Diana Russell, a longtime activist against pornography, has kindly permitted us to make Against Pornography available for downloading at no charge. Please use the links below.
Dr. Russell is Professor Emerita of Sociology at Mills College, Oakland, California. She has been active in the women’s liberation movement since 1969, and is author or editor of 17 books. She obtained a Postgraduate Diploma (with Distinction) from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1961, and a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1970.
Against Pornography is unusual in that it goes beyond abstract discussions of pornography to present the raw material, so readers can judge for themselves. Dr. Russell reprints and analyzes over 100 cartoons and pictures from publications like Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler and Cheri. She writes,
I have found that showing pornography is an effective and rapid consciousness-raiser about misogyny and male views of women. It helps to enhance women’s understanding of many males’ dangerous notions of what it is to be a man. It often also succeeds in arousing women viewers’ anger (and some men’s) at the contempt and hatred of women they see in the pictures and captions. [File 1, p.16]We have divided Dr. Russell’s book into five Adobe PDF files. You may download them below and read them with Adobe’s free Acrobat Reader. Please note that the text and images in the book are explicit, and many will find them disturbing. These files should not be viewed by anyone under the age of 18.
Against Pornography 1 of 5 – Front Matter (PDF, 3.1MB, Table of Contents, Preface, Introduction)
Against Pornography 2 of 5 – Visual Pornography Part 1 (PDF, 3.5MB, reprints from pornographic publications)
Against Pornography 3 of 5 – Visual Pornography Part 2 (PDF, 4.6MB, reprints from pornographic publications)
Against Pornography 4 of 5 – Pornography as a Cause of Rape (PDF, 3.3 MB, causation, empirical findings)
Against Pornography 5 of 5 – Back Matter (PDF, 2.1MB, Conclusion, References, Activist Organizations, Index)
Some of the text in these PDFs may appear slightly fuzzy on screen, but it is reasonably crisp when printed out. A trade paperback copy of the book may be ordered directly from Dr. Russell here.
Here are some highlights from the book:
Pornographers invariably see feminists as their enemies. For example, this is what Playboy owner Hugh Hefner has been quoted as saying to his staff: “These chicks are our natural enemy… It is time we do battle with them… What I want is a devastating piece that takes the militant feminists apart.” [File 1, p.x, and DianaRussell.com]Learn more about Dr. Russell and her work at DianaRussell.com.
A particularly important feature of my definition of pornography is the requirement that it appears to endorse, condone, or encourage abusive sexual desires or behaviors. These attributes differentiate pornography from materials that include abusive or degrading sexual behavior for educational purposes. Movies such as “The Accused” and “The Rape of Love”, for example, present realistic representations of rape with the apparent intention of helping viewers to understand the reprehensible nature of rape, and the agony experienced by rape victims. [File 1, p.5, and DianaRussell.com]
Many people have talked or written about the difficulty of defining pornography and erotica, declaring that “one person’s erotica is another person’s pornography.” This statement is often used to ridicule an anti-pornography stance. The implication is that if there is no consensus on a definition of pornography, its effects cannot be examined.
Yet there is no consensus on the definitions of many phenomena. Rape is one example. Legal definitions of rape vary considerably in different states. The police often have their own definitions, which may differ from legal definitions. If a woman is raped by someone she knows, for example, the police often “unfound” the case because they are skeptical about most acquaintance and date rapes. Hence, such crimes are rarely investigated. This practice certainly has no basis in the law…
Many rapists, for example, do not consider that forcing intercourse on an unwilling woman qualifies as rape because they think the woman’s “no” actually means “yes”. Many women think they have not been raped when the perpetrator is their husband or lover, even though the law in most states defines such acts as rape. Fortunately, few people argue that, because rape is so difficult to define and there is no consensus on the best definition of it, it should therefore not be considered a heinous and illegal act…
In contrast…[m]any people have argued that because there is no consensus on how to define pornography and/or because it can be difficult to determine whether or not the pornographic label is appropriate in particular cases, pornography should therefore not be subject to legal restraint, or even opprobrium.
