Pornography in the Media
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 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. 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. 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 live 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 absurded 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. 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. 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. 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. 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, 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.