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…
Dr Helen Pringle (long time collaborator and contributor to Big Porn Inc) and talented emerging young writer Laura McNally, who I’ve published here a number of times before. Both are contributors to the new Connor Court title Freedom Fallacy: The limits of liberal feminism’ edited by Miranda Kiraly and Meagan Tyler. I had the pleasure of attending the Melbourne launch earlier this week and will run some extracts soon.
Disempowered Men? Tanveer Ahmed and the ‘Feminist Lynch Mob’
Dr Helen Pringle
…In Australia, this month, a man claimed that he too had been lynched. On 14 March, The Spectator even supplied a picture of the lynching to accompany the first-person account of the victim. The Spectator cover cartoon shows a man of colour swinging from a branch, complete with “the bulging eyes and the twisted mouth” of the “strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees” lamented by Billie Holiday. The lynched man is surrounded by foul-mouthed women, with burning torches and a pitchfork. Like the inscription on the back of a lynching postcard, The Spectator cartoon comes with a caption, so that we might not mistake its meaning: “Lynch mob-ette: Feminists did me in, says Tanveer Ahmed.”
Inside The Spectator, Tanveer Ahmed provides an account of his own lynching…Ahmed presents his account of his execution under the sub-heading, “Despite being a pin-up boy for the White Ribbon movement, I made the mistake of attempting to explain male violence.”
Ahmed was an Ambassador for the White Ribbon campaign against violence to women when he published an article in The Australian on 9 February entitled, “Men forgotten in violence debate.” The title almost makes it unnecessary to read further to grasp the striking new “argument” being made: that men are “disempowered,” with the perpetrators being the same “mob-ette” of radical feminist harpies circling the poplar tree.
Unfortunately, Ahmed’s argument in The Australian was by no stretch original – not only was it a tired reiteration of cliches, but those cliches were not even his own cliches, having been lifted in part from the writings of other “disempowered men…
In his Spectator attempt at an apologia, “Lynched by the feminist mob,” Ahmed mixes his metaphors with abandon in order to explain his plight:
“I have been considerably disempowered after writing about male disempowerment. Wading into the treacherous, virulent, oestrogen laden waters of modern feminism I have learnt that the gender wars are seen by many as a zero sum game, much like poker or derivatives trading.”
As he waded, Ahmed says, he was “treated to an orgy of abuse, threats and complete mis-representation.” Nurses at his hospital took him aside to ask him how he was doing, articles and letters were published on the net in support of him, unnamed (because trembling presumably) academics approached him on the sly to share how difficult it is to speak openly about “this issue” and Dr Ahmed was invited to speak at a Toronto conference “all expenses paid.” …
The Spectator editorial (“Lynch mob-ette”) commiserated with Ahmed’s fate at the hands of “an angry, vocal, left-wing group of ‘celebrities’ within the bosom [sic] of the local [feminist] movement.” According to the Spectator editorial writer, Ahmed had been “lynched on social media, to the point of threatening his career” by such “oddities.” Ahmed himself writes that he was so cowed by “the totalitarian character of the entire episode” that he packed his white ribbon away and “resumed writing prescriptions for psychoactive drugs” at his psychiatric practice. Hard times indeed.
This rhetorical escalation by Ahmed and the Spectator on his behalf goes beyond absurdity into the realm of the grotesque. Words like “totalitarian” lose all meaning when applied to criticism made of a rather dull kind of “argument” about modern masculinity (a predicament that certainly deserves a complex and thoughtful analysis). The completely inappropriate use of such words reaches beyond this one little corner of right-wing looniness, however, as the increasing use across the political spectrum of terms like “crucifixion” in response to criticism illustrates.
However, there is a particularly egregious wrong-ness in the use of the word “lynching” as a response to criticism. This wrong-ness comes from the freight that the word carries because of its entanglement in a history of sustained racial terror…
For Ahmed and The Spectator now to present his predicament as a lynching, both in words and in a captioned picture, is shameful. In Ahmed’s case, there is no “blood on the leaves,” there is no “smell of burning flesh,” no torture, no execution, no terror. There is only the hum of the Airbus taking off for Toronto, with a successful doctor onboard, “all expenses paid.”
