By Rachael Liberman
As pornography becomes increasingly accessible due to technology (mobile phones, Internet, etc.), researchers have started to pay close attention to its individual and cultural impact on the construction of sexuality and subsequent behavior. Research on pornography spans a variety of theoretical paradigms and methodologies, and works to answer questions regarding audience reception, political economy of the industry, content and violence, and a variety of other cultural and critical inquiries. While at one point on the margins of media studies, film studies, and sociological research, porn studies has become a staple in attempts to understand the interaction between sexuality, audience and media.
Periodically, the mainstream media will pick up on published pornography studies and offer the researcher, or researchers, an opportunity to reach a larger audience. A recent article published in London’s Times reports on a recent study by Michael Flood, which found that young boys who are exposed to porn are likely to have problematic relationships with women. According to the article, “Boys exposed to porn are more likely to indulge in casual sex and less likely to form successful relationships when they grow older, according to research carried out in a dozen countries.” The article goes on to report that Flood’s research indicates that pornography is not the ideal sex educator and that the Internet is creating an environment where boys are most likely going to treat it as such.
Courtesy of Istvan Takacs
By Rachael Liberman
In a recent article published by the LA Times, titled “Watching TV shortens life span, study finds,” Jeannine Stein reports on a study that “found that each hour a day spent watching TV was linked with an 18% greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, an 11% greater risk of all causes of death, and a 9% increased risk of death from cancer.” This particular study, which used participants from the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study, used both television viewing hours and blood sugar levels as variables to determine their results. As Stein reports, “Researchers found a strong connection between TV hours and death from cardiovascular disease, not just among the overweight and obese, but among people who had a healthy weight and exercised.” Further, “People who watched more than four hours a day showed an 80% greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 46% higher risk of all causes of death compared with those who watched fewer than two hours a day, suggesting that being sedentary could have general deleterious effects.”
The rest of Stein’s article includes quotes from Dr. David Dunstan, lead author of the study, and Dr. Prediman K. Shah, director of the cardiology division of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, who both comment on “sitting posture,” “long periods of sitting,” “long hours in front of the computer screen,” and “couch potatoes.” (more…)
In a recent LA Times diatribe, writer David Kronke instantly reveals his disgust for women within the current slew of reality programming. He writes, “It has become a ubiquitous formula: Round up a gaggle of pert and perky girls who haven’t spent much time considering the world around them and who don’t play well with others, and follow their antics with camera crews. Invariably, they’ll say tings that betray a hilariously stunted worldview. Invariably, they’ll offend anyone with a modicum of decorum.” Kronke’s article critiques shows such as The Girls Next Door, Real Housewives, Bad Girls Club and Bridezillas, highlighting the fact that the majority of these “rowdy, raunchy women” are looking for attention, confrontation, and fame. Using interviews from professors and psychiatrists, Kronke adamantly works to illustrate the notion that the women of reality shows are located within a formulaic, desperate genre and that their attention-seeking behavior is beyond problematic. While Kronke’s concern for the direction and phenomenon of reality television is well taken, it seemed as though something was missing. (more…)
By Rachael Liberman
In a recent article from The Nation, heavyweight media scholars John Nichols and Robert McChesney remind readers that the current crisis in American journalism does not necessarily mean that the industry is fated to fail. Rather, Nichols and McChesney optimistically open the article with the news that the Federal Trade Commission is planning to hold (they are holding it right now) a hearing to “assess the radical downsizing and outright elimination of newspaper newsrooms and to consider public-policy measures that might arrest a precipitous collapse in reporting and editing of news.” Additionally, they note that the Federal Communications Commission “is also launching an extraordinary review of the state of journalism.” With these unprecedented actions slated to take place, it would appear that journalism is on the road to recovery. Receiving support from national organizations, after years of monetary losses and the decline of social impact, would work to restore journalism in both the private and public sphere. Unfortunately, Nichols and McChesney do not foresee the FTC or the FCC action as the answer to the journalism industry’s crisis. Rather, they see their approach, which uses the Internet as the catchall scapegoat, as counter-productive and derailing a larger issue. They write, “Now for the bad news: the way the challenges facing journalism are being discussed, indeed the way the crisis is being framed, will make it tough for even the most sincere policy-makers to offer a viable answer to it.” (more…)
By Rachael Liberman
It’s one thing to experience the pornification of culture through public advertising (billboards, subway adverts), among other mediated formats. But what if someone sitting next to you on the subway is watching pornography on their iPod? In a recent Washington Post article, Staff Writer Monica Hesse questions the acceptability of portable porn, also known as “secondhand porn” to those experiencing forced exposure. Due to technological (portable) advancements, the consumption of digital pornography has moved from the domestic to the public. Instead of being subjected to pornography by your “slobby” college roommate, Hesse reports that exposure has permeated public transportation, among other venues. She writes, “But the increasing popularity of laptops and handheld devices, and the prevalence of wireless Internet success, means there’s a greater chance of becoming a bystander to a complete stranger’s viewing proclivities. Like being exposed to the cigarette smoke of a nicotine addict on the street, people are inhaling secondhand smut.”
