In the book Smut, Erotic Reality/ Obscene Ideology , by Murray Davis (1983),
the author expresses the idea that the best source for studying human sexuality objectively
is "soft core", rather than "hard core" pornography. (Davis p. xix). The purpose of this
paper is to critique Davis's claim and to study what understanding of human sexuality
someone might have if they used some other resource that is available today, in this case
Davis argues that , "hard core pornography is usually more abstract and less
explicit than soft-core pornography". (Davis, p. xix, 1983). Davis doesn't go on to
explain how hard-core pornography can be less explicit than soft-core. However he does
explain that hard-core pornography is more abstract in that, it depicts the sex act only and
not the emotional or personal characteristics of the people involved in the act. (Davis,
p. xx) He believes soft-core pornography is describing "a sexual experience", which
conveys characteristics of the participants that are not described by hard-core
pornography. Hard-core pornography describes "sexual behaviour" which involves more
of the act of sex rather than the characteristics and feelings involved with sex. (Davis, p.
xix) Although Davis admits that the vocabulary of sex is changing (Davis, p. xxv), he also
states that hard-core pornography uses considerably more vulgar terms that are associated
with lower-class activity, such as, "prick, fuck, and suck" (Davis, p. xxiii). Davis believes
that hard-core pornography, induces imaginative behaviours by using these lower-class,
four-letter words. The stories use phrases such as "First we sucked, then we
fucked."(Davis p. xix, 1983), to allow the reader the tools to imagine the scene actually
taking place. The reader is lead by the author through the story by using words that may
be more understood or common in the readers' everyday life. He also accuses hard-core
films of being "behavioristic" and "abstract" because they often fail to "fully inform the
audience about the characters personality types and social categories."(Davis, p. xx, 1983)
Soft-core pornography, on the other hand, often depicts "the subtle phenomenological
effects that result when a character's sexual behaviour clashes with his or her personal and
social characteristics." (Davis, p. xx, 1983). In short, he study's literature or films that
involve characters with personalities that are developed and conveyed to the audience. In
these stories the characters will have sex, but the sex may or may not be the main focus of
the story, but rather something that is bound to happen when personal and social
I believe that Davis is somewhat correct in assuming that soft-core is a more
objectively reliable source for studying human sexuality. When I hear the words soft-core
pornography, I tend to think of Playboy, or films and movies that depict a story about a
person or group of people, and within that story the characters engage in sexual activity.
This sexual activity is shown or described to the reader/viewer but is not done in a graphic
nature. That is, the actual sexual penetration is not shown or shown very minimally.
Hard-core, on the other hand, is shown or described more graphically. The
dialogue usually includes, as Davis states, four-letter words. The story seems to have less
of a plot and less character development. The main purpose of the work is to show or
describe sex. So it is in this sense that I agree with Davis.
However, I firmly believe that there is not one single resource that is the best
method of studying human sexuality. There are many sources which are helpful when
studying sex and human sexuality. They can range from textbooks, entertainment
magazines, television programs, to movies and novels. In my opinion the most reliable
and important resource for studying human sexuality is personal experience. The actual
hands on, if you will, of sex. All the texts, magazines and movies can show what happens
and maybe guide your learning process, but the only real way to learn is to experience for
oneself. I feel that if a variety of resources are used when studying human sexuality, an
individual will understand and learn all aspects of sexuality in greater detail. Having
learned all aspects of sexuality a person may develop a sense of confidence in their own
sexuality. This may allow for the person to have more respect for sexual orientations or
practices that the individual may not take part in. For example, a person educated in
human sexuality at a university level may realise that homosexuality is normal and should
not be shunned. Whereas, a person not as highly educated in this field may think
homosexuals are not right, or confused. If an individual uses a mixture of hard-core
pornography, soft-core pornography, educational texts, and any other source of
information that is available, the base for their knowledge will be broadened.
