One of the more interesting academic articles dealing with this issue is by Anthony D’Amato from Northwestern University School of Law. His paper Porn Up, Rape Down discusses the idea that there was an 85% reduction in sexual violence over the 25 years to 2003 (and the rate has kept falling since the paper was published). He goes on to posit that not only does porn NOT cause rape, he suggests that it may actually reduce rape, either by serving as a release valve or by demystifying sex. He concedes that the correlation does not equal causality and suggests further research.
So he can definitely say that Porn doesn't cause rape, or even encourage the levels violent rape, statistically speaking. But I'm gonna call it: Porn reduces rape. More of those violent meat-heads who once prowled the parks and streets in search of sexual release are now whacking off to German dungeon porn and Brazilian fart porn and Japanese . . . well, you-name-it porn, a bag of Fritos on their belly and a box of tissues at their side. If nearly free on-line internet porn helps reduce the number of women who suffer sexual assaults every year, then I for one don't think that's too high of a price to pay.
But next time a feminist or white knight gets in your face about porn "contributing to rape culture", haul this little statistic out. In point of fact, porn has reduced violent rape (either that or "abstinence-only" education is the reason, take your pick) which should, in any reasonable person's mind, be the ultimate measure of "rape culture".
The problem is that too many feminists over the years -- and especially the current Old Guard feminists -- have tried to broaden the category of rape to such ambiguous extremes that to them "rape culture" includes the kind of hook-up culture that their younger spiritual descendants see as just another weekend. There was a time when (according to feminists) a woman could even decide she was raped after-the-fact, or if she was drinking then she could decide that any sexual contact was rape if she felt bad about it afterwards. And when feminists tried to broaden the category to include pretty much anything with the label of "bad sex", then that undermined the very real problem of violent rape in our culture.
They attempted to conflate any less-than-ideal sexual liaison or "demeaning to women" portrayal of sex with rape, and most porn fell within that. Yes, there were problems with the porn industry back then, from under-age performers to overt violence in the actual movies. But the industry quickly became regulated as it became prominent, putting safeguards into place to ensure no under-aged performers would be used again, and making a conscious and conscientious decision to remove violence against women from porn themes. That wasn't because they were required to by law, that was because they recognized both the hurtful message such fare sent and because they wanted to tap into the potential of a large female market that recoiled at such rough portrayals. Don't forget, there are an awful lot of women in porn, and they don't like domestic violence or sexual assault any more than any other women. Less, actually, since many performers have had negative experiences like that in their lifetimes, usually before they got to the industry.
I think we're beyond that kind of silliness as a culture now, but the 1980s contention that porn contributes to rape should be well and truly dead at this point. Thank goodness.