D’Amato rabbit hole


Please excuse the typos and mild ranting… this is information I deleted from the draft of my post. It hasn’t been edited.


D’Amato states that “[o]fficial explanations for the unexpected decline include (1) [sic] less lawlessness associated with crack cocaine; (b) women have been taught to avoid unsafe situations; (c) more would-be rapists already in prison for other crimes; (d) sex education classes telling boys that ”no means no.“ But these minor factors cannot begin to explain such a sharp decline in the incidence of rape.”

Erroneously, I had first assumed the “official explanations” D’Amato includes were from the DOJ report. They are not. They’re from Scott Berkowitz, president of the Washington-based Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, as cited in a Washington Post article. While D’Amato does list this article as a footnoted citation for opening line of his article, “Today’s headlines are shouting RAPE IN DECLINE!” he does not indicate that the “official explanations” are citations from the Washington Post.

D’Amato dismisses these “minor factors” in explaining the declining incidents of rape. Glenn Reynolds (of conservative Instapundit fame, posits the “most relevant difference” between 1970 and 2006 “is porn,” in a blog post, “Porn: Good for America!” on NBC.com (it’s buried under a ‘read more’ tag — click here for an easier screenshot). LIGHTBOX But others aren’t so ready to dismiss additional factors. Jill Bartow suggests The Violence Against Women Act, pursued as early as 1992, might account for the peak and subsequent decline of incidents of rape in 1992. Jill on Feministe, suggests “feminist efforts to de-stigmatize rape,” “survivor-outreach programs,” “rape crisis centers,” “information campaigns which emphasized to men that rape is not ok,” “the general empowerment of women,” “a shift in social ideas about women being the property of men,” in her tongue-in-cheek response to the suggestion that porn is responsible for declining incidents of sexual assault.


D’Amato Rabbit Hole

Obviously, I take issue with citations of D’Amato’s theories as if they are from a reputable source. Above, I mention the fact that the conditions for the paper’s publication include only the authors submission, and not any process of scholarly review. I mention his typographical errors, his own language about “his theory,” his missing source links, his unclear (and perhaps unethical attribution of “official sources,” and the contradictory language he uses within the five pages of his own ‘article.’

It’s not his theory that I take issue with. D’Amato has every right to his own theories. I take issue with writers citing his work (or citations of citations of his work) without proper investigation into it’s source, credibility, bias, etc. While I don’t think the unscholarly, personal-theory-forwarding nature of his text needs any further explanation, there is additional interesting information available surrounding the publication of his work for those who are interested. What follows is a distillation of what I found (and perhaps, my own implicit suggestions) after falling down a D’Amato rabbit hole.

In “Porn Up, Rape Down” (2006), D’Amato cites his own previously published work, “A New Political Truth: Exposure to Sexually Violent Materials Causes Sexual Violence” (1990), published in the William and Mary Law Review. In this earlier article, D’Amato forwards the thesis that the suggestion of causation between pornography and rape in the “Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography: Final Report” (1986), without proof of such causation, ultimately created a ‘political truth,’ rather than a real one. This political truth, D’Amato argues, is the one on which the commission’s members unanimously concluded “there is a causal relationship between exposure to sexually violent materials and an increase in aggressive behavior towards women,” and ultimately, that “substantial exposure to sexually violent materials as described here bears a causal relationship to antisocial acts of sexual violence and, for some subgroups, possibly to unlawful acts of sexual violence.” (325–326)

D’Amato suggests Frederick Schauer, author of the Commission Report’s draft, knew there was nothing in the report to indicate causation: “I suspect that most people will simply note the existence of Professor Schauer’s article – perhaps even glance through it – and assume that he in fact proved that which he said he proved.” Schauer’s article, the one D’Amato points to, is “Causation Theory and the Causes of Sexual Violence” (1987, published a year after the 1986 “Attorney General’s Report on Pornography”)

In essence, D’Amato claims that the assertion of causation, even without proof, was enough to convince people (and perhaps the commission itself) of the existence of causation. What’s ironic is that people are doing the same thing with D’Amato’s 2006 “Porn Up, Rape Down” — the statistics he cites and his assertion of causation (despite only showing correlation, not causation, despite D’Amato’s own contractions about whether his statistics show correlation or causation, and despite typographic errors and it’s lack of inclusion in any reputable journal) is enough that his theories are being reproduced all over the place, ultimately being used to prove (or suggest) a causal link between access to pornography and decreasing incidents of sexual assault.

Interestingly (I think), in the footnotes to “A New Political Truth: Exposure to Sexually Violent Materials Causes Sexual Violence” (1990), D’Amato reveals the difficulties he had in getting the article published. Initially, D’Amato claims the article was accepted by Law & Social Inquiry (previously named the American Bar Foundation Research Journal, the same publication that printed Schauer’s 1987 article). On D’Amato’s suggestion, the editors of the journal sent a copy of the draft manuscript to Schauer, giving him the opportunity to write a rebuttal. Schauer didn’t respond, and the journal editors decided to go ahead with the publication anyway. D’Amato amended his article, adding a footnote that mentioned Schauer’s failure to respond, and by D’Amato’s account, while at least two journal editors agreed to the factual nature of his amendment, they ultimately refused to publish the article with the footnote included. Because of this, D’Amato withdrew his piece from Law & Social Inquiry, and instead submitted it to the William and Mary Law Review, which agreed to include the footnote.
Please note that Law & Social Inquiry is a blind-peer reviewed publication and the William and Mary Law Review is not. The William and Mary Law Review mentions “review,” but there’s nothing to suggest the review process is blind or peer-reviewed.


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