Anti-Pornography Website
Debunking the Myth of the "Cathartic" Effect

Pornography defenders typically deny the link between pornography and sexual violence and sometimes quote, for instance, the "Denmark Experiment." In 1969, Denmark's government lifted pornography restrictions. Studies in the early 1970s by Berl Kutchinski of the University of Copenhagen claimed that easy access to pornography had reduced sex crimes by providing a "safety valve" for potential offenders. These studies were ONLY based on REPORTED crimes. Similarly, some porn apologists claim that reported rapes have decreased in America since the advent of the Internet. Pornography defenders have been putting forward the claim that porn has "cathartic" effects for years. This claim is false.


-- Correlational studies, which are only based on reported rapes, have limits. Only 16% of rapes get reported to the police. (1) Less than 10% of rapes reported in a San Francisco survey had been reported to the police.

-- Thousands of reports of rapes got put in noncriminal categories such as “investigation of person” by the American police, thus kept out of the FBI's crime statistics. The sex-crimes unit buried thousands of complaints since the 1990's.

-- Researcher John H. Court published a research paper entitled "Pornography & Sex Crimes". In this report, Court indicated that the Copenhagen (Denmark) police admitted a gross error and released new rape statistics which were considerably higher than the figures originally reported. In the words of Court, "... the trend since 1969 indicates that there has been a new level higher than anything in the previous decade." (4)

-- Other correlational studies on pornography and sex crimes have shown increases:

Pornography defenders especially remain silent about the results of similar studies in Sweden, Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia. John Court commentted on the studies in these countries stating: "... as the constraints on the availability of pornography were lifted ... the rates of rape in those countries increased. For example, in two Australian states between 1964 and 1977, when South Australia liberalized its laws on pornography and Queensland maintained its conservative policy... over the 13-year period, the number of rapes in Queensland remained at the same low level while South Australia's showed a six-fold increase."

As pornography became more widely available during the 1960s and 1970s, the rate of reported that rapes sharply increased -- except in countries and areas where pornography was controlled. In Hawaii, the number of reported rapes rose ninefold between 1960 and 1974, dropped when restraints on pornography were temporarily imposed, and rose again when the restrains were lifted.

Forcible rape in America has increased by 562% since 1960 (when pornography became more available); by 11% between 1983 and 1986.

The rate of reported violent sex crimes in Japan has increased from just under 2000 cases in 1990 to over 3000 cases in 2000. (8) At the same time, the annual amount of rented pornographic videos increased. Pornography apologists in Japan typically combine the rate of violent sex crimes with the rate of general violent crimes to show a decrease.

Reported sexual assaults of children in Japan increased 70% between 1994 and 2004. (10)

Sales of pornographic magazines (such as Hustler and Playboy) in the fifty states correlated with state rape rates. After controlling for other factors, such as the percentage of young males in each state, a positive relationship remained. Alaska ranked first in porn magazine sales and first in rape. Nevada was second on both measures.

Between 2000 and 2005, the number of Internet users in the United Kingdom increased from 15.4 million to 35.8 million. (12) During this time, the overall population only grew from 58.8 million to 59.9 million, so the proportion of Internet users in the population grew from 26% to 60%. In the period 1999-2000, just under 8,000 rapes of a female were reported in England and Wales. This level then increased every year. During the 2005-2006 period, over 13,000 rapes of females were reported. (13) This was during a time when the overall population increased by just 2%. In Scotland, after dipping slightly between the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 reporting periods, rapes recorded by police increased every year through the 2005-2006 reporting period. (14) Overall, recorded rapes in Scotland increased from just under 600 in 1999-2000 to just under 1,000 in 2005-2006.

A Women's Crisis Center serving Wahpeton (North Dakota) reported a 96.6% increase in domestic violence and sexual assault cases after a second strip club opened in town.

Areas with pornography outlets and sexually oriented businesses experience significantly higher sexual offenses and property crimes than areas without such businesses. (16)

-- Those who believe that pornography is "cathartic" should explain the consistently negative impact that sexually-oriented businesses (S.O.B.'s) have on their surrounding neighborhoods:

- Garden Grove, CA -- 1981-1990 - On Garden Grove Blvd., seven adult businesses accounted for 36% of all crime in the area. In one case, a bar opened within 500 feet of an SOBs and serious crime within 1000 feet of that business rose 300% during the next year.

- Oklahoma City -- 1986 - In closing 150 out of 163 adult sexually oriented businesses over a 5-year period, the rape rate declined 26.5% in Oklahoma City. During that period, the rape rate rose 20.5% in the rest of the state. Since November, 1992, eight Sobs have reopened in Oklahoma City, and the rape rate has started to climb. The District Attorney is reviewing his efforts to prosecute once again.

- Austin, TX -- 1986 - in four study areas, sexually related crimes were between 177-482% higher than the city's average. In tracing 81 license plates at Sobs, 44% were from outside Austin. (Adult businesses tend to attract outsiders; law enforcement in cities with Sobs are often burdened with enforcing laws on nonresidents, with the expense incurred by the city where the SOB is located.)

