CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Pop Culture and Porn

Dec 7, 2007

Two six year old boys are talking together, and one says that he found a condom on a patio. The other one asks, “What’s a patio?”. This joke is indicative of the culture we now live in. The sexualisation of all things, especially our children, has reached epidemic proportions.

Several aspects of this can be highlighted. One is the emphasis on youth, beauty, and “getting the look”. Our young people are now absolutely obsessed with the way they look. They may not care what kind of person they are on the inside, but they are terribly concerned about how they appear on the outside.

As just one indication of this, consider a recent survey of 29,000 young Australians. Mission Australia’s 2007 National Survey of Young Australians found that body image is the biggest worry for 11-24 year olds, whether male or female. Body image was ranked the area of most concern by over 32 per cent of respondents. Family conflict was next at 29 per cent, and coping with stress was third at 27 per cent.

Another worrying aspect of the sexualisation of culture is the mainstreaming of porn. Quite simply, porn has moved from the fringes of society and is now in the very centre. Not too long ago when pro-family groups raised concerns about this, we were dismissed as wowsers and narrow-minded. But it seems that concern about the sexualisation of our youth is becoming more widespread. Three articles in three days just recently appeared, all lamenting the loss of innocence, the destruction of our children, and the pornification of culture.

In the December 4 Melbourne Age, Fairfax writer Karen Murphy wrote a stinging piece entitled “Blame women for the death of feminism”. She says “we have all been sold the emperor’s new clothes of sexual glamour. No, ladies, it’s not glamorous, it’s just naked.” She minces no words in naming and shaming the culprits:

“In particular, I hold to account:
-All the lap dancers, strippers, topless barmaids and well-educated prostitutes who do it for the money.
-Women participating in pornography.
-Women who post tawdry ‘raunch’ photos of themselves on the internet.
-Women who model in degrading advertisements (think Windsor Smith shoes) who do it for the money.
-Women who have cosmetic surgery just when their faces are becoming interesting, and breast enhancements to make themselves desirable.
-Women who claim they have Brazilian waxes for themselves.
-Women who refuse to have an argument with their male partners over the sharing of household duties.
-Women who have caesareans so that their vaginas remain tight.
-Women who claim stiletto heels are comfortable.
-Mothers who give their daughters make-up or hair dye before they turn 10, and are more likely to ask if the child has a favourite boy at school rather than a favourite subject.
-All the women who participate in soft-porn music clips.
-All the women who do pole dancing instead of a non-sexual gym workout.
-All the actresses that strip when their careers are in trouble.
-All the female sports stars that strip to raise money.”

Murphy concludes,” Years ago, when I first went into the world and embraced feminism as an equalising movement, not one based on hatred, resentment or superiority, my mother expressed doubts. She said that she foresaw a time when women would be under more pressure, rather than less, with less respect rather than more, falling further behind rather than stepping out in front. Then I thought her fearful and reactionary. Now I think her wise.”

On December 6 there appeared a Herald Sun article by NSW MP Greg Donnelly with the title, “Just sick of exploitation”. He begins by noting all the sleazy billboards that seem to be everywhere in large cities.

He then looks at some of the evidence for the harm this is causing. “The most disturbing research comes from the American Psychological Association, which released a report this year on the sexualisation of girls. An APA task force of six psychologists and a member of the public took two years to produce the report, which covers 45 pages with 439 references covering another 20 pages. It is a significant piece of social research and I believe the most comprehensive on the subject.”

He continues, “The report looked at the issue across a number of media platforms: television, music videos, music lyrics, movies, cartoons and animation, magazines, sports media, video computer games, internet, advertising, products, clothing and cosmetics. The report examines in detail literature and research relating not just to girls, but also to women. Such a detailed report cannot have its content simply reduced to a few, brief sentences. However, in my view the key observation is to be found on page 21, where the authors say about the consequences of the sexualisation of girls and women: ‘Ample evidence indicates that sexualisation has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality and beliefs’.”

He concludes, “For years, those who have expressed serious concerns about the sexualisation and objectification of girls and women have been challenged. Those with vested interests want the bar to be set at proving their case ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. But with what is at stake the bar should be ‘on the balance of probability’. In any event, the evidence that the sexualisation of young girls has significant consequences, not only for them but others, is now out there.”

And also on the 6th, Melinda Tankard Reist had this piece in the Australian: “Girls now the sum of their body parts”. In her article she begins with the Mission Australia survey: “The results are disturbing but not really surprising. Many girls feel disgusted by their bodies, engaged in constant self-surveillance and self-criticism. Their bodies have become an all-consuming project. One in 100 Australian girls suffers anorexia nervosa. Some estimates put the rate of bulimia at as high as one in five. Children as young as eight are being hospitalised with eating disorders. Some hospitals report there are not enough beds to cope with the numbers. A recent report found one in five 12-year-old girls regularly used fasting and vomiting to lose weight. One in four Australian girls want to get plastic surgery.”

