Murray Davis' Smut, Erotic Reality/Obscene Ideology


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 the Internet.
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 characteristics clash.
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