PORN, Sexual Exploitation and why people are trying to silence the voice of survivors.
November 14, 2016 Danielle Strickland
I sat down with this global advocate and asked about her latest project, global prostitution, porn, the sex industry and why they hate her AND her latest book Prostitution Narratives… Melinda Tankard Reist is an author, speaker, media commentator, blogger and advocate for women and girls. She is best known for her work addressing sexualisation, objectification, harms of pornography, sexual exploitation, trafficking and violence against women.
Tasmanian Labor’s agenda for its conference in Queenstown this weekend has promised an opportunity for ‘robust and spirited debate’.
While the decriminalisation of brothels and the legalisation of some illicit drugs are being proposed by two separate branches of the party, the coupling of both proposals is difficult to avoid.
A more cynical person would thank members of the Labor party for at least acknowledging that ‘working’ in brothels requires chemical support in order to dissociate to survive the reality of the sex-trade.
I challenge Young Labor to cite research behind their claim that decriminalising brothels results in further autonomy and protections for ‘sex workers’, and could give them the power to ‘unionise’ and ‘collectively organise’.
If Young Labor had done their homework, they would know that brothels are the means of keeping violence against ‘sex workers’ behind closed doors. Those selling sex in brothels have less negotiating power, are forced to adhere to conditions imposed by the brothel-keeper and any bargaining power becomes increasingly hypothetical, with the sex-buyer dictating with his wallet, which sex acts a woman must perform.
Young Labor’s naive assumption that ‘sex workers’ will unionise independently of third party profiteers, male and female pimps now ‘managers’, drivers and landlords, under the obfuscating title of the ‘operational aspects of sex work’ is staggering.
While it is already legal to buy and sell sex under Tasmanian law, extending this decriminalisation to pimping and other forms of third party profiteering leave those selling sex at high risk of imposed control, including fines for lack of adherence to clothing policy, fines for tardiness, and, most obviously, having a large percentage of their income taken from them. As for other ‘protections’, in a decriminalised brothel in NZ recently, a woman who over-dosed on ‘illicit drugs’ was removed unconscious from the premises in order for the brothel not to come under scrutiny. In fact, in-house knowledge of violent assaults, theft of personal items and money from ‘sex workers’ in decriminalised brothels are rife, but hidden, both by the prostituted who fear losing their livelihoods and scoring a black mark against their name, and the brothel owners themselves.
States with decriminalised legislature are target destinations for sex-traffickers, whereas countries in which buying, pimping and procuring sex is illegal, and those selling sex are completely decriminalised themselves, such as in Sweden, are a turn-off for these same traffickers (*intercepted call via Swedish police). Increased sex-trafficking is evidenced with the international and domestic trafficking of women and girls in both decriminalised New Zealand and NSW.
Putting aside the innate horror of sex-trafficking, an influx of brothel ‘workers’ increases survival competition and women’s livelihoods are substantially reduced. Women are more vulnerable, not less, to endure added sexual violations they otherwise would not.
While it is appreciated that this proposal comes from the ‘rank and file’ of party members, is it also understood that any advice from so called ‘sex worker organisations’ such as Scarlet Alliance, comes not from the ‘rank and file’ of the majority in the sex-trade? These are a minority of those in the sex-trade, often in positions of ‘management’ and/or wholly independent of brothel ‘work’ themselves!
Why take advice from government funded groups in these positions who also minimise the need for exiting strategies for those who want to leave prostitution?
And what ‘union’ worth it’s salt argues for a model of legislation which empowers pimps over ‘workers’?
Perhaps it is understandable that Young Labor has produced an ill conceived policy based on old notions about the politics of prohibition. After all, if high profile human rights organisations such as Amnesty International can be infiltrated by pimps, drafting it’s policy on ‘sex work’ on the basis of brothel-owner Douglas Fox in the UK, brothel owners Escort Ireland, and convicted sex-traffickers such as Alejandra Gil, Mexico, why wouldn’t others?
I encourage a dialogue with Young Labor as it is likely their motivation comes from an ethos of ‘worker’s rights’, but it has been misled by those with a vested interest in opening up opportunities for profiteering from brothel owners and keeping the status quo of pimps over the prostituted. As we know decriminalisation leads to an expansion of the sex-trade from which the majority simply want to get out.
