Sex and Violence

Sex and violence are often linked together as “adult” realities. Responsible adults don’t let children see such things.

As a pro-life kinda guy, I find it troubling that society conventionally links these two things together. Violence results in suffering and death. Sex results in pleasure and new life.

Violence is an evil (even if sometimes, arguably, it is a necessary evil); sex is a good (even if sometimes it leads to mistakes and regrets).

Yes, I understand why we shield children from things sexual. Children are relatively innocent, and that state of innocence passes all too quickly. We don’t want to rush children headlong toward a knowledge of adult matters.

As a wise woman once instructed me, we should enjoy each experience in life for what it is. We shouldn’t be always longing for and rushing on toward some other experience, around the next corner or over the next hill. Be. Here. Now.

Nonetheless, I insist that sex and violence are not morally equivalent realities. I think society should be more concerned than we are about not exposing children to violence and less concerned than we are about not exposing children to sex.

OK, let me clarify that:  I agree that graphic sex should be out of sight of children. But society could stand to ease up a little about nudity and sexually suggestive situations.

Children are exposed to enormous levels of violence on TV and in the movies. But my God, just let Janet Jackson’s nipple be exposed on TV for a fraction of a section and people react as if America’s children will be scarred for life. The horror! The horror!

You might be wondering what has started me down the path of this rant. Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction”, and the ludicrous overreaction to it, is old news. So here’s my story.

I was scrolling through the channels on my TV a few days ago, and I saw that one of the channels was broadcasting The Godfather. I watched it for a while:  I think it’s one of the best movies ever made, notwithstanding the scenes of graphic violence.

I was stunned to see that the broadcast skipped over the one scene of brief nudity in the movie. Viewers were exposed to all of the violence, but Apollonia’s bare breasts were deemed offensive!

a corrupt police officer comes to a messy endWhich scene may be hazardous to children?

For example:  The photo on the left shows a corrupt police officer just after he has been shot in the head and the throat. That scene was shown, uncut and unpixellated, on TV. But just a little later, when Apollonia takes a step back from Michael Corleone to remove her slip — that scene was cut out of this broadcast.

Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that the censored scene takes place on the couple’s wedding night. The courtship was entirely chaste — Apollonia and Michael have never been left alone together — in accordance with Sicilian mores. So the scene hints at sex in the approved Christian context:  chastity ’til marriage and a loss of virginity (at least for Apollonia) on the wedding night.

Moreover, the photo tells the whole story. That’s as graphic as the scene ever gets.

But my God, we can’t show that on TV! What if children are watching (even if it is approximately 11:00 p.m.)?

I know, there’s lots of nudity on TV these days — this example is a weird exception to the general trend. But it’s the second time I’ve seen this censored version of The Godfather on TV. Presumably the studio makes the version available to squeamish TV executives.

It illustrates my point. Society is more invested in protecting children and young teens from nudity than it is in protecting them from violence.

And that’s a symptom of how mixed up we are, as a society. IMHO.

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ilona
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 02:33:42

    Agreed. What a good example of the point, too. I find our acceptance of violence far, far more shocking than the possibility that a child might catch an accidental peek at an innocuous body part.

    We let pre-teen children watch graphic violence, even *buy* violent games for them, rife with blood, guts and flying body parts, and that’s not shocking? Nope. Death and dismemberment, total lack of respect for human life is fiiiine. No, we save the shock for thought that a pre-teen might see a breast, or that our teenagers might (heaven forbid!) even be having sex!



  2. aaron
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 12:57:20

    I couldn’t agree with you more.


  3. Zayna
    Nov 23, 2008 @ 14:22:31

    Well said and I totally agree.

    We wonder why girls and young women have such skewed views of their own bodies and at the same time youth violence is at an all time high.

    How is a shot of a “normal” pair of bare breasts for thirty seconds more offensive (to our children’s sensibilities) than a man being beat to death for two and half minutes, complete with teeth flying out of his mashed bloody face?

    It most definitely is a symptom of how mixed up our society is, sadly it’s just one of the many that the majority tends to ignore.


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  5. JewishAtheist
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 13:56:27

    I’m not sure people need to be “protected” from IMAGES of sex OR violence. I mean, yeah, if your kid’s going to have nightmares, don’t let him watch the godfather, but I think for teens and adults, violence and sex in movies and t.v. is no big deal. People just need to stop being such prudes.


