Collective Shout activists who hand-delivered our 6000+ signature petition to a number of stores over the weekend, met with a mixed reception from Diva staff.
We had wanted to make sure Diva knew that thousands of people had signed our Change.org petition calling on Diva to stop selling the Playboy brand to little girls through porno fashion chic bling by delivering copies of the petition personally.
When educator and adolescent psychotherapist Collett Smart and founder of 7Wonderlicious Ines Almeida tried to deliver the petition in Diva’s Pitt Street Sydney store, a staffer at first accepted the bulky document, then said she remembered they had been instructed not to accept it, and handed it back.
Melbourne woman Jessy Edmonston attempted to deliver the petition at Diva, central square Ballarat. “The staff member refused to accept it, saying they had been told all enquiries on the playboy range are to go through the service centre. I left it on the counter,” she says.
However it seems some staff hadn’t seen the memo – or chose to ignore it. When Nicole Jamieson when delivered to Diva’s Norwood S., store, the staff person accepted the document and undertook to pass it to head office.
Our favorite non-Playboy bunny ‘Myxi’, also had a positive response Sunday afternoon at Diva’s Wahroonga store, from a staff person who also said she would make sure the document was delivered to head office. Myxi spent most of yesterday spreading her ‘Bin the Bunny’ message around Sydney.
See our very special friend Myxi Matosis run (or should that be hop) amock at Diva’s Sydney headquarters and later at a Diva store. Like us, Myxi reckons it’s just plain wrong to flog the Playboy brand to little girls.
Collective Shout supporters will deliver our 135-page Change.org petition containing 6000-plus signatures in Diva stores in various states this weekend. We will be letting Diva know personally that pimping one of the signature brands of the global sex industry to its key target customer base of 8-13 year old girls takes corporate social irresponsibility to new heights.
The main delivery took place at Diva’s Pitt Street store at 11am this morning.
Here’s a statement issued through Change. I look forward to sharing some photos with you. I believe a Playboy bunny known by her stage name Myximotisis will make a surprise visit to a NSW Diva store on Sunday.
THOUSANDS DEMAND DIVA ACCESSORIES
STOP SELLING PLAYBOY PRODUCTS TO LITTLE GIRLS
Parents & women hand-deliver 6,000 signatures-strong petition to Diva, call on company to stop selling pornography brand Playboy to pre-teens and girls.
SYDNEY, NSW – A group of parents, psychologists, women, and teens delivered more than 6,000 signatures from an online petition campaign on Change.org to Diva Accessories’ Sydney store today. The group is demanding that the fashion jewelery store stop selling and marketing pornography brand Playboy’s products to pre-teens and little girls.
The petition was handed over to the company by child and adolescent psychotherapist Collett Smart.
“Playboy is now a billion dollar global brand profiting from the exploitation and subordination of women,” Smart said. “Now it has craftily adapted products to suit a younger clientele – but the message is the same. ‘Playmate’ pendants and even pencil cases emblazoned with the infamous bunny reinforce the damaging idea that girls are simply sexual objects.”
Collective Shout, a grassroots campaigning movement against the sexualisation and exploitation of young women, launched the campaign against Diva just three weeks ago. Within hours of the campaign’s launch, Collective Shout recruited thousands of supporters on Change.org, the world’s fastest growing platform for social change.
Thousands of people from all over Australia have since registered complaints, called Diva’s head office, and posted thousands of messages on Diva’s Facebook wall protesting against the promotion of a brand they say systematically degrades and objectifies women.
“Diva’s Facebook page says it encourages feedback but they’ve been unable to respond to all the criticism and it has become a real public relations nightmare for them” said Melinda Liszewski from Collective Shout.
“Diva’s target market is 8-13 year-old girl,s and the company has put its head in the sand in response to the calls of mothers, fathers, and daughters, along with concerned individuals from all round Australia,” Liszewski said.
The delivery of the 6,000 signatures from the online campaign on Change.org is set to be mirrored at Diva stores across the country throughout the weekend. Parents, young women, girls, concerned shoppers and even an angry Playboy bunny will visit their local Diva store to deliver the same message: stop selling playboy products to little girls.
“What Collective Shout has accomplished in just a couple of week is remarkable,” said Change.org campaigner Suzanne Culph. “Armed with only their laptops, they have managed to recruit more than 6,000 supporters from all across Australia to call on Diva to think more carefully about its customers. Change.org is about empowering anyone, anywhere to demand action on the issues that matter to them, and it has been incredible to watch Collective Shout’s campaign take off.”
Collective Shout is a grassroots campaigns movement mobilising and equipping individuals and groups to target corporations, advertisers, marketers and media which objectify women and sexualise girls to sell products and services.
Change.org is the world’s fastest-growing platform for social change — growing by more than 400,000 new members a month, and empowering millions of people to start, join, and win campaigns for social change in their community, city and country.
0427 375 550
The winner of our Diva caption competition
Collective Shout has announced the winners of our caption competition for this image.
First prize: Rebekah Robinson for ‘Diva: we weren’t porn yesterday.’
Second Prize: Angela Silk Fraser for ‘Diva: mistaking rear ends for fashion trends since 2011’
I am infuriated by the continued and deliberate misrepresentation of the crime of rape by the media and various ‘experts’, such as NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione.
