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Mass Media And The Porn Industry Essay

, Research Paper Mass Media And The Porn Industry It started by way of messages and scribes, evolved through the presentation of newspapers and radio, brought us together with television, and now serves us worldwide

, Research Paper

Mass Media And The Porn Industry

It started by way of messages and scribes, evolved through the presentation of

newspapers and radio, brought us together with television, and now serves us worldwide

via the ever popular Internet. It is the mass media, and even from the earliest days of

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, 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 broadcasted 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 also been

heavily criticized. The underlining concept to be debated here is that society has been

negatively influenced, specifically, by these images of pornography and the result is

increased violence against women. This assumption, and it is indeed only an assumption,

is completely fallacious, however, as no concrete and completely conclusive evidence has

ever been formulated in support of the theory.

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 cause for violence against

women, specifically rape? There are many reasons for this misinterpretation and through

the following few points, an attempt will be made to show that pornography has very little

to almost no correlation with violence 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 behavior by displaying nude women in sexually

explicit circumstances. Thus, it is important to indicate that women are not treated only as

sexual objects through the media. This is done in an attempt to quash any traces of “evil”

in pornography. Subsequently, a second point, that some may consider to be completely

bizarre, can be addressed; that pornography actually reduces the amount of violence

against women.

For thousands of years, sex itself has been considered “evil” and revolting. This is

exactly why the concealment of sex organs and teaching feelings of shame toward human

sexuality is so common worldwide (Christenson 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 whole lives

completely naked, while in other societies women are covered from head to toe, leaving

only their eyes revealed. The media has been bombarded with criticism, overwhelmingly

from the female community, relative to the amount of sexually explicit material that

published in magazines, and that appears in television and in the cinemas. A common

argument against pornography is that the media portrays women as being nothing more

than sexual playthings and objects to satisfy male sexual desires. As before, the media

once again, is not to be held responsible for creating this image; these views are products

of society.

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 makeup 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 makeup and text referring to

skin care would be relevant. Clearly, society does not consider women to be beings who’s

purpose in life is to worry about makeup and skin care; but why are the complaints only

directed towards pornographic material then? The answer to the 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 sports 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 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 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 are all 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 there no complaints of advertisements in

magazines displaying only ears, for example, or a nose, or a pair of feet? The reason is a

simple one, our 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 fallacious, because both men and women are very sexual (Christensen 1990:42).

Take, for instance, a recent television ad portraying young men groveling at the feet of

supermodel Cindy Crawford, practically begging to be the “one” to cater to her needs.

There were no lineups of men aching to announce their displeasure with the sexist ad; and

this is why male stereotyping in the media often goes unnoticed. Similarly, it is

pornography in the media that is noticed and shunned by anti-pornographic and censorship

organizations because it seemingly singles out females for their bodies. It should be well

noted, however, that paperback romance novels, which make up an incredible 40% of all

paperback sales (Gerbner 1988:15), depicts males as sexual objects, performing what is

called “Sweet Savagery” (rape), just as pornography depicts females as sexual objects.

But once again, this goes unnoticed.

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 simple business (Christensen 1990:50)

Having discussed the untruthfulness of the claims against pornography and

showing that pornography is not “evil”, it is now possible to consider the violence issue.

Are men who are exposed to pornography more likely to commit violent acts, such as

rape against women, more likely than men that are not exposed to pornography? It is

tempting to believe that media influences males and overstimulates them through

pornography to the point where they become aggressive towards females. But this is

completely baseless; just as pornography arouses or stimulates, it also satisfies. The

American Commission on Obscenity and Pornography performed a study in which several

college students were asked to spend one and half hours in a room with a large volume of

pornographic material, as well as non-explicit material, 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

became desensitized to the erotic media nearing the end of the experiment, even if new

material was added. To address the argument that males are pushed over the “brink” into

committing rape because of pornography, one may point to the evidence above; to cover

the female body would theoretically only increase male sexual desires. Three other

separate, but similar experiments also came to the conclusions that pornography does not

increase violence toward women, in fact, it was 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). These results can be offered as evidence against the claim

that males become overstimulated and thus dangerous when exposed to pornography.

