Desired physical attributes, sex and culture; Erotica vs. Pornography

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Jane and James Ritchie once wrote that “Ford and Beach show that every sexual attribute valued in one culture will be either of little consequence or rejected in another ([Ford and Beach]). In one society buttocks are highly valued; in another, large hips or distended ear lobes are highly prized. Frequently, the desired physical attribute is further enhanced by decoration, colouring, or display. In some cultures there is mutilation, or a total cover-up designed to protect women, but which may inflame male fantasies. Note, for example, the way in which nuns are used in pornography. The provocativeness of cover-up is simply the mirror-image of strip-tease.” (p.112)

They go with Steinem’s distinction between erotica and porn, writing that: “A feminist distinction is useful here. Erotica, which may range all the way from classical literature to masturbatory handbooks, generally depicts mutually enjoyed sexual behaviour between consenting equals. Pornography, on the other hand, is characterised by unequal power relationships between the sexes and therefore by exploitation of women ([Steinem, G]). A very high percentage of pornography involves violence with women being bound, beaten, and raped, because that is how sexual power relationships come to be expressed.” (p.114) The Ritchies go on to acknowledge the argument for freedom of chioce, but ask: “How free is choice if consumers of pornography have been commercially maniupulated? Not all freedoms are equally defensible, and not all freedoms are in fact free.” (p.117) It’s an interesting statement.

Ref: Jane Ritchie and James Ritchie (1993) Violence in New Zealand. Huia Publishers and Daphne Brasell Associates: Wellington

Note that reference is made to: Ford, C and Beach, FA (1951) Patterns of Sexual Behaviour New York: Paul Moeber; Steinem, G (1980) ‘Erotica and Pornography: a Clear and Present Difference’, in L Lederer (ed) Take Back the Night New York: W. Morrow

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