She is rightly worried about how this is all impacting on young girls especially. “Too many girls are trying to imitate half-starved celebrities and airbrushed models in a quest to be hot and sexy. We have allowed the objectification and sexualisation of girls in a culture that is becoming increasingly pornographic. The embedding of sexualised images of women in society has become so mainstream, it is hardly noticed. Everywhere a girl looks, she sees sexualised images of her gender. She’s expected to be a walking billboard for the brands of the global sex industry. Playboy make-up, porn star T-shirts, padded bras and pole dancing for little girls: they’re being groomed to turn tricks in their stripper chic.”

But wait, there’s more: “The nerve-paralysing poison Botox is being pitched to teenagers as a preventative against wrinkles. Growing numbers are having breast implants. Younger women seek Brazilian waxes because their boyfriends complain they are too hairy and don’t match up to how women look in porn. Girls have been reduced to the sum of their body parts.”

She finishes with these words: “Research links sexualisation with three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression. The messages delivered by a culture obsessed with body image and sex limit the freedom of girls to explore other facets of their lives. They need to be encouraged to think for themselves, to be creative and imaginative, find meaning in life and make a mark in the world. So why aren’t we doing more about it? An urgent whole-of-government and community approach is required, recognising what the research says and taking action. Positive body image programs in schools should be mandatory, teaching media literacy skills that help young people recognise damaging messages from popular culture. There should also be a crackdown on degrading and objectified images of women in the public domain, including outdoor advertising, and an overhaul of the Advertising Standards Bureau and other regulatory bodies that have failed us so badly.”

There is no question that the sexualisation of culture is having lasting and wide-ranging negative effects. The future of our society, and the wellbeing of our children, should come ahead of the dirty profiteering of the porn industry and its allies. It is time this destructive influence is reined in, before it is too late.

www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/blame-women-for-the-death-of-feminism/2007/12/03/1196530572754.html
www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,22876168-5006880,00.html
www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22876227-7583,00.html

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8 Responses to Pop Culture and Porn

  • Another area of concern is that teacher are trained to use explicit language in speaking about sex with children, even before they reach puberty.
    This is all part of the desensitizing of youth and focuses their attention on these matters when there are more healthy things they could be occupied with.

    John Nelson

  • Spot on Bill! There seems to be no escape from it – billboards, TV ads, shopping catalogues, magazine covers…the list goes on. I find it impossible to shield my children and it concerns me that the constant exposure is probably already desensitizing them.

    In fact, most adults are already desensitized. I work with people who unashamedly talk about going to Sexpo. I see even young women going into “Adult stores” (read porno shops). In fact, just recently I witnessed something I could hardly believe. I was on a flight and I saw a woman take a Ralph magazine out of her bag, pass it to her husband across the aisle and he proceeded to flip through it whilst his two children, a boy and a girl both under 10, were sitting next to him. Is it OK to flick through such magazines with children looking on? What is the message these parents are giving to their children about what is expected of them? What are the role models we are subliminally exposing our children to?

    But let’s not be fooled, the advertising companies are deliberate and calculating. Desensitizing and sexualising young children creates consumers for life. The young girl who buys Dolly magazine will one day graduate to Cosmopolitan. The young girl who plays with Bratz dolls will soon want to dress like them, and so on… the examples are endless.

    There has been the occasional complaint about the late night dirty chat line ads on TV, but its more than just that. Does every woman that bites into an icecream in an ad have to almost have an orgasm?

    Reining in the porn industry and its allies (read advertising industry) will take a concerted effort from the community and a willing government. But the question here is whether the radical left elements in government will allow any restrictions given the legislative weapons they have now armed themsleves with such as the Human Rights Charter to protect “freedom of speech” and “freedom of expression”.

    You see Bill, these radicals have been subversively working for a long time setting up the protections they will need and spreading doubts, such as questioning the need for even having censorship laws in a modern society. So, not only will it be difficult to effect any real change, but it will in fact become more and more difficult to even raise this matter as an issue and be taken seriously.

    Frank Norros

  • Whilst doing a bit of casual teaching in a large comprehensive school, a few years back I was asked to take the afternoon register for a class of thirteen year olds. Oh! And would take the personal health and sex education lesson for twenty minutes, immediaely following the registration? I dutifully gave out the booklets and after only just a few seconds looking at them I advised the kids to take them home to show them to their parents. I complained to the school and apparantly they had not even looked at them themselves. The assumption being that just because a publication has the fancy name of Family Planning Association it is going to be benign.

    http://www.fpa.org.uk/attachments/published/735/PDF%20Is%20everybody%20doing%20it%20June%202007%20non%20printing.pdf

    David Skinner, UK

  • Another good one, Bill.

    We Dads have an important role to play (witness excellent responses from John & Frank above).