But words still have meaning, to which they can be recalled. The history of lynching places on us an ethical injunction to precision in our use of the word. And no man was lynched yesterday. Read full article
Gender Neutrality or Enforcement? ‘Safe Schools’ isn’t as Progressive as it Seems
…Those who subscribe to queer theory would argue that this simply represents progress. From this perspective, gender is inherently fluid and exists in multiple permutations. Queer theory has now gone mainstream, ushered in from the fringes of the academic world to the core of the childhood education system.
For example, Safe Schools utilises definitions like this: “sex is your physical aspects (i.e. your wibbly wobbly bits) and gender is how you feel in your mind in terms of masculine and feminine.” Quite apart from the incorrect description of genitals – one that is advised against by health professionals – the idea that gender is a feeling is highly questionable. In fact, the idea of feminine or masculine thinking has long been disputed in the research.
Other topics to which children will be inducted through Safe Schools materials include the use of plastic surgery and hormone treatments to change gendered appearance, as well as how girls should bind their breasts if they aren’t comfortable about them. Not only does this promote dangerous practices, but it also has the potential to normalise body dissatisfaction within an already vulnerable demographic – all in the guise of “progress.”
Far from being progressive, such campaigns seem somewhat counter-productive. If gender neutrality really is progress, why the focus on classifying gender? How can such programs neutralise gender and yet simultaneously name, categorise and even medicalise it?
Gender itself is a sociological category, a concept designed to examine broad trends between the sexes. Yet it is now erroneously applied to children who are expected to understand and embody a theory usually only the purview of researchers. Suddenly we must scrutinise, analyse and even pathologise natural child behaviour as “gendered.”
While this focus on gender appears to be celebrating diversity, it may actually be doing the opposite.
Many people are indeed diverse and non-conforming, and ending discrimination around difference is worthwhile. But there is no consensus in the research on whether putting children into gender categories is helpful or simply premature and possibly disruptive. Theories about gender are dubious at best. As the Safe Schools program demonstrates, many theories still fall back on the archetypes of “feminine” and “masculine” traits, which have long been discarded in the research.
… Accordingly, 51 gender categories are now prescribed for children to choose from. Facebook has followed suit, offering these 51 gender options to users.
Indoctrinating children into these new “gender” categories is not going to resolve stereotypes. In fact, this may merely create a more exhaustive range of gender classifications within which the stereotypes continue to exist. This is not gender neutrality, but gender enforcement.
This may create more confusion, more anxiety and more pressure for children over an issue that is not their burden to bear. Stereotypes need to be done away with and diversity needs to be accepted. If we truly want to be progressive and neutral about gender, perhaps we would be better off just letting children be children. Read full article
Topless women in newspapers are not ‘tough, rough, challenging’ ideas’
In a piece titled ‘Politician-Led Attack on Media Freedom is a Sentence on the public’, in The Australian last Thursday, Spiked Online editor Brendan O’Neill wrote an impassioned defence of free speech. O’Neill argued that attacks on press freedom were not only attacks on those who write and publish but also on the reader – hurting the “man on the street”. He condemned the “licensing of the press by the back door, the use of extreme financial pressure to make every paper, mag and zine bow before new codes of conduct.” He described (now failed) moves to regulate the press in Australia as a “wicked undermining” of the readers’ right to exercise their own moral judgement about the content. “…restrictions on the press are a sentence on the public, passed by elites who think we morons cannot handle tough or rough or challenging ideas”.
Tough, rough, challenging…
I support him on that. I’m all for giving as many column inches as possible to touch, rough and challenging ideas.
But O’Neill fails the argument when he includes as an example of content deserving the protection of free speech, the Page 3 semi-naked images of women, a regular feature in Britain’s The Sun newspaper. He labels as “censorious feminists” those who condemn the objectified and sexist images (over 87,000 so far in a Change petition, see below). Labelling the images as merely “saucy”, O’Neill mockingly collapsing the argument against them as being “because it makes men rapacious.”
By including The Sun’s Page 3 girls feature in his passionate treatise against the “mugging of press freedom”, O’Neil has undermined that fragile right. I was about to write about why, when I came across this piece by writer and actress Lucy-Anne Holmes, in Women’s Views on News (originally published in Huffington Post). Holmes has summarised it perfectly: “We are all affected by Page Three whether we buy it or not, because we all live in a society where the most widely read paper in the country makes ‘normal’ the idea that women are there primarily for men’s sexual pleasure.”
