There has been a lot of discussion surround the recent Boobs on Bikes parade in Auckland. Specifically, there is a belief that pornography, which is promoted by this parade, causes violent male crime.
This is a bold claim – a claim I know practically nothing about. However, I’m going to try and describe the way I would frame the issue for analysis, so that we can have a structured discussion on the issue.
Before doing so I would like to note that other New Zealand blogs are discussing the parade – they are linked to here: (Tumeke) (The Hand Mirror *) (No Right Turn *) (Liberty Scott) (No Minister) (Public Address). Now for the discussion:
The claim is appears to be as follows:
- Boobs on bikes promotes pornography,
- Pornography causes men to become more violent against women,
- Therefore, Boobs on bikes promotes male violence against women.
Now the third condition will only hold if the other two do.
Even if we had empirical evidence that showed that attendants of Boobs on bikes were more violent against women we would not have evidence of this phenomenon – as it may be the case that it is more violent men that turn up to Boobs on bikes in the first place.
As a result, we need to first decipher what type of pornography the parade promotes and figure out how that type of pornography in turn influences male violence.
Boobs to porn
Now I am not sure that there is a strong relationship between watching boobs on bikes and getting into downloading nasty videos.
I suppose you could use a slippery slope argument, or you could say it “desensitizes you” to nude women, or that it promotes an industry that goes off and pushes these things in our faces. However, I’m still not convinced.
For the sake of argument I’m going to say that the parade and the groups it is associated with may lead to people getting into stock standard porn – not the super nasty stuff.
Ok, so now we have to ask, if men are into this porn does that get them into being violent to women?
Well does it
I have to admit I have no evidence either way.
Here we have to show that pornography directly leads to men being more violent. Empirical evidence that shows that the two are positively correlated is not enough – we need causation.
Now, this is fundamentally like asking – is porn a complement for male violence or a substitute? The protestors felt it was a complement, however this is not necessarily the case.
Porn could be a complement for male violence against women in two ways:
- Increasing testosterone,
- Providing a bad example/desensitizing men
In the first case there is a belief that testosterone levels rise when men watch porn, and that higher testosterone leads to violence. Now I know little about this, however wikipedia tells me that there is no clear relationship between testosterone and violence. As a result, this is a factor that needs to be discussed.
The second case tells us that if men watch porn it convinces them to treat women badly. I’m not sure. If you watched some nasty stuff then maybe, but the majority of porn is simply comedy isn’t it 😉 . However, we will also take this as a potential factor – as there may be people that take the wrong bits literally.
However, could porn also not be a substitute for violent behaviour. For one, when a guy is watching porn and getting busy with himself he has less time to be violent. Furthermore, the act of consuming porn may reduce the perceived benefit from committing male violence, which would lead to less male violence.
Without getting into too much detail, could we not make the case that porn is an experience good, and that watching porn is a substitute for violent behaviour. Therefore, is something promotes porn, it gets people to experience it and leads to less violence as an externality.
If the complaint was that the porn industry exploited women, then we would have a whole different discussion here. The complaint was that Boobs on Bikes implicitly promotes male violence.
We have discusses how to frame the issue of how this event may impact on male violence, and it is not clear that it will lead to an increase, in fact it may lead to a decrease in this type of violence.
Now if anyone has any evidence of the important relationships we have discussed about, or if anyone has any opinions as to what factors will dominate, we can discuss those in the comments.
Update: CPW states that there is at least one study where the substitutability exceeds the complementarity mentioned here. Now this does not prove that the protesters are wrong – it just merely states that the alternative case is valid, something they might not realise.