by Rachel Mascord, Dentist, Sydney, Australia
Today I became re-acquainted with music videos. I also got newly acquainted with the ‘pornification’ of our society.
As a teenager I loved my Saturday morning television fix of greatest hits, or ‘Rage’, ABC TV’s Sunday morning music staple. Many years have passed since I have watched a music video. This morning’s viewing at the gym proved to be educational… and deeply disturbing.
All the clips portrayed women being sexual to a degree that was blatantly pornographic. One video stood out in particular, and not for the loveliness of its music or the artistic quality of its content. No… it grabbed my attention with the fact that it was focussed on the bare behinds of its three featured dancers.
And I mean focussed.
The video was dominated by close-up shots of these women’s behinds as they danced. They were almost ‘wearing’ strips of Lycra that turned into G-strings, so everything that could be exposed was exposed. When the camera was not intently focussed on their rear ends, the three were simulating ‘girl-on-girl’ action.
Now, I am not easily shocked, and I am not a prude. I love sexy clothes, make-up, and I love to dance… but this!! It was straight-up porn, attention-grabbing with what the director would probably call ‘shock value’. I can’t imagine that they could even try to call it art. Here it was blaring out at the local gym at quarter to six in the morning.
I felt shocked, bewildered and embarrassed. I was embarrassed by imagery that I did not (and would never) choose to look at. I was embarrassed because I understood that I was being shown something that said “you’re a woman; this is your purpose and function”.
I was embarrassed by something else too. These sexual images abound everywhere, from the advertisement of perfume and underwear, to the covers of so-called women’s magazines in the supermarket. I have learned to ignore them and pretend they are not there. I have learned to keep my eyes open, but place a veil across my vision, blocking out the things I do not want to see.
I was embarrassed because I recognised that I had been ignoring the pervasive and spreading harm of ‘normalised’ pornography, staying silent and hoping it would go away.
It hasn’t gone away.
In fact, it has become more extreme.
What do these images say about our society, about women and about men?
What does it say about us that on one hand we have people complaining about paedophilia (as they should), but on the other a laissez faire attitude to the imagery that abounds our streets, supermarkets, child-friendly TV shows and public spaces?
Why have we allowed ourselves to become so silent, and afraid to say ENOUGH?
The following troubling ideas came up over the day as the shock faded into an urge to understand and express my feelings on this:
1. Women and men are being perceived and used as objects
Women are used as objects, even in their own videos. The women in music videos are reduced to ‘hot arses’ or ‘great breasts’. They are not humans, not people… just arses, breasts or whatever it is that has become the current focus in terms of sexualised object.
The body parts have strict compliances about size and shape. Breasts must be large, rounded and heaving. Buttocks have gone from boyishly slim, to ‘bootylicious’ large. The belly must be flat, ‘six-pack’ preferred. It used to be that girls were used in this way for male artists’ music videos. That has changed. The song in the ‘hot arse’ clip (don’t even ask me the name of the song, I have no idea, and was listening to my own music) seemed to be sung by a woman.
What does that say? Have women given up to the point that they are saying, “Yes, men, we are just boobs and arses, and pornographic stunt dolls for your pleasure”? Madonna, imagining that she is amazingly ‘liberated’, uses men in the same way. They are her ‘toys’, and a collection of body parts for her, and our, visual stimulation.
Who are the women and men in these clips? What inspires them? What do they long to express? How do they really feel about the way they are being used?
2. Pornography in music videos and in advertising
OK, it’s not X-rated… not yet anyway. Are we willing to wait for it to get to that point before we wake up and act?
Thirty years ago, Robert Palmer created a stir with a video that featured a wall of almost identically beautiful, blank faced, inexpressive women dancing to his song ‘Simply Irresistible’. Presumably, ‘simply interchangeable’ as well. The women were sexy props, adding the only chutzpah to a dull song. They were passive and knew their place.
Duran Duran produced a soft porn music video back in the eighties that was restricted to late night viewing only. Perhaps a few people complained at the time, but the majority just accepted it. Thirty years later, Duran Duran’s ‘shocking’ clip has become tame, and would unnoticeably blend in to the porno-fest that video clip shows have become.