One hopes in the predicted ‘spirited debate’ fiction does not obscure fact, although it seems unlikely. Meanwhile, hundreds of women are trafficked into decriminalised NSW, and a ‘sex worker’ bound and raped in legalised Victoria is remunerated with a phone and money that was stolen from her wallet (rape as theft?)- cases which the Scarlet Alliance vehemently ignore . One wonders which ‘sex workers’ are considered, by them, to be worth fighting for.
Young Labor’s challenge should be to fight the global humanitarian crisis of the 21st century, not cater to the mutli-billion dollar sex-trade and further cement in to the GDP money taxed off the sexually exploited.
*Simone Watson is an Indigenous woman living in Western Australia, and the Director of NorMAC (Nordic Model in Australia Coalition). She is a prostitution survivor and a contributor to the book Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade edited by Caroline Norma and Melinda Tankard Reist
• Andrew Minney in Comments HERE: … The correct approach to male violence is obvious. To identify it and to repudiate it. The commercialization of exploitation is absolutely the antithesis of Labor principles. Please lead the way forward for a better, safer, respectful future for women and girls by condemning the men who harm them.
Rape, humiliation and sick fantasies: Baby-faced ex-prostitute whose clients paid her to ‘act like a little girl’ reveals what REALLY goes on inside Australia’s sex industry
By Belinda Grant Geary For Daily Mail Australia
A former sex worker has lifted the lid on the secret world of prostitution and claims violence, child sex fantasies and rape are commonplace for the women who sell their bodies in the industry.
Alice started working as a prostitute in Queensland at the age of 22 when she lost her job and could not find employment while she studied a law degree.
But the 28-year-old said she learned to use her body at a much younger age after being sexually assaulted at the tender age of five.
Alice said the profession slowly stripped her of her humanity and has spoken out against the industry that allowed her to be verbally abused, beaten, degraded and raped in the hopes she can stop other women being lured into prostitution.
Alice said her descent into the world of sex work started when she would trade sexual favours for cash, mobile phone credit or alcohol as a teenager.
‘People, including myself, had been using my body to make money since I was five so [prostitution] wasn’t a new idea to me and wasn’t something that shocked me,’ she told Daily Mail Australia. Read more
Company slammed for aiding sexual fantasies for young girls
On Tuesday night, young Melbourne supporter (and kayaking buddy) Verity Thompson sent me a link through Facebook messenger, to the website of Chemist Warehouse, which featured a disembodied ‘virgin pussy’ – a replica vagina of a young girl with ‘realistic hymen’ just waiting for a man to ‘pop’. Many people send me links to horrible things most days and while I (and Collective Shout) don’t have the resources to action everything, this product demanded a response. I shared with my activist colleagues and, within hours of us taking to social media about it, the product was removed from Chemist Warehouse’s site. While this once again demonstrates the power of collective action, we have to ask: why did Chemist Warehouse think this product was OK for them to flog in the first place? Where are its corporate ethics? And where is the Pharmacy Guild in all of this?
Here’s how News.com, Daily Mail and Smart Company reported on our win.
Chemist Warehouse pulls Virgin Pussy Palm Pal ‘realistic hymen’ sex toy from its website after backlash
Campaign group Collective Shout slammed the retailer for stocking the product.
“Since when have chemists become defacto sex shops? Chemists are supposed to be selling products with medicinal and health benefits, not promoting pedofilic fantasies and eroticising young girls for profit,” Melinda Tankard Reist, co-founder of Collective Shout, told news.com.au.
Ms Tankard Reist said she had seen similar sex toys before, including a “Lolita Teenage Vibrating Vagina” and “realistic” sex dolls made to look like nine-year-olds, but never at a chemist.
“We see a lot of horrible things in our line of work as you can imagine, but this is incredible. For a company that might want to be seen as having corporate social responsibility, this seems like a radical departure,” she said.
“Don’t they care about the wellbeing of girls in the community? Why would they want to contribute to these fantasies of young girls existing to be ‘popped’ or ‘deflowered’?”
Chemist Warehouse removes virgin sex toys following social media backlash and activist campaign
Caitlin Roper from Collective Shout told SmartCompanythis morning the product sexualises girls and was clearly inappropriate for a chemist to be selling.
“We come across some pretty awful things in the course of some of our other campaigns, but I think with this one I was really genuinely surprised to see this item sold by a chemist under the guise of sexual health,” Roper says.
