We share in the Commons. This is a very old term that refers to public spaces inherited by, belonging to and affecting a community – the shared places in which we all live and move, work and play.
But our public spaces are contaminated, the commons mismanaged. No one has exclusive rights to these spaces, but advertisers too often engage in visual and psychological pollution, as if the commons belong exclusively to them.
This pollution happens most frequently in the presentation of women for gratification, consumption and profit. Corporate Social Responsibility, to which most companies now lay claim, is not reflected in images of women topless, having violence done to them, made submissive by fear, on their backs, up for it, adorning, adoring, decorative objects with nothing to offer but their sex. They are presented as passive, vulnerable, headless, short of clothing, as sex aids – and sometimes dead.
Why do advertisers address women in these ways, instead of in a way consistent with their dignity as persons? Why do they address the commons itself in a broadside against the very possibility of a civil society, respectful of the dignity of all?
Public advertising that addresses women in this manner conditions expectations and behaviour, and cultivates gender stereotypes in how we see and recognize others. Pioneering advertising critic Dr Jean Kilbourne, of the famed Killing Us Softly series, points out that ads do more than sell products: “They sell values, images, and concepts of success and worth, love and sexuality, popularity and normalcy. They tell us who we are and who we should be.”
Public advertising tells us who we are and who we should be in gendered terms: men are persons of entitlement and power with clothes on, and women are … not.
“A total of 109 publications that contained 135 studies were reviewed. The findings provided consistent evidence that both laboratory exposure and regular, everyday exposure to this content are directly associated with a range of consequences, including higher levels of body dissatisfaction, greater self-objectification, greater support of sexist beliefs and of adversarial sexual beliefs, and greater tolerance of sexual violence toward women. Moreover, experimental exposure to this content leads both women and men to have a diminished view of women’s competence, morality, and humanity.”
We need to address the power of corporations to shape this diminished view of women’s competence, morality and humanity. But within this contaminated global commons in which we are all subject to this sensory assault, there arises some hope.
On 28 March, the Council of Paris voted for a new contract for outdoor advertising. From January 2018, the successful outdoor advertising company J.C. Decaux is required to forego advertising that propagates sexist, homophobic, ageist, ethnic and religious discrimination, along with “degrading” or “dehumanizing” depictions of people and “images that adversely affect human dignity.”
In a statement, Mayor Anne Hidalgo condemned advertising that teaches women that their degradation is acceptable: “The consequences of these degrading representations have an important impact on women, especially younger ones. They maintain ordinary sexism and help to trivialize a form of everyday violence.” Hidalgo said it was time for Paris to follow the lead of London and Geneva and take similar steps toward halting the “spread, promotion and valorisation of images that degrade certain categories of citizens.”
The Council’s move took place against the background of Saint Laurent’s Fall 2017 “porno chic” ad campaign. Ultra-thin women in fishnet stockings and stiletto roller skates were depicted splay-legged and draped over furniture. The Guardian reported that critics characterized the advertisements as “incitement to rape,” with the French feminist group Osez le Feminisme! (“Dare to be Feminist!”) demanding the “extremely violent” ads be removed. The campaign “ticks all the sexist boxes,” said Osez le Feminisme! spokesperson Raphaelle Remy-Leleu. “The women are objectified, hyper-sexualized and put in submissive positions.”
Under Mayor Hidalgo, Paris has developed an advertising campaign against the purchase and pimping of women. Paris has done what our cities should do. Yet, here in Australia our governments and regulatory bodies – while paying lip service to ending sexism and violence against women – continue to place the vested interests of advertisers over the wellbeing of the community.
A significant number of government inquiries and recommendations related to the impact of advertising, particularly sexualized imagery, on the community include:
The inquiry into the sexualisation of children in the contemporary media environment reported in June 2008. The committee stated: “This is a community responsibility which demands action by society. In particular, the onus is on broadcasters, publishers, advertisers, retailers and manufacturers to take account of these community concerns.” However, close to a decade later, almost all the recommendations – including for pre-vetting of ads, the establishment of a complaints clearing house to make it easier to send a complaint, and that a review of steps taken by industry bodies to address community concerns should take place 18 months later – have not been implemented.
