STARTING POINT: Sexual Violence in the Media


This article originally appeared in Issue# 33

The trend today in media is exploitation and violence. And I must warn you that this issue of Media&Values is not easy to read. Just about a year ago, I attended the first of three public hearings held by a National Council of Churches committee investigating the proliferation of violence and sexual violence in mainstream media. The experience unleashed an editorial determination to create a resource that would contribute significantly to public understanding of this serious issue. We're grateful to the N.C.C.C. not only for identifying the parameters of the problem but also for selecting Media&Values to disseminate the official summary of their 50-page report. With additional articles, commentaries and even the illustration series, the issue has become the major resource I had hoped it would be.

One of the challenges in editing this issue was to clarify whether what we are talking about is pornography. The answer is both yes and no. Interestingly, what you and I may have always thought was pornography is merely titillating compared to some of the scenarios of rape, bondage and mutilation produced today. But while these images may be brutal, they are not always rated "X." That is the insidiousness of the problem. Furthermore, it's an easy cliché to lump "sex" and "violence" together in discussing media. Surely not all sexual images are pornographic. Neither are all violent ones. In movies and magazines, the lines may be blurring but in these pages we have tried to keep our language clear. This issue of Media&Values is not about pornography as such. Nor is it about "sex and violence." What it is about is violence and sexual violence in mass media. Especially when it comes to finding solutions, the differences are significant

But there's more. We're very pleased to introduce in this issue a new series of Media&Values columnists! Representing the diverse interests of our growing readership – from pastors and youth ministers to social justice leaders and family counselors– these writers will provide reflection/action commentary on each issue's theme. In addition, we're in the process of providing each one with an ecumenical advisory board– experts who will be asked to suggest resources, connections and action ideas. It will take a while to get all the columnists and boards in place but I think you'll agree that we're off to a stimulating start.