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Kelly Brevig: Taking the temperature: Our ‘hot’ culture promotes negative attitudes

BEMIDJI — If you take a frog and drop it in a pot of boiling water, it will jump right back out because the environment is way too hot.

If you take that same frog and put it in a pot of tepid water, and slowly increase the temperature, the frog will cook itself and not even realize it. So, if you take the average person, and expose them to violent sexual images, they may be sickened and horrified. Take an entire community and steadily infuse sexually toxic media messaging and over time we, too, will slowly cook.

Because of the need to feed demand, the pornography industry and even mainstream media have intensified and gradually gotten “hotter.” Often in pornography, sex is paired with violence and women are turned into objects. In addition, viewers of pornographic images are desensitized to materials that brake sexual taboos, causing a sexual callousness. As a result, our children live in a world where there are no filters, pornography is a click away, and there is an escalation in need for rougher and more sexually shocking material in order to get the same sexual stimulation as before. Sexually toxic materials help feed the excuse to perpetuate the acts and sexually harm others, as well as make it harder for others to speak out against this harm by defining the “norm.”

What is the “temperature” in our community? How can we get sexually toxic messaging to “cool off” when freedom of speech is hijacked by a raw demand for more?

“Moving Upstream” is a group of people in the Bemidji area that are dedicated to answering that very question. What we have learned is that by being connected closely to the community, infusing positive messaging and educating others about how to intervene safely, we can help change the social norm.

One of the best ways we can make change in our pornified culture is to stop feeding the demand. There is no such thing as harmless pornography. We have all been affected by the normalization of sexual harm. By taking a step back and changing the lens in which we view our world, we may be surprised to see how much violence we ingest as a normal occurrence.

When we see something we don’t like, it’s OK to speak up. Especially as parents, we have an obligation to question everything. The unfiltered messages our children and teens are getting teach both directly and indirectly about sex. Unless we have the courage to speak up, our children will continue to gain values and beliefs based off of popular culture. Plus, when we speak up about things that make us uncomfortable, we make it safe for others to speak up as well. Encourage one another.

One positive message to endorse is that “not everybody is doing it.” If we don’t want to be sexual, we don’t have to be. In a world full of peer pressure, now more than ever, it’s OK to say no. It’s time we change our social norm and stand up for ourselves and our children. If we don’t stand for something, our children will fall for anything.

Are you interested in learning more? Join Moving Upstream and be a part of a public speakers bureau. We will give you the tools to present about sexual violence as a preventable problem, helping us reach multiple audiences and sectors of our community. To learn more, call Support Within Reach Sexual Violence Resource Center (formerly known as the Sexual Assault Program of Beltrami, Cass and Hubbard Counties) at (218) 444-9524.