Discussion of violence 

Honest question:

Why are works of (books, comic, animation, film) depicting or more offensive to more people and cause more calls to boycott or censorship than fiction depicting extreme or , when killing someone is universally regarded as worse than raping someone (morally worse) and criminal systems everywhere punish murderers more harshly than rapists (legally worse)?

@tripu Good question.

If i had to speculate I think it has a lot to do with some unspoken subconscious stuff… my thinking goes like this.

While rape and pedophilia is deplorable, it is still sexual in nature. This has the potential to arouse and imagery associated with arousal is likely far more likely to be appealing to a person and perhaps tempt them to do the bad deed than simply watching someone kill, which in and of itself isnt something that, by watching it, is likely to have any element of pleasure and thus likely wont do as good a job at enticing someone to carry it out.


That’s a good explanation.

But something is missing: although it’s true the vast majority of us have a sexual drive, arousal happens almost exclusively when there’s a match with our own tendencies. The most basic example is: strict heterosexuals would rarely find “inspiration” in realistic depictions of gay sex, and vice versa. Similarly, is a “normal” person enticed to sex with children by watching paedophilia? I can’t speak for others, but my intuition (and my own experience) is: definitely not. Ditto about rape.

There might be a narrow slice of people with latent or ambiguous tendencies who might get something out of it, but I doubt it’s more than that.

In contrast, we’ve been hearing for decades that dramatised violence (eg, games, film) does alter the behaviour of consumers, and yet murder and violence are ubiquitous in our cultural products, and we don’t seem to give that a second thought.


The most basic example is: strict heterosexuals would rarely find “inspiration” in realistic depictions of gay sex, and vice versa.

While I agree this doesnt actually happen, I do think the fear is there all the same for hte aforementioned reasons.

Similarly, is a “normal” person enticed to sex with children by watching paedophilia? I can’t speak for others, but my intuition (and my own experience) is: definitely not. Ditto about rape.

I guess it depends on what age we are talking about. Once the child is old enough to have breasts I think even a person who isnt a pedophile who saw such a person in a sex seen, assuming they were otherwise attractive, might feel some arousal… I mean raping a 4 year old… ewww i dont think any normal person would get aroused by that… but a 15 or 16 year old? I think that is a very real possiblity, after all they have “devloped” by that age, so the formula is there at least.


Yeah, there’s the issue of the cut-off.


“Pedophilia […] is a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children. Although girls typically begin the process of puberty at age 10 or 11, and boys at age 11 or 12, psychiatric diagnostic criteria for pedophilia extend the cut-off point for prepubescence to age 13.”

Then there’s the age of consent:

“Age of consent laws vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, though most jurisdictions set the age of consent in the range 14 to 18 (with the exceptions of Argentina and Niger which set the age of consent for 13, Mexico which sets the age of consent between 12 and 15, and 14 Muslim states and the Vatican City that set the consent by marriage only).”

It’s very tricky, because obviously a psychologically healthy adult can be aroused by someone under the age of consent who looks sexually mature.

@tripu @freemo Someone doesn’t typically go out of their way to do something with so little to gain (and widely condemned).

@tripu @freemo Some studies show that video games are associated with less violence, one theory is that it keeps young people preoccupied.

The evidence in favor has been pretty weak, and even that weak evidence is very likely to just be noise.

@tripu @freemo Curiously, murder is also an issue which isn’t emotionally charged in politics in quite the same way.

Discussion of violence 

@tripu To a degree, the victim matters. Murder of a child *is* typically depicted as being just as heinous as pedophilia.
But depicting the murder of a soldier or a criminal is more acceptable, because that's the job they signed up for.

I think the other issue is that while most people would view depictions of rape or pedophilia with an appropriate reaction (horror), there are those who might seek it out for arousal purposes, and nobody wants to create porn for those people. You don't really have that issue with a gun battle in an action movie.

