In 1969, J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the F. B.I., submitted evidence to the Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography claiming that police observation had led him to believe that:
A disproportionate number of sex offenders were found to have large quantities of pornographic materials in their residences. . . more, in the opinion of witnesses, than one would expect to find in the residences of a random sample of non-offenders of the same sex, age, and socioeconomic status, or in the residences of a random sample of offenders whose offenses were not sex offenses. (Quoted in I. Hunter et al., 1993, p. 226)
Correlations like these have been used since the early 19th century to justify attitudes toward pornography (I. Hunter et al., 1993). Such claims are easily criticized on scientific grounds because a “witness’s opinion” cannot be relied on (and there has never been a study that has reliably determined the amount of pornography in the “average” nonoffender or non-sex offender’s home). Better evidence is suggested in the state-by-state studies (Baron & Straus, 1987; J. E. Scott & Schwalm, 1988). Both groups of researchers found a direct nationwide correlation between rape and sexually explicit magazines: rape rates are highest in those places with the highest circulation of sex magazines.
On the other hand, Denmark, which has no laws against pornography at all, and Japan, in which pornography is sold freely and tends to be dominated by rape and bondage scenes, have low rates of reported rape, relative to the United States (Posner, 1993). In a study of four countries over 20 years, Kutchinsky (1991) could find no increase in rape relative to other crimes in any of the countries, even as the availability of pornography increased dramatically. Baron (1990), the same researcher who found that rape rates correlated with explicit magazines, did a further study, which showed that gender equality was higher in states with higher circulation rates of sexually explicit magazines. This may be because those states are generally more liberal. Women in societies that forbid or repress pornography (such as Islamic societies) tend to be more oppressed than those in societies where it is freely available. All in all, the effects of pornography on a society’s violence toward women are far from clear.