In the 2011 inquiry into the regulation of outdoor advertising, the report (promisingly entitled Reclaiming Public Space) recommended that the Attorney General’s Department investigate unrestricted display of racist or sexualised images in the public sphere in the context of anti-discrimination legislation. That didn’t happen. The report also recommended that if self-regulation was found to be lacking, the Department would impose a self-funded co-regulatory system with government input and conduct five yearly reviews. The system has been found to be lacking, but nothing has changed to fix it.
A Queensland inquiry into outdoor advertising in January 2014 recommended a co-regulatory approach. This was dismissed by the State government which “considers the current system is mostly effective in regulating advertisers.” Recommendations from a 2014 West Australia inquiry also met with a lukewarm response from government.
The terms of reference for last year’s NSW inquiry into the sexualisation of children came to nothing. Remarkably, while tasked with examining the “adequacy of current measures to regulate sexual imagery in media and advertising” and while acknowledging strong evidence of harm, and that “concrete steps be taken” to eliminate the impact, advertising didn’t rate a mention in a single recommendation.
The Domestic Violence and Gender Inequality report of the Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee, also tabled at the end of last year, noted concerns about how gender roles and stereotypes can be reinforced and sustained through popular culture and media, yet failed to put forward any new policy to address this.
Governments continue to offload their ethical duties to citizens. Ours is a system that relies on complaints: citizens are required to do the regulating because of a “hands off” approach. While I’m all for civic responsibility, the dismissal of complaints and the terms by which they are dismissed make the job too difficult.
There are no pre-vetting of ads before posting – such as a bestiality image in the middle of Sydney’s CBD to promote Fox studio’s Sexpo, advertising on buses in school zones, billboards for sex clubs overlooking school playgrounds, General Pants shop windows covered with posters of women being stripped, and glamourized sexual violence as a marketing tool for companies like Calvin Klein and Wicked Campers spreading misogyny on every corner.
There are, moreover, no penalties for non-compliance. Despite complaints upheld against Wicked Camper vans for racist, misogynist and homophobic slogans and images, the company continues to ignore Advertising Standards Board rulings. The response of the shopping mall sex shop Honey Birdette to a recent board ruling was a contemptuous: “No one tells Honey Birdette when to take down her signage!”
Because so many complaints are dismissed and so few upheld, and because of the language in which dismissals are phrased, a message is sent that this kind of advertising is tolerable. The case-by-case approach to responding to individual complaints does not acknowledge the “drip-drip effect” – that is, the cumulative impact of all of it across society and over time. The way in which we absorb these messages is not on a case-by-case basis.
Those concerned about the treatment of women and girls in this hostile environment, and who are fighting for sexist advertising to be viewed as contrary to our anti-discrimination laws, are tired of their evidence-based concerns being dismissed by those tasked with governing for the common good. As my colleague Laura McNally, who is completing a PhD on Corporate Social Responsibility, writes, we have to tackle a culture of sexual objectification if we are to make any inroads in efforts to address violence against women:
“Sexual objectification creates a culture of impunity toward violence against girls and women. One where abusers feel justified because ‘she wanted it’. And one where girls feel disallowed to speak out because they are seen as mere objects. Objectification not only undermines gender equality but also thwarts efforts to reduce issues like violence against women. As documentary filmmaker Jean Kilbourne says turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step toward justifying violence against that person. The focus needs to shift, instead of scrutinising or blaming the girls and women affected, we must scrutinise the culture and industry that makes sexual objectification so widely accepted and increasingly expected of girls and women.”