This reliance on pornographic imagery has spread further afield. According to a number of perfume and expensive clothing advertisements, the latest fashion for women includes being raped by a man, perhaps even a group of men. Apparently we don’t enjoy frolicking across a grassy field, smelling lovely anymore. No, it seems we will only purchase these products when we are shown what a sexy victim we will become by owning them.
Pornography has become normal, so normal that we don’t blink when we and our children are exposed to it.
3. Role models for young women and men
As a young woman, I was influenced by what I saw in music videos and magazines. I was super-smart, with a great mind, and great potential to do well in any career I chose. Yet I was also vulnerable to body image issues, which have taken a great deal of self-loving commitment to heal. These images clearly said what was sexy and what was not. I did not match the narrow image that defined sexy, and that was harmful enough. This is true for very many women.
Young women and men are now contending with a multitude of problems.
The restrictive body image stench remains, although apparently we have ‘progressed’, because large buttocks are now acceptable. Fat people are still portrayed as the butt of jokes. ‘Normal’ people apparently don’t exist. So if you fall in the 95 percentile of body shapes, you won’t appear in an ad or a video clip.
On top of that, we have a massive problem with the fact that young people are learning about their bodies, sex, sexuality and how to express as a woman or a man from the pornographic images in advertisements and music clips.
As a woman, you are to look hot and passively accept your role as an object for men’s gratification. You are allowed to be aggressive, but only sexually, and only if you eventually submit. As for your opinions?… Your feelings?… Unimportant. Your expression in the world is limited to being the ‘sexy object’.
Young men have to be buff, aggressive and unfeeling. They are supposed to sit back and judge each woman according to the sexiness of her anatomical parts. To connect to her an equal human being is anathema.
How are young women and men ever going to learn that there is something called love-making, when all they see is sex? This is not even sex between people, it is an act carried out between faceless body parts.
How are they going to learn about the beauty of their bodies that comes from wholeness and self-connection? How will they learn to recognise and appreciate the beauty in the eyes of someone who is deeply self-connected, self-aware, and lives lovingly?
Apparently we live in a progressive society. Where is the progress? All I can see is that we are living in a ‘soup’ of imagery that is offering young people less and less to connect to, and be inspired by.
The caricatures of women and men that are portrayed in video clips and advertisements are an insult to both genders.
Both are reduced to the lowest expression possible: men become brainless thugs, answerable only to their genitals, and women become live action sex-dolls, faces pulled into the same, ridiculous, open-mouthed blankness and bodies contorted into poses called ‘sexy’.
4. Parenting in the era of socially acceptable porn
How on earth do parents cope with this?
Do they have to restrict their children’s access to music video shows? Do they watch these shows with their children, and explain the problems with what is being portrayed? Life is challenging enough, child-proofing satellite TV and Internet access, especially when techno-wiz children run technological rings around their bewildered parents.
Or have parents simply given up? Have they fallen into the trap that I fell into, of becoming willfully blind to that which is glaringly and painfully evident?
5. Free speech versus controlling prude
I love this argument. Apparently, what I am calling for is censorship, and apparently this is the greatest evil on earth. It allegedly makes me prudish and controlling.
On the other hand, there is the great virtue of free speech. This seems to equate to the fact that anyone can say and do whatever they like, hang the consequences, because people are free to look or not.
Hold on… not so free. I had no choice whether I looked or not on Wednesday morning. I guess I could have gone to the weights room, picked up a 5kg dumbbell and lobbed it through the TV screen. Tempting, but it might have had an adverse effect on my gym membership.
I have worked hard at ignoring the billboards on buses and at the sides of roads, but the fact is the images are there, affecting all of us anyway.
At the supermarket, I have magazine covers with half-dressed women in my face. Body comparisons are emblazoned all over them. Who is sexy? Who is not?
How about who is amazingly self-aware?
Or who is living their true expression, inspiring others to do the same??!!!!
The free speech advocates seem to feel that these images have no effect on anything or anyone. Hold on, if that is so, then why go for the porn and the sex? If that argument holds true, then why don’t they portray something else? Clearly they don’t because ‘sex sells’. In other words it does have an effect, and it does have a grip on people.
Free speech advocates want the argument to cut both ways: no, it has no effect, hence I am not responsible for anything; and yes, it does have an effect because people ‘want’ it, and look at the great effect on the bottom-line. Pun intended.
