Living in a Sex Negative Culture

Before an American child turns eighteen, they see over two hundred thousand acts of violence and forty-thousand murders on TV but not one female nipple. So what is more obscene? (Camero, 2014).

You just need to take one glance at the cover of a magazine to know that everyone’s talking about sex and sexuality (thanks Miley Cyrus). It’s a natural part of life and it makes sense to openly discuss something that everyone will experience in their life, right? Despite this current craze about sex and sexuality, there’s still a hushed tone around discussing these things. On the other end of the spectrum, is violence. An act which is comletely unnatural, to want to hurt another person, and cause others pain and suffering. However, you don’t have to wait up past 9pm anymore to see one of CSI’s mangled corpses on your screen. These days you can turn on the 6 o’clock news and you’ll see violent acts such as the murder of two news journalists on live television, or children being killed and wounded in a school massacre. These are all important news stories, however is does raise the question of why is censoring sex more important than censoring violence?

South Africa's Cosmopolitan January 2015 issue. Source
South Africa’s Cosmopolitan January 2015 issue. Source

The answer is children and moral panic. Dr Klein explains that we live in a ‘sex negative culture’ where we tell children that sex is bad for no other reason that ‘because it just is’ (Klein, 2015). This dystopian view (Bowles & Turnbull, 2015) focuses on the harmful effects that exposure to sex and sexuality on TV can have on children. Children have always been viewed of ‘at risk,’ and therefore worth protecting of the horrific nature of a naked body, because it would destroy their childhood (Bowles & Turnbull, 2015). The University of Michigan provides an information guide for parents on children and TV watching saying ‘TV can promote risky behavior, such as trying dangerous stunts, substance use and abuse, and irresponsible sexual behavior’ (Boyse, 2010). This dystopic perspective that television is an evil thing in our loungerooms corrupting our children is contributing to this moral panic and the sense that we need to protect out children from potentially corruptive sources.

So how is the act of censorship spatial? ‘Censorship is aimed at material that is believed to be unspeakable, too private to be public’ (Klein, 2015) which demonstrates how both of an audiences private and public lives can be regulated through the censorship of something that is as ‘unspeakable’ as sex. The fact that this censorship travels beyond the media’s public eye and into our private homes directly correlates with how you would speak about sex to your family or friends. And if you’re brought up being told not to talk about it from the media, then you’re certainly not going to speak about it anywhere else.

So which is worse for our children to see? Source
So which is worse for our children to see? Source

Whilst there is still obviously a lot of concern regarding children and watching violence on TV and in video games, the question still remains. Why is it more common for children to watch a crime show and see violent acts then see something that human nature, real and something that is a big part in our society like sex and sexuality?

Reference

Bowles, K & Turnbull, S 2015, Media Audience and Place: 8 Regulating Audience, BCM240, University of Wollongong, lecture delivered 21 September

Boyse, K 2010, Television and Children, University of Michigan Health Systems, August, http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/tv.htm

Camero, C 2014, What is more obscene, violence or a female nipple?, XPress Magazine, http://xpress.sfsu.edu/xpressmagazine/2014/12/08/what-is-more-obscene-violence-or-a-female-nipple/

Klein, M 2015, Censorship and the fear of sexuality, Dr Marty Klein, http://www.martyklein.com/censorship-and-the-fear-of-sexuality/

Further Information

And it wouldn’t be a blog post without a concluding note from Mr John Oliver. This hilariously witty piece looks at how important it is to talk openly about sex in a safe and judgement free environment.

Net Neutrality, Censorship & a Magna Carta? Welcome to the Internet

Welcome to the Internet. A strange and wonderful, dark and deep place that can be accessed by nearly anyone, from nearly anywhere at anytime. The Internet is a vital part of our current society, playing a crucial part in communicating our ideas to the world. However, because the internet is so complex and difficult to understand, with millions of sites, millions of users about endless topics, it’s easy to be overwhelmed if not afraid of the possibilities the internet can provide the world. We’ve already seen the internet do amazing, scary and wonderful things for society like connecting friends and family over Facebook, crowd sourcing money for new technology and even organise revolutions like in the Arab Spring, clearly demonstrating the power of citizens and the need for the freedom to share ideas.

‘The transformation of communication from mass communication to mass self-communication has contributed decisively to alter the process of social change. As power relationships have always been based on the control of communication and information that feed the neural networks constitutive of the human mind, the rise of horizontal networks of communication has created a new landscape of social and political change by the process of disintermediation of the government and corporate controls over communication’ (Castells, 2014).

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The Chinese government exemplifies the immense control and regulation over the internet in order to satisfy government ideals. Commonly, the Chinese government is viewed as suppressing individual’s right to communication, whereas in fact China’s constitution allows ‘citizens freedom of speech and press, however can be regulated by Chinese authorities if they expose state secrets or potentially threaten then country’ (Xu, 2015), which of course is contradicting in nature. These restrictions are commonly known as ‘The Great Firewall of China,’ with potentially threatening websites like Wikipedia and Facebook being blocked (Xu, 2015).

Another alternative to complete censorship online is the idea of a ‘Magna Carta’ for the internet (MacKinnon, 2011). Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, believes that the internet indeed needs a Magna Carta to ensure net neutrality and privacy is obeyed (Berners-Lee, 2014).  Net neutrality refers to internet equality. Berners-Lee uses Brazil as an example of how a government can positively influence ‘advancing web rights and keeping the web open’ (Berners-Lee, 2014). In her TED Talk, MacKinnon, an expert in Chinese media censorship, supports Berners-Lee’s internet Magna Carta, stating that the internet should be citizen-centric and that governments are supposed to serve the public interest and thus promote a sustained internet freedom movement (McKinnon, 2011). However, some argue that ‘net neutrality could harm minority groups and could potentially favour the rich and advantaged’ (Wasserman, 2014).

Regardless of your opinion of net neutrality or whether the Magna Carta for the internet is a good or bad thing, one thing is certain, and that is the internet will continue to change and evolve in the future and consequently affect society. It is important that our speech is protected and we continue to have the ability to spread our message to the world.

Further Readings

Net Neutrality in the USA: https://www.whitehouse.gov/net-neutrality

MacKinnon’s full TED Talk

References

Berners-Lee, T. 2014, ‘We need a magna carta for the internet’, The World Post, 5 June, accessed 9 April 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-bernerslee/internet-magna-carta_b_5274261.html

MacKinnon, R. 2011, ‘Let’s take back the internet,’ TED, July, accessed 9 April 2015, http://www.ted.com/talks/rebecca_mackinnon_let_s_take_back_the_internet?language=en#t-293626

Wasserman, T. 2014, ‘5 arguments against net neutrality’, Mashable Australia, 17 May, accessed 9 April 2015, http://mashable.com/2014/05/16/5-arguments-against-net-neutrality/

Xu, B. 2015, ‘Media Censorship in China,’ Council Foreign Relations, 7 April, accessed 9 April 2015, http://www.cfr.org/china/media-censorship-china/p11515