“I thought, what does aiding men in their sexual fantasies for children have to do with their health or wellbeing? We have campaigns to shed light on this epidemic on child sex abuse in schools and churches, but as a culture we continue to sexualise girls and present them as sexually appealing and even available.”
Porn’s distortions need addressing in schools say educators
The ABC filmed me addressing students at Healthdale Christian College in Melbourne last Wednesday. Some of the students were interviewed – hear how well they articulate the issues! (click on image below for link to video)
MELINDA TANKARD REIST, AUTHOR, ADVOCATE FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS: Our boys are looking at porn not only before they’ve had sex, before they’ve even had their first kiss and they think what they’re seeing is normal. …
… Girls tell us that boys expect them to provide what’s known as PSE, the porn star experience. Boys expect that girls will provide for them everything they’ve seen in pornography and that the girls want that.
‘I am more than my body, don’t treat me like a piece of meat’: one young woman’s response to naked selfie ask
Received this Facebook message from Tiffany. Tiffany, hearing from girls like you makes this work all worthwhile. Thank you.
Hi Melinda. I was really touched by what you had to say and you opened my eyes to what sort of world we live in and as a 16 I’m disgusted and amazed and what girls my age have to go through. You said something about being asked for nudes and that and personally I didn’t know what you meant by that as I haven’t been asked to do that… Until today. To tell you the truth I wouldn’t of known what to do about it if you didn’t speak about it and I’m very grateful to you. The boy asked me for a photo or video and I said no that’s when he called me lame but I immediately told him I am more than just my body and you shouldn’t treat me like a piece of meat and instantly blocked him. Thank you for telling me that and I hope I have done the right thing and myself and other girls are taking part in taking action on this case and we want to make a difference. I want to help girls feel like they are worth something. So thanks again you are an inspiration to us all and I hope to join your cause.
How sexualised behaviour has become the new normal
While the content was disturbing, it was encouraging to wake up to the front page of The Australian on the weekend and see the issues myself and my colleagues write and speak about most days, reflected on the front page.
Source: The Australian
A news piece titled ‘Click bait: kids at risk as sexualised behaviour becomes “new normal”‘ by National Education Correspondent Natasha Bita, described how unsupervised internet access was spawning a generation of hypersexualised children who mimicked the adult porn they saw online. It cited warnings from psychiatrists, police and child welfare expects that the scourge of ‘sexting’, ‘selfies’ and social media was endangering children’s physical and mental health.
My colleagues, Melbourne child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg, managing director of the Young and Well Co-operative Research Centre, and federal government cyber safety adviser Susan McLean, expressed their concerns about the impacts on children of early porn exposure. “There is overt and covert pressure on children to behave in a sexualised way,” Ms McLean says. “This shouldn’t be the new normal. The No. 1 issue I deal with in high schools is the enormous pressure from boys to girls to put out sexually through images. ”
Michael Carr-Gregg said online pornography was skewing the way teenagers viewed sex, love and intimacy. “Boys see girls as sexual service stations for their pleasure…I’m seeing it virtually every single time I have a clinic. Their idea of sex is porn sex — it’s a terrible distortion of one of the most precious and important parts of their lives, which is love and intimacy.’’
Central to the piece was the example of a selfie of a 13-year-old girl posed on Instagram last week, with the words ‘Boner Garage’ scrawled on her bare tummy. Australian author and columnist Nikki Gemmell wrote a profound and incisive response, directly to the teen girl. She has kindly given permission for me to re-print her commentary in full here.
‘Boner Garage’ girls, my heart breaks for you
Dear 13-year-old Instagrammer,
“Boner Garage.” Oh, right. So that’s what you’ve just written on your bare tummy, in your child’s scrawl, in black marking pen. You’ve helpfully added an arrow pointing downwards so we get exactly what you’re referring to. That’s what you’ve artfully photographed in your child’s bedroom as your celebratory birthday selfie. You’ve deliberately, proudly, made those two dispiriting words the focus of your shot.
Your glossy blonde hair is across your face so no one can see your features. The room behind you looks utterly normal, middle class; just like any teen’s cherished and girlie private space. I don’t know you, but you have hundreds of followers, boys and girls, and you’ve not locked your account to strangers. Happy 13th birthday. My heart breaks for you.
