One of the more frustrating aspects of American culture is our schizophrenic relationship with sexuality and violence in media. As George RR Martin states, Americans have no problem with violence, but sex is a huge issue. For a long time I have grappled with understanding sex and violence in American media.
Our highest grossing films tend to be violent. Our TV shows revel in violence. Showtime’s Dexter, CBS’ Criminal Minds, Fox’s The Following and AMC’s The Walking Dead, are gore fests that not so many years ago would have scored an NC-17 if released in the theaters. Other highly successful TV franchises are the variousCSI and Law & Order series, all focusing on gruesome crimes and the worst acts humans can perpetrate upon each other. A special nod to Law & Order: SVU (Special Victims Unit) which luridly combines sex & violence in a prurient blend that garners even high ratings.
Even our nightly news ghoulishly obsesses on the latest horrific violent acts. Nancy Grace is one of the biggest bloodsucking media ghouls around. She feigns empathy for the victims while endlessly drooling over every gruesome detail of their tragedies. She is not alone nor the first to use real life tragedy for prurient entertainment, true crime novels are proof of that. It’s a pretty sure bet most Americans know the name Charles Manson. How about the name Jesse Shaffer?
Watching the news leads to depression and a seriously distorted view of American life. An outsider would think we spend our days dodging bullets and running from cops. As a nation, it sometimes seems to me that we are America the Bloodthirsty.
Just last week the insanity of this matter was never more clear – Facebook announced that a video showing a woman being decapitated is acceptable content for posting on Facebook, but aDRAWING of a woman’s naked breasts is still cause for banning!
OK, WHAT THE FUCK?!
So Facebook is cool with users posting, viewing, liking and commenting on a video of a REAL LIVE HUMAN WOMAN BEING BRUTALLY SLAIN but FINE ART IS UNACCEPTABLE CONTENT??? What kind of psychotic society are we that is fine with people putting knives into each other but not sex organs? When the hell did people making love become more disgusting than people killing each other? If ever there was evidence that as a society have lost our sanity, this surely must be it. It doesn’t matter that they have changed their mind and “tightened” their rules once more. The message is loud and clear.
“Censorship that comes from the outside assumes about people an inability to make reasoned choices.” –George Carlin
To be sure, we Americans talk a good game about freedom of expression but when it comes to speech we dislike, our society wants to censor or silence it. This is in direct opposition to the intent of the very first amendment in the American Bill of Rights.
Special interest groups are constantly lobbying to censor media they find offensive. Violent video games tend to become the cause célèbre whenever there is a mass shooting, but attempts to limit or control sales of violent games are vehemently protected, even by the United States Supreme Court. the US Supreme Court ruled that the ban on selling violent video games to minors is unconstitutional. The ruling advocates the rights of minors to decide for themselves. By the way – while I agree with Justice Antonin Scalia’s perspective, I find one sentence particularly troubling. Justice Scalia wrote, “This country has no tradition of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence.” So basically, kids can decide for themselves when it comes to violent content but not sexual content. DING DING DING – there we have it folks!
“It’s a uniquely American prudishness. You can write the most detailed, vivid description of an ax entering a skull, and nobody will say a word in protest. But if you write a similarly detailed description of a penis entering a vagina, you get letters from people saying they’ll never read you again. What the hell? Penises entering vaginas bring a lot more joy into the world than axes entering skulls.” –George R. R. Martin
If the freedom to sell violent video games is protected due to a longstanding tradition of being “ok with it” then it suddenly makes sense that sex is NOT similarly protected. We were founded by the fucking PURITANS, people who believed that the ONLY acceptable sex was that for procreation!
“Will somebody please think of the children!.” – Margaret Lovejoy, The Simpsons
The fundamental excuse for censoring sex & violence has always been a fear that exposure to these things will promote/provoke similar behaviors in children. Sounds great taken on face value. But it is a fallacy.
We put on a great handwringing show about ‘protecting’ our kids and our culture but in the end violence is easily accessible. Look at one of the highest grossing video game series of all time (#5) – Grand Theft Auto. A game centered on violent acts and played by millions of kids. Hell, look at the #4 all-time highest grossing franchise, Pokemon. That game is violent as well – making critters fight until unconsciousness. But I digress.
The argument that restricting access protects our kids is bullshit and a smokescreen for censorship in general. When did children become the benchmark for acceptable media? We are ADULTS living in a land where hundreds of thousands of lives have been laid down for the right to free expression. We ADULTS have the right and responsibility to make our own choices. That includes choices others may not like. When did the rights of children supersede that of adults?
