Sunday, May 15, 2005

Sex and Violence

Director Atom Egoyan is surprised that the explicit sex scenes in his new movie, “Where the Truth Lies,” are getting much more response than are the scenes of extreme violence.

"It really is interesting to me how people respond to the sexuality but not to the violence," Egoyan said. This is an old complaint. Why is our society shocked by explicit sex even as it tolerates violence—as if the two are equal. They aren’t.

Violence often erupts in the public sphere. Most of us have seen violence firsthand, whether it was a fist fight or a violent accident or much worse. But very few of us have seen other people having sex firsthand. Sex is, for obvious reasons, an act that is kept private. Violence, unfortunately, is prone to happen right in front of our eyes.

So it should be no surprise that sex on screen sparks more shock than does violence on screen. It’s not so much that our society is prude, it’s just that, in a world of diminishing privacy, a lot of people feel that we should endeavor to keep our most intimate acts out of the public sphere. Putting sex on screen breaks that privacy barrier. But violence on screen breaks no such barrier. It’s already all around us.

There's nothing wrong with putting sex on screen, but we shouldn’t be surprised when it garners more attention than does violence. Sex and violence are two very different things. It’s odd how often we pretend they are related.


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