOST rape is not reported, (this fact is determined based on reports of rape counselors, crisis centers and advocates who help rape victims regardless of whether or not the victim files a police report) making it even more difficult to determine the rate at which rape occurs.

  1. Feministe » Jack Shafer didn’t satisfy the jackass quotient?

    […] Kendall, however, regards porn and rape as largely mutually exclusive. Indeed, he seems to dismiss the potential rapes and abuses which may occur in porn production as a cost of reducing rape more widely. There are fewer people making porn than there are consumers, so, Kendall reasons, the problem is really on the supply side, not the demand side. (Kendall eventually capitulates and concedes that he can’t endorse internet porn because it may cause more “deleterious effects” than it alleviates. In Twisty’s words, Geeze, Todd, ya think? […]

  2. feminish » Wintry link-fest

    […] The inimitable Twisty Faster on economics professor Todd D Kendall’s paper on “Pornography, Rape, and the Internet.” […]

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