As a clinical psychologist, manager and supervisor in the field of sexual assault for 21 years I have been personally involved with thousands of rape victims from as young as 18 months through to women in their 90’s. None were raped because they were drunk or sober, because they were young or old, because they were attractive or not, because they were wearing any particular type of clothing or were behaving in any particular way.
They were raped because a man or group of men decided that their right to have power and sexual control over them was more important than their victim’s human rights and dignity. It is not drunkenness that elicits acts of rape. Attitudes like those expressed in the media last weekend continue to blame the victims and completely ignore the responsibilities of the perpetrators of this crime – who almost always get away with it.
In which other crime do the ‘authorities’ and the community continue to relentlessly scour the victim’s behaviour, character, clothes, friendships, alcohol intake etc. to find reasons why their offenders offend? It’s ludicrous. It’s illogical.
Yes of course being intoxicated makes you an easy target for crimes of this nature. And for that matter many others. That is because men who choose to sexually offend are not doing it as a “crime of passion” – they are selecting their targets consciously and to guarantee the greatest chance of avoiding consequences. That does not mean that it logically follows that if women stopped drinking then the sexual assaults would stop. It is not drunkenness that elicits acts of rape. Otherwise drunken men would be raped as often as drunken women.
By far the greatest “characteristic” you can have that makes you vulnerable to this crime is and has always been being a female, followed closely by being a child, being disabled and being mentally unwell. There are varying and infinitely complex “vulnerabilities “ to all types of crimes. Should women be asked spend all their waking time and energy minimising their vulnerability to rape – given that every time they do modify their behaviour the men who rape just adjust to target some other vulnerability anyway – or should we be focussing on stopping men from committing this crime?
How can confining, controlling, monitoring and blaming the victim of any crime stop the perpetrators from perpetrating? How can the fact that men choose to act violently towards women in staggeringly high numbers continue to be invisible in these discussions and continue to be left off the social agenda?
No amount of constricting women’s behaviour will stop rape….no amount. It is happening in 10 percent of women’s homes for goodness sakes. It happens to every type, race, class, age, religion of women. And let’s not forget that men also rape other men.
A male somewhere can find any type of woman, or their clothes, or their behaviour, or their ‘anything’ attractive….and use this to justify sexually assaulting them. The myth that there is a way to dress, to be, to act and to exist, that makes you safe as a woman from rape is just that…a myth.
We cannot control women as a way of stopping rape. What will stop rape is when men decide that they will not rape anymore. I agree with Nina Funnell when she says: “What about a pact between male buddies which says ‘I will not rape a girl or watch on as you try to rape a girl- and not say anything’?
Why not a pact between blokes which says “If I see you trying to take a girl home who is clearly too drunk to consent, then I will speak up and rescue you BOTH”.
In fact, why isn’t the Police Commissioner saying “Don’t Rape! Just don’t do it. Don’t rape sober women, don’t rape drunk women, don’t rape young women, don’t rape old women. Don’t rape thin women, don’t rape fat women. Just DON’T.”
The fourth and final launch of Big Porn Inc: Exposing the harms of the global porn industry took place in the Jubilee Room, Parliament House, Sydney, last Thursday.
One hundred people attended and heard seven contributors speak about their chapters in the book: myself, co-editor Dr Abigail Bray, Spinifex Press publishers Dr Susan Hawthorne and Dr Renate Klein, Dr Helen Pringle, Nina Funnell and Melinda Liszewski. Julie Gale, founding director of Kids Free 2B Kids was MC and also launched the book. Julie said:
“Big Porn Inc is a brilliant expose of how the porn industry has sold us big fat lies about sex and sexuality. No previous generation has had to navigate such a flood of porn inspired imagery and concepts. Essential reading for everyone, especially the deluded defenders who remain willfully blind to the harmful impacts. I hope Big Porn Inc helps to create the seismic shift humanity needs”.
Special thanks to the contributors, my Collective Shout colleagues (especially Kate), Greg Donnelly MP for hosting the event and his staffer Tammy for all her help. Here’s some photos:
This is the speech Dr Helen Pringle delivered to the Sydney launch of Big Porn Inc October 20. I wanted to share it with those who couldn’t be there.
Dr Helen Pringle
My chapter on The Porn Report concerns the ethics of research into pornography. Abigail Bray has helped me to understand the ways in which pornography is marketed by the industry as a radical or cool political gesture. In turn, there is a great deal of academic work that seeks to provide a defence of this multinational industry and to guarantee a continued supply of cool and harmless pleasures to the hip consumer.
As critics of porn culture, we are often asked for evidence of the harm of pornography. Academic research in support of pornography looks for that evidence in the voice and practices of those who use it. My concern, our concern, is with listening to the voices of those against whom it is used, those whose body and spirit it maims and kills.
