Sadistic Pleasure – A Click Away

With the advent of internet, pornography has become mainstream. “Mainstreaming” is the term which best designates the present day position of pornography in our society. There is the vastly increased imprint of pornography in popular culture. This is accelerated by both the fact that pornography has become available in greater quantities and the fact that it is easily available. Parallel to the greater supply and availability, “there is a clean-up tendency, through which regular pornography becomes respectable.” This clean-up is done by fashion industry, advertising industry, movies, SMS texting jargon, music videos and the mass media, and now-a-days sports. Take for example the Indian Premier League (IPL). The introduction of cheerleading into the IPL with gyrating “white” women with skin tight and skimpy clothes to entice crowds feeds deeper, insidious notions about sexuality. The 22–year old cheerleader from South Africa who was thrown out of IPL recently for revealing in her blog some of the activities in the IPL night parties, described how the dance routines and the normal workouts of cheerleaders were rejigged to make it more of show of their body than about the original concept of cheerleading. No wonder she stated in one of her blogs, “We are practically like walking porn.”

The real agenda of mainstreaming pornography seems to be to challenge the cultural norms and shift boundaries. It is argued both explicitly and implicitly that it ought to be acceptable to say and show things which some people regard as going beyond the limits of decency, and it is implied that the reader’s or viewer’s acceptance of pornography and its presence in popular culture is merely a question of “broadmindedness”. In other words, if one has reservations or objections on the matter, he/she is simply not “broadminded” or “liberated” enough. So the real purpose is to legitimise and normalise pornography.

Recently a friend of mine told me that a pastor in India suggested that married couples could watch pornography. On the other hand, religious conservatives condemn watching pornography, but some of them watch it behind the closed doors.

The mainstreaming of pornography gives rise to a set of problems. The gender-role stereotype presented by pornography seeps into the popular culture: women exhibit themselves, allure with voluptuous movements and then provide sexual servicing; and the men fall for it and are virile. This portrayal is increasingly present in the advertisements and fashion. This one-dimensional, limited representation of gender is pervading the popular culture and thus becoming the sole valid view of femininity and masculinity. The diversity of gender representation has been marginalised. When the range of gender images available in popular culture presents one-dimensional view of what femininity and masculinity can mean, the possibilities for identification at the disposal of young women and men are drastically limited.

Also, there is a link between pornographic images consumed and the cognitive make up of the viewer. Pornography, being heavily centered on imagery, tends to ingrain in the viewer a hypersexualised augmented reality. The constant exposure to pornography can escalate into dependency for ideas of sexual behaviour of both women and men. Moreover, pornography promotes a brand of sex devoid of genuine relationship, respect and intimacy which must permeate real life. This is evident in the numerous cases of internet and mobile cell-camera sex scandals (MMS clips) across India. Thus, people’s life practices take shape from images produced by popular culture seeped with pornography. They contribute to forming the reality.

Pornography, at its core, is sexualising of male domination and female subordination. Women are portrayed as not fully human beings but objects for the sexual pleasure of men. So they become the targets of cruelty and degradation for the sadistic pleasure of men. The predatory industry of pornography that encourages exploitation for profit undermines other values such as respect, dignity and equality. It numbs the critical faculties of men from recognising the cruelty and degradation towards women, and that women are human beings with flesh and blood like them. What men fail to realise is that a significant majority of women end up in the pornography industry under various circumstances – human trafficking, economic hardship, cheating etc.

Images that present women as sexual objects to be used for the pleasure of men undermine the ability of men to be fully human. The industry works from the assumption that the men who consume the vast majority of pornography are not really human beings with heart, mind and soul. Because men consume pornography specifically to avoid love and affection. In a patriarchal society in which men are conditioned to see themselves as dominant over women, cruelty and degradation of women fit easily into their notion about sex and gender. They are men in patriarchal culture focused on their own pleasure. To see women as persons deserving respect and dignity – to see her fully human – would change the status quo!

However, men and women should be concerned. They should reject pornography for three reasons. Firstly, it is a justice issue. Those men and women who view pornography are contributing to the subordination and exploitation of women. Secondly, men are robbing themselves of the possibility of being fully human. Do you want to trade your humanity for a quick, cheap thrill that end up costing you your humanity? How can a society that claims to be civilized accept material that continues to reject full humanity of women? Thirdly, and most importantly, it is against God’s creation of women in God’s own image (Genesis 1.26). Women are created with dignity, value and worth, and as equal with men.

If we are serious about realising the ideal of equality of women and men and wish to create equal opportunities for women and men, it is imperative that alternative popular cultural images and narratives about gender are created for girls and boys, and young women and men. If there are no images and stories of women who contribute for the development of society like female educators, community developers, medical professionals, engineers and activists, or of vulnerable, caring and loving fathers, how can the new generation ever realise that these possibilities exist? And how are they to learn that gender need not limit options? Probably an alternate media and/or community based media should promote the diversity of gender representation in order to counter the one-dimensional, limited representation of gender promoted by the popular media.

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