Other experiments conducted in the early 1980’s by the Williams Committee in England,

reported that as the availability and the abundance of sexually explicit material increase,

the number of violent sex crimes, such as rape, did not increase, but in fact decreased in

many areas(Christensen 1990: 128-129).

So what is it about pornography that women and anti-pornography organizations

do not like? Violence! One of the greatest myths about pornography is that it contains an

excess of violence against women, inevitably resulting in real-life violence against women.

Anti-pornography groups release propaganda that the media approves of violence against

women in 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

(Christensen 1990:59). In addition to the above, studies in Ohio found that the amount of

violence in “G” -Rated movies was an astonishing two times more than in “X”-Rated

movies. In fact, major films such as Die Hard: With a Vengeance and Terminator 2,

contain an extreme 85-90% violence, which is primarily directed toward men. There are

however exceptions; the slasher genre of movies contain much more violence directed

toward women, possibly due to the desensitation to violence in other genres of films.

Because women are involved, violence toward them could create a true sense of horror.

However, these films do not suggest anyone to go out and kill people or to go into society

and commit any crimes, they are movies. Horror movie fans choose to watch these

movies because they enjoy portrayed violence. Needless to say, no sane individual would

wish this violence to become a real life conception. Similarly, sex also excites people and

because these two elements offer the most thrills in movies, they are often combined.

It should be pointed out, that women, not just men, enjoy these thrills based on

numerous studies. When discussing pornography it is scarcely noted that men are not the

only ones who enjoy fantasizing about sex. Women also enjoy pondering about sex; just

not through pornography. In fact, most of these fantasies involve some degree of violence

or force and are largely driven by romance novels discussed earlier. Recent reports

published by Nancy Friday, show that the number of female fantasies involving rape far

outweigh the male fantasies involving rape. Friday’s reports also provided some

interesting reasoning for the female fantasies. Her reports find that females fantasize

about rape to show that they are not actin in accordance with such “sinful” actions; to

show that sex is being “forced” upon them. Any other feelings towards the fantasized rape

would prove to be “undesirable social behavior” and amazingly, the media is not even

involved. Actual laboratory experiments (Hawkins, Zimring 1988:103) have shown that

when groups of women were shown erotic scenes involving rape, their reactions to the

scenes were even more stimulating than less violent consensual lovemaking scenes. This is

not to say that women want to be raped; far from it. This is to say that if women can

fantasize about forceful sex, and not want to experience it, then men can also fantasize

about it and not want to commit 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 does not cause undesirable

social behavior. As mentioned before, sexually explicit movies and magazines do not just

arouse, they satisfy. It is an undisputed fact that feelings of love and happiness cancel out

feelings of violence and aggression (Zillman, Connections Between Sex and Aggression)

and to say that pornography endorse violent feelings fails to make sense; if it did, why

would men want to be exposed to it. To suppose that pornography makes men “go over

the edge” and commit rape is as ludicrous as saying that pictures of food cause the hungry

to steal food. It has even been said that rape is the fault of women who dress

provocatively; “they ask for it”. According to this logic, in the event that pornography is

banned, then an attempt should also be made to force women to cover their skin, and wear

clothing that completely hides the shapes of their bodies, so as not to provoke rape. Two

words: Completely Absurd.

Personal Opinion-

I enjoy sex, and the other factors that go into the physical and emotion parts of

love making. But I am not a perverted person, I do not enjoy pornography nor a lot of

violence for that matter. But I like knowing that if I did enjoy these things, that I could

legally partake in them. And if we do ban pornography and violence, will it stop there? In

time will we infact try to ban provocative clothing? Where will it end? It really makes me

wonder how free this country will be in ten years.

Furthermore, as far as movies making people commit crimes, how many criminals

have you heard of that took complete responsibility for what they did? That is how our

society is, it’s always someone else’s fault, there is always a scapegoat of some sort. That

is why I think that banning certain types of movies will solve nothing, there will always be

something that supposedly makes us do bad things, there will always be something until

we as a society grow up and take responsibility for our actions.

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