Oscar trial: experts on watching porn

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Johannesburg -

Your boyfriend has watched porn. So has your dad. The man sitting next to you in the Gautrain is probably looking at the free daily SMS he gets from a mobile porn site.

Even one of my old relatives has watched porn - he mistook an episode of the explicit series Emmanuelle for a religious programme and taped it off e.tv.

And women are not immune either. Many twentysomethings would tell you after a few glasses of wine that they had a folder of bits and bobs marked “English exams 2007” at university.

But they probably haven’t admitted it to their boyfriends.

Pornography is so widespread that, a few years ago, researchers found it was impossible to put together a control group of men who had never been exposed to it.

On Wednesday in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial, the prosecution revealed his internet history from the night before the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp.

Surprise surprise, someone had used his iPad to look at a free mobile porn site that afternoon.

But what does this reveal about Pistorius (assuming it was him who accessed the site) beyond that he is similar to most men?

“Men watching porn is ubiquitous,” said research psychologist Jaco Phillip Crous.

“We are visually stimulated; it is why we indulge in watching pornography.”

Crous said the fact that Pistorius had been on a free site implied that he was not a compulsive user, because compulsive users typically spent money on getting exactly what they wanted.

Dr Jackie de Wet, forensic criminologist and forensic psychologist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, agreed.

He said a single use of a porn site revealed almost nothing about a person’s character.

He said criminologists would need to analyse the pattern in use to determine any compulsion.

The type of porn was also important, as what we indulged in indicated our sexual fantasies.

He added that in rape or paedophilia cases, there could be a link between the violent or sadistic pornography a person watched and how they acted out their crime.

But from what had been revealed so far, any link between Steenkamp’s death and pornography seemed to be pure speculation.

Crous said he thought the pornography had been brought up by the prosecution to play on the moral taboo they knew existed.

“The reality is that every member of Parliament probably watches pornography as well,” he said.

“Our social and cultural impression of pornography is grossly misinformed.”

He said research had never shown any direct link between non-violent pornography and violence towards women or children.

As a result of stigma, most men (and women) wouldn’t admit their use of pornography because of public shame and judgment.

We should not dismiss the serious issues that had been associated with pornography, for example the South Africans who were arrested as part of a global child pornography ring last year.

Any form of criminal or exploitative behaviour was to be taken extremely seriously.

But, as Crous warns, as with most issues, we should be careful of using very broad strokes.

These sites exist because ordinary folk like you and me are using them. Pistorius is not the only one.

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The Star

Click here for IOL’s live blog about the Oscar trial.


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