Freedom to say NO does not apply to those who do not want to be bombarded with pornographic images. Apparently the only opinion we are ‘free’ to express is an opinion that agrees with the permissive, given-up zeitgeist.
6. Confused agendas
The creation and possession of child pornography is a criminal act. Great, so it should be. Showing pornography to children is a criminal act. Good, agreed. Letting your kids get up on a weekend morning to watch Rage or other music clip shows is not.
People kick up a big stink when a newly released, once-convicted paedophile moves into their street. They don’t complain with equal vigour and commitment when every tween’s favourite, Miley Cyrus, produces a music video that belongs on the shelf of a seedy ‘adult shop’.
Why the contradictory focus?
Why so much energy placed in some areas, but the big, pink elephant that has us squashed against the walls is blatantly ignored?
There are more and more people writing about the issues I have discussed here. Karla Willows in the UK has made the valid point that these pornographic images are pervasive and harming to children. She asks the question “How do we explain them to children?”.
Just ponder that for a moment. What would you say to a four or five year old child to explain a music video, such as the one I described at the beginning of this piece? The innocence of a child highlights the demeaning qualities of these images. These images are now too freely available and too easy for children to access. What harm is being done to them in the process?
But I would also go further, and say that these images are harming to everyone. How then are we explaining, excusing or rationalising them to ourselves?
The only reason that we do not feel the harm is that we choose to block it out and ignore it. We hide our hurts under the armour of sophisticated ‘open-mindedness’, aggressive sexuality, or adopting the unfeeling male and female caricatures championed in pornography.
To those who would say that young people are not being affected, I would say open your eyes, rub the sleep out of them and LOOK. Young women do not know how to dress in a way that is self-honouring or self-respectful. Skirts are short to the point of obscenity. In winter, they wear barely enough to protect themselves from mild days, forget about the truly cold ones.
Many young women and men are dull-eyed. Some of them have given up, barely speak and are perpetually physically hunched over. These are teenagers, at a time when vitality should be high, and life naturally glorious! According to some people, this state of apathy is just a ‘stage’ and ‘normal’. Apparently it is not normal to look radiant, with clear eyes and an open face. It is also not normal to dress with respect for self and the weather.
Some young men hang out in packs, looking girls up and down like objects, in a way that they have learned from their favourite male music artists. This is intimidating and demoralising, whether the looks are appreciative or dismissive.
Another symptom of our hyper-sexualised culture is that young people are ‘sexting’ each other. For those who are unaware, a ‘sext’ is a sexually explicit message or photograph primarily sent between mobile phones. It can include a photograph of oneself, either naked, or with breasts or genitalia exposed.
The willingness to take and share such images shows a deep-seated lack of self-respect, let alone self-care and self-love. These images, once sent, are completely out of the person’s control. They often end up posted online for all to see, become another source for bullying, and have resulted in young people committing suicide. Reputations and lives are ruined, but how do you say “No” to the pressure to comply, when all around tells you that your value is purely determined by certain parts of your body?
I would also say to people ‘wake up’ and pay attention to the fact that children are also using smart phone technology to download and share pornography at school – primary school.
To those of you who feel these points are irrelevant, and reflect a backward view, I would say, if we allow things to continue along this path, the day will come when a ‘progressive’ video maker will produce a truly X-rated clip. They will dress it up as ‘pushing the artistic boundaries’ and intellectuals, sitting in their ivory tower institutions, will engage in empty debates about the societal impact and the artistic merits of such a step.
Meanwhile, there is a lived reality that includes younger and younger children engaging in rough, painful and degrading sex acts.
Given all of this, is it not time to re-establish a way of being that is founded on the qualities of self-honouring, self-respect, dignity, grace and self-love?
What would our world look like if those were the principles upon which life was truly lived?
These reflections were inspired by all that I have learned as a student of Universal Medicine, Serge Benhayon, and predominantly as a student of myself. Universal Medicine shared the tools to help me remove the veils from my eyes. I made the choice to do so, so that I could see clearly again.
I can truly say “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now my heart can see”.
It is time we all learnt to open our eyes, to see the ugly truth of the pornography-infused life we have created, and say ENOUGH!