An exploration of pornography use with offenders: attitudes and effects

Mellor, Emily J. (2020) An exploration of pornography use with offenders: attitudes and effects. DForenPsy thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Background: The concept of allowing offenders, residing in a secure environment, access to pornography can be a contentious issue. Pornography on its own comes with a large taboo surrounding it, but adding into the equation the idea of allowing people who may have committed devastating crimes access to pornography, can trigger anger and apprehension. The research regarding pornography use with sexual offenders is contradictory at times which increases the difficulty when attempting to understand its effects. Pornography is used by a large number of individuals currently residing in secure services; however, there is very little research exploring this. Thus, it can be difficult at times, as professionals working with offenders, to make decisions regarding their access to pornography. As such this thesis targets these gaps within the literature.

Aims and objectives: The overall aim of the thesis was to explore offenders’ use of pornography. The thesis then focuses primarily on how staff working within a therapeutic context, which houses such offenders, feel towards them having access to pornography. The following four research questions were used:

1. What does the existing literature base say about the use of pornography, and the relationship between pornography exposure and sexual offending in males, in general?

2. Do decisions regarding access to pornography differ based on the gender and offence of a patient in a secure hospital? Do personal attitudes towards pornography impact decisions regarding a patient’s access to pornography?

3. What are the psychological underpinnings of how decisions regarding access to pornography are made in secure hospitals? How is access to pornography managed?

4. Is the Attitudes toward Pornography Scale (ATPS; Evans-DeCicco & Cowan, 2001) a robust psychological tool that can be widely applied within research?

Methodology: To answer the above research questions, a number of methods were used. Firstly, a systematic literature review was conducted to search the current literature base to determine the use of pornography at different periods to determine whether sexual offenders had a higher frequency of pornography use than controls. Its aim was also to provide an understanding of the effects of pornography on sexual offenders to determine if there is any causal link. Secondly, I conducted an empirical research project using a mixed methods design, which comprised of two studies, one quantitative and one qualitative. The quantitative study explored the impact of gender and offence on both staff members and non-staff members decisions regarding a patient’s access to pornography. The research also determined whether there were differences in attitudes toward pornography for staff and non-staff. An online questionnaire was used to gather quantitative data and statistical analysis of the data was conducted. Following on from this a second study was conducted using a qualitative methodology. The participants for this study were six volunteers from the staff sample within the first (quantitative) study. These were staff members who all worked in a private sector secure hospital. This research looked at providing a more in-depth understanding of staff members’ attitudes towards pornography, and their decision-making regarding pornography access within a secure hospital. Finally, research question four was answered through a critique of the ATPS (Evans-DeCicco & Cowan, 2001) with reference to its utility within research and psychometric properties.

Overall Findings: The findings from the four chapters were as follows:

1. The systematic review identified that there was not a consistent relationship between early exposure to pornography and offending. However, there did appear to be a link with pornography and its use either just before or during the offending. There are often inconsistencies in findings from research. These inconsistencies primarily related to differences in methodologies, sampling and a lack of agreed definitions.

2. The empirical research suggested that personal attitudes toward pornography impacted on decisions regarding a patient’s access to pornography. The gender of the patient did not appear to affect the results; however, the offence the patient had committed did. Both the staff and the non-staff sample were least likely to respond that a sexual offender should be given access to pornography than a violent offender or non-offender. There was no significant difference between staff and non-staff attitudes towards pornography.

3. The secondary research identified a number of themes related to pornography use in secure hospitals. Staff members often voiced concerns about the possible negative impact that access to pornography could have on the patient. Suggestions of the therapeutic use of pornography and the need to normalise sex were highlighted. Decisions regarding access to pornography were often made as a team however, at times decisions appear to be based on their own attitudes.

4. The psychometric critique suggested that the ATPS (Evans-DeCicco & Cowan, 2001) has a number of issues related to its reliability and validity, which need to be addressed within future research. Thus, the psychometric tool may not be a robust assessment of attitudes towards pornography. However, to date, it is the only tool that directly measures attitudes toward pornography.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (DForenPsy)
Supervisors: Duff, Simon
Keywords: pornography, sexual offenders
Subjects: W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WM Psychiatry
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Item ID: 59860
Depositing User: Mellor, Emily
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2020 04:40
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2020 04:40

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