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New study – “Pornography Use by Sex Offenders at the Time of the Index Offense: Characterization and Predictors

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to characterize and predict sex offenders’ pornography consumption at the time of the index offense. Participants were 146 male sex offenders incarcerated in a Portuguese prison establishment. A semi-structured interview and the Wilson Sex Fantasy Questionnaire [WSQF] were administered. While for some individuals pornography did not appear to play a role in their offenses, there were others whose prolonged use led to more sex fantasies and urges to enact the visualized contents. As pornography does not have the same effects on all people, management officials should bear this in mind when tailoring specific treatment programs.

EXCERPTS FROM DISCUSSION SECTION

Thus, for those individuals, pornography had a conditioning effect, making them want to try out those behaviors. This is of importance, since 45% used pornography that featured forced sex and 10% that included children at least once at the time of the index offense. It appears that for some individuals with specific characteristics using pornography may help disinhibit their sexual desires. It was not the subject of this investigation to assess what those characteristics were, but past research has delved on this matter (e.g. Seto et al., 2001)…

Finally, we tested the predictive ability of age at index offense, marital status, substance abuse, history of violent offenses, and frequency of sexual fantasies (exploratory, intimate, BDSM and seduction) on the likelihood a sex offender was using pornography at the time of the index offense. Our model displayed reasonable sensitivity, high specificity and high discriminant ability regarding the classification of participants on the groups of pornography users and non-users…

Significant predictors

The only significant predictors, however, were the WSFQ sexual fantasies. Having fantasies of an exploratory nature and with bondage/sadomasochistic themes increased the likelihood of an offender having used pornography at that time. Inversely, having fantasies about seducing someone or of being seduced decreased that probability. Since exploratory (i.e. multiple partners, interracial sex, orgy, among others) and BDSM (i.e. involving tying or spanking, being forced, among others) themes are common in pornography (Bridges et al., 2010; Sun et al., 2008), it is not unsurprising that those who support those fantasies will seek pornography in order to fulfill their fantasies.

Inversely, it may be that the pornography used increased sexual fantasies that these individuals already had. Indeed, it has been previously suggested that people tend to choose the pornographic materials that are in accordance to their sexual interests and use them in order to enhance them (Quayle & Taylor, 2002). It is also interesting to note that having seduction fantasies decreased the likelihood of having used pornography at that time. Perhaps, pornography does not fulfill the needs of individuals that have sexual interests specifically about seducing someone or being seduced. Further research about which characteristics contribute to the probability of using pornography is needed…

Conclusion

In conclusion, our research contributes to a better understanding of the role of pornography in the lives of sex offenders. While some of them appeared to have been affected by its consumption, feeling the need to try and reproduce the visualized contents, for the majority pornography did not appear to play a significant part in their offenses. Contrariwise, while some studies point to the “catharsis” role of pornography as a means of relief (Carter et al., 1987; D’Amato, 2006), that does not appear to be equal for all individuals, since for some it was not enough and made them try to reproduce the visualized contents. 

This is of specific importance for clinicians when tailoring treatment strategies for sex offenders of child pornography, for instance, as the motivation for using pornography needs to be fully assessed beforehand. A better understanding of the dynamics surrounding pornography consumption prior to an individual’s perpetration of sexual offenses is of utmost importance, due to its relationship with sexual aggression (Wright et al., 2016) and violent recidivism (Kingston et al., 2008)…

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