WOMEN: Enough is Enough! Why Sexual Violence in the Media?
This article originally appeared in Issue# 33
"Fun is fun, but enough is enough and I've had enough!" This familiar piece of mother-wisdom was the final waning to my brothers and me that our fun, frolic and horseplay had escalated beyond the limits of parental toleration.
The growing chorus of concerned citizens – feminists, parents, churches and synagogues, congresspersons, media people– about the escalation of sexual violence in the media seems to flow from that same kind of mother-wisdom.
But does it? "Fun is fun," you know. "Boys will be boys." From locker room humor, to stag parties to sexual and verbal harassment, we have a bemused toleration that relating to women primarily through their sexuality is just good clean fun and frolic. Only prudes and spoilsports object. Making someone the object of a racial, ethnic or sexual joke is a not so subtle way of putting that person in his/her place, of trivializing his/her value. In reality, such humor is a method of control and domination, and has been psychologically violent to women for ages.
Are the images and lyrics of women chained, beaten and raped a media expression of a deep cultural need to dominate women, to keep them in their place?
Like mirrors in a fun house, the media is simply taking the sexual fun and frolic of our daily lives and projecting it back to us in images larger than life. We are appalled at what we see. The "fun" is no longer fun and we have had enough. But have the small (and not so small) daily psychologically sexual violences projected upon women ever been fun? If so, fun for whom? And why?
We might appropriately ask, "why has this sexual violence in the media escalated at this time?" Why this escalation at the same moment in history when women are finally asserting their equal dignity and equality as persons in all arenas of life? Is there a connection?
We now know that rape is not an act of passion; it is an act of aggression in order to show domination. Are the images and lyrics of women chained, beaten and raped a media expression of a deep cultural need to dominate women, to keep them in their place? Are these images simply the overt expression of the psychological violence against women that we have tolerated for so long?
If so, the problem we face is much deeper than censorship, artistic integrity or our freedom of speech as guaranteed in the Constitution. It is the problem of facing the profound misogyny within our culture, within ourselves and even within religious traditions. We need to realize the ''fun" has never just been fun and begin the arduous task of personal conversion, cultural conversion and institutional conversion. When our cultural values change, so will our media.