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    Media And Pornography Essay (2442 words)

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    It started by way of messengers and scribes, evolved through thepresentation of newspapers and radio, brought us together with television, and nowserves us world-wide via the ever-popular Internet. It is the mass media, and evenfrom the earliest days of its existence, it has contributed greatly in ways that bothenlighten and enrich society, and ways that deteriorate and perplex it. It is not asurprise to learn, then, that the mass media is the most powerful source ofinformation we have, and nothing else in today’s world influences public perception quiteas heavily.

    Unfortunately, however, most of what is broadcast or transmitted in thenews today is with reference to the chaotic condition of our planet, orsomething else that society as a whole sees as detrimental or damaging. But the news ontelevision is not the only type of media taking the criticism of society. Other forms of mass media, specifically movies and television programs containing pornography and violence have been heavily criticized. The underliningconcept to be debated here is that society is negatively influenced, specifically, bythese images of pornography and the result is increased violence againstwomen.

    This assumption, and it is indeed only an assumption, is completely fallacious,however, as no concrete and completely conclusive evidence has ever beenformulated in support of the theory. The key premise here is that the mass media doesnot cause undesirable social behaviour and in actuality, the media peopleshould not be dubbed as the “bad guys”. They simply use their power in the most constructive ways possible in order to promote their ratings andpopularity. One way to do that is to concentrate on what sells: sex, violence and disaster.

    Having said this, why is it then, that many in society still believe otherwise;why do they continue to believe that pornography is “evil” and is a major causefor violence against women, specifically rape? There are many reasons forthis misinterpretation and through the following few points, an attempt will bemade to show that pornography has very little to almost no correlation withviolence against women (of course nothing is “absolute” in society). In order to demonstrate this, it must be made evident that pornography is not “evil”and does not cause undesirable social behaviour by displaying nude women insexually explicit circumstances. Thus, it is important to indicate that women arenot treated only as sexual objects through the media. This is done in an attempt toquash any traces of “evil” in pornography.

    Subsequently, a second point, that somemay consider to be completely bizarre, can be addressed; that pornographyactually reduces the amount of violence against women. For thousands of years, sex itself has been considered “evil” andrevolting. This is exactly why the concealment of the sex organs and teaching feelings ofshame toward human sexuality is so common worldwide (Christensen 1990:4). These same feelings of shame are the chief reasons that sex is considered apersonal and private matter. Contrary to the beliefs of many, the mass media didnot create these settings; society creates this image.

    In some societies,women have no reservations with regard to living their entire lives completely naked,while in other societies, females cover themselves from head to toe, only revealingtheir eyes. The media has been bombarded with criticism, overwhelminglyfrom the female community, relative to the amount of sexually explicit material thatis published in magazines and that appears on television and in the cinemas. A common argument against pornography is that the media portrays womenas being nothing more than sexual playthings and objects to satisfy malesexual desires. As before, the media once again, is not to be held responsiblefor creating this image; these views are products of society. It would be downright absurd to assume that women in this society aretreated as sexual objects only because the media releases or broadcastspornographic material.

    A magazine associated with make-up and skin care, forexample, will quite obviously not be concentrating on much else. Such a magazinewould not display pictures of women who mountain-climb or women who water-ski;only images of make-up and text referring to skin care would be relevant. Clearly, society does not consider women to be beings who’s only purpose in lifeis to worry about make-up and skin care; but why are the complaints only directedtowards pornographic media then? The answer to this question may be more complicated, however, what remains obvious is that the media does notportray women as only being able to fill male sexual desires. To say that picturesfeaturing nudity, etc, are making objects out of women is foolish.

    One shouldconsider females who pin-up posters of male rock stars or children who collecthockey or baseball cards. Society, however, does not say that objects are beingmade out of these rock stars and sports heroes; pictures of clothed people are noless objects than pictures of naked people. Many complaints are also made to the effect that pornography only offersa one- dimensional view to life; that women are seen as nymphomaniacs who arehysterically addicted to sex. It should be pointed out that events such ashockey games, boxing matches, horse races and operas all offer aone-dimensional view of life. One does not attend an opera hoping to see a horse race.

