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Media Essay, Research Paper

Pornography PornoIt started by way of messengers and scribes, evolved through the presentation ofnewspapers and radio, brought us together with television, and now serves usworld-wide via the ever-popular Internet. It is the mass media, and even from theearliest days of its existence, it has contributed greatly in ways that both enlightenand enrich society, and ways that deteriorate and perplex it. It is not a surprise tolearn, then, that the mass media is the most powerful source of information wehave, and nothing else in today s world influences public perception quite asheavily. Unfortunately, however, most of what is broadcast or transmitted in the newstoday is with reference to the chaotic condition of our planet, or something elsethat 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 formsof mass media, specifically movies and television programs containingpornography and violence have been heavily criticized. The underlining conceptto be debated here is that society is negatively influenced, specifically, by theseimages of pornography and the result is increased violence against women. Thisassumption, and it is indeed only an assumption, is completely fallacious, however,as no concrete and completely conclusive evidence has ever been formulated insupport of the theory. The key premise here is that the mass media does notcause undesirable social behaviour and in actuality, the media people should notbe dubbed as the bad guys . They simply use their power in the mostconstructive ways possible in order to promote their ratings and popularity. Oneway 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 dothey continue to believe that pornography is evil and is a major cause forviolence against women, specifically rape? There are many reasons for thismisinterpretation and through the following few points, an attempt will be made toshow that pornography has very little to almost no correlation with violenceagainst women (of course nothing is absolute in society). In order todemonstrate this, it must be made evident that pornography is not evil and doesnot cause undesirable social behaviour by displaying nude women in sexuallyexplicit circumstances. Thus, it is important to indicate that women are not treatedonly as sexual objects through the media. This is done in an attempt to quash anytraces of evil in pornography. Subsequently, a second point, that some mayconsider to be completely bizarre, can be addressed; that pornography actuallyreduces the amount of violence against women. For thousands of years, sex itself has been considered evil and revolting. This isexactly why the concealment of the sex organs and teaching feelings of shametoward human sexuality is so common worldwide (Christensen 1990:4). Thesesame feelings of shame are the chief reasons that sex is considered a personaland private matter. Contrary to the beliefs of many, the mass media did notcreate these settings; society creates this image. In some societies, women haveno reservations with regard to living their entire lives completely naked, while inother societies, females cover themselves from head to toe, only revealing theireyes. The media has been bombarded with criticism, overwhelmingly from thefemale community, relative to the amount of sexually explicit material that ispublished in magazines and that appears on television and in the cinemas. Acommon argument against pornography is that the media portrays women asbeing nothing more than sexual playthings and objects to satisfy male sexualdesires. As before, the media once again, is not to be held responsible forcreating this image; these views are products of society. It would be downright absurd to assume that women in this society are treated assexual objects only because the media releases or broadcasts pornographicmaterial. A magazine associated with make-up and skin care, for example, willquite obviously not be concentrating on much else. Such a magazine would notdisplay pictures of women who mountain-climb or women who water-ski; onlyimages 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 life is to worryabout make-up and skin care; but why are the complaints only directed towardspornographic media then? The answer to this question may be morecomplicated, however, what remains obvious is that the media does not portraywomen as only being able to fill male sexual desires. To say that pictures featuringnudity, etc, are making objects out of women is foolish. One should considerfemales who pin-up posters of male rock stars or children who collect hockey orbaseball cards. Society, however, does not say that objects are being made outof these rock stars and sports heroes; pictures of clothed people are no lessobjects than pictures of naked people. Many complaints are also made to the effect that pornography only offers a one-dimensional view to life; that women are seen as nymphomaniacs who arehysterically addicted to sex. It should be pointed out that events such as hockeygames, boxing matches, horse races and operas all offer a one-dimensional viewof life. One does not attend an opera hoping to see a horse race. The underlingproblem here is that the above mentioned events are socially acceptable; mediadisplaying pornography is not. It is also said that the media reduces women to acollection of body parts through pornography (Christensen 1990:74). But why thenare their no complaints of advertisements in magazines displaying