It started by way of messengers and scribes, evolv

ed 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 todays
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 that society is 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. The key premise here is that the mass media
does not 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 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 social behaviour 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.

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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
worldwide (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. The media has been bombarded with
criticism, overwhelmingly from the female community, relative to the
amount of sexually explicit material that is published in magazines
and that appears on 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
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 whos 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.

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 underlying
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 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 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
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 displeasure with the sexist ad; and this is
precisely 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 total 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 the business 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 violence issue. 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 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 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 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 Readers 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 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. Four more separate experiments were conducted of which the
above was one. 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). 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 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).

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 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. There are, however, exceptions; the slasher
genre of movies contain much more violence towards women, possibly due
to the desensitization to violence in other genres of films. Because
women are involved, violence against them could 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 because 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 people and because these two
elements offer the most thrills in movies, they are often combined.

It should be pointed out that women, and not just men, also
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 sex; just not
through pornography. In fact, most of these fantasies involve some
degree of violence or force and are largely driven by the romance
novels discussed earlier (once again supporting the evidence that
romance novels prove to be the female equivalent to male-geared
pornography). Recent reports published by Nancy Friday, show that the
number of female fantasies involving 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 woman!
(Christensen 1990:66). Fridays reports also provided some
interesting reasoning for the female fantasies. Her reports find that
females fantasize about rape to show 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
rape 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 be 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 society believe that there is definite connection
between organized crime and pornography. Although this may be true,
the idea is largely over-exaggerated. The reasoning behind this
theory is very simple, yet very shallow. Consider, that pornography is
created by organizations and contains sexually explicit material that
may be thought to be legally obscene in some areas. To make the
connection, these anti-pornography organizations assume that the
organizations (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 not cause undesirable social behaviour. As
mentioned before, sexually explicit movies and magazines do not just
arouse, but also satisfy. It is an undisputed fact that feelings of
love and happiness cancel out violent feelings (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 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 more 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 that
pornography is banned, then an attempt should 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. 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 be 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 found between pornography in the media and violence
against women, it will remain that sexual violence such as rape is the
result of sexual frustration, and not of sexual arousal.—Reference Cited
Christensen F.M. Pornography. New York: Praeger. 1990
Howitt, Cumberpatch. Mass Media, Violence and Society. London: Elek
Science. 1975Harmon, Check. Role of Pornography in Woman Abuse. (City unknown).
American Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. 1988
Hawkins, Zimring. Pornography in a Free Society. (City unknown).
(Publisher uknown). 1988—Bibliography
1. Pornography, Christensen F.M., 1990, New York, Praeger.

2. Mass Media, Violence and Society, Howitt, Cumberpatch, 1975,
London, Elek Science.

3. Role of Pornography in Woman Abuse, Harmon, Check, 1988, American
Commission 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.


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