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Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro blames porn addiction. Credible?

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Castro’s sentence, which includes 1,000 extra years, formally ends the ordeal of Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus, who were rescued in early May after being imprisoned for years in Castro's Cleveland home, where they endured physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. The evidence against Castro was so overwhelming that he accepted a plea agreement to avoid the death penalty. He pleaded guilty to 937 criminal counts of kidnapping and rape, among other charges.

But even if the case had gone to trial, Castro's lawyers would probably not have argued in court that their client suffers from a pornography addiction, or that he was abused as a child, says Mr. Coyne. Given the mountain of evidence against him detailing years of abuse, such a defense would risk being considered "offensive," he says. “It would be hard to mitigate anything else than a de facto life sentence."

Most researchers do not acknowledge a causal link between watching pornography and violent behavior, especially sexual violence. There is not enough data about real-world pornography users to establish a link, they say. Existing studies look mainly at any connections between violent images of any sort (whether sexual in nature or not) and subsequent violent behavior in the beholder. 

“You frequently hear claims of [pornography’s] effects and find anecdotal evidence of it where it seems to have been a factor … but the evidence that hostility or violence results from porn is very weak,” says Ronald Weitzer, a sociology professor at George Washington University in Washington, who researches the sex industry.

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