  6. Stephen
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 14:35:06

    I’m in the camp that worries about kids/teens getting jaded about violence. Violence is a big, nasty deal. It ought to be shocking — not titillating.

    I don’t have a problem with the concept of protecting children, and protecting society, by reducing children’s exposure to violent images. (I interpret your use of quotation marks — “protected” — as a signal that you find the concept paternalistic or something.)

    Responsible parents make sure that their children get enough sleep, and don’t live on a nutritionally-deficient diet of potato chips and pasta. Why is it outside the bounds to make decisions on behalf of children on matters which will shape their minds and emotions?


  7. JewishAtheist
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 14:59:59

    I think people (more males than females, of course) have a natural inclination towards violence. Personally, I find it really fun to immerse myself in fantasy violence, whether it’s t.v. or in videogames or in books (when I was younger) wrestling with friends. It’s not like I’m all about going around shooting people or hitting them because of it.

    If you’ve got a kid that has trouble telling fantasy from reality, maybe it’s a good idea to shelter him. Otherwise, I really don’t see the problem. Hell, even Shakespeare, Homer, and the Bible are full of violence.


  8. Rev Dave
    Nov 24, 2008 @ 17:21:03

    I’m line up with the others who are in agreement. You might be interested in This Film is not Yet Rated, a documentary on the arbitrariness of sex and violence rating guidelines that came out a couple years ago. That was only dealing in film, not TV, but I think a lot of the issues you raise were there as well.


  9. MaryP
    Nov 26, 2008 @ 19:10:15

    JA – “People have a natural inclination toward violence.” No arguing that point. Are you saying you see this as a good thing?

    Furthermore, you are making sex and violence moral equivalents. They are not. Sex is at base a good, loving, creative thing (which people can corrupt, as they can corrupt anything). Violence, though occasionally necessary — because of human corruption — is at base destructive. They are both parts of the human psyche, but they are not equally worthy parts.


  10. Bill
    Nov 27, 2008 @ 11:29:18

    JA and Mary P both seem to be assuming that Violence (acts of aggression) are innate in humans but psychologist don’t agree. Hey I did learn something from my deviant psychology class, even though we spent most of it watching the Sopranos (Obsessed professor) .There are two models of the relationship between war and games. the “drive discharge model” and the “culture pattern model.” The first states, aggressive tension causes warfare, and aggression in games reduce the tendency to war in human society by providing an outlet for aggressive tension. The culture pattern model states that the aggressive behaviour is acquired from culture, aggression levels are consistent across culture, and games are an expression of an accepted level of aggression in society.

    The problem in movies and games is not violence or aggression it is Horror. Horror is defined as the intent to cause fear, but fear is only useful if it activates the fight or flight urge in humans. If we observe enough Horrorific behaviour we become numbed to it and thus fear becomes useless, and especially at the earliest stages of development because this is were we learn the most basic lessons like if it scares you run away.

    Sex is by no means on the same level as violence unless it involves the portrayal of sexual violence which is common in the media. I agree with the censorship of violence in prime time, but I also support the censorship of sex in prime time because I tend to disagree with the modern definition of acceptable sexual behaviour. Sex should be in my mind associated with a relationship and not a simple entertaining pass time. Sex becomes deviant when it is only for personal gratification. Personal gratification is important but as sex is a two party activity the experience of the partner is important. Although many will deny it a large percentage of people associate a sexual encounter with a degree of commitment, maybe not a life long commitment, but a commitment of time, and positive emotion to the partner in the act. Although the media portrays otherwise, casual sexual encounters with no expectations are rare. I only know one person that has a different sex partner every night. Most sexual behaviour is at least carried on over a series of dates. Even in this age the term slut and sleaze are commonly used as insults. I would rather control the age at which my child sees certain sexual behavior, when He/She are cognizant enough to understand the difference between good and bad sexual behavior. That said I have no problem with nudity in prime time. This may sound odd but the best way to discribe it is the difference between the Janet Jackson’s halftime SHOW and the sexual devience in a Clockwork Orange. If some one walks across the screen buck naked I am not concerned even if a couple have sex on screen I am only partially concerned but if as in Kubrik’s Clockwork Orange, some one is raped and killed with an oversized ceramic penis, this is best left for late night TV.

    Sorry to be so long winded but I did not want anyone to think that while I support both types of censorship (only in prime time – for the sake of Children) I do so for the same reason. From a morally equivalence position, no they are not the same, sex is good and violence is bad. That said the issue is not one that is as bipolar as we might think.


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