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Sex and Pornography as Media Content: Feminist Perspectives

Jane Arthurs


The ubiquity of sexualized images and narratives across all media forms signals the importance of this topic for research and analysis. In mainstream communications research in the US it has been located in the → “ Media Effects ” tradition, where the emphasis has been on the moral risks of explicit sexual content to “family values” ( Gunter 2002 ). This research uses content analysis, which relies on attaching predefined codings of →  meaning to large datasets of, mainly, television content, to measure the number of sexual incidents portrayed, and the kind of values they promote (→  Content Analysis, Quantitative ). Often funded by pressure groups such as the Kaiser Family Foundation, the aim of this research is to influence media policy on censorship and controls over children's access to sexual content. The worry is that young people will be influenced to engage in premature sexual activity outside of marriage without heed to the attendant risks. In feminist scholarship, on the other hand, there has been a different agenda. Here the initial emphasis was on the ideological reproduction of patriarchal power relations through the cultural preoccupation with women's sexuality. Most feminist research uses qualitative analysis of a few exemplary texts, to reveal the ideological work that they perform, such as the degree to which textual pleasure is predicated on women's subjection ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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