That you define turning 13 — that wonderful, releasing cusp in a woman’s life — by those two bleak little words. Boner garage. That you somehow get pride out of them. It’s an age marinated in symbolism, a fulcrum into growing up; a time where everything should seem celebratory and wondrous, with the world deepening around you. Symbolically, in many cultures, you become morally responsible for your actions around this age — but I just want to protect you right now.
It’s readily available on a ¬mobile phone and most teenage boys have one. They look at what their mates are looking at. That can mean anal sex, group sex, oral sex — women servicing men in the ugliest, most disempowering of ways.
Porn, of course, is sex with no light in it and the best sex is bursting with light and life. Teens need to be told this bleak and reductive world is not what normal, loving relationships are about; sex should never be violent or degrading and woman are not just sexual objects.
Doctors are seeing teenage girls presenting to them — highly embarrassed — with bowel problems because of traumatic anal sex. Because it’s what they’re ¬assuming they’re meant to do.
As for you, my birthday girl, I just wish there’d been an adult or responsible friend around to stop you posting that Insta pic. Because your electronic footprint lasts, and can be disseminated. People may well be seeing what your 13-year-old self wrote, so proudly and stupidly, in years to come. Parents see the accounts of their children’s mates; as well as friends of friends you have no idea about; teachers and principals trawl; and so, of course, does the dark side of the net, those dubious adults beyond your world.
By scrawling those ugly words on your midriff you’ve already flipped yourself into the dark side of femininity and I don’t think you even realise it. Boys won’t admire you for doing this. They’ll disrespect you, disparage you.
Source: The Australian
But that won’t stop them using you as their so-called Boner ¬Garage. And I guarantee the ¬experience will be bleak, and ¬lonely. You will not feel empowered afterwards, or cherished. You will not feel what you want more than anything in this world — loved. You will feel cheap, and used, and ugly, and alone.
And at the end of that reducing little ¬experience you will ask yourself, is that it? Is that how I’m meant to feel? And that’s why my heart breaks for you. Because I’ve been there. And I can tell you, it’s not what empowering, exhilarating and tender sex is about. Often you have to wait a long, long time to discover that. With someone you love. Where respect is mutual. Where you’re having sex on your terms; talking, laughing, working things out together; saying what you like — and what you don’t. And being listened to.
“Boner Garage” implies none of those things. How passive and inert you make a woman’s wondrous sexual organs sound. Do you think so little of your body that you view it mainly as a receptacle for males to be in? The most common web definition of Boner Garage: “A vagina that has been pounded so much by erect penises that it has become a resting place for said penises.” Pretty ugly, eh?
I wish you courage, whoever you are. Not to dim your light among men; because that light is about so much more than the garage, as you call it, between your legs. It’s about your mind, your spirit, your vividness, your strength and your voice. There are only two ways to live in this world: as a victim or a courageous fighter, and you’re coming across as a victim right now. Of this rampantly sexualised world we live in. Of its female objectification and trivialisation. And of the voracious demands of teenage social media; the craving to be popular, known, that rampant desire to get more and more precious “likes”.
This isn’t the way to go about it. You’re advocating in the most dispiriting of ways a female sexual experience that’s stripped of mystery, of reverence and transcendence and, most of all, tenderness. As Iris Murdoch said: “There is nothing like early promiscuous sex for dispelling life’s bright mysterious expectations.”
Teenage girls and boys no longer seek sex education from textbooks with anatomical diagrams, giggling friends or flustered parents; they can get it from films with titles like Teen Ass 2, which they can access on the smartphones that they carry with them at all times. This week new figures revealed that sexualised images of women on social media have led to an increase in emotional problems among young girls. Researchers from University College London believe the rise in girls aged between 11 and 13 suffering from emotional problems such as anxiety may be linked to stress brought on by seeing images of women portrayed as sex objects on Facebook, Twitter and other websites. Teenagers rarely measure self-esteem or self-worth against personal and scholastic achievements, however brilliant they are, but increasingly by how many people tell them they are ‘hot’ on the photo-sharing website, Instagram, or other forms of social media…
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‘The foremost authority in Australia cyber safety lays it on the line and challenges parents to find their digital spine.’ – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
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Do you read women’s lifestyle magazines? Have you thought about how magazines might affect you when you read them? Faking It reflects the body of academic research on magazines, mass media, and the sexual objectification of women.
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Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Defiant Birth challenges widespread medical, and often social aversion to less than perfect pregnancies or genetically different babies. It also features women with disabilities who were discouraged from becoming pregnant at all.