Computer as a place of violence
In the past few years, the issue of violence against women has been repeatedly presented in the media. Discussions concerning this topic present two opposing fronts.
On one hand, there are those (mostly feminists),who denounce the portrayal of women as weak, helpless, a bit stupid; as those whose heads are only used to apply make-up. Special attention is given in viewing them as sexual entities, who are not only viewed as objects of desire, either to be rescued, oppressed, raped or dominated, according to whim. Critics, both male and female contend that this imagery has a decisive influence on the role assigned to women which furthermore directs how men, and younger men treat women; this being negative.
On the other hand, promoted by the media itself, so-called liberals, and leftist males state that freedom of speech is to be treasured, and that censorship should be silenced when it forbids viewing of certain films and depictions. Politicians demand that media should reflect on it’s role in this matter and take responsibility for it’s action. This is a problem!
Many simply claim that there is not scientific justification to prove that the representation of mysogynism, sex and crime portrayals tend to lead to violence. They advocate the opposite, that pornography reduces some of so-called male aggression. This is however false.
It is true that science after extensive research has created more questions than answers, however there is proof prior and after such work that violence – or the consumption of pornography deadens emotions. This deadening of emotions removes empathy, or the ability to show compassion for feminine victims (for example rape victims). The lack of empathy for victims of sexual violence is a basic problem in our society, and this factor contributes to perpetuating this situation.
The Western World’s responsibility
The computer is the most modern medium utilised to propagate an all-inclusive palette which thrusts violent depictions of women in front of us. Even today we witness that the rise of some of these brutal portrayals are results of modern computerised technology. I venture to predict that this bestiality shall propagate as the usage of computer spreads.
“Computer pornography. I didn’t know, that it exists!” I hear this sentence 99.9 % of the time when I approach women, as well as men. Most women and adult men don’t know anything about this. Most of the young men, and all individuals who view the computer as being more than a typewriter are aware of this. What really is “computer pornography?”. Is there something special about it? Realistically, there is; as pornography through the computer removes the traditional barrier between consumer and producer. This development is already highly evident in videos. With video equipment everyone can create their own home porno which they can offer, sell, or maintain for their own use. This is also possible in computer pornography where secrecy is easier. A computer is a technical instrument. It is not viewed as a casual fun, as is video equipment. Most people(parents included)think that people, for example young men who sit in front of “the box” are doing something serious, and important. Transparency, and privacy through computerised pornography is much higher than in videos. The level of control is extremely minimised.
At all times, every woman without her knowledge can become a porno star. With computer pornography one does not need a live model. On this level there are no “witnesses” and no “proof”. Let me give an example: for youth it is not a problem that a porno program such as the “Playmate can be transformed to suit their needs. A young man for example, once took the head of the playmate of this program, and replaced it with that of his teacher, who unknowingly became a porno star. This can happen to all women at all times; at the office, at the university, in a public office, or at home. Manipulation of this kind occurs on screen: “Halloo, my name is Maxi. Do you like my body? When the user says “Yes”, then he clicks his response in with the mouse. Then he can print his image that appears on screen by activating the “push” button. If he does not find Maxi to be appropriate, he can continue to search for another playmate. In very well-designed programs, women can be modelled according to the taste of the user.
Let’s introduce a third aspect, interactivity. Is there a difference if I only view a porno, or if I manipulatively interact with the visual female presented on the screen. The user gets the feeling that he is n active participant.
“Treatment of play” through interactivity with Pornos
Let us note that young men are both fascinated by the arena of games and technology which has to do with their level of development. Though imitating they are supposed to gain competency in social settings. In higher members of the family of mammals, imitation is the method that necessitates learning. Here, humans have a large capacity to potentially assimiate information which does not exclude viewing.
Observing is the prerequisite in repeating actions that involve dealing(with others) in active participation which encompasses the ability to grasp and retain. In this circumstance, the urge to play is promoted, which has a motivational component, especially found in youth. They can achieve an initial “kick” through this contact, as it allows them through manipulation, to transform a product; from this comes positive feedback. The user can use a mouse, a joy-stick, or touch screen, with the use of a scanner or video digital system he can create his own pictures in motion. All question of being answerable concerning usage, programming, and production are his sole domain.
All that is needed to get production going is single porno magazine or film.
Image of Women as perpetually available
There is a shift that then occurs in how women are perceived. Artificial, “virtual” woman going by the names of Maxie, Misty or Valerie, assisted through technical advancements to appear realistic are totally at the disposal of the user. Virtual women comply to whatever requests the user commands. This gives the user an aura of exclusive power; thus positive feedback. It doesn’t matter if the user introduces whips, hand-cuffs, artificial penises or other “instruments of pleasure” of which these “tools” or “toy-boxes” can be animated on the computer screen by the click of the mouse. In these episodes virtual women “enjoy” these activities and ask for more “treatment” of this nature, through sounds emanating from the sound-card which reinforces this effect. These virtual women are enabled with the facility to make words and sounds. These images never show pain, or criticise the user, and they always seem willing.
