Violence And Pornography — Sex Or Subordination Essay, Research Paper
Violence and Pornography — Sex or Subordination?In the late Seventies, America became shocked and outragedby the rape, mutilation, and murder of over a dozen young,beautiful girls. The man who committed these murders, TedBundy, was later apprehended and executed. During hisdetention in various penitentiaries, he was mentallyprobed and prodded by psychologist and psychoanalystshoping to discover the root of his violent actions andsexual frustrations. Many theories arose in attempts toexplain the motivational factors behind his murderousescapades. However, the strongest and most feasible ofthese theories came not from the psychologists, but fromthe man himself, as a teenager, my buddies and I wouldall sneak around and watch porn. As I grew older, Ibecame more and more interested and involved in it,[pornography] became an obsession. I got so involved init, I wanted to incorporate [porn] into my life, but Icouldn t behave like that and maintain the success I hadworked so hard for. I generated an alter-ego to fulfillmy fantasies under-cover. Pornography was a means ofunlocking the evil I had burried inside myself (Leidholdt47). Is it possible that pornography is acting as the keyto unlocking the evil in more unstable minds?According to Edward Donnerstein, a leading researcherin the pornography field, the relationship betweensexually violent images in the media and subsequentaggression and . . . callous attitudes towards women ismuch stonger statistically than the relationship betweensmoking and cancer (Itzin 22). After considering theincrease in rape and molestation, sexual harassment, andother sex crimes over the last few decades, and also thecorresponding increase of business in the pornographyindustry, the link between violence and pornogrpahy needsconsiderable study and examination. Once the evidence youwill encounter in this paper is evaluated and quantified,it will be hard not come away with the realization thathabitual use of pornographic material promotes unrealisticand unattainable desires in men that can leac to violentbehavior toward women.In order to properly discuss pornography, and be ableto link it to violence, we must first come to a basic andagreeable understanding of what the word pornographymeans. The term pornogrpahy originates from two greekwords, porne, which means harlot, and graphein, whichmeans to write (Webster s 286). My belief is that thecombination of the two words was originally meant todescribe, in literature, the sexual escapades of womendeemed to be whores. As time has passed, this definitionof pornography has grown to include any and all obsceneliterature and pictures. At the present date, the term isbasically a blanket which covers all types of materialsuch as explicit literature, photography, films, and videotapes with varying degrees of sexual content. For Catherine Itzin s research purposes pornogrpahyhas been divided into three categories: The sexuallyexplicit and violent; the sexually explicit andnonviolent, but subordinating and dehumanizing; and thesexually explicit, nonviolent, and nonsubordinating thatis based upon mutuality. The sexually explicit andviolent is graphic, showing penetration and ejaculation. Also, it shows the violent act toward a woman. Thesecond example shows the graphic sexual act and climax,but not a violent act. This example shows the womanbeing dressed is a costume or being talked down to inorder to reduce her to something not human; such as abody part or just something to have sex with, a bodyopening or an orifice. Not only does erotica show theentire graphic sexual act, it also depicts an attractionbetween two people. Her research consistently showsthat harmful effects are associated with the first two,but that the third erotica , is harmless (22). Thesethree categories basically exist as tools of discerningcontent. Although sometimes they overlap without a truedistinction, as in when the film is graphic in thesexual act and also in violence, but shows the act asbeing a mutual activity between the peopleparticipating. In my view, to further divide pornography, it ispossible to break it down into even simpler categories: soft and hard core pornography. Hard core pornography isa combination of the sexually explicit and violent and thesexually explicit and nonviolent, but subordinating anddehumanizing categories, previously discussed. Soft corepornography is thought to be harmless and falls into thecategory known as erotica ; which is the category basedon mutuality. In hard core pornogrpahy, commonly ratedXXX, you can see graphic depiction s of violent sexualacts usually with a man or group of men, deriving sexualgratification from the degradation of a woman. You can also see women participating in demoralizingsexual behavior among themselves for the gratification ofmen. In a triple-X movie all physical aspects are shown,such as extreme close-ups of genitalia, oral, vaginal, andanal penetration, and also ejaculation. Much of the timeemphasis is put on the painful and humiliating experienceof the woman, for the sole satisfaction of the male. Softcore pornography, or X-rated pornography, is less explicitin terms of what is shown and the sexual act is usuallyput in the light of mutual enjoyment for both the male andfemale parties(Cameron and Frazer 23). Triple-Xpornography is manufactured and sold