I’d rather watch the videos

I recently saw a show on BBCAmerica called Jonathan Creek. It wasn’t particularly impressive or anything, but it did contain one item of interest: a rather average-looking man who’s married to a media sex star. He drools while watching her videos (which qualify as stylized soft porn, a la Madonna), but has lost sexual interest in his flesh and blood wife.

He mentions at one point that the media construct of his wife is a “male fantasy” put together by technicians and cosmetologists to make videos that are practically soft porn – that no real woman could be that fantasy on a daily basis. And yet, he preferred an untouchable fantasy to a touchable wife. And then he had an affair with another woman.

I’m afraid this is a glimpse of things to come. The usual justification for feeding men wildly sexual female objectification on screen is that men are naturally turned on by visuals, so it’s harmless fun. But just as repeated images of violence can desensitize people to the impact of real life violence, repeated images of objectification can desensitize people to the impact of real life human beings, and the potential of actual relationships with them.


  1. scarlett says

    That makes me thing of something 50’s screen siren Rita HJayworth said: ‘men went to bed with Gilda'(her most famous character)’and woke up with me’.

  2. Jose says

    I’m not sure I agree with your assumptions about desentization of violence. I’ve seen tens of thousands of acts of violence on screens (and committed several thousands in video games) but the only time I was in a fight (about a year ago and it was unavoidable) I felt physicaly ill afterwards.

    I’m also skeptical that this example you cite is the shape of things to come. Human sexuality doesn’t seem to move in uniform directions. I suspect we’ll see more diversity in human sexuality as time goes on some of them we may judge as positive others as negative although at the end of the day one could argue that as long as a person isn’t harming anyone else we shouldn’t be judging them at all.

    BTW, I really like your template. We recently decided to migrate to WordPress and we’ve adopted a modified version of the same template you’re using.

  3. Jennifer Kesler says

    My “assumption” was that it can desensitize you, not that it must, which I think is what you inferred. Sociopaths use imagery to desensitize themselves in preparation for their acts of violence and sexual predation, for example. I doubt anyone becomes significantly desensitized from merely watching: some willingness on the part of the viewer is involved. That willingness doesn’t just occur in sociopaths: garden variety insecure types who look to TV for cues on how to “fit in” may unconsciously use TV or film to desensitize themselves to things they believe don’t bother the in-crowd. Such as objectification of women.

    I linked to an article a while back by a rabbi who believes young men are being conditioned to expect women to meet ridiculous standards that some of them have become unable to sincerely appreciate a woman as a human being. This is what the basic argument against objectification has been all along. And that’s the larger context to my point.

  4. Glaivester says

    The usual justification for feeding men wildly sexual female objectification on screen is that men are naturally turned on by visuals, so it’s harmless fun.

    I don’t know if I agree that that is the justification – rather, it is the explanation.

    That is to say, this is used to explain why there is so much more visual objectification of women than of men, as opposed to it being done as some sort of plot by the patriarchy to keep women in their place.

    If men are more turned on by visuals then women are, that does not equate to visual female objectification being harmless. Rather, it means any harms that come from overuse of objectifying erotica are much more likely to affect men and could actually make such erotica more dangerous to men.

  5. Jennifer Kesler says

    I meant the “the usual justification” given by people – “rationale” would have been a better choice of words.

    As you may recall, I don’t buy that men are by nature significantly more into objectifying people than women are. I actually discussed this with a couple of female friends tonight, and we had a good laugh about it. We have less opportunity to objectify men because there’s less imagery out there that serves our purpose, but you should be a fly on the wall when a group of 12 year old girls watches a movie filled with hot guys in sweaty fight scenes, with wet t-shirts and jeans clinging to their sculpted bodies, that sort of thing. It’s… kind of frightening. 😉

    I think this gender-biased objectification is a tool of the marketplace more than the patriarchy. And it’s not just to keep women in their place: it’s to keep everyone in his or her place. Imagery of objectified women sells products to men, and preys on the insecurities of women who might not otherwise spend tons of money on cosmetics and cosmetic procedures. The additional fallout from all this, whatever it is, is probably more of an unintended side effect than a conscious goal. Which doesn’t relieve the perpetrators of any responsibility for what they’ve done.

    I don’t believe objectification is ever harmless. It’s harmless to get a real kick out of how someone beautiful looks, and have fantasies about them. But when you lose track of the fact that they are a real person, that’s when you’ve crossed the line to thinking of them as a thing instead of a person.

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