Murray Davis

’ Smut, Erotic Reality/Obscene Ideology Essay, Research Paper

Murray Davis’ Smut, Erotic Reality/Obscene Ideology

In the book Smut, Erotic Reality/ Obscene Ideology , by Murray Davis

(1983), the author expresses the idea that the best source for studying human

sexuality objectively is “soft core”, rather than ?hard core? pornography.

(Davis p. xix). The purpose of this paper is to critique Davis’s claim and to

study what understanding of human sexuality someone might have if they used some

other resource that is available today, in this case the Internet.

Davis argues that , “hard core pornography is usually more abstract and

less explicit than soft-core pornography”. (Davis, p. xix, 1983). Davis doesn’t

go on to explain how hard-core pornography can be less explicit than soft-core.

However he does explain that hard-core pornography is more abstract in that, it

depicts the sex act only and not the emotional or personal characteristics of

the people involved in the act. (Davis, p. xx) He believes soft-core

pornography is describing “a sexual experience”, which conveys characteristics

of the participants that are not described by hard-core pornography. Hard-core

pornography describes “sexual behaviour” which involves more of the act of sex

rather than the characteristics and feelings involved with sex. (Davis, p.

xix) Although Davis admits that the vocabulary of sex is changing (Davis, p.

xxv), he also states that hard-core pornography uses considerably more vulgar

terms that are associated with lower-class activity, such as, “prick, fuck, and

suck” (Davis, p. xxiii). Davis believes that hard-core pornography, induces

imaginative behaviours by using these lower-class, four-letter words. The

stories use phrases such as “First we sucked, then we fucked.”(Davis p. xix,

1983), to allow the reader the tools to imagine the scene actually taking place.

The reader is lead by the author through the story by using words that may be

more understood or common in the readers’ everyday life. He also accuses hard-

core films of being “behavioristic” and “abstract” because they often fail to

“fully inform the audience about the characters personality types and social

categories.”(Davis, p. xx, 1983) Soft-core pornography, on the other hand,

often depicts “the subtle phenomenological effects that result when a

character’s sexual behaviour clashes with his or her personal and social

characteristics.” (Davis, p. xx, 1983). In short, he study’s literature or

films that involve characters with personalities that are developed and conveyed

to the audience. In these stories the characters will have sex, but the sex may

or may not be the main focus of the story, but rather something that is bound to

happen when personal and social characteristics clash.

I believe that Davis is somewhat correct in assuming that soft-core is a

more objectively reliable source for studying human sexuality. When I hear the

words soft-core pornography, I tend to think of Playboy, or films and movies

that depict a story about a person or group of people, and within that story the

characters engage in sexual activity. This sexual activity is shown or described

to the reader/viewer but is not done in a graphic nature. That is, the actual

sexual penetration is not shown or shown very minimally.

Hard-core, on the other hand, is shown or described more graphically.

The dialogue usually includes, as Davis states, four-letter words. The story

seems to have less of a plot and less character development. The main purpose

of the work is to show or describe sex. So it is in this sense that I agree

with Davis.

However, I firmly believe that there is not one single resource that is

the best method of studying human sexuality. There are many sources which are

helpful when studying sex and human sexuality. They can range from textbooks,

entertainment magazines, television programs, to movies and novels. In my

opinion the most reliable and important resource for studying human sexuality is

personal experience. The actual hands on, if you will, of sex. All the texts,

magazines and movies can show what happens and maybe guide your learning process,

but the only real way to learn is to experience for oneself. I feel that if a

variety of resources are used when studying human sexuality, an individual will

understand and learn all aspects of sexuality in greater detail. Having learned

all aspects of sexuality a person may develop a sense of confidence in their own

sexuality. This may allow for the person to have more respect for sexual

orientations or practices that the individual may not take part in. For

example, a person educated in human sexuality at a university level may realise

that homosexuality is normal and should not be shunned. Whereas, a person not

as highly educated in this field may think homosexuals are not right, or

confused. If an individual uses a mixture of hard-core pornography, soft-core

pornography, educational texts, and any other source of information that is

available, the base for their knowledge will be broadened.

