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Confusing Cultural Attitudes

Here are two actions that I see as polar opposites in many ways: violence and sex. Nearly every connotation that violence has is negative. Violence carries with it notions like hate, blood, pain, ugliness, death, etc. Sex (with consent) seems quite the opposite (sex without consent could probably be categorized as simply another form of violence). Nearly every connotation that sex has is positive: love, pleasure, transcendence, beauty, life, etc. And yet–at least here in America–we seem quite tolerant toward violence when it comes to our films, television, and other forms of media. On the other hand, we seem quite intolerant toward sex (and as an extension of sex, nakedness). This is especially true among certain religious groups. Many people are okay with with watching films or TV shows where people are mowed down by machine guns or where people’s necks are sliced, but those same people are disgusted by a sex scene. Likewise, many parents don’t seem to mind if their children attend gruesomely violent films, but heaven forbid if they are caught watching porn. Looking at naked people or at people having sex apparently corrupts the mind whereas violence, well, must not have any negative affects worth worrying about. These attitudes seem completely reversed. If we are to shy away from, downplay, or outright condemn one of these two actions, violence would seem to make the most sense. Sex, on the other hand, seems to be something worth praising.

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Categories: Philosophy
  1. 11/13/2008 at 12:16 pm

    So what would you say about violent sex with consent? For example, pornography can be pretty raunchy: gonzo porn, deepthroat porn, dominatrix.

  2. 11/13/2008 at 2:08 pm

    Well, I admit I'm not acquainted with all of the different types of porn, heh, but if there's consent and people are enjoying themselves, I'm not sure we could call it violent sex. It may violent in a raunchy, crazy, ridiculous way, but I don't think we could rightly call in violent in the same way we call physical abuse or murder violent.

  3. 11/13/2008 at 5:47 pm

    Haha. Nor am I (Really, I'm not…haha). It's ironic that you made this post because I am currently working on a paper about the immorality of pornography from the perspective of a Christian. The thing is, there are some extreme forms of pornography that use consented physical abuse in their videos. Where do you draw the line between what is violent and what isn't? I think sex can be violent even if the individual enjoys it.

  4. 11/13/2008 at 6:07 pm

    i agree with the suggestion that there is a double standard, John, but i think that it's just a tad simplistic to say that it shouldn't be a big deal to watch sex because sex is a positive thing when it's consensual. sure, sex is usually a positive thing, but i think one point, generally, is that many christians consider sex something that should be private and personal, and therefore, watching graphic portayals of it makes it not private or personal. (maybe it's like how amish women put their hair up in their caps and only let it down for their husbands. heh.)anyway, there's more to the issue for christians – the consideration that watching other people have sex encourages lust and lust is a sin. but the double standard isn't right, either. i know some conservative christians who don't watch anything with violence in it. kinda cuts the viewing choices down to some cartoons and Little House on the Prairie, but anyway…

  5. 11/13/2008 at 8:05 pm

    Good question. As a mere description, sure, I suppose we could give the descriptor "violent" to some forms of sex that involve physical abuse. But while I think that a question about demarcating violence and non-violence is an interesting one, I don't think we need bring it up here. The point is that sex–let's just stick with non-violent "normal" sex–and nudity in general are much more taboo in our culture than the forms of violence that we are quite familiar with from watching Hollywood action flicks: non-sexual violence that involve killing or injuring people. But why are so many people so tolerant toward actions that are ugly and brutal (like a man shooting another man in the face) and yet at the same time intolerant toward something so beautiful, like sex. You would think that in light of the nature of what murder is and what sex is, the former would be much more disturbing than the latter. But American has this weird sort of "don't touch that subject" when it comes to sex. Of course, a lot of that comes from the Christian culture, but I'm not sure if all of it does.

  6. 11/13/2008 at 8:25 pm

    Right, I am well aware of where much of our discomfort and outright rejection of sex and nudity come from. Watching sex/nudity can lead to lust and lust is, well, a sort of corruption of the soul or mind I guess. And it's probably true that watching someone on TV kill someone else doesn't lead to any such obvious corruption. So the logic is certainly there for why some people can handle portrayals of violence but can't handle portrayals of sex. But, for me, this just points toward the bizarre ethical system that some people hold. And it probably has to do with this notion that there is such a thing as thought-crimes (such as lust) where our own thoughts are subject to moral scrutiny, which again just seems very bizarre. But even if our thoughts were subject to such scrutiny, I would have a hard time determining why lustful thoughts would count as immoral thoughts. Eh, I'm just talking out loud at this point. (Oh wait, writing out loud? Uhhhhhhh…)

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