Women like Heather Horne and Gail McIntosh, who complained of sexual discrimination in employment, and victimization, in Western Australia in 1994. Heather and Gail had taken jobs in a heavily male-dominated workplace. Their duties included cleaning the amenities and crib rooms of the workers. When they complained to their union and to the company about the pornographic ‘wallpaper’ in the amenities, men in the workplace just put up more of it. A poster of a man and a woman having anal sex, the property of a union shop steward, appeared on a crib room wall. The women found about a dozen posters on one wall, including a statue of a panther performing cunnilingus on a woman, two women having sex, and a woman placing a banana in her anus. One full-length nude poster, of the soft porn variety, had been used for dart practice, and it had also been violently stabbed through the heart, head and genitals. Heather and Gail saw the use of pornography in their workplace as a threat to their dignity and to their standing as equals in the workplace. They described the effect of the use of pornography in these terms: ‘Degrading; we felt total lack of respect; we felt threatened; we felt that these people didn’t consider you as a part of their workforce – you were treated as someone totally different. You were alienated from them and it made me want to be sick; fear, because every time one went up it was an attack on me, a personal attack.’
Or listen to the voice of Amy, who was sexually assaulted by her uncle, who then uploaded the pictures of her abuse and assault to the internet, to be downloaded by tens of thousands of men, each of them a participant in the harm done to her. Amy wrote: ‘Every day of my life I live in constant fear that someone will see my pictures and recognize me and that I will be humiliated all over again. It hurts me to know someone is looking at them – at me – when I was just a little girl being abused for the camera. I did not choose to be there, but now I am there forever in pictures that people are using to do sick things. I want it all erased. I want it all stopped. But I am powerless to stop it just like I was powerless to stop my uncle…. It is hard to describe what it feels like to know that at any moment, anywhere, someone is looking at pictures of me as a little girl being abused by my uncle and is getting some kind of sick enjoyment from it. It’s like I am being abused over and over and over again.’
The power of the pornography industry asks us this question: whose side are you on? and whose voice are you going to listen to? I’m with Heather and Gail, with Amy and Masha, and with every other woman who has been harmed by pornography and who has lived to tell the tale. And I’m with those who didn’t survive.
But Big Porn Inc is not simply what our friend Rebecca Whisnant calls ‘atrocities r us’. It is a witness to the unsilenced voices of these courageous women, like Heather, Gail, Amy and Masha, who know that you can’t fight against this industry on your own, and that only with others do we have any hope to make a culture based on dignity and equality.
My next book
I shared plans for my new book Puppies, Kittens and Fluffy Bunnies with the Sydney crowd. Dannielle Miller, Director of Enlighten Education, has generously produced the artwork for the book and scored an early endorsement from Julie Gale. I’m sure you will agree it is a charming and delightful cover.
In an earlier post the same day, Corporate Failings asked ‘Has Diva lost its credibility?’ based on the words of Diva Australia founder Collett Hayman who, having sold the company a few years ago, said in an interview:
“Diva was my creation and a company that I am still very proud of….Nothing would make me sadder than to see it lose its credibility”.
Well, Collett, you should be feeling pretty damn sad about now.
Collective Shout has launched a caption competition for this photograph, taken outside a Sydney Diva store featuring a woman who will remain nameless (‘I’ve never seen her before in my life officer’) who wanted to make clear just what Diva is supporting, lest there be any doubt. There have been 100 entries so far, including ‘Diva: we weren’t porn yesterday’ and ‘Diva: for when your little girl doesn’t look cheap enough’. Entries close Friday and there’s a stack of books on the objectification of women and sexualisation of girls to be won. You can enter through our Facebook page.
Finally a Diva Facebook page you can like
Check out the alternative Diva FB page. It’s a wonder to behold. Please like it and share with you friends.
Tell Diva to stop channeling the pocket money of little girls to Hugh Hefner and cut its ties with the porn industry
In the past few days a number of Collective Shout supporters have reported Playboy posters removed from Diva shop windows, Playboy products either entirely removed or hidden behind counters (just like porn used to be…. “Pssst wanna have a look at some Playmate pendants?”). If you haven’t yet signed our petition, please do so today.
One hundred friends and supporters gathered at Spoon Deli Cafe in East Brisbane Friday night to celebrate the Brisbane launch of Big Porn Inc: Exposing the harms of the global porn industry (Spinifex Press). Five contributors spoke: myself, Dr Betty McLennan, Caroline Norma, Dr Robi Sonderegger and Melinda Liszewski. Scott Stephens, Editor of ABC Religion and Ethics, launched the book, (and, for those who tried to have him prevented from doing so, representing himself and not the views of the ABC) with a powerful and passionate address about the debasement of sexuality on a global scale. I hope to post a version of his speech here shortly. As an added bonus and making for a potent double act, author and journalist Christine Jackman also held the crowd captive with some compelling words in praise of Big Porn Inc. I hope to post some video snippets soon. The speeches were truly amazing. And the ever delightful Erica Bartle of Girl With a Satchel blogger fame, held it all together as MC.
My gratitude to all who made it such a great night: fellow contributors, Scott, Christine and Erica, Steph, Melinda and Marty for assistance with set up and book table, and everyone who attended. Special thanks and acknowledgement to sponsors Generation Next and Clonakilla Winery and Spoon Deli Café for great service.
Last chance to RSVP for fourth and final launch – Sydney this Thursday
Today is the last day to rsvp for Big Porn Inc’s final launch in Sydney on Thursday, 12.45 for 1pm-2pm, Jubilee Room, Parliament House. Speakers include: Dr Abigail Bray, Dr Renate Klein, Dr Helen Pringle, Maggie Hamilton, Nina Funnell, Melinda Liszewsi, Julie Gale and me. Rsvp to @email@example.com.