The only changes that happen are when activist groups like Collective Shout (of I’m a co-founder) force companies to change due to hard-hitting campaigns exposing their corporate social irresponsibility. And, to address the glaring gap in governance, Collective Shout has launched a social responsibility initiative for ethical business behaviour. Companies are invited to sign the Corporate Social Responsibility pledge, which is a statement of intention not to objectify women and sexualize girls in products, services and advertising.
Those of us who have spent more than a decade tracking the multiple abuses in the system look wistfully toward Paris and ask: why can’t this be done here? Why would our government want to protect an industry that has shown little regard for the wellbeing of children and young people, who are especially harmed by advertising that conveys to them distorted ideas about their bodies, relationships and sexuality? Why doesn’t it compel the industry to act consistently with laws against discrimination and for equality?
The Australian government has its own obligations to social responsibility – namely, our government is a signatory of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Goal 3 of the MDGs is gender equality and empowerment of women. The Australian government has an obligation to action and report against this target, but also to collaborate with corporates in achieving them. Yet, the advertising industry remains free to shore up gender inequality with degrading and exploitative imagery in the public space. Not only are corporates regularly violating their own obligations to social responsibility, but the Australian government fails here too.
Governments across the globe are holding big polluters to account. Industries like oil and gas are increasingly expected to redress the health impacts of their environmental pollution. When will advertisers be held to account for the psychological harms of their visual pollution?
As citizens, we are not allowed to let our dogs defecate in public. Paris has decided that advertisers too, can no longer pollute the commons. Australia should do the same. Free markets shouldn’t have unfettered freedom to demean women and girls in advertising and marketing. Australia, it’s time to follow Paris.
‘This book helps parents understand how we can win back girlhood – happy, wild and free. It’s the core of individuality and self-belief – and is the new feminism that we want for our daughters’
Globally renown psychologist and author Steve Biddulph has been a remarkable support for our movement Collective Shout since the earliest days. He not only cared about the cause, he cared about us, as the individual activists at the forefront of this new grassroots campaigning movement against sexualsation, objectification and pornification. I recall one of our first gatherings as a core team in Sydney, Steve leading us in a session not on how we could change the world, but how to look after ourselves while attempting it. Since that time, eight years ago, Steve has continued to check in, with wise advice and wisdom about self-sustainability for the long haul.
I was honoured when Steve asked me to write a chapter on ‘Girls and the online world’ for his 2013 book Raising Girls, a follow-up to his million-copy best seller Raising Boys. Now Steve has again featured my work in his latest title 10 Things Girls Need Most: And How They Will Help Her Throughout Her Life (Finch Publishing). This new title, available through Booktopia, is already on the best seller lists.
The book is interactive. “These interactive tasks immediately get you thinking about your own life, your family and, of course, your daughter… It provides the very best information that we have about girls growing up today – and, alongside, are interactive tasks and self-exploration practices will help you to put that into practice”, Steve says.
Steve describes the aims of the book:
“Firstly, to help you understand how daughters grow and thrive, and to be confident in raising your own. To lay down the foundations of good mental health early in your daughter’s life, and to keep her strong all the way through. And secondly, to enlist you in the new wave of feminism, fighting against a world that is so toxic to our kids.
We have the potential to change the world our daughters face. Girls are being exploited. We need to challenge the companies worldwide that profit from making girls insecure and compliant through manipulative marketing.
This book helps parents understand how we can win back girlhood – happy, wild and free. It’s the core of individuality and self-belief – and is the new feminism that we want for our daughters.”
Here’s an extract from the chapter describing my work with young people:
A VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS
Melinda Tankard Reist is standing before an audience of two hundred girls aged from twelve to eighteen. Neat in their school uniforms, they are seated in curved rows on the floor. Uncharacteristically for this age group, they are utterly silent. Melinda is the founder of Collective Shout, a national network of young women campaigners against the sexual exploitation of women and girls. She will criss-cross to schools across the country giving this talk about ‘sex, porn and love’ dozens of times a year to girls of every ethnicity and demographic. When Melinda finishes speaking, the girls erupt in applause and besiege her with tearful thanks for her message. They will tell stories of their own experience – of being touched or assaulted by boys or men on public transport, of being leered at or spoken to obscenely in the schoolyard. Or, in their relationships with boyfriends, of feeling pressured into doing things they didn’t want to do, and of sexual encounters entered into happily and trustingly, where nice boys that they thought they could trust became aggressive, spoke demeaningly or physically hurt them.
