Porn and the Eye of the Beholder

An information campaign raised public ire when it produced a billboard that shocked some viewers.

The poster shows a woman without clothing, her breasts (all four) hooked to a pump. She’s on her hands and knees, reflecting the imagery of a cow being milked.

The campaign—how several years old—was spearheaded by a group of women protesting genetically modified milk cows in New Zealand.

While the group defended the posting, others complained that the imagery was at the very least, against community standards, and, at the most, pornographic.

I’m writing about the imagery to bring to the table a discussion about what constitutes community standards and taste.

As communication scholars we tend to defer to peoples’ judgment of mass media as resting “in the eye of the beholder.” As individuals we interpret pictures and messages through our own lenses.

But when it comes to questionable images, we look to community standards. Question is: what constitute community standards? Whose community?

I’m reminded of American Indian mascots. Many of us are offended by the use of Braves or Chiefs as sports team mascots. But what about Indian communities with a majority of tribal folk who still use the moniker of Warrior or Indians for their school’s mascot?

Should the community be the arbiter of taste?

The billboard can be found at the website of the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tangarewa
http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/objectdetails.aspx?oid=699250&page=83&imagesonly=true

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About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. She is enrolled with the Osage tribe.
This entry was posted in authenticity, censorship, framing, journalism, writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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