‘If you don’t like it don’t buy it’ – Brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that?
Guest post by Lucy-Anne Holmes, writer and actress currently working on the No More Page 3 campaign ‘to take the bare boobs out of the Sun’ newspaper.
This article appeared in The Huffington Post on 15 March 2013.
I’ve got a confession to make. I may have been a bit silly starting the No More Page 3 campaign. You see, someone just tweeted us something. “If you don’t like it, don’t buy it”, the tweet read.
There was I, ballistically campaigning about Page Three being damaging when, oh, I really am feeling very stupid now, because I could just not buy it and everything would be fine. So, I’ll be off then. Sorry about that. Or rather. No. Just no.
There are so many reasons why “if you don’t like it, don’t buy it” doesn’t work as an argument for Page 3, that I will be breaking out the big gun bullet points.
So, here goes. This is for you, Mr If You Don’t Like It Don’t Buy It and all the others before you, and that includes you, Nick Clegg.
1) I was most affected by these images at the age of 11 when my breasts were developing and my brother and his mates would be commenting on Page Three girls breasts everyday. I really looked up to my big brother and this situation taught me that my breasts were only there for men to look at. Mine fell short of the ones that were in the daily newspaper, therefore I was failing somehow and I was ashamed. I didn’t buy it.Read more here.
Just the latest example of the mainstreaming of pornography
‘The “Telstra Babes” content is just a few clicks away from the “Women at Telstra” recruitment website, which describes the company’s “inclusive working environment” for women and its culture that “celebrates the success of women at every level”’.
This piece by James Frost in The Australian last week provides further evidence of the encroaching of pornography into the mainstream. Our major telecommunications company is now in the porn business, offering and profiting from Playboy and Girls Gone Wild.
If you are a Telstra shareholder why not let the company know that you didn’t buy shares to invest in the company’s porn-for-profit venture? And if you’re a Telstra customer, let the company know that this isn’t your idea of corporate social responsibility. You can contact Telstra here.
Telstra’s soft-porn site under fire
IN another sign that Telstra is not the boring government-owned phone utility it once was, the company now offers softcore pornography over video-capable mobile phones.
Telstra mobile users can watch videos with titles such as Dirty Housewife and Hot Asian Gets Wet for between $3.50 and $4.95 per viewing.
“We have a range of web pages offering different content for the many niche interest groups that make up our customer base,” a Telstra spokeswoman said.
The “Telstra Babes” content is just a few clicks away from the “Women at Telstra” recruitment website, which describes the company’s “inclusive working environment” for women and its culture that “celebrates the success of women at every level”.
Author and anti-pornography campaigner Melinda Tankard-Reist said Telstra’s attitude was disappointing and raised serious questions.
“This is a mainstream communications company,” she said. “When did they make a decision to go down this path? Was it at a corporate level?”
Telstra won’t reveal whether it pays for the content or whether it is paid for referring any of its 12 million mobile users to material produced by Playboy and Girls Gone Wild. The telco said warnings were displayed and that the content was relatively tame.
“We have stringent guidelines pertaining to all content across our sites and in particular, the ‘glamour’ pages, which are among the mildest in the category among industry providers,” the spokeswoman said.
Ms Tankard-Reist rejected that defence and said the companies supplying content to Telstra had disturbing associations.
“Playboy isn’t just your father’s magazine under the bed any more,” she said. “Playboy hosts a range of hardcore, explicit, triple-X content across a range of cable television channels. You couldn’t even print the names of the titles they show.
“The Girls Gone Wild genre is harmful to women and girls and there have been allegations that girls have been made drunk to coerce them into filming sex acts or simulated sex acts for the camera.
“Shareholders would be surprised to know the company is hosting and distributing pornographic content. It’s a significant issue for its reputation.”
Cold term cannot disappear central experience of pregnancy and birth
Gestational carrier is an ugly term
THE objectification of women’s bodies and commodification of childbirth came together yesterday in a single antiseptic phrase contained in the announcement of a second child for actress Nicole Kidman and her musician husband Keith Urban.
The baby’s birth three weeks ago took even dedicated “Our Nic” watchers by surprise, including Woman’s Day which had the couple adopting a Haitian child.