Big Porn Inc contributors continue to get a significant run in the media. In the lead up to our Brisbane launch tonight, here are recent pieces by Dr Meagan Tyler, co-editor Dr Abigail Bray, and Dr Helen Pringle.
Porn: Just a bit of harmless fun?
Pornography is great. Just a bit of fun. It doesn’t matter who you’re watching or what they’re doing, it’s mostly harmless. This is how it feels reading a lot of commentary on pornography in Australia.
Despite the growing international research highlighting serious problems with mainstream pornography, in this country anyone who dares suggest there may be harms associated with the production or consumption of pornography is generally greeted with hoots of derision and accusations of wowserism.
The visit to Australia earlier this year of US-based pornography researcher Professor Gail Dines is a prime example. During her appearance on Q&A, she was shouted down by several members of the panel, one of whom confessed that her own research on pornography was largely limited to having ‘googled’ it earlier that day.
But such reactions are perhaps to be expected in a country where, particularly if you are a member of the left, you are expected to be sympathetic to – if not outright supportive of – the plight of pornography consumers.
The Porn Report, based on a government-funded research project and written by three prominent Australian academics, is a case in point. Supposedly an objective account of pornography content and use in Australia, the project was conducted with support from the sex industry lobby group the Eros Association. Given this link, it is hardly surprising to find the report contains sections with titles such as Great Moments in Amateur Porn.
Unfortunately, this is the level of debate about pornography in Australia. As a result, positions critical of the pornography industry are frequently misrepresented. The pro-pornography position often relies on a straw-man version of anti-porn campaigners as ideologically driven, extreme feminists or religious loons.
But researchers critical of pornography have presented far more sophisticated and well-supported arguments than these caricatures suggest. Unlike the image of anti-porn campaigners often held up by the pornography lobby, very few scholars argue that all pornography contains overt violence. Many do, however, talk about the increasing use of violent acts evident in mainstream porn.
For instance, several large-scale studies over the last 20 years have documented considerable violence in mainstream pornography. Communication scholars Ni Yang and Daniel Linz, sociologists Martin Barron and Michael Kimmel, and psychologist Ana Bridges and colleagues have all found, in separate studies, that violence in mainstream pornography is common – about one in four of all films in each study contained violent acts.
To be specific, we are talking about acts such as slapping, kicking, hitting and choking. Indeed, there is now an entire sub-genre of pornography dedicated to the choking of women.
My own research into the US pornography industry’s accounts of mainstream and bestselling pornography, returned similar results. In fact, one of the most remarkable things about research in this area is that porn industry insiders (performers, directors, distributors) are very forthcoming about the shift towards more extreme and violent porn, with many pornographers openly debating whether or not this is a positive or negative development. This leaves our debate – about whether or not violence in mainstream porn exists at all – decades behind current trends.
But it is also misleading to suggest that instances of clear physical violence are the only problem with modern porn. Violence exists on a continuum. While most people, regardless of their position on porn more generally, agree that women being kicked and punched for the purposes of someone’s sexual arousal is abhorrent, the agreement fractures when we get to slapping, hair pulling, whipping and physical restraint, especially if the actors involved are shown enjoying what is being done to them.
And that doesn’t even begin to approach the issue of sexist and racist verbal abuse. After all, the sorts of phrases that constitute racial vilification on the football field are considered to be alluring titles for porn DVDs.
With the move towards more extreme, violent and degrading pornography, it seems logical that there are now more social scientists worldwide becoming critical of porn. But banning and censorship are not favoured solutions and have not been seriously considered since bell bottoms and platform shoes were in fashion.
There are few if any anti-porn scholars currently writing who argue that authorities should ban porn or that porn automatically turns all men into rapists. What many do argue, however, is that pornography is now a multi-billion-dollar industry that is gaining increasing cultural influence and, as such, that it needs to be subject to criticism in the same way that the pharmaceutical, tobacco and fast-food industries are held to account.
What many pornography researchers, like myself, are calling for is a more open and honest discussion about pornography, inequality, sexism and sexual desire. These claims are more reasonable than radical.
The consistent misrepresentation of current anti-porn critiques in Australia hinders this discussion, which, given the trends in mainstream pornography and the increasing pornification of popular culture, is needed now more than ever.
Dr Meagan Tyler is a lecturer in sociology at Victoria University and a research associate at RMIT. She is the author of Selling Sex Short: The Pornographic And Sexological Construction Of Women’s Sexuality (Cambridge Scholars, 2011) and a contributor to Big Porn Inc. (Spinifex, 2011).Reprinted with permission.
Dangerous or a rite of passage?
Dr Abigail Bray
ACCORDING to melodramatic pro-sex industry conspiracy theories, critiques of Big Porn are really totalitarian plots to censor the entire internet and destroy freedom of speech.
Apparently, an international secret society of radical feminists, right-wing Christians, Chinese communists and random sexually repressed middle-aged mumsie pressure groups are out to destroy “our” inalienable human right to dehumanising porn. Won’t somebody please think of the . . . wankers. . .
