Vol. XXIX, No. 3
Summer 2017
Text Only Version
In This Issue
Regular Features
Editor's Note
President's Message
Is pornography use safe for those convicted of a sexual offence?
Featured Articles
Prosocial Treatment Methods for Juveniles Who Sexually Offended
The Relationship between Implicit and Explicit Evaluations of Sexual Aggression and Sexually Aggressive Behavior
Child pornography offenders: Profiles of a complex group
Students' Voice
Processes Accounting for the Covariation Between Hypersexual and Psychopathic Traits
Book Review
Treatment of High-Risk Sexual Offenders: An Integrated Approach
Changing The Journal Name
Apply for the ATSA Fellow for 2017
2017 Election
ATSA International Committee: An introduction
2017 ATSA Conference: Exhibit and Support Opportunities
Win a Free Conference Registration
New ATSA Conference Event
Keeping up with the news
Legislative update
New ATSA Members
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Forum Team
David Prescott
Book Review Editor

Sarah Gorter
Production Editor

Forum Editor
Contact the editor or submit articles to:

Heather M. Moulden, Ph.D.
Forensic Program
St. Joseph's Healthcare
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
E: hmoulden@stjoes.ca
P: (905) 522-1155 ext. 35539
Is pornography use safe for those convicted of a sexual offence?
Drew A. Kingston, Ph.D., C.Psych
Royal Ottawa Health Care Group and University of Ottawa

There continues to be ongoing debate about the effects of pornography on sexual aggression and evidence for or against such a link is important for the assessment and treatment of individuals who have committed a sexual offense.

Although methodological approaches  to studying pornography’s putative effects differ, a number of studies and meta-analytic reviews conducted with community participants and sexual offenders have shown a small yet consistent relationship between pornography consumption, particularly violent pornography, and inappropriate attitudes (Allen, Emmers, Gebhardt, & Giery, 1995) and aggressive behavior (Kingston, Fedoroff, Firestone, Curry, & Bradford, 2008). Such effects have been demonstrated both experimentally and in more naturalistic settings.     

Despite the observed association between pornography consumption and negative attitudes/beliefs and aggressive behavior, there are clearly many individuals who view pornography and do not exhibit particularly problematic beliefs or commit acts of violence. In fact, some research has shown positive outcomes after viewing pornography, such as an increased satisfaction with sexual interactions in addition to other self-perceived positive effects (see Hald & Malamuth, 2008).

As such, it has been suggested that the negative effects of pornography consumption are critically dependent upon a complex interaction with particular individual and cultural differences. These potentially relevant factors include cultural, home, and peer environments, as well as stable personality characteristics (e.g., impersonal sexual orientation, psychopathy) and transient emotional states (e.g., feelings of rejection). In other words, pornography use is more likely to exert a negative impact among those who already exhibit a constellation of problematic characteristics. In an earlier study, my colleagues and I (Kingston et al., 2008) tested this hypothesis and showed that frequent pornography use contributed to the prediction of violent (including sexual) recidivism in a mixed sample of participants who were convicted of sexual aggression; however, this relationship was particularly evident among individuals who were deemed to be a higher risk to re-offend, whereas there was little association between pornography and recidivism among lower risk individuals. Although beyond the scope of this FAQ, my colleagues and I (see Kingston, Malamuth, Fedoroff, & Marshall, 2009) presented a number of plausible theoretical explanations for these effects which were essentially formulated around information-processing models and the specific activation of cognitive constructs resulting from exposure to pornography.

The notion that pornography can have a negative effect at least for some individuals has important implications. For example, valid assessment of pornography use is important as is the conceptualization of whether or not pornography use is a relevant criminogenic need for that individual. Another important issue pertains to the availability of sexually explicit material to individuals while incarcerated.  Some have suggested that allowing individuals to obtain pornography while incarcerated contradicts core issues addressed in treatment and therefore should be completely banned within correctional settings. Contrary to this position, however, is that a total restriction on pornography within correctional settings facilitates an artificial and unrealistic environment. Indeed, most of our clients are released at some point and it follows that restricting access to legal pornography may be counterintuitive, such that individuals might experience an increased desire to obtain the previously restricted material.  A more appropriate solution would perhaps be to allow similar opportunities in the institution as exist in society and to embed educational information and relevant therapeutic interventions pertaining to pornography’s effects in a treatment program. The impact of such material, especially for individuals with a predisposition for subsequent sexual aggression, can then be fully addressed in a therapeutic environment. 

Allen, M., Emmers, T., Gebhardt, L., & Giery, M. A. (1995).  Exposure to pornography and acceptance of rape myths. Journal of Communications, 45, 5-26.

Hald, G. M., & Malamuth, N. M. (2008). Self-perceived effects of pornography consumption. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37, 614-625

Kingston, D. A., Fedoroff, P., Firestone, P., Curry, S., & Bradford, J. M. (2008).  Pornography use and sexual aggression: The impact of frequency and type of pornography use on recidivism among sexual offenders. Aggressive Behavior, 34, 341-351.

Kingston, D. A., Malamuth, N. M., & Federoff, J. P., & Marshall, W. L. (2009).  The importance of individual differences in pornography use: Theoretical perspectives and implications for treating sexual offenders. The Journal of Sex Research, 46, 1-17.

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