Cohen (1980) defines moral panic as the emergence of a particular condition, episode, individual or group of people that threatens the societal values and interests (Cohen, 1980, p. 9). The society often has socially shared values and moral panic. This happens when there is something that comes to the surface and threatens this set of values; when that thing that surface goes against these values, potentially changes, challenges and damages this set of values. Thus, it becomes a cause of concern for the society as a whole.
Often, these values involve, among other things, morals about certain aspects of life. The rise of the threat and cause of moral panic presents the challenge to morals and even deviation from, morals and the accepted morality. There have been many causes of moral panic. There are those which appeared just once, while there are those which are consistently banging at the door of morality and is developing, changing evolving as time passes by. It does not disappear, but it does not grow worse either. It simply changes and remains constant in the lives of people for a long period of time.
One of these types of things is pornography among young adults, an important issue in sexuality starting from the time there were commercial and mass media capabilities that allow for pornography to be distributed and circulated among many different readers. From magazines to betamax and VCDs and CD copies of pornographic material, the moral panic on pornography was revived at the start of the era of internet-based pornography and the threat of information overload regarding the exceedingly diverse content of pornography.
Many of which are considered as taboo, unaccepted, unethical and immoral in the eyes of the society. This will be the key focus of the discussion of moral panic. The Model for Moral Panic The phenomenon of moral panic, according to Cohen (1980), follows a certain style, model or pattern that has certain important characteristics. Cohen identifies this characteristics and the analysis of phenomenon of and characteristics of moral panic is focused on whether moral panic follows or deviates from what Cohen describes (Cohen, 1980, p. 9).
In the analysis of moral panic on pornography and young people, it is important to consider the characteristics, patterns and descriptions described by Cohen regarding moral panic and see if the issue at hand demonstrates or digress from this particular moral panic model. The analysis of moral panic regarding pornography and the exploration of sexuality allows for the identification of a particular example of the social construction of normalcy and deviance and how and when the polar positions are identified during issues of moral panic. Threat to moral values Cohen believes that moral panic is a threat to moral values (Cohen, 1980, p.
10). The problem of pornography has always been associated with the fact that pornography is a material that threatens to distort existing moral values on what is wrong and right and acceptable when it comes to sexuality and expression of sexuality by the individual. “Clearly the issue of pornography on the Internet is a moral panic (Cothran, 2002, p. 45)”. This problem has been consistent with the consistency of the problem of pornography. It was highlighted once again with the realization of growing problem of pornography in connection to its presence in the internet.
The internet has successfully reached and connected millions of young people all across the globe, which makes the threat to moral values stronger. Presented in a stylized and stereotypical manner by the mass media The mass media, particularly news, talk shows, movies and other info-entertainment shows, have tackled the problem of pornography especially internet-based pornography. As a reaction to this, places like Europe has undertaken efforts to make sure that the media and its role in presenting pornography is controlled in such a way that it is more helpful and informative than merely a source of distorted truth (Ost, 2009, p.
241). “An essential rule of conduct must be to ensure that the media’s presentation of child pornography and grooming is accurate and not sensationalized (Ost, 2009, p. 241). ” Media presentation of this problem is often stereotypical. For example, movies, like American Pie, present a stereotypical idea about pornography and the reaction of young people to it. In a way, the presentation of mass media regarding this issue has the impact of making the issue louder and stronger and makes its existence last longer because of the role of media in affecting the consciousness of the people.
So long as the media presents this kind of content, the people will always be made to remember. For some, this is important since they believe that this is an issue that the society should not just ignore or shrug off. Presence of moral barricades by right thinking people Pornography, and in particular, internet-pornography, has been attacked by those who condemn in; people whom Cohen describes as the one who provide, maintain, create and identify moral barricades in the belief that what they believe is right and that they are the right people to identify what is right for the society. This includes parents, religion leaders, writers, etc.
