Our Pornified Culture and the “Just Turn it off” Mentality – TheLiberal.ie – Our News, Your Views

Our Pornified Culture and the “Just Turn it off” Mentality


While travelling on public transport in Dublin City centre recently, I overheard a group of teenage boys engaged in some adolescent banter. What struck me about their conversation however was the highly pejorative nature of the words they were using to describe their female peers. Words like “bitch”, “whore” and “slut” were routinely used by the group to describe the different girls they knew and they were used in a manner which suggested they had no sense of shame or guilt about using such crude terminology in front of the packed bus. While eyes rolled and older passengers grew increasingly uncomfortable at what they were hearing, nobody on the bus seemed willing to call the group out on their behaviour and the slew of gender-specific profanities grew increasingly derogatory. In retrospect I wish I had asked them how they would feel if somebody referred to their mothers or sisters in such disparaging terms. The whole incident made think about the increasingly sexualised culture that we live in, and whether this culture not only normalises but in fact encourages the use of such corrosive and sexually demeaning language among adolescents?


When Kim Kardashian’s sex tape catapults her to A-list celebrity status and the porn star Jenna Jameson’s autobiography becomes a New York Times number one best seller, it is ts clear that we’re living in an increasingly pornified culture. “Adult entertainers” now regularly appear in music videos, Miley Cyrus (pictured above) simulates oral sex on stage in front of her impressionable young fans, the raunchy docu-series ”Geordie Shore” becomes MTV’s top-rated show, and advertising campaigns targeting pre-adolescent girls promote thong underwear emblazoned with the playboy logo. With overt sexual imagery now a ubiquitous part of our cultural landscape, it’s hard to believe that less than thirty years ago, Madonna’s comparatively tame performance of “like a Virgin” was deemed too explicit for mainstream television. Madonna, the pioneer of the raunchy music video, seems like Mother Theresa in comparison to some of the younger female performers today. These developments and others have created a toxic environment where young girls are increasingly encouraged to become sexual available at an age when they cannot responsibly negotiate the minefield of sexual pressures they are likely to face nor can they make the wisest of sexual choices.

In the race to degrade women and debase young men’s tastes, it is however, the contemporary rap world and the porn industry that is leading the way. If you don’t already know that some of the worst misogynists in the entertainment business come out of the rap world, then you must be living under a rock. Celebrated artists like 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, and many others have become very rich by poisoning young minds with gutter lyrics that would (and should) never be uttered by any man who has respect for himself and for women in general. These videos portray women are little more than sexual commodities to be dehumanised, sexually exploited and tossed aside until the next (presumably younger and more surgically enhanced) one comes along. The mainstreaming of porn culture as espoused in these music videos does not give young people a lot of positive affirming sexual scripts. Unlike ancient cultures like the Han dynasty in China which treated female sexual desire as a sacred cosmic force and developed beliefs systems that treated female sexuality referentially, the porn culture of today promotes a one dimensional view of female sexuality that revolves entirely around instant gratification and satisfying male desires.

Today, the sexuality of young girls seems to belong to everyone but themselves. The message they are given is simple ‘you’re promiscuous if you do anything, but you are a prude if you do nothing”. Their bodies are strewn throughout our cities selling jeans along the sides of buses or languishing airbrushed on billboards high above our streets. When parents or concerned citizens complain about specific commercials or music videos, naysayers usually throw out one of two arguments. First, they will claim that everything under the sun is protected by freedom of expression and that any attempt to regulate content is censorship. Second, they say “just turn it off”, that no one is forcing you to listen to those lyrics, or watch that music video. The “turn it off” defence is disingenuous and should stop no one from demanding more from our entertainment, media and advertising industries. This argument also doesn’t fly when the bombardment of sexual imagery is everywhere you turn. I constantly hear stories from fed-up parents about the cultural minefield through which they must tiptoe every day. Mother and fathers should be able to sit down without having to grip the remote out of fear of what might fall out, pop out, or stick out next during the commercial break.

I know what some of you are saying at this point – “Oh, come on Alan. Stop being so prudish. Sex has always been used to sell stuff – clothes, cars, perfume, everything”. That may be partially true, but sex in advertising has never been as prevalent, explicit, and marketed towards kids as it is today. Reclaiming our culture from these toxic excesses is not a left/right issue for me and I’m not coming from a religious perspective. Like most people in their twenties I’m not a puritan – I enjoy pop culture and adhere to a “live and let live” attitude most of the time. However, I am mature enough to recognize that as the pornification of our culture becomes more pervasive and explicit, so too does the continued distortion of children’s ideas about sex and sexuality. In particular, our pornified culture places young girls at the forefront of sexual negotiation and since the sexual revolution has stripped them of all the social boundaries that used to give them a sense of protectiveness on their journey to womanhood. The toxic influence our increasingly debased culture has on young men is equally alarmingly. People should want better from their culture and shouldn’t be hesitate in demanding some basic standards for fear of being labelling “prudish” by the trendy brigade. The innocence of childhood is a blessing and is not sometime we should not allow entertainment executives or advertisers to extinguish prematurely in the pursuit of profit or ratings.

Share this story with a friend

Share this story

Tell us what you think on our Facebook page