When Melinda talks to boys about these issues, they often express shame and regret, recognizing they have acted in these ways, but not seeing how harmful and disrespectful their behaviour has been. They literally thought this was how you were supposed to treat girls.
The world our kids grow up in today sexually is not a happy place. Sex has been so misused, in advertising, the media and in music videos – and most powerfully of all in the torrent of online pornography – that it has badly distorted what young people think about how it works, and how it can be part of a caring, gradually unfolding relationship.
A recent study by the Burnet Institute in Sydney, Australia, found that 90 per cent of boys and 60 per cent of girls had encountered pornography between the ages of thirteen and sixteen. Thirteen was the average age of first exposure for boys. Forty-four per cent of older teenage boys watch porn weekly, and 37 per cent daily. This indicates a fair bit of exposure. Pornography is a vast and highly profitable industry. Our consumer society is industrializing sexuality, and the kids are its first trial run….
…for the boys who see these depictions, the women in pornography are paid to act as if they like and enjoy this treatment – slapping, strangling, hair-pulling, and being called abusive and demeaning names. For a fourteen-year-old boy the mislearning about what sex is like is bewildering, if not dangerous.
Here is what Melinda (and educators like her) report from talking to adolescent girls:
1. They are being increasingly and persistently pressured into sexual acts that they don’t want or enjoy. This pressure often becomes the central focus of the relationship with boys who they thought liked them or wanted to be with them.
2. When once teenagers enjoyed hours of kissing, or had a relationship consisting of talking, laughing, spending time together and snogging, this now doesn’t happen at all. It’s too much a delay in getting to the goal.
3. Sex isn’t really sexy any more. There is no sensuality, no body pleasure, no tenderness. You are meat to be used. The sex girls have with boys is fourth rate.
4. As a result, by sixteen or seventeen, girls are often totally disillusioned about sex, put off it by the dismal lack of skill, awareness or connection offered by the boys in their lives. It becomes a routine, dreary chore to put up with if you want to be in the company of a male. (How progressive and modern!)
5. Sexual relationships that start at fourteen or fifteen rarely last beyond a few weeks, often less. They create a lowered bar, a kind of resignation, and drift into multiple, equally empty relationships.
This doesn’t just affect the girls who are sexually active. The effect on the social world that all our daughters move in – at school, university or going out in public on the street – is that it is constantly sexualized in an invasive and uncomfortable way. A girl finds she is being ranked and compared on sexual criteria on social media or even to her face. Some boys feel that they are entitled to touch or grope girls, harass them or worse. Some men gaze invasively at girls without any sense of respect or protectiveness.
Girls lose a sense of agency or that their needs matter. Melinda hears girls talk about their first sexual experience, being anxious only about how it was for the boy. ’He seemed to like it.’ ‘I hope I looked OK.’ There is nothing about their own enjoyment.
By mid-secondary school, requests for naked ‘selfies’ come thick and fast. Boys expect this from a girl they are friends with. Girls ask: ‘How can I refuse without hurting his feelings?’ But those photos may be traded among boys, used as revenge, or to blackmail them into having sex, then shared anyway. Girls in many countries have taken their own lives because of the humiliation or betrayal they experience, the sense of having their selves taken away.
Another sad side effect, is that non-sexual, actual friendships – once a great part of being young, and a stepping stone to greater confidence – have almost disappeared as everyone thinks they are supposed to be sexual.
SO WHAT TO DO?