With this broadened knowledge base an individual can draw their own

lines for limits in their sexual practises. A person may indulge in sex in

similar manner to hard-core pornography. That is, they may enjoy watching the

penetration and using four-letter words during sex. Or an individual may enjoy

sex in more of a soft-core manner. For example they may like the

lights off and be more romantic in their sexual escapades. I feel that a

combination of the two, or even a mixture of many different resources can be

more beneficial to the individuals sexual experience. That way the individual

could use the ?hit and miss? method to explore human sexuality. Which means

they could try different things until they find something that they are

comfortable with.

I believe that soft-core pornography when used alone is much too vague

when studying human sexuality. All aspects of human sexuality are not dealt

with. The individual would not learn the “plumbing” aspect of sexuality , other

than what is seen or described in soft-core. (i.e. breasts and penis).

If an individual only used hard-core pornography to study human

sexuality they may believe that sex and sexuality are all about the act of sex.

They may not learn the idea of love or the responsibilities associated with sex

and sexual activity. The use of only one resource in studying anything,

including human sexuality, limits the quality of knowledge gained about the

particular subject.

One example of a restricted or limited view would be if a person was

only using a resource such as the Internet to study human sexuality. The

Internet, or the net, as we all know, is a vast source of knowledge for

virtually every topic imaginable. I believe that a person would have a very

limited view if using the Internet for information on human sexuality. This

would especially ring true if the person did not know how to conduct advanced

studies on the Internet. That is, the person would simply type ?human sexuality?

into one of the many search engines on the net. The resulting ?hits? or ?sites?

(places to find information) would be a wide range of topics. They would likely

range from journal articles about human sexuality to adult oriented articles,

which would likely be hard-core. Another type of hit the “surfer” (a person who

browses the Internet) may find is the adult oriented commercial sites. These

sites advertise free sex pictures or live phone sex.

The problem with using the Internet and only the Internet as a resource

for study is that the information found can be so vast that one may not know

where to start. The more attractive and marketed sites may get more attention.

The key words in the description of the site may draw one’s attention to that

site and the less attractive sites may be by-passed. The problem is that the

less attractive sites are usually those from universities with an abundance of

credible information. The other sites are basically selling sex not the idea of

the total package of human sexuality.

Another problem is deciding which search engine to use. A search engine

is a tool that one can use to find specific topics on the Internet. Different

engines have different specialities and a different number of sites that are

explored. If a person only used one search engine when looking for sites

dealing with human sexuality, an important site that is catalogued in another

search engine may be missed.

With any topic as broad as human sexuality the Internet can be more

overwhelming than it is helpful. As with human sexuality itself , I believe

that the best way to learn how to search the net is by trial and error. By

learning how to narrow down topics that are being searched the individual may be

able to find a few sites that fit the characteristics they are seeking.

Now, the problem is, which characteristics should one look for when

learning about human sexuality? This is another decision that if not made

properly could lead to someone having a limited view of human sexuality. In

order to narrow down a search one must know a little bit about what they are

searching for. For example if an alien came here and tried to research human

sexuality, it may not know any aspect of our sexuality to add to the search.

For example, love plays a role in our sexuality. If someone did not know this

they would enter ?human sexuality? into the search engine and again may be

distracted by flashy, hard-core, sex-sites and may not find anything on love.

The over-all understanding of human sexuality would be limited according to

which sites were looked at.

Although I agree somewhat with Advisee’s claim that soft-core , rather

than hard-core pornography, may be a better resource for studying human

sexuality. I feel that using only one resource for information can limit the

view and even sometimes distort an individuals ideas of human sexuality. When

using a resource such as the Internet, one may be overwhelmed with information

and marketing tactics may win the attention of information seekers and take away

from the sites that actually offer factual information regarding human sexuality.

Therefore, I believe that an individual should use all resources

available to them when studying any topic, especially a topic as complex as

human sexuality.


Davis, S. Murray. (1983). Smut erotic reality obscene ideology.

University of Chicago Press: Chicago.



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