A crazy world leads to crazy reflections

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The term #foodporn always kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I always figured it was because the term was designed to do so: the word “porn” is used for shock value. By applying it to something everyday and mundane like food, the two serve as a foil: something private and taboo like porn, mixed with something social and necessary like food. It was a little uncomfortable because it was supposed to be.

(For those who don’t know, #foodporn is a hashtag people use when putting pictures of delicious-looking food on Instagram, Twitter, or anywhere else that uses hashtags.)

But recently, I was reading an article about the media coverage of the city of Detroit after it declared bankruptcy. This article, in an in-flight magazine, was talking about how Detroit actually has a lot of positives, but the best way to sell news stories was to publish pictures of decaying buildings. It went on to describe this type of journalism as “ruins porn”. Suddenly, it hit me. We live in a porn culture! The more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable this made me.

Pornography can be described as images intended to give a sexual response, rather than intellectual or emotional (paraphrased from Google). It’s impossible to deny that this is everywhere in our culture. Scantily-clad women (or nearly always women) are used to sell everything: beer, vacations, personal hygiene products… the list goes on. The San Jose Sharks are becoming the latest hockey team to add Ice Girls to their hockey games. When criticized, their defense was pathetic: there are a few men on the team (who don’t wear tight outfits like the women), and the girls’ outfits aren’t as bad some teams’. So many TV shows use nudity or near-nudity as part of the draw for viewers. “Porn”, in its many forms, is pervasive in Western culture.

The stats of porn use are equally shocking. (Stats are taken from xxxchurch.com, a fantastic resource for information, as well as resources for those looking to quit.) A quarter of all internet searches in the world are for pornographic material. Half of all hotel guests in the States purchase pornography. The average age of first exposure to internet pornography is 11. And there are dozens more of these types of stats.

However, why does all this even matter? Porn is legal after all. It might be problematic for children, but those controls should be up to their parents, not society.

Well first off, porn has significant physical consequences for regular users. The idea that porn is a harmless, even potentially beneficial, activity is a lie. It’s taken a few years to get a true sense, but the damage porn has on users’ bodies is only starting to be studied.

Look back to the stats section: the average age of first pornography exposure on the internet is 11. A growing number of children are learning about sex from porn. With the above messages, children are learning that sex is all about their own personal (and unrealistic) demands.

But there is a much bigger problem at play here as a consequence of a porn culture.

An idea that has been slowly gaining steam is the idea that at least in North America, we live in a rape culture. I think there is a lot of truth to that claim. Over half of Canadian women report having been sexually or physically assaulted since the age of 16. A third of them were assaulted by a spouse or common-law partner. Almost two-thirds of rapes are committed by a person known by the victim.

Culturally, not a lot is done. Women get accused of “asking for it” because of how they dress. People blame the victim, especially when they try to get punishment for the perpetrator. Dr. Phil gained notoriety for his terrible question asking if it’s considered rape when the un-consenting girl is drunk. Perhaps this leads to why 93% of sexual assaults in Canada go unreported. At best, victims believe nothing will happen. At worst, their lives will be ruined.

Rape has also been desensitized as a word. Rape jokes abound. A difficult exam is said to have “raped” its students. Feminists who speak out are often mocked, or even threatened with rape. People on Twitter respond with things like #notallmen, as if somehow this discussion is about the men who don’t commit rape, not the women whose sense of worth has been stolen, possibly forever.

All this to say that it’s pretty hard to argue we don’t live in a rape culture. Sexual assault is common, glossed over, mocked, and sometimes even considered an accepted part of society.

And here’s my argument: a porn culture normalizes a rape culture.

After all, what is the message of porn? That sex is something that happens whenever you want it to, with whoever you want it to. That sex is violent, especially against women. Stereotypes like the sexy nurse or sexy secretary reinforce the idea that even professional women are really just sex objects, they want to be nothing more than sex objects, and they are always ready for sex.

Some school shooters have even said that they killed because they were tired of women rejecting them sexually. As if sex with the women they wanted was a right. I’m no psychologist, but this seems to line up with the message of porn. Many rapists claim this same idea: they thought it was their right to have sex with their victim.

As a committed Christian, I have many other things to say on this topic. But I know a lot of people who read this article won’t accept my faith-driven views. I think the argument is already compelling.

Porn is hardly victimless. It affects the user mentally, emotionally, and even physically. It perpetrates unrealistic views about sex. It normalizes things that should never be seen as normal. It sets the stage for rape culture.

And this was what frightened me so much about the realization that we live in a porn culture. Trying to fight societal views on rape may be treating the symptoms, not the disease.

Filed under pornculture rape culture

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As many as 15 percent of freshmen at America’s top schools are white students who failed to meet their university’s minimum standards for admission, according to Peter Schmidt, deputy editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education. These kids are “people with a long-standing relationship with the university,” or in other words, the children of faculty, wealthy alumni and politicians.

According to Schmidt, these unqualified but privileged kids are nearly twice as common on top campuses as Black and Latino students who had benefited from affirmative action.

Ten myths about affirmative action (via linzyxxxxx)

This is EXTREMELY blatant on college campuses. The fact that these things need to be clarified is sad.

(via newwavefeminism)

Legacy is the real affirmative action…and yet we don’t see certain types of entitled people suing to dismantle that.

(via invisiblelad)

(Source: sociolab, via penumbralmindspace)

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Today’s realization

One of my favourite sounds is the sound of a car fading off into the distance as the world descends into total silence.

There’s something magically poetic about silence, but when it sneaks up on you, you don’t even notice. Quiet moments are few and far between in today’s world of busyness, and yet we often take those moments for granted. Too often, silence comes between Youtube videos at 1 AM when all your housemates are asleep, or when waiting for the bus on a cold winter morning, or every so often in a crowded exam room. In other words, silence comes when we desperately want it to end: we’re waiting for the next video to load, we desperately want that bus to show up (or at least someone else to show up at the stop to show us we didn’t get the times wrong), and we need our minds to not go blank during that exam. Silence is too often the unwanted guest, the segue, a source of frustration and not of peace.

As a self-aware introvert, I’ve recognized the importance of solitude in my life, and have often tried to take time to be in silence. When I worked at camp, I tried occasionally during my breaks to go for a walk down many of the camp trails, far away from people, bustle, and noise. There, silence was broken by my footsteps on fallen twigs, or by birds calling to each other.

However, most of life is not camp. It’s much harder to fit a quiet walk into the life of a university student, living in a townhouse complex and in a six-person house.

I think that’s why I love the fading sound of a car.

Walking along city streets, the sound of cars is nearly non-stop. You forget it’s there. But when there is a lull in the continuum, and the noise of the final car fades into the background, there is a sense of emptiness. A realization that there is nothing sharing this moment with you. A sense that even along a busy street, peace and calm can still exist. No matter how hard we try as humans, we can’t completely eliminate the quiet moments from our lives.

Just as darkness is always there, just waiting for the moment all the lights go out, silence cannot be eliminated, just drowned out. It’s always there, threatening to leave you alone with yourself when you’re not ready for it.

And as that last car disappears outside your radius of hearing, your ears remind you that you are alone. Poetically magic.

Filed under silence cars essay quiet favourite noise