In the face of this avalanche of hurt, the answer that educators and activists are giving girls is on multiple fronts, but has a central core. It’s the thing that sends girls at Melinda’s talks into empowered assertion of their own feelings. You Don’t Have To. Your own sexual wishes, enjoyment, values, and choices, are what you have a right to stand up for. You aren’t in this world to satisfy boys.
And how a pornified world harms our ability to achieve gender equality
“Pornified messages are bombarding our young people and giving them distorted ideas about their bodies, about relationships, and about sexuality,” says Melinda Tankard Reist, in this podcast interview, “According to global research, (this is) making our kids very unwell.”
We are seeing a rise in negative physical and mental health outcomes, eating disorders, anxiety and depression, self harm, low self-esteem and poor academic performance.
“I believe we are facing a significant crisis amongst our girls,” says Melinda.
Girls are experiencing increasingly negative attitudes towards their bodies, describing themselves as fat, disgusting and unworthy (even to live). Boys are comparing girls’ bodies with porn star bodies on the basis of whether or not they match up.
“And we wonder why girls are anxious and depressed,” says Melinda, “to me the mystery is that any girls make it through unscathed.”
Boys start seeing porn at an average age of 11, often viewing pornography that eroticises and glamorises violence against women.
“We’re teaching boys that violence is sexy,” says Melinda, “We have these national campaigns to address violence against women but we are doing nothing to address the cultural drivers of that very same violence.”
Drivers such as the normative, permission-giving beliefs to boys that girls’ bodies exist for their sexual gratification and pleasure.
“Boys are learning a sense of entitlement to the bodies of women and girls,” says Melinda, “and girls are learning that they exist primarily as sexual service stations for men and boys.”
Girls are so disconnected from their own sense of pleasure, intimacy, and authentic human connection, says Melinda, that when she asked a 15-year-old girl about her first sexual experience, the girl responded, “I think my body looked okay. He seemed to enjoy it.” [Italics, mine]
“Girls shouldn’t have to be navigating sexual requests at 11 and 12 and be assessed on the basis of their bodies,” says Melinda, “they are not being valued for their gifts, their talents, their abilities, their desire to change the world, to be a loving sibling, a devoted friend, their spirituality…they are not being valued for anything other than whether they look hot or not.”
This is making our girls very unwell.
Change is difficult but possible…and every voice counts.
This is the premise behind Collective Shout for a World Free of Sexploitation, a grass roots organisation co-founded by Melinda, that works to address the toxic messages of pornography that give our young people distorted ideas about their bodies, about their relationships, and about sexuality.
Melinda speaks to girls and boys across the country, empowering girls to say no to unwanted sexual intrusions and encouraging boys and girls to seek respect-based relationships.
“It’s difficult and it takes guts,” she says but change is possible and evident in the stories she shares in this interview.
Collective Shout is active politically and also works with corporations that want to take a responsible approach by agreeing not to sexualise women and objectify girls to sell products and services. It’s a big job but Melinda and her team are proof that when voices join together for the common good, they can indeed make a collective SHOUT!
MTR on pornography and gender equality (and a plug for Collective Shout!): Eternity interview
Last year Western Australian Tavern The Sixty30 made an application to vary existing trading conditions to allow topless waitresses. Along with other members of the community and the Commissioner of Police, we lodged an objection on the basis that:
The use of women’s bodies in sexual entertainment and services is a form of prostitution
Sexual trade in women’s bodies both causes and contributes to gender inequality by reducing women to mere objects for men’s use and enjoyment, with adverse impacts on women who are directly involved as well as women as a whole
A significant body of research links sexual objectification of women with violence against women
Sexploitation venues pose a threat to women, with women reporting increased incidents of sexual harassment, abuse and violence in areas in close proximity to strip clubs
After months of deliberating, we are pleased to report that the taverns’ application was denied, after Liquor Licensing found there was insufficient evidence it would be in the public interest. Read the report here.
