Report: Porn Fans Support Gender Equality

Mar 14, 2016 8:53 AM PST

LOS ANGELES — Contrary to many misconceptions, a recent report in The Journal of Sex Research reveals that porn fans are more likely to be supportive of gender equality than are non-porn consumers.

While critics have long contended that pornography conditions viewers to see women as commodities,  research shows that porn fans are more supportive of feminist rights than are non-porn-fans — and just as likely to self-identify as feminists.

The report is based on data from the General Social Survey (GSS) of contemporary American attitudes, which has been conducted since the 1970s, canvassing approximately 25,000 men and women about their personal porn use, along with questions about gender equality and feminism.

It is estimated that more than 40 million Americans regularly visit porn sites.

According to postdoctoral fellow Taylor Kohut, one of the report’s authors, porn users are less likely to reject gender egalitarian beliefs and attitudes than people who did not view pornography — but this finding should not be interpreted as meaning that porn drives feminism.

“Although some of our findings suggest that pornography users are slightly more likely to hold some gender egalitarian beliefs and attitudes than non-users,” Kohut says, “we do not have any compelling reasons to believe that pornography makes people become more feminist.”

While porn may not be the most uplifting influence on women, the data demonstrates that it is not nearly as toxic to the feminist ideal that opponents portray it to be.

“The assertion that pornography contributes to gender inequality is commonly expressed in the public sphere, and underlies many contemporary efforts to regulate pornography use throughout the Western world,” Kohut explains. “I think our findings call into question one of the most popular criticisms that gets leveled against pornography.”

UNLV associate professor Lynn Comella says that the notion of pornography being inherently bad for women has been repeated so often it has been accepted as fact, but this report disrupts that narrative.

“I think a study that shows there’s even a slight association that shows porn users hold more positive attitudes toward gender inequality can alleviate some anxiety that women who watch porn, or whose partners watch porn, might feel,” Comella notes. “They might wonder, ‘Does this mean this person sees me as less of an equal? Are they harboring aggressive attitudes toward women?’  This could potentially alleviate some anxiety about what porn use says about someone.”

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