Sex and Violence

by Douglas Dunn

Copyright (c) 1998 Douglas Dunn / Word Wizards communications -- all rights reserved

Sex and violence. The words are so often linked by would-be censors, or pundits railing against a decline in "values," that we sometimes lose sight of the fact SEX and VIOLENCE represent very different aspects of experience.

Sex is normal, natural and -- in the context of committed, loving, supportive relationships -- something very beautiful. Most people will experience sexual intimacy as a part of the normal course of life. It is also intensely personal and something very private. Perhaps it is appropriate that we resist parading it openly in front of eyes too young to understand it or presenting it in ways that are demeaning, while resisting any effort to censor it from those of sufficient age to understand it and enjoy it as the beautiful and natural part of human experience it was meant to be.

In contrast, brutal, murderous violence is not a normal, natural part of life that people simply accept as part of the regular course of living. Violence is an ugly perversion of aggressive energies and drives and is at odds with everything beautiful and spiritual in the world.

What is troubling is that many of the same voices who seek to restrain the public displays of erotica, which are normal and can be beautiful in beautiful contexts, have no problem whatsoever in pandering to the proliferation of extremely graphic violence, completely divorced from the long-range pain of its consequences. If a television program were to present an extremely graphic display of a sexual act, even a loving exchange between a husband and wife, conservative voices would raise a loud ruckus of protest. But these same voices are contentedly silent as horribly perverted acts of grotesque violence and utter mayhem are paraded before young and impressionable eyes.

And the violence is not only the passive viewing experienced on TV or in movies or in listening to explicit rap lyrics. I recently observed a seven-year-old nephew playing a popular video game. The object was to stalk and shoot one person after another. Each "hit" was rewarded with graphic, bloody scenes of violence -- graphic in every sense except to see the pain and loss and grief that accompany such deeds in real life. These video games are far more directly interactive than TV, movies or rap lyrics. The player is an active participant, not just a spectator. The player is the one who pursues other human beings, sets his sights on them and pulls the trigger -- he is not merely watching as someone else does it. As he replays these mind-numbing acts of stalking and killing over and over, perhaps he becomes desensitized to them and begins to identify with that role.

We do not permit small children to peep into adult sexual acts, even when those acts are within the tender, loving and sacred relationships we hope they will someday grow up and enjoy in their own lives. Why do some in our society seek to limit restrict and censor the beauty of natural erotica, while these same people seem so willing to permit unrestrained viewing of -- and, worse, the interactive participation with -- acts of gore, violence and mayhem which we hope they will never have to endure in real life?

While most people, even most youngsters, can tell the difference between reality and a game, if even a tiny fraction of a percentage cannot, multiplied within a populations of hundreds of millions, it may generate enough crazies to become horrifyingly dangerous -- turning up on school yards in every part of the country with tragic and brutal consequences.

The explosion in schoolyard killings (from Pearl, Mississippi to West Paducah, Kentucky to Jonesboro, Arkansas to Springfield, Oregon and most recently to Littleton, Colorado) come as children outgrow the confines of video screens and take their computer-game skills out into the real world. They acquire weapons, either illegally or from their families, and go out into the world. In a few cases, these children have even been encouraged to learn to use firearms by their families who, of course, when tragedy strikes, see no relation between video games, guns and the resulting crimes of children killing children. These same children who would never be allowed access to condoms or other sexual materials are not only allowed to have guns but are trained and encouraged in their "proper" use, as if these same immature youths who are not yet ready to explore the sexual relationships we expect them to enjoy later must learn to master the tools of destruction that we hope they would never be expected to use. Again, the message is clear: if violence is evil, sex is even worse. And then we scratch our heads in puzzlement and try to figure out why young men too often link sex and violence in crimes of rape, misogyny and domestic violence.

Our society must stop linking sex and violence. It must stop making sex -- this beautiful, normal, natural exchange of intimacy -- into something not only dirty and evil, but something that is communicated by the "moral guardians" as being WORSE than violence, since the latter is permitted in all its gory detail while the former is carefully censored even in representations of its purest and most traditionally sanctified expressions.

Copyright (c) 1998 Douglas Dunn / Word Wizards communications

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