only ears, forexample, or a nose, or feet? The reason is a simple one; society considers certainbody parts to be shameful or disgusting and once again, the media can be letoff the hook . Realistically, the only way to prevent women from being seen as sex objects is forthem to be seen as other things as well; but to say that women are not sexualbeings would be misleading because both men and women are very much sexual(Christensen 1990:42). Similarly, to say that women are singled out in the media isfallacious due to the many examples of media where men are seen catering tothe needs of women; something known as chivralic sexism (Christensen 1990:42). Take, for instance, a recent television ad portraying young men groveling at thefeet of supermodel Cindy Crawford, almost begging to be the one to cater toher needs. There were no lineups of men aching to announce their displeasurewith the sexist ad; and this is precisely why male stereotyping in the media oftengoes unnoticed. Similarly, it is pornography in the media that is noticed andshunned by anti-pornographic and censorship organizations because it seeminglysingles out females for their bodies. It should be well noted, however, thatpaperback romance novels, which make up an incredible 40% of totalpaperback sales (Gerbner 1988:15), depicts males as sexual objects, performingwhat is called Sweet Savagery (rape), just as pornography depicts females assexual objects. But once again, this goes unnoticed. It is fundamentally important to realize that the media does not deliberatelycreate images of hate or disagreement (Howitt, Cumberbatch 1975:80). They justinfluence the more appealing things in society (thus directly increasing theirratings). Although it is obvious that pornography is largely a male interest, a notedincrease in female interest would certainly cause an increase in the amount ofpornographic material geared for women; this relates to the laws of the businessworld (Christensen 1990:50). Having discussed the untruthfulness of the claims against pornography andshowing that pornography is not evil , it is now possible to consider the violenceissue. Are men who are exposed to pornography likely to commit violent acts,such as rape against women, more so than men who are not exposed topornography? It is tempting to believe that media influences males andoverstimulates them through pornography to the point that they becomeaggressive towards females. But this is completely baseless; just as pornography

arouses or stimulates, it also satisfies. The American Commission on Obscenity andPornography performed a study in which several college students were asked tospend one and a half hours in an isolated room with a large volume ofpornographic media, as well as a large volume of non-explicit media such asReader s Digest (Howitt, Cumberbatch 1975:80). The study was conducted over athree week period over which time it was discovered that the males involved inthe experiment began to lose interest, or become desensitized to the erotic medianearing the end of the experiment, even if new material was added. To addressthe argument that males are pushed over the brink into committing rapebecause of pornography, one may point to the evidence above; to cover thefemale body would theoretically only increase male sexual desires. Four moreseparate experiments were conducted of which the above was one. Three otherexperiments came to the conclusions that pornography does not cause violenceagainst women and reported that the number of sex offenders that had beenexposed to pornographic material were smaller in number than the amount ofsex-offenders that had not been exposed to pornography (Christensen 1990:130;Harmon, Check 1988:28-30). These results can be offered as evidence against theclaim that males become overstimulated and thus dangerous when exposed topornography. Other experiments conducted in the early 1980s by the WilliamsCommittee in England, reported that as the availability and abundance ofsexually explicit material increased, the number of violent sex crimes such as rapedid not increase, but in fact decreased in many areas (Christensen 1990:128-129). So what is it about pornography that women and anti-pornography organizationsdo not like? Violence! One of the greatest myths about pornography is that itcontains an excess of violence against women inevitably resulting in real-lifeviolence against women. Anti-pornography groups release propaganda that themedia approves of violence against women through pornography. In actuality,however, the total amount of violence in sex-related movies was found to beapproximately 6% in a study by T. Palys in the early 1980s in Vancouver, Canada. Even this material was almost entirely composed of verbal threats and spanking(Christensen 1990:59). In addition to the above, studies in Ohio also found that theamount of violence in G -Rated movies was a staggering two times more than in X -Rated movies. In fact, major films such as Die Hard: With A Vengeance andTerminator 2, contain extreme violence 85-90% of which is directed solely at men. There are, however, exceptions; the slasher genre of movies contain much moreviolence towards women, possibly due to the desensitization to violence in othergenres of films. Because women are involved, violence against them couldcreate a true sense of horror. However, this does not suggest that men should gointo society and rape a woman any more than it suggests that men should go outand kill other men. Horror movie fans choose