How do adult movies affect our lives?

Despite gaining no legal or religious sanction, the adult movie industry is one of the biggest and thriving contributors to culture and economy. Here, adult movie is defined as that whose content is majorly comprised of implicit or explicit sexual acts (of various orientations) and action movies that are adult certified due to excessive violence or profanity. In other words, the term ‘adult movie’ is interpreted in this essay to include hardcore and soft-core pornography, as well as those that are legally permitted but contain sexual content, violence or profanity. In polite societies and in family environments mere mention of pornography can elicit embarrassment, shock or disgust from people. But interestingly, such reactions are not pronounced in response to violence and profanity, although these are equally harmful influences. Nevertheless, while people hesitate to talk about indulgence in pornography in the public space, it continues to be a part of their private lives. (Nutt, 2010, p.91) This is not a universal rule, of course, but applies to a majority of adult male population. The degree of patronage of adult women is lesser compared to that of men. Also, adolescents of both genders watch pornography on a regular basis. Uncontested as these facts may be, they are not openly acknowledged or discussed. This essay will argue that despite muted mention of adult movies in public lives of people, it does affect them deeply in many aspects.

One of the problems thrown open by the Internet is the increased chances of inadvertent exposure to pornography. Peer-to-peer networking software, which facilitates easy and quick transfer of movie files among Internet users, is proving to be the chief mode of pornography consumption among adolescents and adults alike. But the issue arises when pre-teens get accidental exposure to advertisements and landing sites for pornographic material. Considering that pornography accounts for a majority of Internet traffic, it is near impossible for a regular user of the Internet to evade this deluge. In unfortunate cases where children get exposed to it, they can become adversely affected both psychologically and physiologically, leading to problems in their family, social and academic lives. (Nutt, 2010, p.91) Psychologist Patricia Greenfield has done extensive research on the influence of adult movies on the behavior and attitudes of children and adolescents. Her findings are consistent with the stated thesis of this essay, as there is hardly anything benign about this influence. For example, in her testimony to the Congressional Committee on Government Reform, she notes that inadvertent exposure to pornography when children and adolescents utilize peer-to-peer file sharing networks on the Internet, can lead to a range of adverse consequences.

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In her assessment, pornography and related sexual media such as music videos and R-rated movies available in the Internet does influence “sexual violence, sexual attitudes, moral values, and sexual activity of children and youth.” (Greenfield, 2004, p.743) For example, “A number of surveys, from junior high to college, indicate that exposure to MTV (MTV-style music video files are very common on peer-to-peer networks) and R-rated films are correlated with premarital sexual permissiveness. Experimental studies confirm that exposure to music videos such as those seen on MTV can actually liberalize attitudes toward premarital sex, and this is particularly true for girls.” (Greenfield, 2004, p.743)

Further, a field experiment study revealed that those adolescents (males) who viewed adult movies that hinted at positive effects of sexual aggression such as the sexual arousal of the woman, made them more accepting of aggression in sexual and non-sexual contexts. Similarly, video depictions of

“sexual relations between unmarried partners – in all-pervasive characteristic of pornography—affected 13- and 14-year-olds’ moral judgments concerning premarital and extramarital sex: Their judgments became more accepting after viewing video portrayals of sexual relations between unmarried partners. In contrast, video portrayals of sex between married individuals had no effect on moral judgments. There was, however, no spillover effect of viewing sexual relations between unmarried partners into nonsexual areas of moral judgment, such as judgments concerning criminal or antisocial behavior.” (Greenfield, 2005, p.745)

At the crux of debates concerning adult movies is their influence on children and adolescents. Seeing violence and sexual transgressions can have several malefic effects on adults, especially if such movies are viewed on a regular basis. But what can be bad for adults can do acute damage in the formative minds and physiologies of children and adolescents. The early memories of exposure to sexual media can leave a lasting impact on children and adolescents, making it a big concern for educators and parents alike. In a survey conducted to ascertain early emotional responses to sexual content, the topmost identified emotions were “disgust (24.5%), shock or surprise (23.6%), and embarrassment (21.4%; Cantor et al., 2003). Other negative emotional responses were anger (18.4%), fear (11.2%), and sadness (9.2%). Only three positive emotions were mentioned (interest, amusement, and happiness or pleasure); in contrast, eight different negative emotions received mention.” (Greenfield, 2005, p.746) Such statistics prove beyond doubt adult movies’ potential to significantly deter healthy psychological development of boys and girls. Moreover, the psychologist interviewed for this essay illuminates on how pornography affects the two genders differently:

“For example, for men, it might lead to frigidity, especially for those who are addicted to porn movies because they require more effort to be sexually excited. Women, on the other hand, might become obsessed with being like a porn star to attract men. However, there are effects applicable to both genders such as conveying the wrong message about how sex life should be, or showing apathy toward homosexuality and sexual deviation, etc.” (Interviewed Psychologist, 2011)

Although adult movies were made for an adult audience, adolescents show greatest interest in such content. This is a natural tendency, for they perceive it as a stepping stone to adulthood. But over-exposure to adult content at an earlier age can have several negative repercussions. For example, toddlers who have been exposed to images and videos of violence increase their chances of delinquency and violent behavior in high school. Even cartoon programs, which are directed to children, can contain sequences of violence. Especially because, younger viewers try to understand video content with an ‘exploration approach’, they actively seek for meaning in the content. Vividly colored characters, quick movements, “rapid changes of scene, and intense or unexpected sights and sounds” are what attract toddlers’ attention. (Josephson, et. al., 1995)

Usually, action/adventure genre movies are rated ‘universal’ and are directed to a general audience. But some movies that depict extreme violent acts and show excessive blood-shed are rated ‘adults only’. Exposure to violence through such movies can interact with the personal behavior of the viewer, adult or otherwise. As a society, both through television and movie exposure to violence, we are getting more aggressive and hostile in our personal interactions.

Children and adolescents are most vulnerable to growing aggressive tendencies watching violent video content. But even for mature adults with ability to exercise discretion over their thoughts and actions, there is risk of behavior modification following frequent exposure to sexual or violent content onscreen. Even consumption of movie promotions such as theatrical trailers and sneak-peeks can make a subliminal impact. For example, studies have shown “evidence for an indirect role of sexual and violent imagery in movie marketing…even a subtle manipulation of sexual or violent content appears to have strong effects on audiences’ expectations of what the previewed film will be like.” (Oliver, et. al., 2007, p.596)

Further, it appears that previews can have more deleterious effects by extrapolating shown content and increasing viewer anticipation with regard to sex and violence in the full-length feature. For example,

“the presence of sex and violence in the preview increased perceptions that more sex and violence would be encountered when the actual feature film is seen in its entirety. In this regard, viewers seemed to assume that the content of movie previews is representative of the subject matter depicted in the full-length movie and consequently, they appeared to have used the material portrayed in movie previews as the basis for their thoughts about what to expect from the movie.” (Oliver, et. al., 2007, p.596)

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