The new porn zeitgeist is hard-core sadism. Hard-core porn turns misogyny into sexual fascism and sells it as freedom. There are countless “18 and abused” sites showing young girls being gang-banged while crying, drunk, vomiting, with guns and knives to their heads. Incest porn with girls being bashed about sexually by fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers. There is bestiality porn with dogs, horses, with eels. Torture porn, where young women are tied up and strangled, defecated on. There is Nazi fetish porn, lots of racist porn.
Feminised gay men being beaten and anally raped by hyper-macho gangs. Granny porn where older women are subjected to the now compulsory triple penetration and spat on for being old. There is even “retarded asian porn”, “retarded and horny”, “full on retard porn . . . legless sluts being triple penetrated”, amputee porn, dwarf porn, anorexia porn.
Nothing to worry about, nothing going on here, move right along.
A very common use of pornography is as sexual discrimination, itself a well-recognised form of harm in our society. And the evidence of pornography’s harm in this respect stares us in the face as we go about our everyday lives. Take your car to be serviced at a garage. Ask a lifesaver for his help in the clubroom. Call in at a fire station. Check out an army camp’s walls. Accompany Tony Abbott on a visit to the factory at Digga Manufacturing. Now ask me again about evidence of harm.
The walls of the garage, the clubroom, the fire station, the camp or the Digga factory form ‘an environment which itself amounts to sexual discrimination’. That phrase comes from a decision of the Equal Opportunity Tribunal of Western Australia on 21 April 1994.
“What happened to us was a nightmare. We worked from 11am to 3 or 4am the next morning, and slept only three or four hours. They treated us like animals. We were sexually abused, we were dragged, we were hit.”- Former sex slave
On Monday night ABC Four Corners exposed the stark reality of the trafficking of women into Australia as fodder for Australia’s sex industry. The trade in the bodies of women and girls is growing around the world, and Australia’s role as a destination country is now well established. Anti-trafficking activist Kathleen Maltzahn believes the Federal Police is uncovering only a fraction of the overall problem. “No one’s really looking, no one’s really counting in Australia,” she told Sally Neighbour.
Caroline Norma is an expert on trafficking globally, especially from South Korea, which is close to overtaking Thailand as the largest source country for women trafficked into Australia’s sex industry. A Lecturer in the School of Global Studies, Social Science, and Planning at RMIT University, and a member of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia (CATWA), Caroline comments here on the Four Corners program and why Australia’s sex industry is attractive to traffickers bringing women in from Asia. She also makes a case for the Swedish model, which criminalises male buyers of women. And in a second piece, Caroline argues Australia’s position on prostitution is hampering South Korean efforts to tackle the problem of sex trafficking. Kelly Hinton from Project Respect in Melbourne also had a compelling piece in The National Times today which you can read below.
Each week in Victoria, more than 60,000 men buy women in prostitution. (Mark Forbes, ‘Sex city,’ The Age, 1 March 1999, p. 11). Thanks to investigations like those carried out by journalists at The Age and Four Corners in recent months, we know that some of the women they buy have been trafficked.
Sex-trafficking in Australia should not come as a surprise. Sex industry businesses find a burgeoning market here. According to the business research company IBISWorld, the Australian sex industry has ballooned over the last decade. High growth has forced pimps to forge international supply routes to source their ‘product’ which, in the case of the sex industry, is mostly women and children. Asian women in particular are a consumer favourite.
‘Customer review’ websites set up for buyers of women in prostitution reveal just how popular Asian women are in the Victorian sex industry. One forum dedicated to reviews of women in legal brothels contains hundreds of comments about Asian ‘working ladies’ or ‘WLs’. Users complain that these women speak ‘barely intelligible English’. One contributor notes that ‘Korean WLs never look happy’, and another encourages readers to check out the ‘Korean chicks’ at one particular brothel because they are ‘very young’, and ‘work for a matter of months before disappearing’.
Website discussants are mostly unconcerned about the possibility the women they use might be trafficked. The token measure taken by Consumer Affairs Victoria last year to get these men to report trafficking—by putting up warning signs in brothel waiting rooms—doesn’t seem to be working.
Consumer Affairs licenses brothel and escort agency businesses. Prostitution was legalised in Victoria in 1994 to tackle three problems: illegal prostitution and police corruption, harm to women, and street prostitution. More than fifteen years later, these problems have grown worse, not better.
Estimates from the police and the legal brothel industry put the number of illegal brothels at 400 in Victoria, four times the number of legal ones. Nick McKenzie’s reports earlier this year showed that licensed brothels are being used as fronts for illegal operators and criminal activity. Brothel owners have been caught bribing local government officials to warn them of license checks.
Legalised prostitution has not made women safer. A 1998 study found 40 per cent of clients use women without wearing condoms. A woman in a Blackburn brothel this year was threatened by a client with a gun after she refused sex acts without a condom. Three NSW academics who interviewed women in legal brothels in 2011 found that ‘physical safety’ was one of their biggest concerns. One interviewee told researchers she was fearful of drunken and ‘sneaky’ clients locking brothel room doors.
Violence in street prostitution is just as bad, and the author of a 2011 report commissioned by Inner South Health wrote that he collected ’25 pages of short excerpts from interviews’ where 89 people in prostitution in St Kilda described their experiences of ‘violence and rape’. The Attorney-General’s Street Prostitution Advisory Group in 2002 estimated 300-350 people were in prostitution in St Kilda over the twelve-month period. At least two have been murdered—one in 2003 and one in 2004.