I believe censorship represents a lapse of personal responsibility to actually put EFFORT into being a parent. I do not want explicit violence or graphic sexuality to be available to a 6 year old. I simply do not think it is appropriate. But if a 60 year old wants to view it that is their right. It is MY responsibility to guide my own child.
It seems that these days parents can’t be bothered to be parents anymore – they prefer that the government to do the parenting for them. This means censorship. They want to let the FCC determine what is available on TV at 8pm then they don’t have to pay attention to what Timmy is watching. It is easier to ban offensive content for everyone than to actually BE A PARENT.
“We fear violence less than our own feelings. Personal, private, solitary pain is more terrifying than what anyone else can inflict.” ―Jim Morrison
I think we have become desensitized to violence. It is so ingrained into our culture only the most extreme brutality will get a rise out of us. Movies like GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra has a scene where (SPOILER ALERT) the entire city of London is destroyed and not one person even looks upset let alone shows horror. In the movieJon Carter, we are presented with graphic decapitations but when it comes to romance all we get is a lame-ass kiss! A Princess of Mars was as much about Jon Carter’s love for Dejah Thoris as it was a rollicking adventure. But modern day sensibilities says yeah to violence and nay to kissy stuff!
It’s fucked up. Every Sunday I can watch The Walking Dead and see NC-17 level gore with insane viewer ratings, but one nipple seen by accident during the Super Bowl for less than two seconds causes a major national uproar.
“The control of information is something the elite always does, particularly in a despotic form of government. Information, knowledge, is power. If you can control information, you can control people.” – Tom Clancy
In the end, we have no one to blame but ourselves. The politicians who create censorship laws work do so to curry favor from special interest groups. The 1st Amendment prevents government from censoring free speech. Businesses are free to deprive of these rights every day. Take a look in any major corporation’s employee handbook and you will see clear cut protocols limiting the right to free expression ‘on the job’. We accept it because it “comes with the job.”
About a year ago PayPal tried to block users from using their e-payment service to purchase LEGAL items that the company found offensive. They backed off in the face of fierce criticism and outcry. Yet this month, Amazon is censoring self-published erotica.
Even colleges are no longer safe havens for free expression. In September this year, a college student was blocked from handing out copies of the United States Constitution on campus. There was a time when universities were the places that championed the freedom of ideas, information and debate.
“A time will come when the whole world will go mad, And to anyone who is not mad, they will say, “You are mad, for you are not like us.” –St. Anthony the Great
I do not understand the dishonest attitude about sex in this country. Sexual intercourse is one of the very best activities humans can enjoy. Violence is one of the worst. Both are equally vilified as being bad things from a moral perspective. Yet we make one easily available to obtain and the other nearly impossible.
Look at the so-called Young Adult (YA) books. They can be as violent as it gets but when it comes to sex the authors get all gun-shy and oblique. What else can I conclude from this? Violence is appropriate reading for young ADULTS but not sex. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
The United States of America made it clear that the freedom of expression it of utmost importance. It comes with a burden however, the responsibility to make decisions for ourselves. That requires effort and diligence, characteristics that seem to be in short supply these days.
As an author of books that contain both sexual and violent content, I confess my bias on this issue. However since I write what I enjoy, I am a consumer of books, movies, videos, poems, plays, operas that contain both sex and violence. As a parent, I dictate what my child has access to and under what circumstances. When he is an adult, he will have the right to decide for himself, as well he should.
What pisses me off is when my CHOICE is taken away because OTHER people find it offensive. The founding documents of the United States of America make it clear that the freedom of expression is of utmost importance. This right comes with a burden however, the responsibility to make decisions for ourselves. That requires effort and diligence, characteristics that seem to be in short supply these days.
Lazy brains expect the government to be SuperMom and take all the work out of parenting and decision making. I have met more people who vote based on commercials than actually being bothered to read up on the candidates’ positions and watch the debates. Marginally better than how my mom votes – she finds the Democratic line and automatically votes for every Democratic candidate. This is how we wind up with an out of control government, a trillion plus dollars in debt, perpetual war, domestic spying, a constant state of fear and Big Government determining more and more of our lives.
“You can’t talk about fucking in America, people will say you’re dirty. But if you talk about killing somebody, that’s cool.” ―Richard Pryor
Perhaps it is human nature to tell others what to do or think. Our country’s founders certainly thought so. They took great pains to protect us from such despotic rule by ensuring we have the right to decide for ourselves, literally spelled it out in easy to understand, direct, clear language. In his novel, 1984, George Orwell predicted a future where these rights were brutally stripped from us. Seems he was wrong, instead of our rights being stolen, we are giving them away through our collective inaction.
There are voices, shouting against the wind, appealing for sanity to prevail. Perhaps they will be heard, as they were at PayPal. But the song can never end, for when our voices fade, so will our rights.