Edward Donnerstein and Leonard Berkowitz
There has been an increased concern in recent years about rape and other forms of aggression against women. While many explanations have been offered for this apparent increase in violence against women, a number of writers have indicted the mass media, and especially pornography, as one important contributor to these assaults (e.g., Brownmiller, 1975; Burt, 1980; Donnerstein, 1980a). Others disagree. The 1971 report of the Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography had concluded that there was no direct relationship between exposure to pornography and subsequent sexual crimes. However, recent criticisms of the Commission's findings (e.g., Berkowitz, 1971; Cline, 1974; Dienstbier, 1977; Wills, 1977) have led several investigators to re-examine the issue. This later research has indicated that exposure to certain types of erotic materials can increase aggressive behavior (e.g., Baron and Bell, 1977; Donnerstein, in press; Donnerstein, DonnersteiN, and Evans, 1975; Malamuth, Feshbach, and Jaffe, 1977; Meyer, 1972; Zillmann, 1971, 1979).
By and large, these investigations have been aimed primarily at the question of whether sexual scenes can influence aggressive behavior generally. The more specific issue of the effect of these media portrayals on aggression against women in particular has only recently been studied (e.g.,
Reprinted from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 41, No. 4 ( 1981). pp. 710-724. Copyright 1981 by the American Psychological Association. Reprinted by permission of the publisher and Edward Donnerstein.