It is also important to distinguish between the public interest and private interests… the application is primarily concerned with the private financial interests of the Applicant and the operators of Perths Best Girls. Accordingly, I reiterate that the onus remains on the Applicant to demonstrate that the grant of the application is in the public interest, and this onus cannot be discharged by simply pointing to a desire to provide additional services at the licensed premises.
The Applicant has failed to produce sufficient, probative evidence to satisfy me that the grant of the application is in the public interest.
The tavern had attempted to argue there was demand for topless waitresses (with statements of support, the Commissioner noted, predominantly from male respondents). The Commission responded:
The evidence fell well short of establishing that the variation of the licence was in the public interest. Whilst “Dan the Man”, “Show me pussy”, “Robbo”, “Marshy”, “Bob”, “Jacko”, “Swanny”, “Fido”, and others may want to see strippers at the hotel based on their signing of the questionnaire, there is nothing before the Commission that is capable of establishing that the variation of the licence is in the public interest.
As always, we are grateful for your support and participation throughout the course of this campaign. Without it, we would not have achieved this victory.
It’s time pornography was included in discussion of factors contributing to violence against women
I’ve just a released a new DVD!
It’s based on an address I gave to civic leaders, community groups, educators and those at the frontline of addressing domestic violence, in Queensland late last year. I think it’s safe to say it is the first DVD of its kind, unpacking the research on the relationship between pornography and violence as well as drawing from personal experiences shared with me. The back cover reads:
There is renewed debate on the national scourge of violence against women. This debate is to be welcomed. However the role of pornography as a driver of violence has not been properly considered.
In this new 35-minute video, author of Big Porn Inc Melinda Tankard Reist explores the latest research on how porn influences men and boys and eroticises and legitimises violence. She shares young women’s experiences of sexual assault, physical and mental injury, unwanted sexual advances and demands for sexual ’selfies’.
Melinda’s message will help inform you and equip you to join the growing movement against porn and advocate for relationships built on respect.
With Di Macleod after I addressed a conference on pornography and violence against women on the Gold Coast last year.
I am grateful for the support of frontline workers such as Di Macleod, Director, Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence, who wrote this endorsement:
In the past few years we have had a huge increase in intimate partner rape of women from 14 to 80+. The biggest common denominator reported by the victims is consumption of porn by the offender. We have seen a rise in deprivation of liberty, physical injuries, torture, drugging, filming and sharing footage without consent. Melinda Tankard Reist is at the forefront of helping frontline services like ours educate the public on the link between pornography and violence – and the urgent action needed to address it.
I really hope this new DVD will help expand the debate on violence against women to incorporate the role of pornography.
That’s the motto of the just released film Fifty Shades Darker, the second in the trilogy of films adapted from E.L. James’s Fifty Shades pulp fiction series.
James’s books have become a global sensation, drawing in everything from hardware stores selling rope to retail fashion outlets selling themed lingerie to pre-schools hosting screenings for fundraisers.
But if, as the promotion claims, this second instalment is the “dark side” of the “fairy tale” does this mean that every little girl secretly desires to be whipped, choked, harassed, stalked, manipulated and made to suffer physical and emotional injury at the hands of her prince?
After all, Anastasia is subject to this and more in the first instalment, which I saw – along with a cinema full of schoolgirls in uniform.
And herein lies the problem.
Abuse is served up to young women as romance: the first film was released on Valentine’s Day two years ago; the second in the lead up. Why say it with roses when you can say it with whips? In Fifty Shades of Grey Christian tells Anastasia that if she were his she wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week (because of the damage he would do).
This is a fairy tale in which the female lead is beaten with a belt and covered in bruises as tears stream down her face. Soothed only by his strong jaw, his baby grand, sports car and helicopter.
The film’s trailers pose the question: “Can love survive?” – meaning, of course, that Fifty Shades of Grey was about just that. Because nothings says true love like being controlled and stalked.
