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Laura Mulvey: Visual Pleasure and the Narrative Cinema 1975

VOYEURISM: This disorder is characterized by either intense sexually arousing fantasies, urges, or behaviors in which the individual observes an unsuspecting stranger who is naked, disrobing, or engaging in sexual activity. To be considered diagnosable, the fantasies, urges, or behaviors must cause significant distress in the individual or be disruptive to his or her everyday functioning. (All Psych Online)

OBJECTIFICATION: Sexual objectification  is the viewing of people solely as de-personalised objects of desire instead of as individuals with complex personalities and desires/plans of their own. This is done by speaking/thinking of women especially as only their bodies, either the whole body, or as fetishised body parts.

Sexual attraction is not the same as sexual objectification: objectification only occurs when the individuality of the desired person is not acknowledged. Pornography, prostitution, sexual harassment and the representation of women in mass media and art are all examples of common sexual objectification.

FETISHISM: A fetish is an object that has magical power. In a sexual context a fetish arouses sexual desire.


  • In classical Hollywood cinema, women’s prime function is to provide pleasure for heterosexual men.
  • The audience is assumed to be made up of men, and the female body is “objectified” — an instrument for their visual stimulation. Pornography is an extreme example of this.
  • The (presumed male) audience identifies with the protagonist, placing himself in the POV of the “hero” or protagonist.
  • The source of male power is the penis and he is threatened by women who do not arouse his power (castration anxiety).
  • Women are placed in defined roles: virgin, mother, whore: all of whom are submissive to the male phallic power.
  • The male gaze substitutes a power relationship for a human relationship and, thus, sanctions and encourages the heterosexual patriarchal power structure.

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