It is interesting to note that lack of consensus did not prove to be an obstacle in making pictorial child pornography illegal. This makes it clear that the difficulty of defining pornography is a strategy employed by its apologists in their efforts to derail their opponents by making their work appear futile. [File 1, p.7-9, and DianaRussell.com]
Don Smith did a content analysis of 428 “adults only” paperbacks published between 1968 and 1974. His sample was limited to books that were readily accessible to the general public in the United States, excluding paperbacks that are usually available only in so-called adult bookstores (1976). He reported the following findings:
One-fifth of all the sex episodes involved completed rapes.
The number of rapes increased with each year’s output of newly published books.
Of the sex episodes, 6% involved incestuous rape. The focus in the rape scenes was almost always on the victim’s fear and terror, which became transformed by the rape into sexual passion. Over 97% of the rapes portrayed in these books resulted in orgasm for the victims. In three-quarters of these rapes, multiple orgasm occurred.
[File 1, p.9, and DianaRussell.com]
Psychologists James Check and Neil Malamuth have provided experimental evidence that pornography that is supplemented with sound educational information does not induce the negative effects that would otherwise occur (1984). On the contrary, their findings reveal that pornography shown in an educational context provides the viewer with a better understanding of the material. [File 1, p. 17; see also Male Attitudes about Rape Can Be Learned…and Unlearned]
Some readers may be disturbed to find themselves becoming sexually aroused by some pornographic pictures in this book despite their awareness, perhaps even abhorrence, of the misogyny they reveal. This may engender feelings of self-criticism, or even self-hatred, or it may cause these readers to feel that something is wrong with them…
While I think getting turned on to pornography does signify that our culture has made some destructive inroads into a person’s psyche, as is similarly signified by discovering racist attitudes in oneself, this is no reason to embrace either pornography or racism. Rather, it indicates the importance of fighting against these phenomena for both personal and political reasons.
However, there is reason for great concern when those who feel aroused by pornography (or racism) become advocates or defenders of it. Many unhealthy practices are promoted in all societies, such as the consumption of unnutritional foods, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, spending beyond one’s means. That such practices are–like pornography–encouraged in Western cultures is no reason to accept them as harmless, or to take a laissez faire attitude to them. Rather, the more destructive they are found to be, the more strenuously they should be resisted, on both personal and public levels. This book provides evidence to show that pornography qualifies as deserving the most strenuous opposition we can muster. [File 1, p.20-21]
[P]ornography can induce desire to rape women in males who previously had no such desire, and can increase or intensify the desire to rape in males who already have felt this desire…
The laws of social learning (for example, classical conditioning, instrumental conditioning, and social modeling), about which there is now considerable consensus among psychologists, apply to all the mass media, including pornography. As Donnerstein testified at the Hearings in Minneapolis: “If you assume that your child can learn from Sesame Street how to count one, two, three, four, five, believe me, they can learn how to pick up a gun” (Donnerstein, 1983, p.11). Presumably, males can learn equally well how to rape, beat, sexually abuse, and degrade females.
A simple application of the laws of social learning suggests that viewers of pornography can develop arousal responses to depictions of rape, murder, child sexual abuse, or other assaultive behavior. Researcher S. Rachman of the Institute of Psychiatry, Maudsley Hospital, London, has demonstrated that male subjects can learn to become sexually aroused by seeing a picture of a woman’s boot after repeatedly seeing women’s boots in association with sexually arousing slides of nude females (Rachman and Hodgson, 1968). The laws of learning that operated in the acquisition of the boot fetish can also teach males who were not previously aroused by depictions of rape to become so. All it may take is the repeated association of rape with arousing portrayals of female nudity (or clothed females in provocative poses).
