Effects of Long-Term Exposure to Violent and Sexually Degrading Depictions of Women

Daniel G. Linz, Edward Donnerstein, Steven Penrod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

221 Scopus citations


In this study we investigated the effects of emotional desensitization to films of violence against women and the effects of sexually degrading explicit and nonexplicit films on beliefs about rape and the sexual objectification of women. Male subjects viewed either two or five R-rated violent "slasher," X-rated nonviolent "pornographic," or R-rated nonviolent teenage-oriented ("teen sex") films. Affective reactions and cognitive perceptions were measured after each exposure. Later, these men and no-exposure control subjects completed a voir dire questionnaire, viewed a reenacted acquaintance or nonacquaintance sexual assault trial, and judged the defendant and alleged rape victim. Subjects in the violent condition became less anxious and depressed and showed declines in negative affective responses. They were also less sympathetic to the victim and less empathetic toward rape victims in general. However, longer film exposure was necessary to affect general empathy. There were no differences in response between the R-rated teen sex film and the X-rated, sexually explicit, nonviolent film, and the no-exposure control conditions on the objectification or the rape trial variables. A model of desensitization to media violence and the carryover to decision making about victims is proposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)758-768
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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