legally in the UnitedStates. Deborah Cameron and Elizabeth Frazer point outthat other forms of hard core pornography that have to bekept under wraps, made and sold illegally in underground black markets. These are ultraviolent, snuff , andchild pornography. Ultraviolent tapes or videos show theactual torture, rape, and sometime mutilation of a woman. Snuff films go even future to depict the actual death ofa victim, and child pornography reveals the use ofunder-age or pre-pubescent children for sexual purposes(17-18). These types of pornogrpahy cross over theboundaries of entertainment and are definitely hard core. Now that pornography has been defined in a fashionmirroring its content, it is now possible to touch uponthe more complex ways a community, as a society , views ordefines it. Some have said it is impossible for a groupof individuals to form a concrete opinion as to whatpornography means. A U.S. Supreme Court judge is quotedas saying, I can t define pornography, but I know it whenI see it (Itzin 20). This statement can be heard atcommunity meetings in every state, city, and county acrossthe nation. Community standards are hazy due to the factthat when asked what pornography is to them, mostindividuals cannot express or explain in words whatpornography is, therefore creating confusion amongthemselves. Communities are left somewhat helpless in this mattersince the federal courts passed legislation to keeppornography available to adults. The courts assess thatto ban or censor the material would be infringing on thepublic s First Amendment Right (Carol 28). MaureenO Brien quotes critics of a congressionally terminatedbill, the Pornography Victim s Compensation Act, as saying That if it had passed, it would have had severelychilling effects on the First Amendment, allowing victimsof sexual crimes to file suit against producers anddistributors of any work that was proven to have had caused the attack, such as graphic material in books,magazines, videos, films, and records (7). People in acommunity debating over pornography often have differentviews as to whether or not it should even be madeavailable period, and some could even argue this pointagainst the types of women used in pornography: A fargreater variety of female types are shown as desirable inpornography than mainstream films and network televisionhave ever recognized: fat women, flat women, hairy women,aggressive women, older women, you name it (Carol 25).If we could all decide on just exactly what pornography isand what is acceptable, there wouldn t be so much debateover the issue of censoring it. The bounds of community standards have been stretchedby mainstreaming movies, opening the way even further forthe legalization of more explicit fare (Jenish 53). Inmost contemporary communities explicit sex that is withoutviolent or dehumanizing acts is acceptable in Americansociety today. These community standards have not been around verylong. When movies were first brought out, they wereheavily restricted and not protected by the FirstAmendment, because films then were looked upon only asdiversionary entertainment and business.Even though sexualimages were highly monitored, the movie industry was hitso hard during the Great Depression that film-makers foundthemselves sneaking in as much sexual content as possible,even then they saw that sex sells (Clark 1029). Filmswere highly restricted throughout the 30 s, 40 s, and 50 sby the industry, but once independent films of the 60 ssuch as: Bonnie and Clyde and Whose afraid of VirginiaWoolfe? (Clark 1029-30), both with explicit language,sexual innuendo, and violence started out-performing thelarger wholesome production companies, many of thebarriers holding sex and violence back were torn down inthe name of profit . Adult content was put into movieslong ago, we have become more immune and can t expect itto get any better or to go away. Porn is here for good. Pornography is a multi-million dollar internationalindustry, ultimately run by organized crime all over theworld, and is produced by the respectable mainstreampublishing business companies (Itzin 21). Although thepublishing companies are thought to be respectable ,people generally stereotype buyers and users ofpornographic material as dirty old men in trenchcoats ,but most patrons of adult stores are well-educated peoplewith disposable income (Jenish 52). Porno movies provideadults of both genders with activities they normallywouldn t get in everyday life, such as oral pleasures ordifferent types of fetishes. Ultimately adultentertainment is just a quick-fix for grown-ups, asjunk-food would be for small children. Pornography s main purpose is to serve asmasturbatory stimuli for males and to provide a sexualvent. Although in the beginning, society saw it asperverted and sinful, it was still considered relativelyharmless. Today there is one case studie, standing outfrom the rest, that tends to shatter this illusion. The study done my Monica D. Weisz and Christopher M. Earls used eighty-seven males . . . that were randomlyshown one of four films , by researchers William Tooke andMartin Lalumiere: Deliverance, Straw Dogs, Die Hard II,and Days of Thunder , for a study on how they would reactto questions about sexual violence and offenders afterwatching. In the four films there is sexual aggressionagainst a male, sexual aggression against a female,physical aggression, and