With this broadened knowledge base an individual can draw their own lines for
limits in their sexual practises. A person may indulge in sex in similar manner to hard-core
pornography. That is, they may enjoy watching the penetration and using four-letter
words during sex. Or an individual may enjoy sex in more of a soft-core manner.
For example they may like the lights off and be more romantic in their sexual escapades.
I feel that a combination of the two, or even a mixture of many different resources can be
more beneficial to the individuals sexual experience. That way the individual could use the
"hit and miss" method to explore human sexuality. Which means they could try different
things until they find something that they are comfortable with.
I believe that soft-core pornography when used alone is much too vague when
studying human sexuality. All aspects of human sexuality are not dealt with. The
individual would not learn the "plumbing" aspect of sexuality , other than what is seen or
described in soft-core. (i.e. breasts and penis).
If an individual only used hard-core pornography to study human sexuality they
may believe that sex and sexuality are all about the act of sex. They may not learn the
idea of love or the responsibilities associated with sex and sexual activity. The use of only
one resource in studying anything, including human sexuality, limits the quality of
knowledge gained about the particular subject.
One example of a restricted or limited view would be if a person was only using a
resource such as the Internet to study human sexuality. The Internet, or the net, as we all
know, is a vast source of knowledge for virtually every topic imaginable. I believe that a
person would have a very limited view if using the Internet for information on human
sexuality. This would especially ring true if the person did not know how to conduct
advanced studies on the Internet. That is, the person would simply type "human
sexuality" into one of the many search engines on the net. The resulting "hits" or "sites"
(places to find information) would be a wide range of topics. They would likely range
from journal articles about human sexuality to adult oriented articles, which would likely
be hard-core. Another type of hit the "surfer" (a person who browses the Internet) may
find is the adult oriented commercial sites. These sites advertise free sex pictures or live
The problem with using the Internet and only the Internet as a resource for study is
that the information found can be so vast that one may not know where to start. The more
attractive and marketed sites may get more attention. The key words in the description of
the site may draw one's attention to that site and the less attractive sites may be by-passed.
The problem is that the less attractive sites are usually those from universities with an
abundance of credible information. The other sites are basically selling sex not the idea of
the total package of human sexuality.
Another problem is deciding which search engine to use. A search engine is a tool
that one can use to find specific topics on the Internet. Different engines have different
specialities and a different number of sites that are explored. If a person only used one
search engine when looking for sites dealing with human sexuality, an important site that is
catalogued in another search engine may be missed.
With any topic as broad as human sexuality the Internet can be more
overwhelming than it is helpful. As with human sexuality itself , I believe that the best
way to learn how to search the net is by trial and error. By learning how to narrow down
topics that are being searched the individual may be able to find a few sites that fit the
characteristics they are seeking.
Now, the problem is, which characteristics should one look for when learning
about human sexuality? This is another decision that if not made properly could lead to
someone having a limited view of human sexuality. In order to narrow down a search one
must know a little bit about what they are searching for. For example if an alien came here
and tried to research human sexuality, it may not know any aspect of our sexuality to add
to the search. For example, love plays a role in our sexuality. If someone did not know this
they would enter "human sexuality" into the search engine and again may be distracted by
flashy, hard-core, sex-sites and may not find anything on love. The over-all understanding
of human sexuality would be limited according to which sites were looked at.
Although I agree somewhat with Advisee's claim that soft-core , rather than
hard-core pornography, may be a better resource for studying human sexuality. I feel that
using only one resource for information can limit the view and even sometimes distort an
individuals ideas of human sexuality. When using a resource such as the Internet, one may
be overwhelmed with information and marketing tactics may win the attention of
information seekers and take away from the sites that actually offer factual information
regarding human sexuality.
Therefore, I believe that an individual should use all resources available to them
when studying any topic, especially a topic as complex as human sexuality.
Davis, S. Murray. (1983). Smut erotic reality obscene ideology. University of
Chicago Press: Chicago.
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