- Indianapolis, IN -- 1984-1986 - Between 1978-1982, crime in study areas with Sobs were 46% higher than for the city as a whole. Sex related crimes were four times greater when Sobs were located near residential areas vs. commercial areas. The study concluded that: "Even a relatively passive use such as an adult book store [has] a serious negative effect on their immediate environs."

- Phoenix, AZ -- 1978 - Sex offenses, including indecent exposure, were 506% greater in neighborhoods with Sobs Even excluding indecent exposure, the sex offenses were still 132% greater in those neighborhoods. Property crimes were 43% higher and violent crimes were 4% higher.

- Whittier, CA -- In comparison studies of two residential areas taken between 1970-1973 before Sobs, and 1974-1977 after Sobs, crimes increased 102% in the two study areas, compared to overall crime increase in the city of only 8.3% (In the two target areas: Malicious mischief increased 700%, assault increased 387%, prostitution increased 300%, and all theft increased 120%). (17)

These "harmful secondary effects" are the reason the Supreme Court upholds zoning ordinances to restrict the locations of sexually-oriented businesses. It is also worth noting that zoning laws unfortunately often target poor working-class neighborhoods. Anyway, at present, there is no such zoning ordinance on the Internet. If an "adult" book store has a serious negative effect on its immediate environs, what does unrestricted Internet pornography do to all our neighborhoods?

-- Some porn apologists claim that "rape of a person over the age of 12, or over the age of 18 has decreased". Highlights from 2000 include the following as reported to law enforcement: 

-  67% of victims of sexual assault were juveniles (under age 18); 
- 34% of sexual assault victims were under age 12;
- 1 of every 7 victims of sexual assault were under age 6; 
- 40% of offenders who victimized children under age 6 were juveniles (under age 18).


The rape rate in Nevada (where prostitution is mostly legal) is extremely high, as documented by some fairly devastating statistics from the FBI -- which are only REPORTED rapes. Actual rape rates are probably 10 times higher than below since only 1 in 10 rapes is reported.

In Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections, prostitution researcher Melissa Farley wrote: “I asked Kelly Langdon, the Nevada State Rape Prevention Coordinator, how she understood the relationship between legal prostitution and the high rates of rape in the urban areas of Nevada. Emphasizing the inequality of the prostitution transaction, whether legal or not, she said that legal prostitution "creates an atmosphere in the state in which women are not seen as equal to men, are disrespected by men, and which then sets the stage for increased violence against women."

A Las Vegas rape crisis counselor spoke bluntly about the relationship between the sex industry and the city's high rape rates. " Men think they can get away with rape here," she told me.

Data from the 2004 FBI Uniform Crime report validates these analyses and raises the possibility of an association between legalized prostitution, the state's prostitution culture, and rape rates in Nevada. The Nevada rate of rape was higher than the US average and was twice as high as New York's rate of rape. The rate of rape in Las Vegas was three times greater than that in New York City.

Reported Rape Rate per 100,000 Population by State:

Nevada 40.9
U.S. average 32.2
California 26.8
New York 18.8
New Jersey 15.3

Reported Rape Rate per 100,000 Population by City:

Las Vegas 44.7
Sparks-Reno 41.3
San Francisco 24.5
Los Angeles 23.2
New York 14.0 ” (19)

Australian legal prostitution also seems to have an effect on sexual violence. Contrary to popular belief in that country, legal prostitution does not prevent rape and sexual assault. Within the state of Victoria, where prostitution is legal, overall crime rates decreased, while rape on the other hand, increased by 11%. (20)


(1) Kilpatrick, D. G. et al., "Rape in America: A report to the nation", National Crime Victim's Center; 1992.
(2) Diana Russell, Sexual Exploitation: Rape, Child sexual abuse, and workplace harassment; 1984.
(3) "No Wonder the Rape Rate is Decreasing",
(4) John Court, "Sex and Violence: A Ripple Effect", in Neil Malamuth and Edward Donnerstein Eds, Pornography and Sexual Aggression; 1984.
(5) Ibid.
(6) Ibid.
(7) National Crime Survey, U.S. Department of Justice.
(8) National Police Agency of Japan.
(9) Seiya Morita, "Pornography, prostitution, and women's human rights in Japan", in Not for Sale; 2004.
(10) Agence France-Presse.
(11) Larry Baron and Murray A. Straus, "Sexual Stratification, Pornography, and Rape in the United States", in Neil Malamuth and Edward Donnerstein Eds, Pornography and Sexual Aggression; 1984.
(13) UK Home Office Crime Statistics,
(14) Scottish Executive Crime Statistics,
(15) Sherry Lee Short, "Making Hay while the Sun Shines: the Dynamics of rural Strip Clubs in the American Upper Midwest and the Community Response", in Not for Sale; 2004.
(16) National Law Center for Children and Families; 1997 NLC summary of "SOB land use" studies.
(17) Community Defense Counsel, "Secondary Effects Studies", at
(18) Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), 2000.
(19) Melissa Farley, Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections; 2007.
(20) Mary Lucille Sullivan, Making Sex Work: A Failed Experiment with Legalized Prostitution; 2007.