New Australian research shows link between porn and intimate partner sexual violence

New Australian research shows link between porn and intimate partner sexual violence

New research by University of Melbourne Professor Laura Tarzia and RMIT University’s Dr Meagan Tyler has found that “pornography features prominently in the accounts of women experiencing Intimate Partner Sexual Violence (IPSV)”.

According to the authors, IPSV is “a hidden and poorly understood form of violence against women” which includes a range of behaviours such as rape, sexual assault, and sex obtained via coercion and threats.

The authors recognise that the link between porn and IPSV is under-researched and maintain that “in today’s cultural climate there is a need to contextualize women’s experiences of IPSV within a pornified culture, where pornography consumption is increasingly normalized and largely legitimized, especially for young men.” This is particularly given the research which shows that porn “creates and reinforces a culture in which violence against women is permissible”.

The data used by the researchers was collected as part of a larger qualitative study, Beyond Silence, which explored women’s experiences of IPSV in Australia.

On analysing the interview data, three main themes became apparent in terms of the relationship between porn and IPSV: pornography as a sex manual, all about his pleasure, and dehumanizing and devaluing.

The authors found that, “Nearly one in five women specifically described how their partner wanted to “try out” different sexual acts or scenarios that he had seen in pornographic films or on the internet. Some of these participants felt that the consumption of pornography drove their partners to desire more and more violent or graphic sex acts in order to become aroused.”

Related to this was “the idea that all women must love sex, be open to experimenting and trying new things.” Some of the women’s partners forced them to watch porn and used it as a way of normalising their expectations.

Most of the women interviewed “described their sexual relationships as being focused, almost exclusively, on their male partner’s pleasure, with their role as servicing his sexual demands. This was usually at a significant cost to them; not just their own pleasure, but their wellbeing and safety.”

The women also talked about the link between pornography and practices that were dehumanising or devaluing of them, recognising how porn has led to women being devalued and dehumanised in wider society more generally. They described how they were “treated as objects to be used sexually, rather than as human beings” and how their “male partners sought to degrade them”.

While the content of this research is sickening, it is heartening to see more mainstream research joining the dots between porn and violence against women, a connection that we have maintained exists for a long time. We echo the researchers call for further research in this area and “for future IPSV studies to ask survivors about their partner’s use of pornography and any perceived connections between experiences of IPSV and pornography”.