Thursday, November 17, 2011

Porn, rape, Hamza Tzortzis and statistical analysis

Hamza Tzortzis has recently published a response in his questions and answers section entitled "Do Liberal Societies Facilitiate Rape via the Legalisation of Pornography?" In it he attempts to link liberal society with consumption of pornography, consumption of pornography with rape, and offers Islamic society as a corrective solution.

As a member of a liberal society I read the article with much interest. If he's right it's the most important article on the internet. as head of research with iERA he is "responsible for ensuring all of the research projects are ... of the highest standard". His team and target market are both based in liberal countries as of course are many of the world's Muslims, so it would be best if he tackled the subject with tact and care to avoid the offence caused by inaccurate research.

Let's see if he was of a similar mindset:

He states that "there is ample of [sic] evidence to show how pornography that is legal in many liberal societies causes rape" and that "empirical and social research evidence is overwhelming in affirming that pornography is a major facilitating and causal factor [of rape].", but avoids listing any empirical or social research.

Instead, he makes reference to one book, and claims its unnamed journals and research conclude that rapists implicate pornography in their crimes. There is a substantial leap between the conclusion that rapists use pornography and Hamza's position that legalised pornography causes rape.

He also claims that studies show 66% of rapists claimed they were incited by pornography. Again, the study is not listed, but the author of his sole source gives an entirely different answer - 33%, citing Einsiedel, 1986, p. 62, reference here. (Update September 20th, 2012: Hamza has corrected this figure.)

Finally, he claims that 30% of college students would rape if they would get away with it. I've tracked this to Malamuth, Haber, and Feshbach, 1980, p. 124, referenced here. Troubling as this statistic may be the study in no way involved pornography and is thus irrelevant, presumably added for shock value.

So far I'm disappointed by the standard of research, but this doesn't necessarily mean Hamza is wrong. Let's examine his premises and see if we can decide for ourselves:

Premise 1: Islamic societies prohibit pornography.

I won't argue with this one.

Premise 2: Liberal societies consume more pornography than Islamic societies.

This is worthy of research. Essentially, is the prohibition of pornography in predominantly Muslim countries effective? Luckily with Google Insights(tm), we can take a peek at the popularity of search terms by country, and use this as a rough guide to consumption of online pornography. (Edit  - learn more about how the data is gathered here.)

But is it fair to compare only online searches? After some searching I managed to find stats on the breakdown of the American porn business:


Adult Video$500 million to $1.8 billion
Internet$1 billion
Pay-Per-View$128 million
Magazines$1 billion

(Taken from How Big is Porn? - Forbes.)
It seems reasonable to assume that all Internet sales are Internet based, but beyond that the data is murky. Many DVDs and magazines are purchased online, some may only have heard about a specific website through a retail store. There is the limiting factor of having access to a credit card to consider.

There is one area we can safely compare. Pornography involving bestiality, child sex and forced sex is prohibited anywhere that has a functioning government. By being illegal everywhere we have safe grounds for comparison of appetite.

Searches for horse sex since 2004:

1st placePakistan97% Muslim.
2nd placeEthiopia34% Muslim.
3rd placeBangladesh89.5% Muslim.
4th placeNepal4.4% Muslim.
5th placeIndia13.4% Muslim.
6th placeLibya95%+ Muslim.
7th placeAlbania80% Muslim.
8th placeYemen99% Muslim.
9th placeSudan97% Muslim.
10th placeKenya11.2% Muslim.

Searches for rape sex since 2004:

1st placePakistan97% Muslim.
2nd placeIndia13.4% Muslim.
3rd placeBangladesh89.5% Muslim.
5th placeNepal4.4% Muslim.
6th placeFiji7% Muslim.
7th placeMauritius16.6% Muslim.
8th placeMalaysia61.3% Muslim.
9th placeSyria87% Muslim.
10th placePhillippines5-10% Muslim.