If legalising prostitution hasn’t eliminated the problems of the sex industry, what will? We need to look to Sweden for the answer. The Swedish government criticises countries like Australia that allow legal prostitution on the basis they generate demand for the criminal activity of traffickers and organised crime. Swedish bureaucrats have come to understand that prostitution and trafficking are two sides of the same coin. In 1999 they made pimps, traffickers, and prostitution ‘clients’ liable for criminal prosecution.
A detective inspector with Sweden’s National Police Board notes that, since 1999, the country has become an ‘unattractive market’ for traffickers, because they can no longer ‘earn as much money as they want to’. Traffickers themselves no longer want to send women to Sweden because the risk is too great. In a phone-tap recorded by Swedish police, a trafficker tells a pimp he wants to bring 15 young Estonian women to Stockholm for a couple of weeks to make money. The pimp replies: ‘Don’t do that. It’s too expensive for you. Bring the women to…Denmark or even better, Germany or Holland’. Germany and Holland, of course, are (in)famous for their systems of legalised prostitution.
Since 1999, the percentage of Swedish men buying women has dropped from 12.7 to 7.6 per cent. The Swedish government runs public education campaigns against prostitution on the basis that it is a cause of trafficking and a form of violence against women. An officer with the Stockholm Police Trafficking Group has spoken publicly of his view that ‘it’s important for the buyer of sexual services to see the link that he is a sponsor of a huge criminal organisation’.
Sweden has managed to cut the number of women in street-based prostitution by at least half. These women are eligible for state-subsidised housing, legal and medical assistance, counselling, education, and job training. In Victoria, the only agency funded by the government to offer help to prostituted women, RhED, runs brothel ads in its quarterly magazine.
State and federal governments in Australia make a lot of noise about their opposition to trafficking, but continue to provide the sex industry with a very hospitable operating environment. The Victorian government should, at the very least, send its staff on a study tour of Sweden, Norway, South Korea and Iceland to see what serious public policy against the crime of sex trafficking really looks like.
The Koreanisation of Australia’s sex industry
The trafficking of Korean women into Australia’s sex industry has been recognised as a problem by both the Australian Federal Police as well as the Federal Government for more than five years. Australia’s Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Brendan O’Connor, last year stated that South Korea was close to overtaking Thailand as the largest source country for women trafficked into Australia’s sex industry. The Australian Federal Police first acknowledged the problem of trafficking from Korea in 2006, though a number of incidents had brought the problem to public attention before this.
In 2004, two people were charged with trafficking offences in relation to five South Korean women; in March 2008, three people were arrested in Sydney for sexually enslaving ten Korean women and in December that year, a Korean woman thought to have been in Sydney’s sex industry was found dead in an apartment. A government report on non-Australian citizens caught working in the sex industry in 2004-2005 showed the top nationality in the category was South Korean.
Australian policymakers tend to place blame on the Korean side for the trafficking problem, and resist seeing the issue as a legislative and policy challenge for Australia. They are generally unaware that Korea now takes a human rights approach to the problems of prostitution and trafficking; in fact, they demonstrate little understanding of Korean society and social policy at all. Read full article here
Sex traffickers exploiting women, and law, as state fails to act
THE sex industry in Victoria has been legal (in some forms) for about 25 years, by legislation brought in to address issues arising in the 1980s. Yet, as The Age has uncovered this year, legalisation has not ended crime in the sex industry. Discussions continue, with the same issues being raised again and again – trafficking, illegal brothels, organised crime, and violence.
Project Respect has worked with women in the sex industry, including women trafficked into the sex industry, since 1998. Trafficking methods have changed somewhat in that time, as awareness about these crimes has increased. However, this abhorrent violation of human rights continues.
We continue to meet women who have been trafficked into the sex industry in Australia, and forced to perform sexual services against their will, for little or no money, and for hours every day. Traffickers continue to profit from those purchasing sexual services from exploited women – who are here on legal visas, often in legal brothels.
The federal government has taken important steps to begin to address trafficking. Now it is time for the state government to step up. Read full article here
While I’m not sure why the petition is limited to ending sex slavery in only two Australian cities (and not all of them – trafficking has been documented in Canberra and the Gold Coast for example) it’s still worthwhile adding your support.
President of the Toowoomba Rugby League, Greg McIntyre, thought the parents, grandparents, children and sundry friends of the town’s rugby players would enjoy his little ‘joke’ in the grand final newsletter handed out to them as they walked through the gate. The same man happened to be an acting Magistrate.
Yes, a public figure, paid from the public purse to make sound judgements, shared this sexist and demeaning joke without seemingly a second thought.
Lots of people didn’t find it funny. One of them was Nina Funnell who wrote on it for the National Times yesterday.
Nothing funny about lawyer jokes like this one
What passes for a family-friendly joke these days? According to Greg McIntyre, a magistrate from Toowoomba, it’s something from that age-old genre that makes fun of the smell of a woman’s bodily parts, and on this occasion, a young ‘‘rednecks’’ inability to distinguish between them…
Apparently, McIntyre found this joke so amusing that not only did he decide to repeat it but to publish it in a program that was distributed to children and their families at the Toowoomba rugby league grand final. The president of the Toowoomba Rugby League, who brags that he is ‘‘next in line to be the chief redneck’’ of Toowoomba, was surprised to learn that not everyone shared his sense of humour. Parents and members of the football community have complained that the joke is crude and sexist, and should not have been included in a publication read by children. Read full article here.
