Thursday, May 9, 2013

Role Reversal in Media

video regarding role reversal in media. 

Good stuff!
One should note that the men in the reversals were not "sexy" for the most part.  Sexy men are often portrayed in media in alluring poses and states of dress.  All men tend to look good in suits, even if they have ugly faces and "hair issues", which is pretty much the point, but sexy men look better.
c.f., their footnote that men are much more depressed as a group than from years ago.
Ergo the question as to how often men appear in media versus women.  I assume the latter, but who knows?  Supposedly both genders like to see women, but who knows?  I wonder if this has been tested.
Also, how much of the connection between violent imagery and actual violence has been proved?  I expect it's true that some people, perhaps many (men and women?) find portrayals of rough or violent sex to be stimulating.  If it's just an assumption, then that's not good.  True, such images are "disturbing" but that's something else altogether. 
All this applies to the "violent" video game question, obviously, and also porno.  Are these things promulgators of violence, or are they "releases" that make violence less likely?  What is the relationship of the individual to violence?  How does it happen?  Do we even have a model or data for this?
Can we say that anti-utopian political commentary in film and literature should be banned because it could cause our social institutions to break down in the same way as they are portrayed?  Because these portrayals are "disturbing"?  Is that even a good comparison?
It is true, backed up by actual commentary by particulars, that the Soviets and the Nazis directly studied and imitated the Americans and their genocide of the Native Americans (and possibly also their subjugation of African Americans) in the development of their gulags, death camps, etc., but where did the Americans get their ideas?  The British?  The Italians and French such as Machiavelli and De Sade, i.e., from literature?  If so, should that literature not have been written since it "caused" all of the genocides of the 20th Century?
It is not to say that media depictions of women (and men) are political commentary, per se, or even "art" but in a sense they are both.  Intension is a meaningless concept.  Advertisers (and politicians, don't forget them) want to sell stuff.  That is their "intension".  But if they have unintended consequences, such as male depression and increased violence in women -- a direct connection to which has probably yet to be shown, but just for the sake of argument -- then is that also their "intension".  If they fail completely in selling, but succeed in the socio-cultural fall-out, then do we turn around and say that the latter was their real intension and the former not.  Again, intension is a meaningless concept.
Perhaps it is ideas that are dangerous.  From the perversion of the political process, e.g., that a fear of guns or drugs, for example, can be used to manipulate voting patterns and even to silence "troublesome" individuals to the idea that putting a naked woman on anything makes it sell better.  It's probably fairly easy to measure whether the desired effect of such ideas is achieved or not, i.e., more votes or more sales, but perhaps harder to measure unintended consequences. 
It is not to say measurement is "impossible" (though it may well prove to be so).  Assuming what the effects are without any research or measurement (or even theory) is probably a very bad idea for many reasons, among them making social problems worse, wasting a lot of resources that could actually help somewhere else, causing new problems where not existed before (e.g., demonizing men for things that are not actually their fault, etc.).  Having said that, it is probably very valuable to look into these issues.  A lot of pundits appear to be assuming that there is a connection.  They say outright "media shapes the way we think [and act]" but where's the proof?
Another angle is how men and women handle power and volition and agency in the sexual interaction.  Perhaps comparisons to homosexual relationships would be informative here.  Is "lesbian bed death" an indication of the "inherent passivity" of the female vis `a vis the sex act, for example?  We'd be assuming no "gay bed death" exists, which may be wrong.  What does "aggressiveness" look like for both sexes?  The media analysis seems to assume that a woman going around naked in public is a sign of submissiveness, but in fact the exact opposite may be true.  Men and women react differently to a naked woman.  Women may perceive such a display as highly aggressive, but the aggression is not directed at them, per se.  If a man reacts strongly to a naked woman (or a woman making a strong sexual display), then who is really the aggressor?
This may come across as an apologia for rape, and it may well be so, i.e., that women who dress "provocatively" are asking for equally-aggressive sexual attention from men, and indiscriminately so.  This, by the way, also assumes that "all men are (potential) rapists" which is probably wrong.  Rapists are probably a very small, very definite sub-class of person, and this should be thoroughly researched.  It is, however, probably also true that men are (socially) conditioned to respond to sexual overtures from women, i.e., that it is inappropriate, ungallant, sign of unmanliness, etc., to not be sexually available to a woman who signals availability or interest.  If a woman makes strong sexual overtures, e.g., by walking around naked, but then refuses men who approach her, it can be seen as an affront.
So maybe they're right.  Maybe media can manipulate our sexuality.  If media can teach us that a certain behavior by women constitutes a sexual overture, and also that, for example, men are expected to "pay" women for their sexual services, e.g., by giving them expensive gifts such as diamonds, clothes, etc., and become the slaves of women through marriage, then they are perhaps filling in the details, the learnable aspects, of the human sexual interaction "script" with self-serving ideas.
Obviously, mere nudity is not inherently a sexual overture (see the Danish example, for one).  Interplay between the sexes generally seems to be highly configurable, as evidenced by the variety across cultures.  However, it seems clear that the eroticization of nudity, making it a taboo, seems to provide a strong avenue for social manipulation and the sale of additional products.  This works in two ways: one, by requiring more and more products, e.g., ridiculous clothing that was not required before, twice as many bathrooms, etc., etc., and also by titillating and shaming people, forcing them, as it were, into buying these products, often supported by laws against things like "lewd behavior" and "public nudity" and loose definitions of what constitutes "sexual assault" (men's penises seem to be equivalent to brandishing a firearm, which is, of course, ridiculous).
A final thought is to reprise this idea of what constitutes "aggression".  Men are seen as aggressive in sex, and women passive.  These marketers who make these images we're complaining about and wringing our hands about are not doing anything to us, per se, but are just waiting for us to pop into their shops.  Is the spider who builds a web "aggressive"?  How about the country which masses its army or navy on the border of another country and then complains about the second country's actions, or that the second country "attacked" them (whether they actually did or not)?
Sex is like those things, but it is also probably quite different.  Not to make another apologia, but men and women need to get together sometimes, in a sexual way, and sex is a very odd behavior, when compared to other things.  Do we even have an idea of what healthy sex looks like?  A reasonable person would probably say we do not.  If we don't have any research to back it up, then how can we, at this stage of the game, say that any given portrayal of sexuality is bad or unhealthy?
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