There is an apparent correlation between exposure to violence via the media and gaming, and anxiety, fear, aggression and desensitisation to violence.
My observations may be biased or unusual, but it doesn't seem to be a controversial statement to say that violence is far more prevalent, permissable and accepted in the mainstream media (including via the news) than depictions of explicit non-violent sexual activity.
It also seems reasonable to claim that (most) people (at least in contemporary western communities I've experienced) would deem sexual activity as a normal, healthy aspect of human existence, and would view violence as typically undesirable and unhealthy (if sometimes necessary, and clearly 'normal' to the extent it occurs in reality).
As Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin notes in 'Why Violence is More Acceptable than Sex and Nudity in TV and Movies:
"I can write a scene and describe in detail a p____ entering a v_____, and there will be a portion of the audience who get very upset about that. But I can write a scene about an axe entering a human skull and nobody will complain about that. Generally speaking I'm much more in favour of p_____s entering v_____s than of axes entering heads. People seem to accept the violence much easier than they accept the sex."
The same article also notes:
Where US premium TV is the place for sex and nudity to frolic, it’s the global dominance of the Hollywood film system that continues to encourage a puritan attitude towards movies, governed by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) ratings system. The MPAA has a history of giving harsher restrictions to films with sexual content over those with violence.
...it rings true with a 2015 survey of parents commissioned by the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA) finding the top concern about film content was graphic sex scenes (80 percent), followed by full male nudity (72 percent), hard drugs (70 percent), full female nudity (70 percent) and graphic violence (64 percent). Only 44 percent believed PG-13 rated movies have too much graphic violence.
The article does not arrive at any great insights as to why sex seems more taboo than violence.
The Australian Government's Institute for Family Studies publishes a webpage entitled Effects of Pornography on Children and Young People, in which the risks associated with viewing pornography are made clear.
In IndieWire's James Franco's Movie Column, Franco observes:
James: All I can think is that violence in movies still seems like fantasy. Most of us aren’t cops chasing criminals, or superheroes flying through the sky, so we are being taken on experiences that are completely foreign to our lives while watching those films. But sex is something that everyone can do, pretty easily. So, if that is seen in movies, it becomes less of a fantasy experience, and more of a guide for how things could actually go down. And if young people are seeing sexual things in movies, there are many adults who fear these young people will copy what they see.
The question of why violence seems more acceptable in the mainstream media than pornography is tackled by many forums and websites, but whilst it seems to be an obvious question to ask, my Google searches have yielded far less from academia (which admittedly may be more a reflection of my searching skills).
Is Franco's analysis reasonable? Is he missing anything?
EDIT: Comments on other forums (without citations) suggest a relationship with Christian values; a Bible in which violence is commonplace and at times advocated for, but in which sex is shunned.
I'm particularly interested in any philosophers and/or philosophical works who have tackled this issue, either directly or obliquely; whether it be from an analytical viewpoint or from an ethical/advocative perspective. Is this question rendered sufficiently philosophical by the apparent lack of rigorous examination by other realms?
Why do we seem so much more at ease with depictions of (real and actual) physical violence than by depictions of non-violent sex? Does violence, for example, play some kind of necessary role? Is the desensitisation it causes occasionally beneficial from an adaptive standpoint? Are we more insecure about our sexuality than our capacity for/aptitude/desire for violence and therefore rendered more vulnerable when watching it in the company of others? I suspect that for many, the taboo around sex dissolves in private environments. What does this tell us about the apparent discrepancy in any sex/violence taboos?
*Side note: I once called a philosopher on a talk-back radio show about the issue. He declined to delve into it on air, but made a comment akin to, "Violence and sex might not be as distinct as you first imagine". I was left to guess at what he might have been driving at and have not reached any satisfactory conclusions.