    My choice is to de-emphasise the most overt examples in the public arena by silently passing them by, and making sure we select reading & viewing matter carefully.

    It’s still a problem even to hear some of the language on Mythbusters DVDs, but we simply don’t view free to air TV.

    We enjoy Phantom comics but occasionally need to
    a) take care with some of the graphics
    and
    b) explain the problem of earthly super-heroes as compared to the true Hero. At least the Phantom does die, and the “legend” is based on continuity of the family line, rather than on magical powers, reincarnation or similar occultish ideas.

    Our other main strategy as parents is to help and encourage our children to fill their time with wholesome, worthwhile interests. In our case that includes electronics, construction toys, music, amateur astronomy and steam trains. Even mild computer games are a bit of a worry at times.

    Home education is a major factor in avoiding current trends, excluding peer pressure, and again occupying children’s time with “useful” stuff lilke museum excursions.

    It’s an advantage to have children who are curious about all things mechanical – especially as Dad is an accountant, rather than a handyman 🙂 .

    But all of us have a responsibility to foster rather than stifle curiosity in a desired direction rather than letting them be undisciplined.

    Our thanks must go to those other writers whom you quoted, too.

    John Angelico

  • Pornography (and all the other ills) is directly related to the loss of our Australian Christian culture.

    The fastest growing religious group in Australia, and the second largest overall (I think) is ‘no-religion’. The church has to win them back, but that is going to be a battle when the secularists dominate the media, the educational system and politics.

    There are many conservative Christians in the Coalition and the Coalition did a bit to stem the tide of immorality. But they were greatly constrained by the electorate and eventually got voted out. I’m reckon the culture war was the main reason for it.

    There are a few conservative Christians in Labor but they are overwhelmed by the lefties who are in favor of abortion, homosexual marriage, pornography, prostitution, etc. So it will be open slather for the next three years.

    But the underlying cause, in my view, is the loss of Christian conviction by the left leaning mainstream church, and I think that’s because they no longer believe the Bible as the reformers did.

    Tas Walker

  • But it is sex, that small but important component of a marriage which, like a uranium core, drawn out the protective material surrounding it, has likewise been drawn out of the protective, constraining shield of a monogamous and enduring relationship between a husband, wife – and the fruitful issue of that union: children; it is this, which is the cause of so much destruction.
    Often people like myself are accused of being obsessed with sexual matters and that we should be concentrating on more important issues like global warming and third world debt, but when a society is driven by instinct and lust (go to any corner or convenience store or filling station and pornography is clearly a part of the stock) what follows is adultery, lying, family breakdown, stealing, greed, violence and the murder of teenagers on our streets and in our schools.

    Ever since Alfred Kinsey and his pamphleteer, Hugh Hefner kicked off the Playboy philosophy of the sixties, inspired by evolutionary humanism, millions of us, mainly the men, were able live in their imaginations a sex life, which hitherto had only been available to Arabian princes. Sex was cut loose from its position of creating, stable, enduring relationships, creating a family and raising children and instead became as much an addictive recreation as taking drugs. The body was cut loose from the person and was able to fly on the mechanical, plastic wings of Playboy anywhere it wished. Since, then the internet has caused an explosion of disseminating pornography, so that even little children have access to the most extreme of orgiastic, sexual acts from the comfort of their bedrooms. We never raised an eyebrow when one law after another that was designed to hedge marriage around, like the steel hoops around a barrel were one by one removed. We never so much as murmured when abortion was made available on demand, that has resulted in nearly 7,000,000 incinerated lives, in Britain alone. We gave up a long time ago in protesting at the flood of pornographic literaturevideos and DVD’s that are within reach of every toddler in each and every corner store.

    David Skinner, UK

  • It’s frightening to see how wastefully money is being spent in the UK. What an absolute load of rubbish! How negative! What a sad indication of where this culture is heading!
    Teresa Binder

  • I would just like to say thank you for arguing so intelligently and thoroughly a point that i struggle, but strive, to put forward every single day. As a 22 year old Sociology student, I am well read in the politics of ‘raunch culture’ and the effect it has on society. Also as a proud feminist i am well rehearsed in my spiel regarding the degradation of women through objectification and sexualisation. I go through life feeling trapped by my gender and suffocated by my percieved role as sex symbol – as this is what all women are reduced to. I do not believe this to be an exaggeration. This article was written almost a year ago – but we are no further forward in eradicating ‘trash’ culture. If anything we have encouraged it further. It frustrates and angers me, but above anything else, it damages me. It is an unhealthy and unrealistic phenomena that is responsible for so much negativity. It has a prominent role in the decline of family values, in the erosion of self esteem and in the devaluation of young peoples aspirations and life aims. How does it make sense that one would be more admired and celebrated for being a ‘glamour’ model or porn star than for being a nurse or a police woman? To me it is beyond comprehension.

    Sophie Fuce

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