Fifty Shades is part of a wider culture in which women are taught their greatest power comes from being an object of male desire. We see a powerful man, corporate power player Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) prey on a naive university student, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) whose virginity is a problem to be rectified. He proceeds to groom her for his sadistic pleasure. Sexual violence and emotional abuse – including threats, stalking and isolation – are represented as sexy and romantic.
What is in reality intimate partner violence becomes something women secretly desire – which puts all women at risk.
The first film depicted sexual violence – forced sex acts, contact against Anastasia’s will (stalking) and the use of alcohol to compromise consent. Anastasia Steele signs a contract in which she agrees to be submissive and meet Christian Grey’s every wish – and not just for the sex acts he wants. His specifications include what she can eat, how much she can drink and how she behaves at all times.
When unequal power relations and female submission are presented, not only as somehow romantic and desirable but as actually liberating and empowering, you know you’ve got a serious problem.
“Our systematic analysis of Fifty Shades of Grey, the first novel in the trilogy, reveals pervasive emotional and sexual violence in Christian and Anastasia’s relationship. Our analysis also shows Anastasia suffers significant harm as a result – including constant perceived threat, managing/altering her behaviors to keep peace in the relationship, lost identity and disempowerment and entrapment as her behaviors become mechanized in response to Christian’s abuse.
“Christian uses an interlocking pattern of emotional abuse strategies – stalking, intimidation, isolation, and humiliation – to manipulate and control every aspect of Anastasia’s behavior. These strategies are consistent with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definitions of intimate partner violence.”
This is borne out by something that Teagan, a survivor of abuse, shared with me: “As someone who has recently gotten out of a abusive bdsm relationship I know what it’s like and this movie represents abuse. Currently reading the books now and actually reading what Anastasia feels really hits deep for me and I understand it all.” Sounds more like a nightmare than a fairy tale.
I think there are a few reasons for this romanticisation of intimate partner violence, each interconnected. The global sex industry is very good at getting its tentacles into everything. It knows how to embed and normalize porn-themed practices and ideas. Thus we have Target selling Fifty Shades of Grey themed lingerie and hardware stores selling Fifty Shades packs including rope, duct tape and other BDSM paraphernalia.
The broader culture effectively grooms women and girls for pornography consumption. Women imbibe a message that adopting pornified roles and behaviours is how they will attract men, keep men interested, stop them “wandering.”
In porn culture, women are sexual objects for male sexual gratification and pleasure. They are always available and willing, and they never say no. They enjoy painful and degrading sex acts done to them. Women are told they should want to be brutalized, to enjoy and welcome male sexual aggression We are encouraged to embrace it and find power in being dominated and brutalized by men. Fifty Shades highlights just how effective pornography has been in infiltrating the mainstream, with women now readily accepting their sexually subordinate position.
Women are supposed to enjoy porn, including violent BDSM inspired sex. The most popular genres of pornography feature violence against women – with women depicted as deriving pleasure from it. A young woman I know asked her new (now ex) husband, “How can I make it more like porn for you?” because he wasn’t interested in a normal (that is, non-pornified) woman. We are offered a commercialized version of sexuality. The latest manifestation of this is of an especially violent variety because everything else has been “done before.” Violence is the new black.
One repercussion is that women start to think there is something wrong with them if they don’t like this stuff. And teen girls think this is what “romance” looks like. So many young women describe coercion and pressure to accept sex acts they neither desire or enjoy. This film just adds to that pressure. I’ve had year 7 girls at an Anglican school ask me questions about BDSM. They want to know if a boy wants to whip them, choke them and tie them up does this mean he must really like them? Stalking comes to be seen as a sign of affection. I’ve read messages from boys on Facebook threads about the film saying how great it is because now they can get girls to do what they’ve always wanted them to do.
How will our young people understand what true intimacy and authentic human connection looks like when porn-based messages about sex dominate their formative environments?