In her article, Hesse does not maintain that “secondhand porn” is a plague infecting the public sphere. Instead, she writes that it is a steady phenomenon that has become increasingly prevalent –during flights and professional basketball games. She also does not make this a moral issue. Instead, Hesse frames this phenomenon around the public/private debate and cultural dependence on personal technology. (more…)
By Rachael Liberman
Academia has never been immune to charges of elitism, sexism, or racism. From the use of socially questionable theories as “objective truth” to the absorption of meritocracy, academia does not necessarily evoke thoughts of “fairness” or “transparency.” As a doctoral student myself, I have encountered inconsistencies and political posturing within the “ivory tower.” Unfortunately, however, I have to play by the rules of the field, as Bourdieu would say, in order to successfully claim a position in academia. Sustainability in this field, however, is another story. As a woman, I have become familiar with statistics on the number of female professors with tenure – as well as the pay gap – at my university. It’s hard to digest. However, a group of women at DePaul University (Chicago) seem to be questioning the notion of academic capital, to use Bourdieu again, and are actually suing the university for not receiving tenure. Their grounds? Gender discrimination.
According to Denise Mattson, DePaul University’s vice president for public relations, the university does not condone gender discrimination. She is quoted in a Chicago Tribune article as stating: “Every faculty member seeking tenure is held to the same standards: scholarship, service and teaching.” However, Lynne Bernabei, the attorney of the four women who are suing DePaul, feels that the potential for bias is built into the system, pointing to the final academic board, which is comprised of members outside of the applicant’s discipline. In the same Chicago Tribune article, she states: “How does, say, a physics professor decide who is more deserving of tenure, someone in English or maybe engineering? When there is no objective criteria, there’s a tendency to fall back on stereotypes.” (more…)
Courtesy of Emily Rutherford and Equal Writes
By Rachael Liberman
As a result of the sustained efforts of Undergraduate Student Government Life Committee members, a pilot program for gender-neutral housing will come to Princeton University this spring. This means that students can apply to the Spelman Hall upperclassman-housing lottery in mixed-gender groups rather than all female or all male. According to a letter written to university members by Student Government President Connor Diemand-Yauman, “Suites in the Spelman Hall housing lottery would be designated as GNH. Unlike in other current housing options, these spaces would be co-educational, thus permitting male, female and transgender students to not only be in the same draw group, but live together in GNH suites.” Emily Rutherford, a student member of the Undergraduate Life Committee calls this development “a major change in university policy that brings Princeton quite dramatically and unequivocally into the 21st century.” Unfortunately, not everyone feels this way. In a response to Rutherford’s article on the Campus Progress website, someone wrote: “This is rather depressing. I’m glad I left Princeton when I did – and here’s hoping that the administration doesn’t give in to these demands.”