Even for males who are not sexually excited during movie portrayals of rape, masturbation subsequent to the movie reinforces the association. This constitutes what R.J. McGuire, J.M. Carlisle and B.G. Young refer to as “masturbatory conditioning” (Cline, 1974, p.210). The pleasurable experience of orgasm–an expected and planned-for activity in many pornography parlors–is an exceptionally potent reinforcer. The fact that pornography is widely used by males as ejaculation material is a major factor that differentiates it from other mass media, intensifying the lessons that male consumers learn from it. [File 4, p.122-123, and DianaRussell.com]
When children do what they see in pornography, it is even more improbable than in the case of adults to attribute their behavior entirely to their predispositions.
Psychologist Jennings Bryant testified to the Pornography Commission about a survey he had conducted involving 600 telephone interviews with males and females who were evenly divided into three age groups: students in junior high school, students in high school, and adults aged 19 to 39 years (1985, p.133). Respondents were asked if “exposure to X-rated materials had made them want to try anything they saw” (1985, p.140). Two-thirds of the males reported “wanting to try some of the behavior depicted” (1985, p.140). Bryant reports that the desire to imitate what is seen in pornography “progressively increases as age of respondents decreases” (1985, p.140; emphasis added). Among the junior high school students, 72% of the males reported that “they wanted to try some sexual experiment or sexual behavior that they had seen in thier initial exposure to X-rated material” (1985, p.140).
In trying to ascertain if imitation had occurred, the respondents were asked: “Did you actually experiment with or try any of the behaviors depicted [within a few days of seeing the materials]?” (1985, p.140). A quarter of the males answered that they had… Male high school students were the most likely (31%) to report experimenting with the behaviors portrayed (1985, p.141). [File 4, p.126-127, and DianaRussell.com]
If males believe that women enjoy rape and find it sexually exciting, this belief is likely to undermine the inhibitions of some of those who would like to rape women. Sociologists Diana Scully and Martha Burt have reported that rapists are particularly apt to believe rape myths (Burt, 1980; Scully, 1985). Scully, for example, found that 65% of the rapists in her study believed that “women cause their own rape by the way they act and the clothes they wear”; and 69% agreed that “most men accused of rape are really innocent.” However, as Scully points out, it is not possible to know if their beliefs preceded their behavior or constitute an attempt to rationalize it. Hence, findings from the experimental data are more telling for our purposes than these interviews with rapists.
As the myth that women enjoy rape is widely held, the argument that consumers of pornography realize that such portrayals are false, is totally unconvincing (Brownmiller, 1975; Burt, 1980; Russell, 1975). Indeed, several studies have shown that portrayals of women enjoying rape and other kinds of sexual violence can lead to increased acceptance of rape myths in both males and females. In an experiment conducted by Neil Malamuth and James Check, for example, one group of college students saw a pornographic depiction in which a woman was portrayed as sexually aroused by sexual violence, and a second group was exposed to control materials. Subsequently, all subjects were shown a second rape portrayal. The students who had been exposed to the pornographic depiction of rape were significantly more likely than the students in the control group (1) to perceive the second rape victim as suffering less trauma; (2) to believe that she actually enjoyed it; and (3)
to believe that women in general enjoy rape and forced sexual acts (Check and Malamuth, 1985, p.419).
Other examples of the rape myths that male subjects in these studies are more apt to believe after viewing pornography are as follows: “A woman who goes to the home or the apartment of a man on their first date implies that she is willing to have sex”; “Any healthy woman can successfully resist a rapist if she really wants to”; “Many women have an unconscious wish to be raped, and many then unconsciously set up a situation in which they are likely to be attacked”; “If a girl engages in necking or petting and she lets things get out of hand, it is her own fault if her partner forces sex on her” (Briere, Malamuth, and Check, 1985, p.400).
