Academic journal article International Journal of Cyber Criminology

The Dark Side of Internet Searches: A Macro Level Assessment of Rape Culture

Academic journal article International Journal of Cyber Criminology

The Dark Side of Internet Searches: A Macro Level Assessment of Rape Culture

Article excerpt


.28 seconds, the total time the Google search engine takes to deliver nearly onehundred thousand websites for the search query "best rape scenes". The intent of this statement is not to reflect in availability of material or suggest the search reflects those looking for, in fact, the best rape scenes. Rather being able to identify these search queries and track the trends and popularity of user queries is methodologically worthy of inquiry. Researchers agree the Internet is an influential source of acquisition and replication of norms, behavior, and attitudes (Jaishankar, 2008; Yar, 2006). The evolving nature of these networks have fundamentally influenced production of knowledge, distribution of tasks, and activities society engages, shaping the perspectives of generations of individuals (Castells, 1996). While research continues to study the relative strength of the Internet within acquisition and reinforcement, it has remained a consistent source of interest within human development (Greenfield & Yan, 2006). Having access to track interesting search queries overtime or following specific events presents as an important source of data, one that may undoubtedly provide new insight into human behavior.

Currently there are ~275 million Internet users in North America and ~2.4 billion Internet users globally (Miniwatts Marketing Group, 2013), making the study of this tool incredibly relevant to social scientists. Introducing new methods has the capacity to benefit and reinvigorate discussion on sexual violence and foster the emergence of new perspectives. The increasing use of the Internet and resulting immersion into the daily lives of users would prove an important data source, specifically if the data allowed a longitudinal analysis, which controlled for population changes. For example, if Internet queries for "how to be a better parent" gradually increased 50-percent over a ten-year period, or "racist jokes" decreased 35-percent, a nation and its people would offer signs of change.

In the past, access to violent, heterosexual pornography was largely limited to pornographic magazines or dark curtained rooms in video stores. Growth in the Internet and diverse nature of Internet users has fostered spread of not merely pornography, but the growth of niche pornography. As pornography becomes more socially acceptable, accessible, and marketed to wider audiences, its role in perpetuating misogynistic behaviors and attitudes thereby increases (Jensen, 2011; Picker & Sun, 2008). Scholars have suggested that pornography has a prominent feature within acquisition of behaviors and attitudes that correlate increasingly with acceptance, reproduction, and transference of what scholars have voiced as 'rape culture' (Miller & Biele, 1993).

Conceptualized and widely studied across disciplines since the late 1980s, 'rape culture' research concerns itself with operationalizing, evaluating, and mediating acquisition of the associated attitudes, behaviors, and norms correlated with violence against women (Herman, 1989). Researchers suggested that violence against women is multifaceted; reflecting the interplay between personal, situational, and socio-cultural factors (Heise, 1998, p. 263). The research took multiple paths, but as Heise (1998) offers, it was important that scholars understand the primacy of culturally constructed messages promoting and promulgating violence against women in a society. Therefore, it was important to understand further the acquisition, modes of transmission, and reinforcement of these intricate markers (attitudes, behaviors, and norms) for rape culture.

The resulting research produced important insight into rape culture and sexual violence. Researchers have explained the characteristics reflected at a micro and macro level for prolongation of misogyny and manifestation of rape culture in society. However, accurately measuring individual characteristics within the current studies is limited to survey instruments and focus groups, or at a macro level, official crime statistics, surveys of victims, or content analysis of popular media. …

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