neutrality-no explicit scenes ofphysical or sexual aggression. Out of this study themales were more acceptable of interpersonal violence andrape myths and also more attracted to sexual aggression.These same males were less sympathetic to rape victims andwere noted less likely to find a defendant guilty of rape(71). These four above mentioned movies are mainstreamedR-rated films. If a mainstream movie can cause this kindof distortion of value and morality, then it should becomeevident that continuous viewing/use of pornographic filmsdepicting violent sex and aggression could lead vulnerablepersons into performing or participating in sexualviolence against their partners or against a stranger. Bill Marshall, psychology professor at Queen sUniversity and director of a sexual behavior clinic inKingston, interviewed one-hundred and twenty men, betweenthe years 1980 and 1985, who had molested children orraped women. In his conclusion he found that pornographyappeared to be a significant factor in the chain of eventsleading up to a deviant act in 25% of these cases (Nicols60). The results of this study should prove thatpornography obviously has a down side to it. According to Mark Nicols, a psychology professor atthe University of Michigan, Neil Malamuth, concludes quitecautiously that some messages combined with other factors,including the viewer s personality type, in pornographycan lead to antisocial behavior and make individuals lesssensitive to violence. Dr. Marshall also quotes men inNicols article as saying, that they looked at pornographywith the intent to masturbate, but then became aroused,and decided to go out and assault a woman or child. Menwho are drawn into pornography and use it frequently, havealso been proven to suggest more lenient prison terms forsex offenders (60). If this previous statement is true,should we reevaluate how many men serve on juries forthese trials?Itzin gives possible support for these theories. Itcan be found in the case of an ex-prostitute who had herpubic hair removed with a jackknife and was forced by herpimp to be filmed reenacting what they had seen inpornographic movies; she was sexually assaulted and forcedto have intercourse with animals, generally dogs. Anothersuch case is one of a woman who reports having metal clipsattached to her breasts, being tied to a chair, and beingraped and beaten continuously for twelve hours (22-24).
The dehumanizing, degradation, and reduction of a woman sbody isn t just a result of viewed pornography, it isoften inseminated into the production of a pornographicproject. During the making of Deep Throat , a 1970 spornographic film, Linda Marchiano (a.k.a. LindaLovelace), was presented to the public as a liberatedwoman with an ever present and unfulfilled appetite forfellatio. What isn t known to the general public is thatduring the making of the movie, she was hypnotized tosuppress the natural gagging reaction, was tortured whencaught trying to escape, and also held at gun-point by herboss, who threatened her with death (Itzin 22). Ms. Marchiano did escape and when her story was told, it wasrepeated by a number of women in the pornography business. According to D Arcy Jenish many children are luredinto the pornography industry by choosing first to model.These young teen s egos are boosted when they are told [they have good bodies] , and are asked if they workout? . More often than not, they are told to take off[their] shirts , and then asked Do you feel nervous? (36). These youngsters honestly don t know when too muchis too much, and what they don t know could put them inserious danger. Calvin Klein, once known for being a reputableclothing designer, is now known for his racy ads usingteens. Some feel he crossed the line when he chose thistype of advertising. Jenish observes that theseadvertisements featured an array of . . . teen-agedmodels dressed in loose jeans or hiked-up skirts, oneshowing bare breasts, others offering androgynous modelskissing (36). If adults in positions of power act thisway, these youngsters cannot expect other adults to actany differently. Therefore they accept this type ofbehavior as normal. Diana Russell claims that tactics like these arebeing used more often in advertising and television, whichhas led media watchdogs and anti-porn activists to believethat this sort of masked imitation of pornography tricksmainstream television viewers into having an everybody sdoing it attitude about pornography. She also feels thatthis attitude subconsciously leads them into seekingpornography out (39). We need to show the youngergeneration that everyone is not doing it , and that it isall right not to have sex if they feel pressured. Another problem anti-pornography activists believearises from regular viewing of pornography, is theacceptance of rape myths . Rape myth is a termpertaining to people s views on rape, rapists, and sexualassaults, wherein it is assumed that the victim of asexual crime is either partially or completely to blame(Allen 6). To help understand the rape myth a Rape MythAcceptance Scale was established, which lists some of themost prominent beliefs that a person accepting the rapemyth has. They are as follows:1. A woman who goes to the home or apartment of a man on their first date implies that she is willing to have sex. 2. One reason that women falsely report a rape is that they frequently have a need to call attention to themselves. 