to watch these movies becausethey enjoy portrayed violence. Needless to say, no sane individual would wish forthis violence to become a real-life conception. Similarly, sex also excites peopleand because these two elements offer the most thrills in movies, they are oftencombined. It should be pointed out that women, and not just men, also enjoy these thrillsbased on numerous studies. When discussing pornography, it is scarcely notedthat men are not the only ones who enjoy fantasizing about sex. Women alsoenjoy pondering sex; just not through pornography. In fact, most of these fantasiesinvolve some degree of violence or force and are largely driven by the romancenovels discussed earlier (once again supporting the evidence that romance novelsprove to be the female equivalent to male-geared pornography). Recent reportspublished by Nancy Friday, show that the number of female fantasies involvingrape far outweigh the number of male fantasies involving rape. What comes as asurprise to many is that in male fantasies, the woman rapes the man and conversely, in female fantasies, the man rapes ( Sweet Savagery ), the woman! (Christensen 1990:66). Friday s reports also provided some interesting reasoning forthe female fantasies. Her reports find that females fantasize about rape to showthat they are not acting in accordance with such sinful actions; to show that sexis being forced upon them. Any other feelings towards the fantasized rapewould prove to be undesirable social behaviour and amazingly, the media is noteven involved! Actual laboratory experiments (Hawkins, Zimring 1988:103) haveshown that when groups of women were shown erotic scenes involving rape, theirreactions to the scenes were as or even more stimulating than less violentconsensual lovemaking scenes. This is not to say that all women want to beraped; far from it. This is to say that if women can fantasize about rape but notwish to experience it, then men, too, can fantasize about rape and not wish tocommit it. In addition to the many other accusations against pornography, many in societybelieve that there is definite connection between organized crime andpornography. Although this may be true, the idea is largely over-exaggerated. The reasoning behind this theory is very simple, yet very shallow. Consider, thatpornography is created by organizations and contains sexually explicit materialthat may be thought to be legally obscene in some areas. To make theconnection, these anti-pornography organizations assume that the organizations(hence organized) that produce the legally obscene (hence crime) material, areoperating illegally. It is obvious why pornography is attractive to criminals; just asanything that is banned or is made illegal, there is always someone who will paythe high black-market price for it. Having considered the issues at hand, it can be said that since there is noconcrete evidence to support otherwise, pornography in the media does notcause undesirable social behaviour. As mentioned before, sexually explicit moviesand magazines do not just arouse, but also satisfy. It is an undisputed fact thatfeelings of love and happiness cancel out violent feelings (Zillman, ConnectionsBetween Sex and Aggression) and to say that pornography endorse violentfeelings fails to make sense; if it did, why would men want to be exposed to it. Tosuggest that pornography causes men to go over the edge and commit rape isas ludicrous as suggesting that pictures of food cause the hungry to steal morefood. It has even been said by some women that rape is the fault of women whodress provocatively; they ask for it . According to this logic, in the event thatpornography is banned, then an attempt should be made to force women tocover their skin and wear clothing that completely hides the shapes of their bodiesso as not to provoke rape. Absurd. As members of society, we recognize the power of the mass media. Weunderstand that public perception can be easily persuaded. But it should beclearly understood that pornography in the media alone cannot persuade men tocause harm to women; it cannot cause men to do things that are sociallyunacceptable. As was mentioned earlier, pornography only causes feelings ofexcitement and satisfaction and these feelings overpower those feelings ofviolence. For these reasons, it can be said that until a positive link can be foundbetween pornography in the media and violence against women, it will remainthat sexual violence such as rape is the result of sexual frustration, and not ofsexual arousal. Reference CitedChristensen F.M. 1990Pornography. New York: Praeger. Howitt, CumberpatcH2975Mass Media, Violence and Society. London: Elek ScienceHarmon, Check1988Role of Pornography in Woman Abuse. (City unknown).AmericanCommission on Obscenity and Pornography. Hawkins, Zimring1988Pornography in a Free Society. (City unknown). (Publisher uknown). Bibliography1. Pornography, Christensen F.M., 1990, New York, Praeger. 2. Mass Media, Violence and Society, Howitt, Cumberpatch, 1975, London, ElekScience. 3. Role of Pornography in Woman Abuse, Harmon, Check, 1988, AmericanCommission on Obscenity and Pornography. 4. Pornography in a Free Society, Hawkins, Zimring, 1988. 5. Advertising, World Book Encyclopedia 1990, New York, Nault. 6. Pornography, Encarta Encyclopedia 1995, New York, Microsoft. 7. The Question of Pornography, Donnerstein, Linz, Penrod, 1987, pp.152-153. 8. Pornography and Censorship, Bullough, 1983, pp.255-261. 13


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