“Our family is truly blessed . . . to have been given the gift of baby Faith Margaret. No words can adequately convey the incredible gratitude that we feel for everyone who was so supportive throughout this process, in particular our gestational carrier.”
In those last two words, the woman whose body nurtured this child for nine months is stripped of humanity. The phrase is reminiscent of other terms popular in the global baby-production industry, such as suitcase, baby capsule, oven and incubator.
The detached language views women as disposable uteruses. This dismantling of motherhood denies the psychological and physiological bonds at the heart of pregnancy.
The euphemisms soothe: don’t worry, there is no mother whose voice the baby hears, no mother whose blood carries nutrients to the developing child, whose heart the child hears. No mother feeling first kicks, whose breasts swell, whose entire body and mind prepare for her arrival.
US ethicist Wesley Smith said he was reminded of “Dune’s ‘axlotl tanks’, which are women who are lobotomised and then their bodies used as gestational carriers for clones.”
But doctors prefer it.
On Australia Talks Back, November 9, 2009, Canberra IVF specialist Martyn Stafford-Bell said “gestational carrier pregnancy” was the preferred term.
Surrogacy was a good solution for women “unable to house a pregnancy” and a woman carrying a child with no genetic connection understood “she is, in fact, an incubator”. Some surrogate mothers use these terms to distance, because surrogacy erodes the inherent maternal-fetal relationship.
“I am strictly a hotel,” one said.
Donna Hill, who experienced a toxemic pregnancy followed by a traumatic induced labour which she hoped to forget, said, “I told myself I was just an incubator. I was just going into an operation and not giving birth.”
Sydney surrogate mother Shona Ryan told a Canberra conference: “I had to forget I was pregnant. There was not the same joy and wonderment. In some ways I felt sorry for this baby that it didn’t receive the same attention [as my others]. I had to deny the pleasures of pregnancy.”
After the birth: “My subconscious, my body, my emotions, knew I’d given birth and were screaming out for that baby. I kept having the urge to tell people, ‘I’ve had a baby!’
“The personal cost to me and my family [was too high]. I came to the conclusion I couldn’t recommend surrogacy to anyone.”
Of course the birth of any baby is worthy of celebration. But that doesn’t mean we should avoid hard questions about the fragmentation of motherhood, about a child who may wonder about their birth mother and why she is not raising them.
We can’t keep our Eyes Wide Shut about the exploitation of women in countries such as India where a booming surrogacy industry, described as womb slavery, attracts rich foreigners. And questions need to be asked more broadly about the global trade in the use of gametes in a range of reproductive procedures.
The Daily Mail recently ran “The brutal fertility factories trading in British mothers’ dreams” to describe vulnerable women trading in the only valuable thing they possessed: their fertility.
In the US commodification of a child knows few limits. Journalist Bill Wyndham, pretending to be a single, HIV-positive gay man, was told by a surrogacy company he’d make a perfect dad.
He was, however, not allowed to adopt a puppy from the dog pound.
We don’t know the background of the surrogate mother. Was she a student trying to pay off college loans? Had she given birth for other couples? Did she have the option of changing her mind? Will there be any future contact between the mother and child? Does she have other children who are asking where the new baby went?
Some women have been unable to relinquish. Mary Beth Whitehead, US surrogate mother in the famous Baby M case, said: “Something took over. I think it was just being a mother.”
Jane Smith from Sydney said of the son she carried: “I couldn’t let him go.”
Another surrogate mother has said: “In the beginning it is easy to see things in an unrealistic way. When there is no real baby, it is easy to be idealistic.”
In 1997 a baby called “Evelyn” became Australia’s first litigated surrogacy case when her surrogate mother couldn’t give her up.
The raft of celebrities hiring out surrogates to have babies for them has became almost a modern day form of wet nursing.
But the lack of objective evidence about the long-term impact of surrogacy on the surrogate mothers, the children and the families of the commissioning parents is concerning.
The process of pregnancy, labour and delivery followed by summoning extraordinary reserves of strength to surrender that baby, cannot be reduced to the science fiction that the woman who does all this is merely a “gestational carrier”.
