Media And Pornography Essay

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
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
Unfortunately, however, most of what is broadcast or transmitted in the
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
to be debated here is that society is negatively influenced, specifically, by
images of pornography and the result is increased violence against
women. This
assumption, and it is indeed only an assumption, is completely fallacious,
as no concrete and completely conclusive evidence has ever been
formulated in
support of the theory. The key premise here is that the mass media does
cause undesirable social behaviour and in actuality, the media people
should not
be dubbed as the “bad guys”. They simply use their power in the most
constructive ways possible in order to promote their ratings and
popularity. 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 cause
violence against women, specifically rape? There are many reasons for
misinterpretation and through the following few points, an attempt will be
made to
show that pornography has very little to almost no correlation with
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 in
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
consider to be completely bizarre, can be addressed; that pornography
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 the sex organs and teaching feelings of
toward human sexuality is so common worldwide (Christensen 1990:4).
same feelings of shame are the chief reasons that sex is considered a
and private matter. Contrary to the beliefs of many, the mass media did
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
eyes. 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 on television and in the cinemas.
common argument against pornography is that the media portrays women
being nothing more than sexual playthings and objects to satisfy male
desires. As before, the media once again, is not to be held responsible
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
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;
images of make-up and text referring to skin care would be relevant.
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
pornographic media then? The answer to this question may be more
complicated, however, what remains obvious is that the media does not
women as only being able to fill male sexual desires. To say that pictures
nudity, etc, are making objects out of women is foolish. One should
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
objects 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 are
hysterically addicted to sex. It should be pointed out that events such as
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
problem here is that the above mentioned events are socially acceptable;
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 and once again, the media can
be “let
off the hook”.
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
beings would be misleading because both men and women are very much
(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
Take, for instance, a recent television ad portraying young men groveling
at the
feet of supermodel Cindy Crawford, almost begging to be the “one” to
cater to
her needs. There were no lineups of men aching to announce their
with the sexist ad; and this is precisely why male stereotyping in the media
goes unnoticed. Similarly, it is pornography in the media that is noticed
shunned by anti-pornographic and censorship organizations because it
singles out females for their bodies. It should be well noted, however,
paperback romance novels, which make up an incredible 40% of total
paperback sales (Gerbner 1988:15), depicts males as sexual objects,
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
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
pornographic material geared for women; this relates to the laws of the
world (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
issue. Are men who are exposed to pornography likely to commit violent
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 as
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 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
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. To
the argument that males are pushed over the “brink” into committing rape
because of pornography, one may point to the evidence above; to cover
female body would theoretically only increase male sexual desires. Four
separate experiments were conducted of which the above was one.
Three other
experiments came to the conclusions that pornography does not cause
against women and reported that the number of sex offenders that had
exposed to pornographic material were smaller in number than the
amount of
sex-offenders that had not been exposed to pornography (Christensen
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 1980s by the
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
So what is it about pornography that women and anti-pornography
do not like? Violence! One of the greatest myths about pornography is
that it
contains an excess of violence against women inevitably resulting in
violence against women. Anti-pornography groups release propaganda
that the
media approves of violence against women through pornography. In
however, the total amount of violence in sex-related movies was found to
approximately 6% in a study by T. Palys in the early 1980s in Vancouver,
Even this material was almost entirely composed of verbal threats and
(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.
There are, however, exceptions; the slasher genre of movies contain much
violence towards women, possibly due to the desensitization to violence
in other
genres of films. Because women are involved, violence against them
create a true sense of horror. However, this does not suggest that men
should go
into society and rape a woman any more than it suggests that men should
go out
and kill other men. Horror movie fans choose to watch these movies
they enjoy portrayed violence. Needless to say, no sane individual would
wish for
this violence to become a real-life conception. Similarly, sex also excites
and because these two elements offer the most thrills in movies, they are
It should be pointed out that women, and not just men, also enjoy these
based on numerous studies. When discussing pornography, it is scarcely
that men are not the only ones who enjoy fantasizing about sex. Women
enjoy pondering sex; just not through pornography. In fact, most of these
involve some degree of violence or force and are largely driven by the
novels discussed earlier (once again supporting the evidence that romance
prove to be the female equivalent to male-geared pornography). Recent
published by Nancy Friday, show that the number of female fantasies
rape far outweigh the number of male fantasies involving rape. What
comes 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”), the
(Christensen 1990:66). Friday’s reports also provided some interesting
reasoning for
the female fantasies. Her reports find that females fantasize about rape to
that they are not acting in accordance with such “sinful” actions; to show
that sex
is being “forced” upon them. Any other feelings towards the fantasized
would prove to be “undesirable social behaviour” 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 as or even more stimulating than less violent
consensual lovemaking scenes. This is not to say that all women want to
raped; far from it. This is to say that if women can fantasize about rape
but not
wish to experience it, then men, too, can fantasize about rape and not
wish to
commit it.
In addition to the many other accusations against pornography, many in
believe that there is definite connection between organized crime and
pornography. Although this may be true, the idea is largely
The reasoning behind this theory is very simple, yet very shallow.
Consider, that
pornography is created by organizations and contains sexually explicit
that may be thought to be legally obscene in some areas. To make the
connection, these anti-pornography organizations assume that the
(hence organized) that produce the legally obscene (hence crime)
material, are
operating illegally. It is obvious why pornography is attractive to
criminals; just as
anything that is banned or is made illegal, there is always someone who
will 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 does
cause undesirable social behaviour. As mentioned before, sexually
explicit movies
and magazines do not just arouse, but also satisfy. It is an undisputed fact
feelings of love and happiness cancel out violent feelings (Zillman,
Between Sex and Aggression) and to say that pornography endorse
feelings fails to make sense; if it did, why would men want to be exposed
to it. To
suggest that pornography causes men to “go over the edge” and commit
rape is
as ludicrous as suggesting that pictures of food cause the hungry to steal
food. It has even been said by some women that rape is the fault of
women who
dress provocatively; “they ask for it”. According to this logic, in the event
pornography is banned, then an attempt should be made to force women
cover their skin and wear clothing that completely hides the shapes of
their 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 should
clearly understood that pornography in the media alone cannot persuade
men to
cause harm to women; it cannot cause men to do things that are socially
unacceptable. As was mentioned earlier, pornography only causes
feelings 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 be
between pornography in the media and violence against women, it will
that sexual violence such as rape is the result of sexual frustration, and not
sexual arousal.

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