At this point, by constructing and conveying such imagery of women, these young men are most likely having their having their first “sexual contact” through the medium of computer.
The world of artistic possibilities
It is easier for male youths to have quick access to Valerie and Misty, instead of real women and girls. For example, in Germany, at least eight percent of children’s favourite games appear on index. It is also relevant, that the level of first contact with such material to experiment with has drastically sunk to younger male youth.
What happens when young men who do have experience with computer porno get together with actual women or girls? What results when real women act differently than the virtual ones? One thing is for certain – there is a major collision of images that takes place; as the virtual women are not human. They are not women. I believe that this actually transfers an outfitted image of what men are supposed to be. We feminists all too often forget that the media fortifies an alarming depiction of what men are, this being a rather dehumanising one.
Cruel violent actions against women are sold in the form of a game. Brutality is something that everyone can participate in. Whoever rapes the majority of women wins the game (for example the adventure game “Larry”). Whoever wins is good, strong, a real man. If this practice is sustained from the side of men, how can destructive behaviour between the sexes ever end?
How men are viewed by boys: Softie or Rambo?
We women are defending ourselves against the role that the media assigns us. Rightly so! This is not because we don’t want to be this likeness, but because it has nothing to do with us.
When are men going to take a stand against the manner that media characterises them? When are men going to challenge how media portrays them? What can be done so that opposition to all of these images is pursued? Perhaps so-called softies and forceful youth are not reachable, and confirmed feminists cannot be persuaded to believe that change, on the part of men is possible, as they do not trust usage of pseudo-feminist language and actions from their male counterparts. Is there a likelihood that there exists a “reflective and tamed Sylvester Stallone?” It is my contention that we must confront men with their fault in this matter.
Virtual Aggressive Activity
Through the artificial(virtual) world of the computer we arrive at a virtual construction that harbours a violent component in how women are expressed. Individuals can interact with these instruments, or tools of possibility, as they offer the power to modify, and wield, at will, even if live models are not present. When reality is interspersed with unreality, then this can be a basis to further confuse usage and activity. For most men and boys, there are few opportunities in which they can interact with a live woman, in the manner that the sanction-free world of virtuality offers. As this “abuse” all takes place in the realm of make-believe, then it is free of societal judgement, and the media can bask in such favour.
Through interaction with pornos, on CD-Rom, women are even more objectified. They are not only separated from their own physical beings, they are through this detached device, redeemed of physical contact with their torturers. This is known as virtual violence. Otherwise, we can note that direct abuse of women is actively aided by the media, which delegates through the computer. In this manner, men and masculine youth experience a severance from their senses, so that they fail to perceive suffering, pain, and fear coming from their social opposites.
Now, we have again landed with feeling sorry for the victimisers. Empathy, is something that humans must learn; without this it is impossible for men, and women to get along with one another, peacefully. I am afraid that through computerpornos there will be a greater uncoupling between men and women(or girls and boys) then we now know.
World Wide Netz
The computer is a tool of “jack(s)-of-all-trades”, and in this dwells much of the menace. When usage of this instrument expands, it directly aims at it’s victims. Through world-wide net, or internet, a new arena of “business” has opened. These are men-only clubs which cater to paedophiles, or child molesters, sadists, illegal trade in women, sado-masochists, dealers in child pornography, and so on. The options available have rapidly increased that could sexually interest men through netboxes, mailboxes, BTX’s; which offer a better, and more comprehensive array of services that are of utmost interest as they bid confidentiality. The rate of turn-over, through these various information channels is quite high, for example, for those clientele interested in the trade of women, and need prepared duplication materials of a quality and novelty that assure more customers.
The computer is a tool that can be worked with that can through time and space extend itself to increasing violence and brutality towards women and children. Let me present two examples: There is evidence that mass torture which took place in former Yugoslavia can be accessed to create “live pornos”. These can turn into interactive CD-Roms, which can be “savoured” on the network. So-called snuff videos show mostly, womanly looking girls who are persecuted by a male adult wearing a concealing hood. The “orgasm” or high point of the film is the murder of the child. Instead of being horrified, let’s tackle this problem, effectively. I ask you to see it for what it is, and face the problem.
Monika Gerstendörfer is a member of Terre des Femmes (Women of the earth), Germany.
(*) This is a re-worked section that appeared in the
magazine, Terre des Femmes, circular letter of 4/1995.
Translated by Zari A. Harat