“Although we live in a generally tolerant society, pornography is today being attacked from many quarters (Plantinga, 1982, p. 78). ” Experts and their diagnoses and solution Part of the cycle or system involved in the identification and surfacing or re-surfacing of issues resulting to moral panic is the presence of professionals who provide diagnoses of the issue and makes authoritative claims for possible solution to the problem. In the case of internet-pornography, part of the literature is the review of past writings regarding the diagnoses on pornography and compiles it with new studies and findings regarding this matter.
Professionals like psychologists and sociologists will make analysis on how this issue came to be, what caused it and what would result from it and ultimately what should be done about it. Groups like Commission on Obscenity and Pornography undertake studies to examine the impact of pornography and provide solutions (Rist, 1974, p. 217). Ways of coping In the end, the society will find a way to cope with the moral panic and the cause of moral panic. In the tug-of-war battle, the failure to completely remove or eradicate the source of the problem can result in the society accepting that the problem is here to stay.
Solutions will take long term timetables and thus should not be expected to be removed or defeated in a short period of time. For internet pornography, society’s way of coping is by creating protective measures to lessen the potential for exposure of young people to pornography. They used technology to assist them and make them capable in coping. They depended on the strength of family values to keep young people away from these kinds of materials, and trusted the judgment and ability to discern by young people so that this problem does not result in moral distortion or breakdown among young people exposed to this kind of material.
The society turned to laws to hamper, hinder, limit, deter or make this less powerful and less capable. Deviance Pornography and internet-based pornography is a form of deviance. Its contents contain forms of deviance, particularly in the aspect of sexuality and young people. Sexuality and sexual practices inside the society has its own set of acceptable forms. The content of internet-based pornography fuels deviant and non conformist attitudes and perspectives in sexuality and sexual practice. Main Players
Moral panic always involved individuals acting as main players involved in the issue, especially those who support and those who are against this particular issue. In this issue of moral panic, it is important to mention that part of the main players in this issue are those that dictate and create the social construct of normalcy on one hand and those who break this and act as deviants from this particular form of socially-shared moral values. There are merely participants in the cycle of moral deviance involving pornography and there are those who directly challenge, oppose and break the moral design regarding this particular issue.
Participants include those who are responsible for the production, creation, management and circulation of materials which maintains the pornography industry which in turn feeds the consistent moral panic regarding pornography and young people. Young people who display abnormal dependence, reliance, obsession and addiction to pornography and commits actions considered as grossly unaccepted in the eyes of the society are the reason for the moral panic.
It is because there are people who are hooked in pornography and the fact that it is a phenomenon not exclusive to just to one era or geographical location are the main reasons why pornography among young people is a moral panic. The moral vanguards who dictate the condition of normalcy in the society believes that this has the potential to damage the emotional, psychological and mental faculties of the young individual. Of course, there are also those who stand on the opposite polar positions.
These individuals provide a balance and deter the issue from becoming something that is completely socially acceptable by opposing it. In this issue, these include parents, teachers, religious leaders, politicians and conservative thinking people who does not approve of pornography in general. Key Issues The discussion of Cohen regarding moral panic reflects an integral part of the problem. There are key issues involved in the phenomenon of moral panic which makes the problem more pronounced not to mention being more significant considering it compounds and worsens other problems.
Of course, the main issue on moral panic regarding pornography is the fear of the deterioration of moral values especially with regards to sex, sexual activities and sexual preferences, among others. This is easier said than explained in detail. This problem is an interconnection of many different smaller and yet equally significant problems and key issues including sexual identity and confusion, challenging parental and societal authoritative role, deviance, the evils of mass media and mass communication, etc.
Strongly linked to this are other key issues which are also important and significant in the discussion of internet-based pornography. Beside moral deterioration, pornography is also linked to, results to or is often related to crimes, especially those sexual in nature, like molestation, rape, sexual assault and other sexual offenses created by the young people. The fact that internet has a broader audience and scope and is easier accessible makes it more dangerous compared to its video and print counterpart.
