Sex and Violence permeate and shape U.S. entertainment, marketing and popular culture, which in turn is exported globally via films, TV, video games, music, the internet etc. Yet this fact is rarely, seriously investigated (“It’s just the Market”), which is curious in a country that sees itself as more righteous and religious (specifically Christian) than most. When the issue is raised, usually concerning a specific film/show/game etc., it is invariably confined to repetitive and circular Censorship Vs Freedom of Expression arguments. Those advocating the former tend to be on the Religious Right with the latter championed by the entertainment industry and big corporate $. The latter usually wins, but the former remains influential. The argument is simplistic either- or which limits deeper discussion.
Why do we need a more profound investigation of this matter? Just a few reasons:
- Studies show we, individually and collectively, are obsessed and guiltily conflicted by sex and violence. This leads to all kinds of erratic and often destructive behaviour. A recent example: the Right’s Guru, Rush Limbaugh, publicly condemned a female university student as a “slut” and “prostitute” because she went before Congress to testify in favour of contraception medication. …not only for contraception itself, but of a variety of female problems which such medication could alleviate. What gives Limbaugh and the Religious Right the moral right to judge, especially since many have been caught out in extra-marital (including homosexual) affairs, prostitution etc.? These people invariably ask God’s forgiveness and then get back in the saddle. How do they know that God has not forgiven those that they themselves condemn…or indeed that God would not have condemned them in the first place? Claiming to speak for God (whatever the religion) is absurd and extremely arrogant.
- Corporations, given a free rein within the present Free Market environment, are major promoters of sex and violence…indirectly in marketing and entertainment and directly in making and distributing pornography, even in everyday, accessible places like hotel or motel rooms. Republican Presidential candidate Romney was on the Board of Marriott hotels, which was making a ton of money from in-room porn.
- Studies have shown that what we see affects our behaviour and if there is interaction, as in video games, that effect is strengthened. This applies to children and adults alike. Studies suggest that young boys get much of their ideas on how to treat women from internet porn.
- It is important to distinguish sex and violence, with the latter being probably far more dangerous, especially in a place like America, where guns are so easily accessible.
- In the wider world, we have increasing sexual slavery, child pornography and rape (including the Catholic Church hierarchy); rape as a weapon of oppression as in Africa; in many cultures (now being imported into Western countries through immigration), the control and bargaining of female sexuality, including “honour killings” of women by immediate (male) family members, often with the agreement of the family matriarch.
As with other issues, we need to go beyond the circular confines of either-or to both-and..which means recognizing that our behaviour originates from different levels of our being We can call these “levels of consciousness”. Chinese and Indian traditions also recognize these different levels . The Indian term “chakras” is becoming familiar to a growing number of yoga practitioners although its full meaning may not yet be understood.
Sex and violence belong to our earlier (“lower”) levels of consciousness and are associated with physical survival and procreation. Later (“higher”) evolutionary faculties include relationship, communication, intellect and spiritual intuition. All of these evolutionary faculties or levels of consciousness are part and parcel of a healthy, modern human being. Perhaps because society still sees sexuality as somewhat “low” and shameful, it has been repressed and this repression has in turn led to a reaction, whereby many in the popular culture now define their whole selves as sexual…thereby neglecting their other faculties and levels of consciousness. This confusion is monumentally wasteful and painful.
Any comments to this blog most welcome. My spring Meditation retreat is coming up soon. Our April 13-15 retreat is already full so we are putting on an additional weekend – April 27-29. See http://www.harmonydawnontarioretreat.com/HarmonyDawnWorkshops.html