<The Gender ADs Project>

 

Sexual Violence

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<Background: John Stoltenberg (1997b) develops an important critique of male heterosexuality by focusing on the need for males to take an active role in creating non-violent relationships. He discusses the need of consent, mutuality and respect in sexual and personal relationships. He suggests that men can work to not have their sexuality manipulated by the pornography industry, drugs or alcohol and that men “start choosing now not to fixate on fucking” (1997b:227). This last quote situates the discussion of ads that emphasize sexual violence against women in the terrain of the personal. An ultimate goal of a free gender society is to alter the media landscape and eliminate such ads from it, but a more immediate goal allows men to specifically alter their psychological and physical approaches to women, or men, in heterosexual and homosexual relationships. One of the ultimate questions that must be asked when studying gender and popular imagery is that of causality—what is the impact of images on people’s lives and their relationships? Of course, it is too simplistic to assume a “Judas Priest Factor”—that exposure to a particular form of popular culture will result in a specific behavioral reaction in individuals—but there is remarkable evidence that the ads present in our society do impact our psychological understandings of gender and sexuality. As Lindsey suggests in highlighting previous research on this subject (Rudman and Verdi 1993; Lanis and Covell 1995), “males exposed to ads where females are portrayed as sex objects are more accepting of rape-supportive attitudes and predictive of subjective levels of exploitation” (1997:315). Clearly, the construction of masculinity involves a dual defamation of women as sex objects and a maintenance of male sexual superiority (cf. Hood 1995).  The Ads: Consider the disturbing S&M image in 10. This is not an image from a smut magazine, it's a mainstream fashion image! Have a look at images 16, 17, 18, 19, 20. What are the implications for a democratic society when we are telling our citizens that its alright to sexually touch and assault women (does the current Arnold Schwarzenegger controversy seem relevant here?) Images 33, 36 and 37 are very troubling: what type of society can we aspire to create when we are not valuing the right of a woman, or anyone, to SAY NO!? Then there is the issue of ad 64, which for me is one of the most disgusting images of popular culture I have seen. In some cases, advertisers use allusions to "not being able to say NO" in ads (such as in #s76 and 77). Questions: (1) Consider the following hypothetical situation: you are debating an individual who says that images such as the ones on this page should not be censored because they are representative of free speech. How do you respond? (2) Consider the following hypothetical situation: you are debating an individual who says that images such as the ones on this page are simply reflections of the fact that  sensational and shocking images sell products better than less shocking images. How do you respond? (3) How are the images of sexual violence in advertising similar to images of sexual violence in pornographic movies and magazines? How are they different? (4) Do an Internet search for Andrea Dworkin's work Pornography: Men Possessing Women. How does Dworkin's work inform the analysis of images on this page?   >

 

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<presented by Scott A. Lukas, Ph.D.>