3. Any healthy woman can successfully resist a rapist if she really wants to. 4. When women go around braless or wearing short skirts and tight tops, they are just asking for trouble. 5. In the majority or rapes, the victim is promiscuous or has a bad reputation. 6. If a girl engages in necking or petting and she lets things get out of hand, it is her own fault if her partner forces sex on her. 7. Women who get raped while hitchhiking get what they deserve. 8. Many women have an unconscious wish to be raped, and may then [subconsciously] set up a situation in which they are likely to be attacked. 9. If a woman gets drunk at a party and has intercourse with a man she s just met there, she should be considered fair game to other males at the party who want to have sex with her too, whether she wants to or not (Burt 217). Pauline Bart reports that studies held simultaneouslyat UCLA and St. Xavier College on students, demonstratethat pornography does positively reinforce the rape myth.Men and women were exposed to over four hours of exoticvideo (of varying types; i.e. soft, hard core, etc.) andthen asked to answer a set of questions meant to gagetheir attitudes of sex crimes. All the men were proven tobe more accepting to rape myths, and surprisingly, overhalf of the women were also (123). Once again, the womenin these films were portrayed as insatiable and in need ofconstant fulfillment. After so much exposure to women inthis light from films and books, it is generally taken forgranted that women should emulate this type of behavior inreal life(125). comment?Of all the studies and examples from real lifesituations connecting pornography with violent behaviorand sexual aggressiveness, none are more concrete than theactivities the Serbian military are part of every day nowin the Bosnian war. Part of the ethnic cleansing process the Serbs are practicing in Bosnia involves thegang-raping of all Muslim and Croatian women. AndreaDworkin states that it is mandatory for the Serbiansoldiers to rape the wives and female children of Muslimmen. Concentration camps are set up as brothels wherewomen are ordered to satisfy the soldiers in the mostpainful and dehumanizing ways imaginable. The women inthese camps are taped with cam-corders and the videos aredisplayed everywhere throughout the camps to lower thewoman s will and need to resist. Were do the soldiers getthe inspiration to commit these crimes, from commercialpornography. Serbian troops are basically force-fed porn;it is present all through training and is made readilyavailable to (even pushed upon) the soldiers. They arebasically asked to watch and learn . After the seed isplanted not much is needed to be done, because they arenaturally instilled with the desire to repeat what theyhave seen, and are not concerned with the feelings of thewomen. They have seen that some women have no feelingsand are meant to be used merely for sexual gratification(M2-M6). To add insult to injury, some of the tapes ofthese women being victimized have entered the blackmarket, being sold internationally, possible infecting theminds of millions. Pornogrpahy has enamored itself as a large part ofour modern society. It is seldom discussed and oftenhidden as a dirty secret, but porn still seems to play amajor part in the shaping of our morals and behaviors.Although some say pornography is relatively harmless, aconsiderable larger group seem to uphold the assumptionthe porn works in negative and disruptive ways on thosewho view it and participate. Nearly all the researchsupports this assumption, so it is evident the the topicis in need of much more examination and debate. Even though the majority of modern society viewspornography as objectionable and sometimes obscene, thereare some that do not agree with the assumption thatpornography is guilty of the defamation of women and theirsexual roles. Social observationalists, such as MaryWhite, at the University of Michigan often agree with herstatement on the part women play in pornogrpahy whichexplains that since most pornographic material plays upto male fantasy, women are usually the aggressors, hencewomen are given a semblance of empowerment. Also, themajority of these women in the material are veryattractive, therefore seen as the forms of beauty anddesire, something to be respected and worked for (72).Although White may not realize it, this statementreinforced most of the arguments made in support of thenotion that pornography is subordinating and degrading towomen. By saying that being sexually aggressive gives awoman empowerment, she limits a woman s ability to reachempowerment to sexual activity alone, and by claiming thatthe use of attractive women in pornographic material lendsto a view of women being desirable, she inadvertentlyexcludes women that don t fit society s mold of the modelphysical female, (i.e. overweight, small breasted, short,etc.). Most of the arguments similar to White s followthe same line of reasoning, and are easily broken down inthe same manner as hers. In regards to pornogrpahy perpetuating violent actstoward women, pornography defenders claim that the use ofpornographic material can act as a cathartic release,actual lessening the likelihood of males committingviolent acts. The reasoning is that the pornogrpahy cansubstitute for sex and that the want to commit sexualcrimes is acted out vicariously through