I recall a few years ago being interviewed (read ‘debated’) by two young men on an Adelaide radio station, on the issue of prostitution and trafficking. After cataloguing a litany of harm caused as a result of the global trade in the bodies of women and girls, the boys came up with what they thought was the perfect solution. Each woman in prostitution could carry a document declaring she was “traffick-free”.
This encounter was brought to mind when Melbourne academic and women’s activist Caroline Norma sent me this piece dismantling the proposition that pornography can be ethical.
Caroline Norma is a lecturer in the School of Global Studies at RMIT University. I’ve published her before here.
In‘The ethical dilemmas of Cocaine and bottled water’ (The Australian, Monday), Minister for Human Services and Minister for Social Inclusion Tanya Plibersek calls on Australian pornography consumers to ‘ask themselves about the circumstances of the manufacture of what they’re watching’ so they can start to make better decisions about the materials they masturbate to.
She asks them to more closely consider the ‘life choices available to the participants’ in pornography so that they can ‘ethically’ choose ‘non-exploitative’ materials to download. To her credit, Plibersek makes this argument within the context of a general discussion about the benefits of the government’s “clean feed” internet regulation initiative of which I am a supporter.
However, I am concerned that Plibersek appears to align herself with the ‘dolphin-free tuna’ crowd of pornography apologists when she makes the argument that men’s consumption of pornography is acceptable, as long as the women in it are found to be willing. There are various groups that defend the production, consumption, and distribution of pornography in Australian society, including the Eros Foundation, the Sex Party, and Scarlet Alliance. However, different to the crowd Plibersek aligns herself with, these groups are generally blunt in their public pronouncements that pornography, prostitution, and all other parts of the sex industry should be celebrated and legalised.
Most defenders of pornography cannot afford to be so upfront about their support of the sex industry. The industry worldwide is too closely associated with organised crime, trafficking, the exploitation of women and children, callous forms of sexuality, and drug addiction among people in the industry. So, people like Plibersek who have to defend pornography in a family-friendly way, alternatively rely on the ‘dolphin-free-tuna’ strategy.
‘Dolphin-free tuna’ was created as a marketing gem of the commercial fishing industry to respond to declining public consumption of canned tuna because of concern that dolphins were being killed in its production. There is, of course, no possible way that the canning industry can ensure that dolphins do not become ensnared in the nets of trawlers that supply tuna to them. But canning companies nonetheless get their suppliers to sign a ‘pledge’ that the tuna they sell has been caught with no loss of life to dolphins.
Similarly, there is no possible way that pornography consumers can know that the pornography they are masturbating to has been produced using women who are not exploited or have ‘life choices’, as Plibersek puts it. On the contrary, just as the production of canned tuna inevitably causes loss of life to dolphins, the production of pornography inevitably causes psychological and physiological harm to the women and girls who are used to make it.
The women who have their bodily orifices pounded, poked, and prodded during the production of pornography are facing pretty grim ‘life choices’. If their entry into the sex industry wasn’t paved by incest, mental illness, poverty, drug addiction, or homelessness, then their exit from the industry will be shadowed by these problems and more.
The women who must live, work, and interact with men who consume pornography are also facing less than ideal ‘life choices’. They must acquiesce to the blueprint of female sexuality that pornography imposes on them through their husbands’ and boyfriends’ expectations in the bedroom, and they must put up with an overall lowered status in a society where men think that ejaculating on a woman’s face is an acceptable and normal activity.
Girls, too, suffer the effects of male pornography consumption, regardless of how many ‘life choices’ are enjoyed by the women who are used to make it. They must grow up in a society where the practices of pornography—anal sex, pubic hair waxing, turkey slapping, and deep throating—have become normal sexual behaviour for a whole generation of boys. Girls are also caught up in the harms of pornography when they are groomed for sexual abuse by men who normalise their crimes by showing them ‘erotic’ pictures.
Instead of teaming up with the dolphin-free-tuna crowd of pornography apologists, Plibersek should reconsider the significant harms of pornography and support an increasing number of women’s organisations in Australia that are standing up against the sex industry. These organisations, including the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia and Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation, reject the idea that the sex industry can ever be anything but an institution that promotes women’s second class social status.
The only ‘ethical’ choice in relation to the sex industry is to shut it down in the same way the tobacco industry in Australia has been forced to face imminent demise.
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
“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.