“Girls around the world are born into a pornified culture where consent is rendered irrelevant. In real life, men use the same tactics as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades trilogy to gain and maintain power and control over the women in their lives. This includes isolation, threats, physical and sexual assault. This is not entertainment. This is not sexy. This results in serious harm to women and in the worst case scenario, murder.”
We don’t have to see it. But any depiction of violence as romantic harms us all. As we say in our 50 Myths post: “Fifty Shades is a massively popular cultural phenomenon, perpetuating and reinforcing harmful attitudes about violence against women. Women cannot simply opt out of a culture that exploits or harms them.”
This is about raising awareness of the film and domestic violence. We want people to recognize that Fifty Shades glorifies abuse of women, and to ask themselves whether that is something they really want to support financially.
We are calling for potential cinema goers to put their money toward financially supporting some of the frontline services for women that are so desperate for funding instead. My friends who work in the women’s refuge sector tell me that their refugees are full of the victims of the Christian Grey’s of this world.
To get behind this campaign, you can participate on social media by using the #50dollarsnot50shades and #FiftyShadesIsAbuse hashtags; or for more information, visit the Collective Shout website.
Antoinette Jones – Principal – Mitcham Girls High School
“Intelligent, passionate, brilliant, fearless… I could not recommend her more highly”
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
“You continue to reset my shock meter…”
“As a teacher and parent I recommend all parents, in fact all people, to attend a talk by Melinda- it will open your eyes and awaken your subconscious.”
Heather Douglas – Parent – Pembroke School
“Melinda’s presentations to our parents, staff and full day workshops to students was inspirational, transforming the attitudes and thinking of all involved”
Paul Teys – Principal – Hunter Valley Grammar
“Melinda Tankard Reist’s presentation to Middle and Upper School students at Pymble Ladies’ College was absolutely brilliant!”
Justine Hodgson – English Faculty, Pymble Ladies’ College
“Melinda Tankard Reist has had a transformational affect on our school.”
Ms Stephanie McConnell, Principal – Turramurra High School
“Melinda Tankard Reist is at the forefront of helping…educate the public on the link between pornography and violence…” – Di Macleod, Director, Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence
“As you read, be prepared to feel both grief and rage.” Robert Jensen
“These accounts are among the most unsettling you will ever read.” Steve Biddulph
“This powerful and humane book is a breakthrough…Big Porn Inc shows us we are poisoning our own spirits.” – Steve Biddulph
“A landmark publication” – Clive Hamilton
Purchase Big Porn Inc, Getting Real, Faking It, Men of Honour, Sexts Texts & Selfies, Raising Girls, Raising Boys, MTR DVD, Ruby Who? DVD & book, Girl Wise guide to friends, Girl Wise guide to being you, Girl Wise guide to life and Girl Wise guide to taking care of your body, and the new Wise Guys for the combined discounted price of $250.
‘The foremost authority in Australia cyber safety lays it on the line and challenges parents to find their digital spine.’ – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
Whether it is problems with friends, worrying about how you look or just feeling a bit down in the dumps – these books are written especially for you – to help you in your journey. Purchase all four together and save $18.50 on postage! Author: Sharon Witt
In this DVD, Melinda takes us on a visual tour of popular culture. “Melinda’s presentation leaves audiences reeling. She delivers her message with a clarity and commonsense without peer.” – Steve Biddulph, author, Raising Boys, Raising Girls
In this easy-to-read updated book, Steve Biddulph shares powerful stories and give practical advice about every aspect of boyhood.
“Overflowing with incisive understandings…a comprehensive and in-depth guide.” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychologist
Men of Honour -written by Glen Gerreyn- encourages and inspires young men to take up the challenge to be honourable. Whether at school, in sport, at work or in relationships, we must develp our character to achieve success and experience the thrills life has on offer.
Purchase the Ruby Who? DVD and book together for only $35 saving 10% off the individual price.
“Getting Real contains a treasure trove of information and should be mandatory reading for all workers with young people in health, education and welfare” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Adolescent Psychologist
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.
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?
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.