A content analysis of intimacy and aggression in pornographic films: From 1990-2010
Pornography has long been documented as a means of human expression (White et al., 2012). Over time, however, pornography has come to be seen as subversive and dangerous by some (Bailey, Barbato, & Rodley, 1999). In the contemporary United States pornography has become largely synonymous with obscenity in most legal contexts, thereby creating a complex relationship between pornography and censorship (Hall, 2005). Pornography has developed a reputation as an industry that does not include or promote interpersonal intimacy and is often violent and dangerous (Paul, 2005; Soble, 2008). Such a reputation has made it difficult for adult performers to have their voices heard and their needs met (Hensley, 2012). While previous content analyses have shown that adult films may not be as violent as their reputation suggests and may include acts of interpersonal intimacy (Gorman, Monk-Turner, & Fish, 2010; Monk-Turner & Purcell, 1999), many of these analyses draw from convenience samples and as such contain data from a single point in time. The current investigation used a content analysis to analyze a sample of best-selling, best-renting, and award-winning adult films released over a period of 20 years from 1990-2010. In this manner, a longitudinal examination of trends in verbal and physical intimacy as well as verbal and physical aggression was conducted. Two scenes from each of 10 films were sampled, for a total of 20 sampled scenes. The content of these sampled scenes were then analyzed for the presence of three verbally aggressive behaviors and 15 physically aggressive behaviors using a coding scheme originally developed by Bridges, Wosnitzer, Scharrer, Sun, and Lineman (2010) as well as two verbally intimate behaviors and eight physically intimate behaviors originally developed by Monk-Turner and Purcell (1999) and upon which I elaborated. Results indicated that the incidence of verbal aggression, physical aggression, verbal intimacy, and physical intimacy did not significantly change during the 20-year period addressed by the sampled films. Intimate behavior was found to be significantly more prevalent than aggressive behavior within the sampled films. Additionally, an interaction effect was found which indicated that physically intimate behaviors were observed more frequently than aggressive behaviors, whether those behaviors were verbal or physical. Emergent themes were also noted and analyzed as appropriate. Implication for theory, research, practice and social advocacy were discussed.