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A photographic investigation of sexual imagery in the Australian mainstream media


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Robinson, Peter Angus 2010 , 'A photographic investigation of sexual imagery in the Australian mainstream media', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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My Masters project is a photographic investigation into sexualised images, as
distinct from the images of sex that are readily available to those who wish to seek
them out. At the heart of this project is schaulust, a Swiss word coined by Sigmund
Freud in Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis in 1910. According to Alainde Mijolla
in the essay Scoptophila/Scopophila an approximate translation of schaulust
is the pleasure in looking. However, a fuller description would also include the
pleasure of being looked upon and to a certain degree, the shame of the enjoyment
of looking. My project concerns the pleasure of looking and the shame that is
sometimes attached to that pleasure. This project seeks also to discuss the role
context plays in both self-censorship and censorship in the wider sense, imposed on
individuals when viewing sexualized images. The issue of context is also reviewed
in relation to how the artist's intention for an image affects its reading by the viewer.

This project is also the visual manifestation of my conflicted attitudes towards
sexualized images and the objectification of women. On the one hand I derive great
pleasure from looking at images of sex and in particular, visual representations
of the sexuality of women. However, I don't think of women primarily as sex
objects and I disapprove of ideology and imagery that promotes that view. I have
the highest regard for women as fellow humans, colleagues, friends and family.
Growing up black in London in the Seventies taught me a lot about the harm that
stereotyping on the basis of physical characteristics does. As a consequence I have
strong aversion to stereotyping of any description. However, I am a heterosexual
visually-led artist who is aroused by sexualized images of women, this fact means
that by default a certain amount of objectification is inherent in what "turns me
on" therefore it would be hypocritical of me not to acknowledge it. This internal
dichotomy is exacerbated by the fact that I am the father of three young girls,
and even though they are all years away from puberty, it is my fervent wish that
these children grow to be healthy, happy, strong, young women with few "hang
ups", sexual or otherwise. Consequently, it is necessary for me to now question
my thoughts on the sexualization of the world around them in relation to their
continuing emotional health and my voyeuristic tendencies.

In investigating sexual imagery, I chose to explore images that we encounter on a
daily basis. By "we" I mean the community that I live in and with whom I share
a common visual space. It is a space littered with billboards, multi-media screens,
television screens, back ends of buses, posters, magazine covers, flyers and graffiti.
Much of this space contains images that are overtly sexual, or otherwise erotically
charged. The main criterion I have chosen for photographically documenting these
sexualized images is that they be free to air or in full public view. My reasoning
for this stipulation is that, like sexualized imagery, pornographic imagery is readily
available and can be found in huge amounts: on the Internet, in video libraries
and in adult entertainment stores. However, the nature of these outlets means one
has to actively seek access in order to see the pornographic imagery. In the case
of the World Wide Web, I know that it is possible to browse and unintentionally
find pornography but it is also possible to effectively block further such accidents.
Therefore, as a consequence of the ability to choose, pornography is not as
important to this project as our inability to choose to see other sexualized imagery
in the public domain. This investigation, through the use of isolation, reflection and
repetition, is also an attempt to show the more subtle ways that the advertising and
entertainment industries suggest that we are a society driven by the sexual impulse.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Robinson, Peter Angus
Keywords: Pornography in popular culture, Mass media and sex, Gaze in art
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2010 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Available for use in the Library and copying in accordance with the Copyright Act 1968, as amended. Thesis (MFA)--University of Tasmania, 2010. Includes bibliographical references

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