McIntyre’s current status with the club is unclear. Is he still the club’s president? If so why? And has he retained his position as acting Magistrate? Shouldn’t the legal establishment be upholding the highest standards? If he is not disciplined that will be the real joke.
Footballers, dancing girls, pole dancers, simulated sex: all on the Footy Show
Did you happen to catch this on Channel 9’s Footy Show the night before the grand final? I’m sure lots of aspiring young footballers did.
It was the ‘Player Revue’, featuring foot ballers from various teams, ‘performing’ for the popular Nine program (which has attracted criticism in the past for its attitude towards women, you may recall the matter of Sam Newman and the mannequin dressed as a female sports journalist ).
Most of the revue conveys a message that women are playthings for male entertainment and gratification. We see women scantily dressed and spread legged, footballers with their hands down their pants simulating masturbation or running their hands over women’s bodies. The St Kilda scene probably contains the most overt sexual content in the pole dancing scene, where the player rips of the woman’s jacket, and she performs for him.
It seemed to me as though the club was deliberately sending an ‘F-you’ to its critics. It also seemed to be saying we will continue to do whatever we want to women: we have an inviolable right and entitlement to women’s bodies and nothing will stop us. You would have thought they may have been a little more sensitive about portraying themselves this way, given recent events.
Was this the Club’s idea or did Channel 9 encourage it? Is there anyone left at the Club who still possesses brains?
MTR’s ‘rubbish’ interview on MTR
So I was asked my views on the ‘Gownlows’, where the partners, dates, one night stands, whatever, of AFL players are paraded like models and assessed for their dress and appearance (for appearance read cleavage). My comments were run a few places including here.
I was contacted by MTR Radio ( I knew I should have trademarked the initials) asking me to appear on the Andrew Bolt and Steve Price show. It turned out to be possibly the most condescending and dismissive interview I’ve ever done. You can listen to it here - it starts around 35:00 – though my friends say they found more pleasure in stabbing their eyes with forks. At the end of the interview, when I’m off air, Price scoffs at my views, describing them as “rubbish”.
Heather Horne and Helen Pringle on porn discrimination in the workplace
Last week, Tony Abbott was photographed at a manufacturing company beneath a pornographic calendar image.
In a piece titled ‘Naked truth: Factory life laid bare for Tony Abbott’ News.com concealed part of the woman-on-woman porn image with “Oops”. The reporter characterised it as an issue of political staffers falling down on the job by not scouting out the building beforehand, resulting in some embarrassment for their boss Mr Abbott.
The Opposition Leader described the image as “unbelievably tacky” when I asked him for a comment.
But it’s more than oops, staff sloppiness or unbelievably tacky.
Pornography in the workplace constitutes sexual discrimination and/or discriminatory harassment and is unlawful. This significant detail seemed to be passed over.
In 1993, Heather Horne and Gail McIntosh complained of sexual discrimination in employment, and victimization contrary to the Equal Opportunity Act in regard to the pornography put up by men in their workplace.
I made contact with Heather and asked her how she felt about seeing this image in a workplace.
Heather Horne: I fought for the right not to be harassed by porn in the workplace – don’t let it be in vain.
When I looked at this photo it was like a time warp. I was taken back nearly two decades to 1992, working in a male dominated workplace in W.A, just 30 minutes south of Perth, subjected day in day out to wall to floor female pornography.
Why was it there? It was there because it was a convenient weapon for those males who wished to use it to sexualize my workplace and degrade the working role of any woman who dared to trespass. To complain to my co-workers, management or to my male dominated trade union brought an onslaught of victimization and ridicule in the form of verbal abuse and even physical threats. After 18 months my female colleague and I were driven from our workplace.
I am not sure it is easy to appreciate today the level of raw emotion that the decision provoked in a section of male population at the time. Some of the commentary bordered on hysteria. And the media were very happy to get the most out of it. You would have thought we were campaigning to have their willy’s cut off! If the practice of burning woman at the stake for heresy had not been discontinued in the 18th century, I think we may have had to carry personal fire extinguishers.
When we decided to take action, the company and union required us to submit ourselves for a psychiatric assessment to examine if our reaction to the porn and victimisation was ‘normal’ and whether it could have possibly caused us any mental or emotional detriment.
The hearing and subsequent decision brought a barrage of articles from the mainstream print media sensationalizing and trivializing the case. From cartoons depicting ‘hairy armpitted feminists’, to articles describing the pornography as ‘girlie posters’ and harmless ‘girlie calendars’. These were the same media outlets that declined our offer to print the real material placed before the Commission on the grounds that it was too offensive! One broadcaster said that if we had focused on our proper roles as women – cleaning floors – there would never have been a problem.
After a three year battle, the W.A. Equal Opportunity Commission found my Employer and Trade Union liable for discrimination and harassment.