the pornographicmaterial (Whicclair 327). This argument, however, doesnot explain the crimes committed by serial killers likeTed Bundy and John Wayne Gacey, who regularly viewedpornography during the lengths of their times betweenmurders and rapes (Scully 70). By saying that pornogrpahywould reduce harm to women through cathartic effects,pornography defenders display a large lack in reasoningbecause through their argument the rise in the productionof pornography would have led to a decrease in sexualcrimes, but as has been shown previously, that simply isnot true. Pornographers and pornography defenders proclaim thatthe link between pornography and violence is exaggeratedand that the research linking pornography to sexual crimesis inconclusive. They state that the fundamentals of sexcrimes are found inherently in the individuals and thatthe sexual permissiveness of American society cannot beblamed on the increase of pornography s availability(Jacobson 79). David Adams, a co-founder and executivedirector of Emerge, a Boston counseling center for malebatterers, states, that only a minority of his clients(perhaps 10 to 20 percent) use hard-core pornography. Heestimates that half may have substance abuse problems, andadds that alcohol seems more directly involved in abusethan pornography (Kaminer 115). The statement made byAdams and the view that pornography does not contribute tothe act of sex crimes is heavily outweighed, however, bythe various studies connecting violence and pornography.Bill Marshall s observations on his patients and theexamples of individual crimes originating frompornography, show this acclimation to be invalidated. Some also say that attacks on pornography merelyreflect the majority of feminist s disdain for men,cynically stating that people who fear pornography thinkof all men as potential abusers, whose violent impulsesare bound to be sparked by pornography (114). ResearcherCatherin MacKinnon, says that pornography works as abehavioral conditioner, reinforcer, and stimulus, not asidea or advocacy (114). However, this idea is proven tobe false by the use of pornography in and by the Serbianmilitary. This example shows that pornography doesadvocate sex crimes and that ideas of sexual violence areable to be stemmed from the viewing of pornography. Pornography has become to most just another one ofthose cold, nasty facts of life that cannot be stopped, sosome choose to ignore it. This attitude has to change. After reviewing the abuse and subordination delegated towomen as an almost indisputable result of the massinfiltration of pornography into modern society, it shouldbe impossible for someone not to want to do somethingabout it. What can be done is for those concerned to tryto spread the word and educate others as much as possibleto the dangers of this sort of material. If people knewthe roots of some of their more violent behavior, it couldbe deminished, thus protecting the future and health ofour communities. From its inception, in most cases, pornography is amedia that links sexual gratification and violencetogether. This fact can only lead a rational mind to theconclusion that a chain of events will begin, combiningsex and violence further in the minds of those who watchpornography and will ensure an unhealthy attitude towardswomen and their sexual identities. Only throughdiscussion and individual action can the perpetuation ofthe negative impacts of pornography be swept from theclosets and dark corners of the American household.
Allen, Mike. Exposure to Pornography and Acceptance ofRape Myths. Journal of Communication. Winter,1995: 5-21. Bart, Pauline B., and Patricia H. O Brien. Stopping Rape:Successful Survival Strategies. New York: PergamonPress, 1985. Burt, M. Cultural Myths and Supports for Rape. Journalof Personality and Social Psychology. 38 (1980):217-230. Cameron, Deborah, and Elizabeth Frazer. The Lust to Kill.New York: New York UP, 1987. Carol, Avedon. Free Speech and the Porn Wars. NationalForum. 75.2 (1985): 25-28. Clark, Charles S. Sex, Violence, and the Media. CQResearcher. 17 Nov. 1995: 1019-1033. Dworkin, Andrea. The Real Pornography of A Brutal WarAgainst Women. Los Angeles Times. 5 Sept. 1993,M2+. Itzin, Catherine. Pornogrpahy and Civil Liberties. National Review. 75.2 (1985): 20-24. Jacobson, Daniel. Freedom of Speech Acts? A Response to Langton. Philosophy & Public Affairs. Summer 1992:65-79. Jenish, D Arcy. The King of Porn. Maclean s. 11 Oct. 1993: 52-56. – - – - Did Sexy Kalvin Klein Ads Go Too Far? Maclean s. 2 Oct. 1995: 36. Kaminer, Wendy. Feminists Against the First Amendment. The Atlantic Monthly. Nov. 1992: 111-118. Leidholdt, Margaret. Take Back The Night: Women onPornography. New York: William Morrow and Company,Inc., 1980. Nicols, Mark. Viewers and Victims. Newsweek. 10 Aug. 1983: 60. Russell, Diana E.H., ed. Making Violence Sexy: FeministView on Pornography. New York: Teachers CollegePress, 1994. Webster s Dictionary. Miami Florida. P.S.I. &Associates. 1987: 286. Weisz, Monica G., and Christopher M. Earls. The Effectsof Exposure to Filmed Sexual Violence on AttitudesToward Rape. Journal of Interpersonal Violence.March 1995: 71-84. Whicclair, Mark. R. Feminism, Pornography, andCensorship. Contemporary Moral Problems. ed. JamesWhite. Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN: 1994. White, Mary. Women As Victim: The New Stereotype. Spin. Apr. 1992: 60-65.