Searches for child sex since 2004:

1st placePakistan97% Muslim.
2nd placeBangladesh89.5% Muslim.
3rd placeSri Lanka7.5% Muslim.
4th placeNepal4.4% Muslim.
5th placeIndia13.4% Muslim.
6th placeSyria91% Muslim.
7th placePhillippines5-10% Muslim.
8th placeKenya11.2% Muslim.
9th placeNigeria47% Muslim.
10th placeIndonesia86.1% Muslim.

What I'd like you to take from these stats is that liberal countries are noted by their absence and that being in a predominantly Muslim country does not change your odds of finding troubling images in a used laptop. Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country that I consider liberal. I've done business in Istanbul; it's a great place to visit. They score roughly the same as the USA and European countries in all three categories. Regardless of religion you're less likely to consume extreme pornography if you live in a liberal country.

Premise 3: There is a link between pornography and rape.

It can be hard to examine this issue without emotion. I'm sure you share my sense of abhorrence at this crime of violence, and Hamza's use of a quote from a rape survivor condemning pornography is designed to elicit an emotional response. But let's try and examine this important issue as best we can.

This is a rather good study on the increased availability of pornography in Japan and their decrease in sexual assaults. It summarises similar studies in Denmark, former West Germany and the USA. It's really worth reading in full, but here are a few excerpts:

On Denmark and former West Germany:

...in Denmark and West Germany the most dramatic categories of sex crime to show a decrease [following an increase in the availability of pornography] were rapes and other sex crimes against and by juveniles. Between 1972 and 1980 the total number of sex crimes known to the police in the Federal Republic of Germany decreased by 11 percent; during the same period the total number of all crimes reported increased by 50 percent. Sex offenses against minors (those under 14 years of age) had a similarly slight decrease of about 10 percent during this period. For those victims under six years of age, however, the numbers decreased from 1,421 cases in 1972 to 579 in 1980, a decrease of more than 50 percent (Kutchinsky, 1985b; pp. 319).
On Japan:
"The most dramatic decrease in sex crimes was seen when attention was focused on the number and age of rapists and victims among younger groups (Table 2). We hypothesized that the increase in pornography, without age restriction and in comics, if it had any detrimental effect, would most negatively influence younger individuals. Just the opposite occurred. The number of juvenile offenders dramatically dropped every period reviewed from 1,803 perpetrators in 1972 to a low of 264 in 1995; a drop of some 85% (Table 1). The number of victims also decreased particularly among the females younger than 13 (Table 2). In 1972, 8.3% of the victims were younger than 13. In 1995 the percentage of victims younger than 13 years of age dropped to 4.0%."
On a link between nonliberal environments and rape:
"Most frequently, as it was found in the 1960s before the influx of sexually explicit materials in the United States, those who committed sex crimes typically had less exposure to SEM in their background than others and the offenders generally were individuals usually deeply religious and socially and politically conservative (Gebhard, Gagnon, Pomeroy, & Christenson, 1965). Since then, most researchers have found similarly. The upbringing of sex offenders was usually sexually repressive, often they had an overtly religious background and held rigid conservative attitudes toward sexuality (Conyers & Harvey, 1996; Dougher, 1988); their upbringing had usually been ritualistically moralistic and conservative rather than permissive. During adolescence and adulthood, sex offenders were generally found not to have used erotic or pornographic materials any more than any other groups of individuals or even less so (Goldstein & Kant, 1973, Propper, 1972). Walker (1970) reported that sex criminals were several years older than noncriminals before they first saw pictures of intercourse."

Ultimately, Hamza's paper lacks depth of research, is inaccurate, makes false claims against his fellow Muslims and fellow members of liberal society while failing to address well-known counterarguments. I suspect this blog post is the product of greater time and effort. Accusing an individual of rape is a serious matter. Accusing an entire society of facilitating rape is more serious still. It's unclear why he didn't make more of an effort.

Addendum: Part 2 is now available.

21 comments:

Geoff said...

