Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality

Is Pornography Use Associated with Anti-Woman Sexual Aggression? Re-Examining the Confluence Model with Third Variable Considerations

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality

Is Pornography Use Associated with Anti-Woman Sexual Aggression? Re-Examining the Confluence Model with Third Variable Considerations

Article excerpt

The Confluence Model of sexual aggression (Malamuth, Addison, & Koss, 2000) states that pornography use, thought to promote sexual coercion of women through presentation of submissive female imagery, works in conjunction with sexual promiscuity (SP) and hostile masculinity (HM), proposed sexual aggression risk factors, to produce anti-woman sexual aggression. An Internet based survey (N = 183 adult males) replicated results of previous Confluence Model research, such that men who were high in HM and SP were more likely to report sexual coercion when they frequently, rather than infrequently, used pornography. Exploring new ground, this study also found that HM and SP together were strong predictors of consumption of violent sexual media, in comparison to non-violent sexual media, which suggests that men at high risk of sexual aggression consume different types of sexual material than men at low risk. Further, individual differences in sex drive were found to account for the effects previously attributed to pornography use in statistical tests of the Confluence Model. In the light of third variable considerations, these findings warrant a careful reappraisal of the Confluence Model's assertion that pornography use is a causal determinant of anti-woman sexual aggression.

KEY WORDS: Pornography, sexually explicit material, sexual coercion, sex drive, Confluence Model

INTRODUCTION

The possible impact of pornography on men's sexual aggression against women is a topic of considerable interest for the general public (Segal, 2014), for feminists of diverse political orientations (e.g., Dines, Jensen & Russo, 1997; Dworkin, 1981; McElroy, 1995; Strossen, 2000), and for social psychological theorists and researchers (e.g. Fisher & Barak, 2001; Fisher & Grenier, 1994; Malamuth, Addison, & Koss, 2000). Empirical research concerning the association of pornography use and sexual aggression has, however, produced widely divergent findings and conclusions.

On one hand, a great deal of experimental (Donnerstein & Berkowitz, 1981; Donnerstein & Hallam, 1978; Malamuth & Ceniti, 1986; Mundorf, D'Alessio, Allen, & Emmers-Sommer, 2007; Zillmann & Bryant, 1974) and correlational (Allen, Emmers, Gebhardt, & Giery, 1995; Hald, Malamuth, & Yuen, 2010; Mundorf, D'Alessio, Allen, & Emmers-Sommer, 2007) research is consistent with the view that pornography use contributes to sexual aggression against women. On the other hand, the internal and external validity and generalizability of laboratory research in this area has been questioned (Fisher & Grenier, 1994), and contrasting correlational literatures suggest that pornography use is associated with more positive attitudes toward women and gender egalitarianism (Baer, Watts, & Kohut, 2012; Davies, 1997; McKee, 2007; Padgett, Brislin-Slutz, & Neal, 1989; for a recent exception see Hald, Malamuth, & Lange, 2013); that access to pornography is associated with lessened sexual violence against women at a societal level (Abramson & Hayashi, 1984; Diamond, 1999; Kutchinsky, 1970); and that rapists have lower rates of exposure to sexually explicit material than non-rapists (Goldstein, 1973; Langevin et al., 1988). Recent reviews of experimental and correlational research have concluded variously that pornography use does not increase the risk of sexual violence against women (Ferguson & Hartley, 2009), or that it may increase the risk of sexual violence against women among those who are already predisposed toward sexual aggression (Fisher, Kohut, Di Gioacchino, & Fedoroff, 2013; Kingston, Malamuth, Fedoroff, & Marshall, 2009).

The Confluence Model

A more nuanced perspective that has emerged in recent years considers pornography's contribution to sexual aggression in the context of other predisposing factors. This perspective initially focused on two synergistic clusters of influence: Hostile Masculinity (HM), which involves a distrustful, domineering orientation toward women; and Sexual Promiscuity (also referred to as "Impersonal Sex" orientation), defined as a noncommittal sexual orientation that allows people to engage in sexual acts without closeness or commitment (Malamuth, Heavey, & Linz, 1993; Malamuth, Sockloskie, Koss, & Tanaka, 1991). …

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