    Theunderling problem here is that the above mentioned events are socially acceptable;media displaying pornography is not. It is also said that the media reduceswomen to a collection of body parts through pornography (Christensen 1990:74). But why then are their no complaints of advertisements in magazines displaying onlyears, for example, or a nose, or feet? The reason is a simple one; societyconsiders certain body parts to be “shameful” or disgusting and once again, the media canbe “let off the hook”. Realistically, the only way to prevent women from being seen as sexobjects is for them to be seen as other things as well; but to say that women are notsexual beings would be misleading because both men and women are very muchsexual (Christensen 1990:42). Similarly, to say that women are singled out in themedia is fallacious due to the many examples of media where men are seencatering to the needs of women; something known as chivralic sexism (Christensen1990:42).

    Take, for instance, a recent television ad portraying young men grovelingat the feet of supermodel Cindy Crawford, almost begging to be the “one” tocater to her needs. There were no lineups of men aching to announce theirdispleasure with the sexist ad; and this is precisely why male stereotyping in the mediaoften goes unnoticed. Similarly, it is pornography in the media that is noticedand shunned by anti-pornographic and censorship organizations because itseemingly singles out females for their bodies. It should be well noted, however,that paperback romance novels, which make up an incredible 40% of total paperback sales (Gerbner 1988:15), depicts males as sexual objects,performing what is called “Sweet Savagery” (rape), just as pornography depictsfemales as sexual objects. But once again, this goes unnoticed. It is fundamentally important to realize that the media does notdeliberately create images of hate or disagreement (Howitt, Cumberbatch 1975:80).

    They just influence the more appealing things in society (thus directly increasing theirratings). Although it is obvious that pornography is largely a male interest,a noted increase in female interest would certainly cause an increase in the amountof pornographic material geared for women; this relates to the laws of thebusiness world (Christensen 1990:50). Having discussed the untruthfulness of the claims against pornography andshowing that pornography is not “evil”, it is now possible to consider theviolence issue. Are men who are exposed to pornography likely to commit violentacts, such as rape against women, more so than men who are not exposed to pornography? It is tempting to believe that media influences males and overstimulates them through pornography to the point that they become aggressive towards females. But this is completely baseless; just aspornography arouses or stimulates, it also satisfies.

    The American Commission onObscenity and Pornography performed a study in which several college students wereasked to spend one and a half hours in an isolated room with a large volume of pornographic media, as well as a large volume of non-explicit media suchas Reader’s Digest (Howitt, Cumberbatch 1975:80). The study wasconducted over a three week period over which time it was discovered that the malesinvolved in the experiment began to lose interest, or become desensitized to theerotic media nearing the end of the experiment, even if new material was added. Toaddress the argument that males are pushed over the “brink” into committing rape because of pornography, one may point to the evidence above; to coverthe female body would theoretically only increase male sexual desires. Fourmore separate experiments were conducted of which the above was one. Three other experiments came to the conclusions that pornography does not causeviolence against women and reported that the number of sex offenders that hadbeen exposed to pornographic material were smaller in number than theamount of sex-offenders that had not been exposed to pornography (Christensen1990:130; Harmon, Check 1988:28-30). These results can be offered as evidenceagainst the claim that males become overstimulated and thus dangerous whenexposed to pornography.

    Other experiments conducted in the early 1980s by theWilliams Committee in England, reported that as the availability and abundance of sexually explicit material increased, the number of violent sex crimes suchas rape did not increase, but in fact decreased in many areas (Christensen1990:128-129). So what is it about pornography that women and anti-pornographyorganizations do not like? Violence! One of the greatest myths about pornography isthat it contains an excess of violence against women inevitably resulting inreal-life violence against women. Anti-pornography groups release propagandathat the media approves of violence against women through pornography. Inactuality, however, the total amount of violence in sex-related movies was found tobe approximately 6% in a study by T.