Recommended link from a friend on Google+: http://anthonydamato.law.northwestern.edu/Adobefiles/porn.pdf

hargaden said...

"If he's right it's the most important article on the internet."

Maybe it's time to reconsider that statement Geoff...

http://www.tamponcrafts.com/nativity.html

Also: great article.

Geoff said...

Oddly enough, the wife and I spent a couple of hours working on this arts and crafts project earlier.

Glad you enjoyed - took longer to write than some of my others but felt worth the effort.

doomedlions said...

In a world, where we humans are the bastard children of evolution, I find no abhorrence in rape. It is what evolution has bestowed us, the desire to have sex, and the ability to dominate. Yes, just because evolution gave us those two "powers," it does not mean we do not go out and start raping. But wait a minute. It also does not mean that we cannot go out to start raping beautiful women. What moral grounding is there to call rape bad? Since our own creation via evolution was dictated by the principles of survival, violence, murder, and probably violent sex among our animal ancestors, why should we not practice those things!

doomedlions said...

Moreover, the way you quoted those Muslim countries searching for sex, it is quite deceiving. Yes, 97% of searches for horse sex came from Pakistan. But what if only 1% of Pakistanis constitute that 97%? Better still if you could give us percentages of how many people in Pakistan searched for porn compared to total population versus how many people in US searched for porn compared to total population.

Geoff said...

Hi Doomed Lions, thanks for pointing out a way in which the article could be clearer.
I've included a link to more details on how the data is gathered, but in summary it's designed so that repeated searches from a single user over the short term won't skew the figures.

I don't have a breakdown by percentage of searches, only an order by popularity. The 97% in the table refers to the percentage of the population that is Muslim. I hoped that was clear from the tables but if you can suggest an alternative wording I'll be happy to consider it.

You can read more about how the data is normalised here. It's not a breakdown relative to population size, though considering the difference in broadband penetration between the two nations this wouldn't be ideal for our purpose. (It would hardly be fair to call Pakistan a lower consumer of pornography just because fewer people have internet access.)

Rather it ranks the searches described against the popularity of other searches. In other words, if you take a list of everything searched for on Google, the terms described are more popular in Pakistan than any other country.

It's not perfect, but I think by checking the top ten countries and checking three unrelated search terms it gives us a good approximation.

Just to emphasize my point: there are no liberal countries on the list. Naturally I include liberal Muslim countries like Turkey when I say this.

Geoff said...

Why should those who accept evolution as the best explanation of the diversity of species not rape?

With respect I think you're indulging in armchair philosophy. The germ theory of disease tells us that diseases are caused by microscopic organisms and is widely accepted. Yet when it was introduced it was susceptible to a similar argument. If disease is not the cause of sin, why would anyone feel they had to do good? I hear very few calling us to abandon our germ theory of disease.

I also subscribe to the theory of gravity. Does this make me more likely to trip up strangers and demolish buildings? You see how the argument seems strange to me.

If you'd like to pursue the hypothesis I suggest you do some research. Comparison of rape statistics across countries is notoriously difficult - I suggest you compare crime rates of immigrant communities is Western countries. I believe Sweden and Norway have some relevant papers, but feel free to start wherever you wish. All I ask is that you don't make accusations like that again without some shred of evidence.

Jonny said...

doomed lions... you may (or may not) be interest in Lahti's piece in today's guardian. picks up on some of your themes
http://gu.com/p/33h7m

doomedlions said...

Geoff:

False analogy by comparing germ theory with evolution. Germ theory never explained our origins, while evolutionary theory does explain our origins, or at least tries to. So the critique of germ theory, according to which we get diseases from germs, from a moralistic perspective of committing sin is not the same as critiquing the moral values, that arise in our brain, which itself is a product of evolution.

This is not arm chair philosophy. This is reality. I do not see any difference between you, who are against rape, and a human being who rapes, because in the end, it does not matter. What matters for evolution is how we survive and reproduce. Rape actually increases evolutionary prowess, in absence of abortion. The more sex (or forced sex) you have, higher chances of pregnancy and higher chances of spreading and mixing your genes in the human gene pool.