The decision had ramifications across a range of areas. I recall some weeks later getting a late-night call from a prisoner at one of WA’s high security Jails who had suffered the indignity of having his porn posters removed from the wall of his cell, because it was deemed to be a workplace. He left me under no illusions what he was going to do to me when he got out.
I also recall even a year after the decision being invited to do a hypothetical enactment at an ALP History Conference here in Perth. We got to play ourselves and a guy in the audience lost it big time, abused us and stormed out.
I now work for a major multi-national company in the Oil and Gas Industry. Yes, it is still a boys club. But the wallpaper has changed. It has taken two decades and no small impetus was the legal precedent set by that land mark decision in 1994 and the changes it made to vicarious liability with both employers and trade unions.
It is with a quiet sense of pride that I walk on to work sites today and see posters on safety, health and EEO policy. Unfortunately it would seem the news has not filtered through to Digga Manufacturing in Brisbane.
We cannot allow the trivialising of images like this in an Australian workplace. These images are unlawful! Gail and I went through a lot to achieve the ruling. All workplaces should abide by it.
Pornography: The Harm of Discrimination: Dr Helen Pringle
The display of the calendar at Digga Manufacturing is prima facie a sign of unlawful discrimination in that factory.
A very common use of pornography is as sexual discrimination, itself a well-recognised form of harm in our society. And the evidence of pornography’s harm in this respect stares us in the face as we go about our everyday lives. Take your car to be serviced at a garage. Ask a lifesaver for his help in the clubroom. Call in at a fire station. Check out an army camp’s walls. Accompany Tony Abbott on a visit to the factory at Digga Manufacturing. Now ask me about evidence of the harm of pornography.
The walls of the garage, the clubroom, the fire station, the camp or the Digga factory form ‘an environment which itself amounts to sexual discrimination’. That phrase comes from a decision of the Equal Opportunity Tribunal of Western Australia on 21 April 1994.
The 1994 case was brought by Heather Horne and Gail McIntosh, who complained of sexual discrimination in employment, and victimization contrary to the WA Equal Opportunity Act. In its decision, the Tribunal noted, ‘It is now well established that one of the conditions of employment is quiet enjoyment of it. That concept includes not only freedom from physical intrusion or from being harassed, physically molested or approached in an unwelcome manner, but extends to not having to work in an unsought sexually permeated work environment. An employer who requires an employee to work in such an environment is subjecting the employee to a detriment and may be held to be unlawfully discriminating against that employee.’ The Tribunal held that ‘quiet enjoyment of employment’ includes freedom from discrimination, which would require an employer to ensure a workplace free from the display of ‘sexually explicit or implicit cartoons, … photographs of naked men or women, and publications featuring such photographs or containing other lewd or sexually suggestive printed material’.
That is, the display of the calendar at Digga Manufacturing is prima facie a sign of unlawful discrimination in that factory. And it is evidence of the harm of pornography as discrimination.
In the WA case, Heather Horne and Gail McIntosh had taken jobs in a heavily male-dominated workplace. Their duties included cleaning the amenities and crib rooms of the workers. When they complained to their union and to the company about the pornographic ‘wallpaper’ in the amenities, men in the workplace escalated the displays. For example, a poster of a man and a woman having anal sex, which was the property of a union shop steward, appeared on a crib room wall. The women found about a dozen posters on one wall, including a statue of a panther performing cunnilingus on a woman, two women having sex, and a woman placing a banana in her anus. One full-length nude poster had been used for dart practice. It had also been violently stabbed through the heart, head and genitals.
Heather and Gail found these posters not merely offensive but threatening and degrading, that is, discriminatory intimidation. When they complained, Heather and Gail were told that they were prudes and wowsers. They were called troublemakers, and were subjected to other forms of harassment and ridicule, including obscene graffiti about them in the toilets. Union officials and workers told them ‘that it was a male workplace, the Complainants had no right to bring a women’s perspective into it, they were lucky to have jobs and if they wanted to work in a male environment they would just have to “cop it”.’ At a Christmas party, they were attacked with high-pressure hoses, like the marchers for the vote in Selma, or the demonstrators for democracy on the bridges of Cairo.
Heather and Gail saw the use of pornography in their workplace as a threat to their dignity and to their standing as equals in the workplace. They described the effect of the use of pornography as ‘Degrading; we felt total lack of respect; we felt threatened; we felt that these people didn’t consider you as a part of their workforce – you were treated as someone totally different. You were alienated from them and it made me want to be sick; fear, because every time one went up it was an attack on me, a personal attack.’
Heather and Gail’s story of the harm of pornography is not an isolated one. Many women wrote letters to them after the case telling similar stories from other Australian workplaces, and other successful cases were brought, such as at Mt Isa Mines by Narelle Hopper. Heather and Gail’s courage and strength deserve to be remembered as a landmark of women’s struggles for equality in Australia.
And the next time someone asks you for evidence of the harm of pornography, you can tell this story. For starters.
Dr Helen Pringle Helen is in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales. Her research has been widely recognised by awards from Princeton University, the Fulbright Foundation, the Australian Federation of University Women, and the Universities of Adelaide, Wollongong and NSW. Helen is also a contributor to Big Porn Inc: Exposing the harms of the global pornography industry, (Spinifex Press) to be launched in Brisbane October 14 and Sydney October 20. A version of this piece will also appear in Online Opinion Monday.
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