However, whether or not the public agrees with Princeton’s gender-neutral housing program is not of primary concern here. Instead, it is interesting to think about why there should be gender-neutral housing in the first place. In her article, Rutherford writes, “We all have to do what we can to make our communities places we can be proud of, and create circumstances that will be better for the next generation.” (more…)
By Rachael Liberman
While public school violence has been an ongoing epidemic in Chicago, the recent murder of 16-year-old Derrion Albert, showcased on YouTube and other various Internet sources, has repositioned its priority level to urgent. However, as weeks have passed, the public is still wondering: what and when is something going to be done? Finally, the New York Times has revealed a plan orchestrated by Ron Huberman, the new chief officer of Chicago Public Schools, that is reportedly going into effect this winter. According to the article, “Financed by federal stimulus grants for two years, the $60 million plan uses a formula gleaned from an analysis of more than 500 students who were shot over the last several years to predict the characteristics of potential future victims, including when and where they might be attacked.” According to this statistical analysis, the victims are most likely to be black, male, without a stable living environment, in special education, skipping an average of 42 percent of school days, and having a record of school behavioral problems eight times higher than the average student.
The next step in Huberman’s plan includes identifying 10,000 vulnerable students that fit this profile, and then giving them increased attention, which according to the article, includes “giving each of them a paid job and a local advocate who would be on call for support 24 hours a day.” Now, this plan has not been met without criticism from the community, who question why only this set amount of students are going to receive special treatment when, in fact, there are 410,000 students in the Chicago Public School system that could benefit from such attention. Interestingly, as Susan Saulny, the author of the New York Times article, points out, Darrion Albert, who was a member of the football team and an honor roll student, wouldn’t have matched the demographics calculated by the statistical analysis and therefore would not have been part of this prevention technique. (more…)
By Rachael Liberman
Everyone has an opinion on pornography. Some argue that it is a vital contributor to understanding sexuality, some assert that it is a vulgar practice that objectifies women, and some maintain that is a lucrative industry just like any other capitalistic enterprise. Of course, these three positions are not the only ones that pervade the cultural discussion of the pornography industry. For example, during the Value Voters Summit in Washington, D.C. this past weekend, Michael Schwartz, chief of staff for Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) told an audience that: “All pornography is homosexual pornography, because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards.” He went on to say that: “And if you tell an 11-year-old boy about that, do you think he’s going to want to get a copy of Playboy? I’m pretty sure he’ll lose interest. That’s the last thing he wants! You know, that’s a good comment, it’s a good point, and it’s a good thing to teach young people.”
Now, taking Schwartz’s ultra-conservative standpoint into account, this statement could be written off as another homophobic, moralistic rant. However, the inaccuracy of this assumption, coupled with its context as part of a panel on “The New Masculinity,” deserves some attention. Schwartz’s statement that “all pornography is homosexual pornography” was taken from a conversation he had with a “very good friend” that was commenting on “the malady that he suffered” due to living the “homosexual lifestyle.” (more…)
HeavensField Retreat Center in Fall City, Washington
By Rachael Liberman
When ReSTART, the Fall City, Washington “Internet Addiction Recovery Program,” opened its doors in July 2009, it became the first of its kind in the United States. According to its press release: “Video game and Internet addicts can now find solutions to the addictive behavior that devastates their marriages, careers, schooling, family life and health.” The program, co-founded by Cosette Rae, MSW and Hilarie Cash, PhD, offers a 45-day, “cold turkey” program that includes counseling and psychotherapy sessions, household chores, working on grounds, and exercising. Recently, the AP sent a release that resulted in a slew of articles centered on Ben Alexander, the center’s first patient who had an unhealthy relationship with “World of Warcraft.” According to an article in The Guardian, he flunked out of the University of Iowa in his first year. He is quoted as saying: “At first it was a couple hours a day. By midway through the first semester, I was playing 16 or 17 hours a day.”
Now, it needs to be made clear that Internet Addiction Disorder is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . While there is a movement in the medical community, based on happenings abroad – mostly in China, South Korea, and Taiwan – and other research findings about addiction, to include this in the 2012 DSM manual, IAD is still a debated disorder. (more…)