Geoff said...

DoomedLions, unfortunately the crushing weight of reality rests all too heavily on your assertions.

Babies are hard work. Typically women have one at a time, and it takes a minimum of five years of constant parenting before they achieve any level of independence. Most menfolk would prefer not to put this level of effort in for someone else's genes. Regardless of the individual's desires, society will do its best to prevent rape.

You'll note that the other higher apes tend to form and enforce breeding groups where transgressions are not tolerated.

All this is immaterial - I no more take my morality from accepting the indisputable evidence for evolution than I take it from gravity or germ theory.

This seems a shaky debate tactic for a Muslim. Although no Muslim I've encountered has ever endorsed the verses, Surahs 33:50 and 23:5-6 among others clearly allow a man to have sex with his slaves.

Edward Woodward said...

A nice article. If you are doing this on YouTube too let me know so I can subscribe, if not....start :-)

(TheRationalizer)

Geoff said...

Thanks!

I want to blog consistently for a few months before I try any other media. (I've also got a podcast thing this Saturday; worried about spreading myself a bit thin.)

Still, you're more than welcome to use anything above if you'd like to do a video on the subject. No restrictions, feel free to chop and change. I'll even pull the stats for the other two search terms if you want 'em. A link back here in any vid you make on the subject would of course be nice :)

StopS said...

Hey, you clearly like doing this.
Good one! Where's the video?

Geoff said...

I've just worked out Twitter and have no immediate plans on making a Youtube debut :-)

If you wanted to use this as source material for a video you're welcome.

Anonymous said...

:s -A mother bringing up a child they didn't want without their natural father is the best evolutionary tactic? ...nice one doomedlions! -and it's not like evolution also gave us a rational mind which enables us to assess our own actions and behaviour in terms of their benificial and detrimental consequences to the individual, in relation to the rights we bestow upon citizens to try to ensure we live in a collectively benificial civilised society or anything...

Anonymous said...

So what was Hamza's response to this debunking?
Good job by the way!

Anonymous said...

people like hamza remind me as to why i left the faith i was born into, and embraced reason as my guide instead.

Anonymous said...

Absolute nonsense here. So all the bad ethnics want to fuck prepubescent horses, yeah? Complaining about "armchair philosophy" is hilarious; would this be as opposed to more rugged, active "field philosophy"?

The reason rape stats are lower for Western countries is that they are big moist slut factories, whose superabundance of sluts decreases the demand for rape. If you really want to decrease rape in other parts of the world maybe you should go there yourself and take one for the team.

Geoff said...

So one could reduce rape in authoritarian societies, but only by paying the horrible price of allowing women to choose with whom they sleep?

You're pathetic.

Stephanie said...

Doomedlions appears to have a poor understanding of the idea of survival of the fittest.

If said commenter would like to know more about the concept I'd be only too happy to set up a battle royale style scenario in which to teach him.

glencarrigan said...

That's an interesting article and I'm glad you're doing the job of exposing hucksters like this Hamza character. The sense of cognitive dissonance that rules such people when conducting "research" is immensely obvious and it's as if they really don't understand how to prove a point properly. Not naming the sources or backing up the points for example just makes the argument completely null in both it's premise and conclusion. IT is evident to any who know this man that his only talent is in linguistic acrobatics which helps to interpret anything in their faith however they want such as embryology originating in the Quran.

The sad thing, is that their target market will lap this up because they suffer from the same confirmation bias that all people of this ilk seem to.

I see desperation in a couple commenters such as the evolution allows rape individuals. "Dictated by the principles of survival, violence, murder" of my, did this individual go through school rocking back and forward ignoring their lessons. It's about adaptation not rape to maximise procreation especially not in humans who thankfully have the ability to independantly assess right from wrong (some moreso than others).