The problem of pornography and its effects as a whole can worsen significantly in consideration to the joint impact of all of these media to the young people and to the society in general. Other issues are present as well, like the degradation and molestation of women and children (Thompson, 1998, p. 10), prostitution, gender roles, etc. Sexual openness at the degree being offered by internet pornography also impacts the psyche and consciousness and well as perspective of the individual which can lead the person to challenge the existing societal beliefs, and later, the norms.
Worse, the person may challenge the law once the individual tries to break free from the constraints of social life by pursuing or exploring the full extent of the person’s newfound sexuality and sexual orientation as a result of exposure to and influence of internet pornography. Reason for Moral Panic Pornography and internet-based pornography symbolized the evolution of sexuality and sexual preference. The traditional conservative society still finds it hard to accept and accommodate and make mainstream because of strong values dictated by well entrenched societies like church and religion, for example.
This therefore symbolizes the inability of the society to fully reconcile with the changes in sexuality and sexual preference among what appears to be a growing number of people. This also symbolized an important era in the history of human sexuality as a whole. The problem of pornography and internet-based pornography is not a stand alone, solitary issue that challenges a particular set of societal characteristics. In closer investigation, it is noticeable how the problem of pornography stands alongside other issues.
This comes in the era of liberalization in thinking among many different aspects of human life which is equally considered as unethical and immoral, like cloning, decriminalization of marijuana and same sex marriage. These issues, like pornography, sparks moral panic and has long existed as a societal problem, issue and point of argument among many professionals for and against it. The reason for moral panic is the inability of the society to allow change.
In the aspect of sex and sexuality, those who dictate the norms and morals of the society believes that where the world is right now is acceptable already and that deviations from such practice is unacceptable. As Cohen points in its analysis of deviation, the question here is that it is unacceptable to whom? Does it comprise the greater majority, or the powerful minority only? The inability for change is often coupled with fear of the unknown which are reasons for moral panic. Sure, specialists can make intelligent guesses as to how this can affect the future and what behaviors this will result from.
However, educated and intelligent they are, these are just guesses still. The greater picture is comprised of the fact that people are fearful of what they know. They know change would come, but they do not know exactly how it looks like, if it is acceptable to them, etc. Because of that, they resort to moral panic, using it a defense mechanism enabling them to handle the problem of being incapable of the uncertainty of the future. They try to control to present and this act of controlling is expected to create deviants as well as reasons for, and tool supporting this act of deviance, a role that pornography plays.
Conclusion Using moral panic to view the phenomenon regarding the sexuality of young people and pornography is important and useful. It allows the analysis to reflect the existing accepted morality regarding and surrounding this issue and how this is being consistently threaten and broken. It also reflects as to how the society was not able to fully evolve to allow them to either put a stop to this moral issue or completely accommodate pornography in such a way that this is not an issue anymore. The use of moral panic allows the analysis to better understand the attitude and perception of the people regarding the issue.
It allows the analysis to see the problems present in this point of concern, and to establish the reasons and entities that surround the occurrence of the trend in human social life. There are always those who create the patterns for normalcy and what constitutes it, from which deviants find a way to deviate from and create their own identity as deviants from socially-accepted and shared beliefs, attitudes and perspectives. Here, pornography plays a key role in deviance in sexuality which in turn results to moral panic.
Bibliography Cohen, S 1980, Folk Devils & Moral Panics, Blackwell, Oxford. Cothran, H 2002, Pornography: opposing viewpoints, Greenhaven Press, Michigan. Ost, S 2009, Child pornography and sexual grooming: legal and societal responses, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Plantinga, T 1982, Learning to live with evil, W. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. , Michigan. Rist, R C 1974, The pornography controversy: changing moral standards in American life, Transaction Publishers, New Jersey. Thompson, K 1998, Moral panics, Routledge, New York.