17 September 2007

Desensitization Gets a New Name

There is a very disturbing article about the recent news that nude photos of Vanessa Hudgens, star of Disney's "High School Musical," have surfaced on the internet. The perspective of this article should really not come as any surprise and yet it has left me quite stunned. Here are some of the "low"lights of the article...

Two decades after a nude photo scandal helped cost a Miss America her title, Americans may be adopting a more ho-hum attitude toward people who bare it all for the cameras.

This is not a huge shock. After all, movies and TV haven been relentlessly pushing the envelope for years now and will only continue to do so. More skin has become acceptable. Playboy Magazine is actually considered to be a classy publication. Top actresses, who have no need to bare anything, are willingly taking it off for the sake of "art".

"I do think that general attitudes about nudity are becoming more relaxed, but these changes take time, which is why there's still mixed responses," said Paul Levinson, communication and media professor at Fordham University. "We as a society are finally growing up and it's a healthy thing," he said.

Growing up? Hardly. More like dumbing down. Healthy? What's so healthy about an 18 year old sharing her most precious of gifts with the whole world? What's so healthy about the young boys and girls who looked up to Miss Hudgens potentially having their innocence compromised by her? What's so healthy about a society that finds little value in the human body outside of exploitation and exhibitionism?

Robert Thompson, professor of media and popular culture at Syracuse University, agreed attitudes about nudity had "lightened up," but said there was still a huge disconnect between how people feel and what people say. "While filling in a survey, people will always check off with one hand that there's too much sex and violence in the media, while using the other hand to search for that kind of material," he said.

I agree with this assessment. However, instead of blaming people for hypocrisy, why don't we look deeper and see what this tells us. If people are marking down that there is too much sex and violence in the media in the midst of the desensitization taking place, that's an indication that deep down we know there is something wrong. Despite our passivity when it comes to nudity on film, tv, and on the web, when we are earnestly approached with the question of "is it too much", our hearts are speaking "yes!"

"There's no doubt about it. The Web for the last 10 years, has made more nudity available," Levinson said. "I predict in the next few years, the FCC will be put in its proper place and nudity will be the norm," he said.

Quite possibly the most disturbing part of all. I never thought I'd see the day when people would champion internet pornography. I predict that if nudity becomes the norm rape, sexual abuse, STDs, and the continued oppression of women will also become the norm.

"I'm not sure if people are becoming more casual, but in the case of Vanessa (Hudgens), she comes with a lot of brand equity and this was her first strike. If she was a constant train wreck, her fans may not be as forgiving," he said.

Oh sure, let's wait until her life spirals completely out of control before we do something about it. Everyone deserves a do-over. We can forgive and forget, but it's times like these when we really need to sit back and ask ourselves what all of this means. Why have we gotten to the point where people argue that it is "healthy" for an 18 year old to pose nude in front of a camera?

We're regressing. Our society has made enormous strides in science and medicine and technology, and yet has compromised it all by lowering ourselves physically, morally, and emotionally to mere animals. We're like conditioned apes who just happen to know calculus and quantum physics, but at the same time don't have a problem with flinging our own dung. This is not a grown up world. It's a world of children in adult bodies, with no self-control, no values to live by, and no guts to stand up to that which we know is wrong.

Sorry if I came off a little harsh today. This article really got to me! Check it out here.


Paul Levinson said...

You may "believe" that if nudity becomes the norm, "rape" will follow - but do you have even an iota of evidence that that will happen? Or are you just expressing unsubstantiated fears?

Nolan Reynolds said...

I'm expressing an opinion based on trends I've noticed in history. It seems to me, in what I've gathered on my mere 25 years on Earth, that as certain acts once deemed sinful become widely accepted things snowball as a result. Take for instance Playboy magazine. Hugh Hefner broke unchartered territory, and rightfully so as he was responding to the puritanical ways in which he was brought up. What he was not right about was taking it to the opposite extreme, indulgence. He made the body an object to use, and manipulate. Fear of the body is not a healthy thing, but neither is exploitation.

At any rate, more magazines followed and today we have publications pushing the nudity envelope such as Maxim and FHM which can be bought by any person large or small at your local bookstore. Certainly these mags would have been considered pornography at one time. Now they are harmless reading for the average Joe.

This has to have an effect on the culture. The media promotes what people desire. But nude pictures don't satisfy the desire within us to be close and intimate with someone. We can look at pictures all day, but it won't satisfy. Man is flawed, and he will sometimes turn to violence to satisfy himself. If we championed modesty (for the sake of the preciousness of the human body, not it's "evilness")over exploitation, our twisted desires would stand a much better chance in a fallen world.

Do I have any factual or statistical evidence? No. But I do feel that my fears are substantiated. Everything has consequences. We saw the effects of thousands of years of calling our bodies sinful. It won't be long before we see the effects of indulgence.

Lisa Mladinich said...

Hi Nolan,

Levison fails to note that there actually are strong proofs to what you're asserting. It is a known fact among psychologists and those in law enforcement that use of pornography has a direct link to sexual violence. It is exactly what you are suggesting here. Porn desensitizes men to the personhood of women. The natural desires of a man to be close and feel loved become twisted by an ever-increasing appetite for pornography. (Even very good, non-violent men who struggle with porn-addiction can attest to this.) The porn has to be more and more graphic and often violent to satisfy the urge of the addict and in some cases leads to acts of violence against women. Because porn objectifies women, these men project increasingly false beliefs onto the women they view in society, such as, "She wants this," "She's bad," "She's not a person, she's an object." In their clouded judgment, they have proof of this, evident in the women who perform or pose in the films and photos they view. This degradation of men and their relationship to women is very clear to the rest of us. It's amazing what "sophisticates" like Levison will fight for, when they also claim to support the dignity and well-being of their wives, daughters and women in society, generally. When women allow themselves to be exploited in this way, foolishing believing the cultural lie that this is an example of their modern sexual power (to attract sexual attention, to make money), they lose the respect of men. And they hurt their own natural dignity as women. If virtually 100% of all sex criminals were daily readers of the Bible, Levison would be crowing about the link. But porn is cool to guys like this. Maybe because he's a guy who needs to grow up. When will the pro-porn pundits wake up and see it for what it is; another addiction being exploited for a whole lot of money. After all, in our culture, no matter how high-minded the secular intellectuals think they are, money talks loudest and they listen hard. After all, most of them are selling something, too.

Lisa Mladinich
Wife, mother, writer
Long Island, NY