In Maxwell and Check’s 1992 study of 247 high school students…they found very high rates of what they called “rape supportive beliefs”, that is, acceptance of rape myths and violence against women. The boys who were the most frequent consumers of pornography and/or who reported learning a lot from it, were more accepting of rape supportive beliefs than their peers who were less frequent consumers and/or who said they had not learned as much from it. [File 4, p.132-133, and DianaRussell.com]
In one of his early experiments, Malamuth, along with his colleagues, Haber and Feshach (1980), reported that after reading the account of a violent rape by a stranger, 17% of their male student subjects admitted that there was some likelihood that they might behave in a similar fashion in the same circumstances. However, 53% of the same male students said there was some likelihood that they might act as the rapist did if they could be sure of getting away with it. The 36% difference in these percentages reveals the significant role that can be played by social inhibitions against acting out rape desires. My hypothesis is that pornography also plays a role in undermining some males’ social inhibitions against acting out their desire to rape.
In his content analysis of 150 pornographic home videos, Palys investigated “whether aggressive perpetrators ever received any negative consequences for their aggressive activity–if charges were laid, or the person felt personal trauma, or had some form of ‘just deserts'” (1986, p. 32). The answer was no in 73% of the cases in which a clear-cut answer was ascertainable. Similarly, Don Smith (1976) found that fewer than 3% of the rapists portrayed in the 428 pornographic books he analyzed were depicted as experiencing any negative consequences as a result of their behavior. Indeed, many of them were rewarded. The common portrayal in pornography of rape as easy to get away with probably contributes to the undermining of some males’ social inhibitions against the acting out of their rape desires.
If there were more effective social sanctions against pornography, this would almost certainly increase the reluctance of some people to participate in the pornography industry. There are many reasons why progressive people are strenuously opposed to government efforts to censor pornography. There are, however, many alternative kinds of sanctions that need to be explored. For example, many women have been forced to participate in pornography against their will. I would have thought that pornographic publications that publish photos of these women would be accessories after the fact to false imprisonment, rape, assault, and sometimes, possibly, murder. [File 4, p.138-139, and DianaRussell.com]
Most adult rape victims are not shown pornography in the course of being raped, although the testimony of prostitutes reveals that this is quite a common experience for many who are raped (Everywoman, 1988; Russell, 1993a). But pornography is more often used to try to persuade a woman or child to engage in certain acts, to legitimize the acts, and to undermine their resistance, refusal, or disclosure of these acts. Donald Mosher, for example, reported in his 1971 study that 16% of the “sex calloused” male students had attempted to obtain intercourse by showing pornography to a woman, or by taking her to a “sexy” movie. When this strategy succeeds in manipulating women into so-called sex play, it can make women very vulnerable to date rape.
In a more recent study conducted in Canada, Charlene Senn found that “the more pornography women were exposed to, the more likely they were to have been forced or coerced into sexual activity they did not want” (1992). In addition, a male was present in most of the cases in which women were exposed to pornography. This suggests that most women who consume pornography do so because a man wants them to (1992). This is a particularly important finding because the media have made much of the alleged fact that increasing numbers of women are renting pornographic videos, presuming that they do so for their own gratification. [File 4, p.140, and DianaRussell.com]
Larry Baron and Murray Straus (1984) undertook a 50-state correlational analysis of reported rape rates and the circulation rates of eight pornographic magazines: Chic, Club, Forum, Gallery, Genesis, Hustler, Oui, and Playboy. A highly significant correlation (+0.64) was found between reported rape rates and circulation rates. Baron and Straus attempted to ascertain what other factors might possibly explain this correlation. Their statistical analysis revealed that the proliferation of pornographic magazines and the level of urbanization explained more of the variance in rape rates than the other variables investigated (for example, social disorganization, economic inequality, unemployment, sexual inequality).
In another important study, Mary Koss conducted a large national survey of over 6,000 college students selected by a probability sample of institutions of higher education (Koss, Gidycz, and Wisniewski, 1987). She found that college males who reported behavior that meets common legal definitions of rape were significantly more likely than college males who denied such behavior to be frequent readers of at least one of the following magazines: Playboy, Penthouse, Chic, Club, Forum, Gallery, Genesis, Oui and Hustler (Koss and Dinero, 1989). [File 4, p.143, and DianaRussell.com]
[Added on 2/7/07:] See also this research paper by Dr. Russell and Natalie Purcell, “Exposure to Pornography as a Cause of Child Sexual Victimization”.