1
$\begingroup$

I'm new here, so I apologise if this question doesn't fit the parameters required for this site, but I couldn't find a more appropriate stackexchange site to post it.

In TV shows, films, news and other forms of media, there is a very big taboo against portraying rape be it fictional, or a footage of the event. I can understand the sensitivity regarding the latter, but when we instead consider violent scenes, or footage of violence - our tolerance seems much higher. News channels, for example, conveyed the footage of a soldier being burned alive by ISIS in a cage. But depicting a video of a man inappropriately touching a woman would invite a huge backlash. To a lesser extent, this issue also extends to violence against women being portrayed in media (taking hollywood as an example, it is very rare that they convey violence against women, and if they do it is far less severe than that against men). This last point referring to violence which is not necessarily sexual in nature against women is not the main point of my question, but rather an observation which may or may not be relevant for an answer.

To summarise, what are the psychological reasons for our 'acceptance' of very severe violence in media whilst there is a strong taboo against comparatively less severe sexual assaults. (e.g. in Game of Thrones, compare the torture of Theon Greyjoy to the criticism of the implied offscreen rape of Sansa).

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ There is a clear dilemma that any mass media outlet faces when dealing with a controversial issue. The broadcasting slot time must carefully tread the fine line between "sensitization" on one hand and "normalization" on the other. Depiction of a theme that upsets the general level of discussion that surrounds it "disturbs" the peace leading to questioning and debates. Yet, overdoing this in the terms of constant exposure to the issue may in fact desensitize the public in the long run normalizing certain issues- maybe even turning them an entertainment source. Now this sense of upset is relativ $\endgroup$ – Harman Deep Apr 10 '17 at 1:03
2
$\begingroup$

Depiction of violence towards women triggers sadism in us much more effortlessly than other kinds of violence or torture. A recent study on correlation between violent videogames and violent attitude found no link between the two. But there are plenty of studies that show direct link between consumption of violent pornography and aggression towards women. Here is a meta study with tons of citations: http://aurora.umn.edu/pdf/ResearchOnPornography.pdf

Sadism is different from psychopathy. Psychopaths are apathetic, sadists are not. A recent study on sadism shows that sadists rated the pain experienced by the victim as more intense than the non-sadists did.

Inability to form emotional disconnection and higher awareness of the victim's suffering together can explain why we people triggered by sexual violence way more easily than non-sexual violence. From the famous Milgram experiment to very recent studies like this one:http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797613490749 clearly show us that everyday sadism is very common. However, I don't know why sexual violence triggers sadism in us more easily than non-sexual torture.

$\endgroup$
6
  • $\begingroup$ Sounds like classical evolutionary given hate of competition to me $\endgroup$ – Probably Apr 13 '17 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Probably I am quite weak in evolutionary psychology. Can you pls elaborate your theory? $\endgroup$ – Spero Apr 13 '17 at 18:42
  • $\begingroup$ Sure. When a girrafe with a short neck and a giraffe with a long neck live together in a savanna, they can more or less coexist next to each together as seperate species until the acacia leaves become a scarce resource. In that moment it's clear that every leaf eaten by a long-neck giraffe is a leaf not eaten by a short-neck giraffe. $\endgroup$ – Probably Apr 13 '17 at 20:35
  • $\begingroup$ The same goes for the fight over females. And obviously, there is a much more visible competition since rape a female is often far more easier than the complicated rituals during courtships. It sounds logical that the other males would conspire against him. Actually, there is a theory that our monogamous morality had been created as the best strategy to mate with the most females: Criticizing everyone promiscuous to be the "only one" mating with everybody. $\endgroup$ – Probably Apr 13 '17 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Probably Are you suggesting that men feel threatened when they see another man raping/dominating a woman? I find that a solid possibility. Maybe you should present your theory in the form of an answer. $\endgroup$ – Spero Apr 15 '17 at 4:53
1
$\begingroup$

You said

In TV shows, films, news and other forms of media, there is a very big taboo against portraying rape be it fictional, or a footage of the event.

I don't know where in the world you are, but there have been many soaps and other TV shows depicting rape with varying responses. Here in the UK there have been rapes portrayed in all of the soaps I can think of. Coronation Street April 2001 is one example. There has also recently been the 3rd series of Broadchurch which dealt with rape and it's aftermath from the victim's point of view.

With static or moving images, possession of extreme pornography is illegal in the UK and showing an real rape or sexual assault recorded on CCTV within a TV programme or movie would be also be considered to be in bad taste.

As far as movies are concerned there are also a great number of movies containing rape of varying explicitness from mild to extreme. The Accused (1988) even won a fair few awards including an Oscar and a Golden Globe.

There have been a fair few movies which have been banned in some countries and some of the bans have been lifted in others. As for reasons for viewer backlash, maybe it is down to the sensitivity with which the subject matter is dealt with. This is open to opinion and therefore the answer to this would be off topic for this site.

Severity of sexual assault

You also said

there is a strong taboo against comparatively less severe sexual assaults. (e.g. in Game of Thrones, compare the torture of Theon Greyjoy to the criticism of the implied offscreen rape of Sansa).

I have not watched Game of Thrones and therefore I don't know what you are referring to, but a point I would like to make from the standpoint of someone who supports those who have been raped and sexually assaulted, although I cannot find any studies at the moment to reference, from the experiences of those I have supported, there is only one severity of sexual assault and all sexual assaults are as severe as each other when looking at potential psychological damage.

$\endgroup$

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.