One of the traditional fears about pornography is that exposure to such material may trigger bizarre sexual responses in certain abnormal individuals, leading to the commitment of serious sex crimes ( Clor, 1969; Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, 1970; Berkowitz, 1971). If this conjecture were well-founded, one would have to expect an increase in the number of sex crimes in a country like Denmark, where pornography during recent years has been easily available ( Ben-Veniste, 1971; Kutchinsky, 1971a, in press). As can be seen in Figure 1, there has been no such increase -- in fact, the number of sex crimes has decreased rather dramatically since 1967. From a fairly steady annual average of 85 cases of sexual offenders per 100,000 inhabitants, the number was reduced within three years to an average of less than 50 cases. Clearly, the trigger hypothesis of pornography must be rejected. The question is whether the opposite theory, often called the "safety-valve" theory ( Kronhausen and Kronhausen, 1964], has gained any support. Does the decrease in registered sex crimes in Denmark have anything to do with the easy availability of pornography?
This article presents a digest of a number of investigations aimed at answering this question. 1 For various practical reasons we shall concentrate on Copenhagen and on sex crimes committed by males against females.
Reprinted from the Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 29, No. 3 ( 1973), pp. 163-181, by permission of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues and the author.