Theory Construction Essay, Research Paper
It started by way of messengers and scribes, evolved through the presentation of newspapers and radio, brought us together with television, and now serves us world-wide via the ever-popular Internet. It is the mass media, and even from the earliest days of its existence, it has contributed greatly in ways that both enlighten and enrich society, and ways that deteriorate and perplex it. It is not a surprise to learn, then, that the mass media is the most powerful source of information we have, and nothing else in today s world influences public perception quite as heavily. Unfortunately, however, most of what is broadcast or transmitted in the news today is with reference to the chaotic condition of our planet, or something else that society as a whole sees as detrimental or damaging. But the news on television 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 underlining concept to be debated here is why is the media blamed for gender inequality, and why is it considered a violent stimulant for men with specific reference to pornography.
Isolate & Define Variables:
Variables, which hinder the media and imply the idea of its responsibility toward violence and inequality with reference to women, include ethnicity, location, gender, physical attributes, and lastly the mass media itself. Ethnicity is defined as a person s shared cultural heritage and determines their beliefs and standards while location is concerned with where they live. Next, is gender and inequality, these terms are defined as those who are considered significant members of society are male or female, and the various indifferences between them (money, power, etc.). Further is the issue of physical attributes, which is a variable related to the human body, apart from mind or emotion. Lastly, in question is the mass media itself. The media is the impersonal communication of images and ideas directed towards a vast undifferentiated audience through different venues (radio, print, television, etc.).
For thousands of years, sex itself has been considered evil and revolting. This is exactly why the concealment of the sex organs and teaching feelings of shame toward human sexuality is so common world-wide (Christensen 1990:4). These same feelings of shame are the chief reasons that sex is considered a personal and private matter. Contrary to the beliefs of many, the mass media did not 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 revealing their eyes. This differentiation goes on to prove that while the media can influence, it still cannot compare to ethnic belief or religion, if it did we would all look the same and act the same since we would be defined by a single popular norm.
It would be downright absurd to assume that women in this society are treated as sexual objects only because the media releases or broadcasts pornographic material. A magazine associated with make-up and skin care, for example, will quite obviously not be concentrating on much else. Such a magazine would 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 life is to worry about make-up and skin care; but why are the complaints only directed towards pornographic media then? The answer to this question may be more complicated, however, what remains obvious is that the media does not portray women as only being able to fill male sexual desires. To say that pictures featuring nudity, etc are making objects out of women is foolish. One should consider females who pin-up posters of male rock stars or children who collect hockey or baseball cards. Society, however, does not say that objects are being made out of these rock stars and sports heroes; pictures of clothed people are no less objects than pictures of naked people. Furthermore, 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 are hysterically addicted to sex. It should be pointed out that events such as hockey games, boxing matches, horse races and operas all offer a one-dimensional view of life. One does not attend an opera hoping to see a horse race. The underling problem here is that the above mentioned events are socially acceptable; media displaying pornography is not.
It is also said that the media reduces women to a collection of body parts through pornography (Christensen 1990:74). But why then are their no complaints of advertisements in magazines displaying only ears, for example, or a nose, or feet? The reason is a simple one; society considers certain body parts to be shameful or disgusting. Realistically, the only way to prevent women from being seen as sex objects is for them to be seen as other things as well; but to say that women are not sexual beings 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 is fallacious due to the many examples of media where men are seen catering to the needs of women; something known as chivralic sexism (Christensen 1990:42). Take, for instance, a recent television ad portraying young men grovelling at the feet of supermodel Cindy Crawford, almost begging to be the one to cater to her needs. There were no line-ups of men aching to announce their displeasure with the sexist ad; and this is precisely why male stereotyping in the media often goes unnoticed.
Lastly, it is fundamentally important to realize that the media does not deliberately create images of hate or disagreement (Howitt, Cumberbatch 1975:80). They just influence the more appealing things in society (thus directly increasing their ratings). Although it is obvious that pornography is largely a male interest, a noted increase in female interest would certainly cause an increase in the amount of pornographic material geared for women; this relates to the laws of the business world (Christensen 1990:50). It is tempting to believe that media influences males and over-stimulates them through pornography to the point that they become aggressive towards females. But this is completely baseless just as pornography arouses or stimulates, it also satisfies. Consequently while some blame it, others praise because in its absence the probability of violent sexual acts increases since there is no other medium in which to satisfy hostile sexual urges.
Males who are exposed to pornography are not more likely to commit violent acts against women than those who are not exposed to pornography. The dependant variable (effect) is violence, while the independent variable (cause) is pornography and the direction relationship between the two is negative or inverse.
A condition in which such a hypothesis would not hold true would be in the following. If in an area there were either a lack of or abundance of pornography but violence continued to rise or fall, then a solid relationship between the two could not be confirmed and one would have to look to other factors (political status, socio-economic issues, etc.) to explain the phenomenon.
The following is the operational value of the variables concerned including violence and pornography. Violence can be measured as bodily harm that is either inflicted or portrayed, it can be distinguished onward of anything from a push on a playground to a shooting on the street. Levels of violence should correspond to the amount of harm caused by the violent act (bruise, hospital stay, death), and could be assessed on a scale from one to ten with the later being most extreme.
Next, pornography can be seen as pictures, films, writing or behaviour that deliberately arouses sexual excitement. Pornography must depict a person(s) in a sexual situation with the intent to stimulate or induce fantasy for the viewer. Levels of pornography should be based on the intensity of the act, and the amount of nudity displayed during the scenes. Therefore pornography could be measured on a scale of definable phrases including soft core, bestiality, bondage, hard core, etc. with each phrase instilling a different expectation as to what will be involved.
The American Commission on Obscenity and Pornography performed a study in which several college students were asked 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 such as Reader s Digest (Howitt, Cumberbatch 1975:80). The study was conducted over a three-week period over which time it was discovered that the males involved in the experiment began to lose interest, or become desensitized to the erotic media nearing the end of the experiment, even if new material was added.
Three other experiments came to the conclusions that pornography does not cause violence against women and reported that the number of sex offenders that had been exposed to pornographic material were smaller in number than the amount of sex-offenders that had not been exposed to pornography (Christensen 1990:130; Harmon, Check 1988:28-30).
Other experiments conducted in the early 1980s by the Williams Committee in England, reported that as the availability and abundance of sexually explicit material increased, the number of violent sex crimes such as rape did not increase, but in fact decreased in many areas (Christensen 1990:128-129).
Anti-pornography groups release propaganda that the media approves of violence against women through pornography. In actuality, however, the total amount of violence in sex-related movies was found to be 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 and spanking (Christensen 1990:59). In addition to the above, studies in Ohio also found that the amount 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 and Terminator 2, contain extreme violence 85-90% of which is directed solely at men.
Works Cited :
Christensen, F.M. Pornography. New York: Praeger, 1990.
Howitt, Cumberpatch. Mass Media, Violence and Society. London: Elek Science, 1975.
Harmon, Check. Role of Pornography in Woman Abuse. American Commission on
Obscenity and Pornography, 1998.
Hawkins, Zimring. Pornography in a Free Society. New York: ITC, 1998.
Donnerstein, Linz, Penrod. The Question of Pornography. New York: Macmillan
Publishing, 1992: pp.152-153.
Bullough, Pornography and Censorship. London: Methuen Limited, 1993: pp. 255-261.