    Palys in the early 1980s in Vancouver,Canada. Even this material was almost entirely composed of verbal threats andspanking (Christensen 1990:59). In addition to the above, studies in Ohio alsofound that the amount of violence in “G”-Rated movies was a staggering two times morethan in “X”-Rated movies. In fact, major films such as Die Hard: With AVengeance and Terminator 2, contain extreme violence 85-90% of which is directedsolely at men. There are, however, exceptions; the slasher genre of movies contain muchmore violence towards women, possibly due to the desensitization to violencein other genres of films.

    Because women are involved, violence against themcould create a true sense of horror. However, this does not suggest that menshould go into society and rape a woman any more than it suggests that men shouldgo out and kill other men. Horror movie fans choose to watch these moviesbecause they enjoy portrayed violence. Needless to say, no sane individual wouldwish for this violence to become a real-life conception. Similarly, sex also excitespeople and because these two elements offer the most thrills in movies, they areoften combined. It should be pointed out that women, and not just men, also enjoy thesethrills based on numerous studies.

    When discussing pornography, it is scarcelynoted that men are not the only ones who enjoy fantasizing about sex. Womenalso enjoy pondering sex; just not through pornography. In fact, most of thesefantasies involve some degree of violence or force and are largely driven by theromance novels discussed earlier (once again supporting the evidence that romancenovels prove to be the female equivalent to male-geared pornography). Recentreports published by Nancy Friday, show that the number of female fantasiesinvolving rape far outweigh the number of male fantasies involving rape. Whatcomes as a surprise to many is that in male fantasies, the woman rapes the man and conversely, in female fantasies, the man rapes (“Sweet Savagery”), thewoman! (Christensen 1990:66).

    Friday’s reports also provided some interestingreasoning for the female fantasies. Her reports find that females fantasize about rape toshow that they are not acting in accordance with such “sinful” actions; to showthat sex is being “forced” upon them. Any other feelings towards the fantasizedrape would prove to be “undesirable social behaviour” and amazingly, themedia is not even involved! Actual laboratory experiments (Hawkins, Zimring1988:103) have shown that when groups of women were shown erotic scenes involvingrape, their reactions to the scenes were as or even more stimulating than less violent consensual lovemaking scenes. This is not to say that all women want tobe raped; far from it. This is to say that if women can fantasize about rapebut not wish to experience it, then men, too, can fantasize about rape and notwish to commit it.

    In addition to the many other accusations against pornography, many insociety believe that there is definite connection between organized crime and pornography. Although this may be true, the idea is largelyover-exaggerated. The reasoning behind this theory is very simple, yet very shallow. Consider, that pornography is created by organizations and contains sexually explicitmaterial that may be thought to be legally obscene in some areas.

    To make the connection, these anti-pornography organizations assume that theorganizations (hence organized) that produce the legally obscene (hence crime)material, are operating illegally. It is obvious why pornography is attractive tocriminals; just as anything that is banned or is made illegal, there is always someone whowill pay the high black-market price for it. Having considered the issues at hand, it can be said that since there is no concrete evidence to support otherwise, pornography in the media doesnot cause undesirable social behaviour. As mentioned before, sexuallyexplicit movies and magazines do not just arouse, but also satisfy. It is an undisputed factthat feelings of love and happiness cancel out violent feelings (Zillman,Connections Between Sex and Aggression) and to say that pornography endorseviolent feelings fails to make sense; if it did, why would men want to be exposedto it. To suggest that pornography causes men to “go over the edge” and commitrape is as ludicrous as suggesting that pictures of food cause the hungry to stealmore food.

    It has even been said by some women that rape is the fault ofwomen who dress provocatively; “they ask for it”. According to this logic, in the eventthat pornography is banned, then an attempt should be made to force womento cover their skin and wear clothing that completely hides the shapes oftheir bodies so as not to provoke rape. Absurd. As members of society, we recognize the power of the mass media. We understand that public perception can be easily persuaded. But it shouldbe clearly understood that pornography in the media alone cannot persuademen to cause harm to women; it cannot cause men to do things that are socially unacceptable.

    As was mentioned earlier, pornography only causesfeelings of excitement and satisfaction and these feelings overpower those feelings of violence. For these reasons, it can be said that until a positive link can befound between pornography in the media and violence against women, it willremain that sexual violence such as rape is the result of sexual frustration, and notof sexual arousal. Psychology

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