Discussion of violence 


OK, so

murder of a child > rape of a child


murder of a child > murder of an adult

I get that. But then, why do we behave as if

rape of a child > murder of an adult

and as if

rape of an adult > murder of an adult


Abominable as rape is, isn’t murder always worse?

Discussion of violence 

@tripu I think part of the problem is that, in our society, we consider murder to be a crime that can be committed against anyone… But rape is a crime committed only against the vulnerable (not in reality, but in perception). And it’s that element of taking advantage of the vulnerable that makes it especially heinous.

Discussion of violence 


I think the other issue is that while most people would view depictions of rape or pedophilia with an appropriate reaction (horror), there are those who might seek it out for arousal purposes

But depictions of violence work the same way, don’t they? To most people they are disgusting, but to some people they may be exciting and trigger behaviour.

Also: you mention soldiers, criminals and gun battles. It might be that violence in those scenarios is understood to be “expected”. But what about pedestrians being killed in Grand Theft Auto, random people being tortured in Saw and similar horror movies, the gangster who kills a shopkeeper during a robbery on a TV series, and all that “normal” people beating and killing other “normal” people in so many works of fiction, like, all the time?

Discussion of violence 

@tripu I don’t think most wannabe serial killers are jerking off to Rambo, no.

As for the second bit… most of those examples you described, especially GTA, are cartoonish. Cartoonish violence is especially given a pass because it’s roughly equated to child’s play. And maybe that’s part of the answer to your core question… because we allow children to play with violence (i.e. wrestling, dodgeball, etc).

I've always assumed it had more to od with taboo than anything else, but your question led me to ponder about alternatives. I'm not sure I buy freemo's theory about arousal, for I've read about the existence of arousal out of other forms of violence too, though I don't know much about its prevalence. one less cynical theory I came up was that victims of murder don't survive with trauma, whereas victims of sexual abuse do, and since sexual abuse is so common (sadly), depicting it could trigger a large fraction of the potential audience, so it would be ill advised. but that doesn't quite explain boycotts, does it? maybe the boycotts arise out of an unexpected alignment between victims, who'd rather not relive the trauma, and abusers, who'd rather not have their own crimes exposed. if this is right, it's really sad, because education, awareness and empathy seem to be the best defenses and preventions against such abuses.


I don’t think it’s about preventing victims from reviving their trauma.

For that, we have rating systems, advisories, reviews and art critics. And adult consumers can immediately quit whatever they are reading, watching or listening to.

Also, whoever has been ever tortured, beaten, or attacked may be a survivor of a murder attempt — and they are definitely a survivor of violence. Wouldn’t all those people be “triggered” by depictions of violence, too?

all good points
I suppose I'm back to taboo, then
I mean, I've seen people be monstered and cancelled for trying to hold a sane philosophical discussion about age of consent. it's a dialectic minefield


That’s for sure.

I’m glad I’m on an instance where I can use words like “paedophilia” and not be given an immediate warning by admins :)

@tripu Murder is a destructive act, with death as the end goal. Sex is a creative act, with pleasure and birth as the eventual end goals. The shock value of rape is that of a creative, loving act (sex) that's been perverted to destructive control.

It's the cognitive dissonance that occurs when observing the transformation of the positive into a destructive force that provides the added shock value.

In many ways, it's the same dynamic as the difference between death by a firing squad and mutilation through torture. The latter is less destructive (the victim is still alive), but vastly more cruel, as the victim has to live with the injury forever. The same can be said of victims of rape and pedophilia.


I think I understand the difference in shock value. My point is that morality (and the law) shouldn’t depend on how shocking something is, but on objective measures of moral worth, consequences, etc.

Open-heart surgery is very shocking to watch, but it’s very good. Hundreds of children dying every day of diarrhoea in distant countries isn’t shocking (we got used to it, and we mostly ignore it), but it’s very bad. etc.

Similarly, if killing someone is worse than raping someone, we should be
at least as vocal opposing depictions of the former as we are about the latter, regardless of what is more shocking.

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