Tag Archives: Gail Dines

Tankard Reist, Anne Hathaway’s pink bits & Girlfriend’s sex survey

4 Jan

On Melinda Tankard Reist’s website is this post by Nicole Jameson titled ‘The up-skirting of Anne Hathaway.” Jameson is an activist in Tankard Reist’s Collective Shout, the organisation that churns out on-line petitions against retailers, the music industry and various other companies and individuals who they feel are sexifying, pornifying and exploiting girls and women with their merchandise.

Jameson’s piece morally critiques paparazzi who apparently got a shot of Hathaway’s genitalia as she exited her limousine wearing no knickers. The shot went viral. Of course it did. This is, I gather, an abuse of Hathaway’s human right to go about her business sans her undies if she feels like it.

Personally, I could care less, however what is interesting in this piece is the following statement by Jameson:

The violation of Anne Hathaway’s privacy was repeated by every media outlet and media consumer who circulated or viewed her picture and by every writer or commenter who gave the peeping Tom cameraman a free pass by turning the focus away from his harassment”
 

I’m astonished to find such a statement on Tankard Reist’s website. After all, this is the woman who, in an explosion of incandescent outrage against French Vogue not only republished photos of children she alleged were pornographic and sexualised, but linked to the source so we could see more of them.

In a post here titled “Feminist Christian reproduces sexualised images of children on website” I wrote:

The point of the post is to cause outrage in readers at these sexualised images of little girls. In order to do that, I suppose their argument goes, readers have to be able to see them.

But there’s something awry about this reasoning. You don’t want these images viewed, you think it’s wrong that they are readily available in the media, and yet you reproduce them on the Internet to make a point?

You disseminate these images yourself, while at the same time railing against their publication in other arenas?

What is going on here?

On the face of it, it would seem Tankard Reist has double standards. It is fine for her to reproduce images of little girls she considers pornographic and sexualised. It is not fine, however, for other outlets to reproduce them. If the images are of an adult celebrity’s genitalia, reproduction of the photos is a violation of her privacy and every instance perpetuates that violation. Yet Tankard Reist apparently did not violate the privacy of those little girls? Or maybe she just did it in a good cause?

 

Also on Tankard Reist’s front page these holidays you’ll find a post titled “Newsflash: 75% of Girlfriend readers not sexually active.” 

Girlfriend is a magazine for 12 to 17 year olds that as well as offering beauty and fashion advice, takes on issues such as bullying, and self-respect. They have also launched a green campaign aimed at informing girls and young women about global warming.

The results of the Girlfriend survey would seem to undermine Tankard Reist’s moral panic about our “pornified” culture forcing our girls into acting as “sexual service stations” for the gratification of boys and men.

The reasons given by the young respondents for refraining from sexual activity are as follows:

  • Waiting to be in love (56%)
  • Not wanting to have sex (37%)
  • Feeling too young (31%)
  • No particular reason (26%)
  • Waiting to be married (17%)
  • Waiting to be the legal age of consent (14%)
  • Waiting for their boyfriend/girlfriend to be ready (8%)
  • Not being interest in ever having sex (1%)

These reasons don’t seem wildly different from reasons my generation might have given had we lived in an era when it was acceptable for magazines to conduct such surveys, or indeed, in an era when reading material such as Girlfriend was available in the first place.

Tankard Reist says she finds these results “revealing,” but revealing of what? After years of claiming that society has gone to the pornification dogs, breeding boys who become (according to her colleague Gail Dines) “amoral life support systems for an erect penis” and girls who are inevitably forced into exploitative sex long before they are ready, the Girlfriend survey would seem to indicate that things are pretty much as they have long been, and 75% of girls have the strength and self-respect to resist the demands of (100%?) brutalized males for self-gratifying sex.

Of course it would be better if 100% of girls were comfortable enough with themselves to tell the amoral life support systems to take their erect penises and sod off. But I am willing to bet the reasons they are unable to do this are to do with many complexities, not simply Diva selling Playboy bracelets or Spotlight flogging Playboy pillowcases, or even Kanye West making videos of women done up as corpses.

That so many of them are hanging out to be “in love” might be an issue, depending on just what girls and young women understand by that term.

love

 

The battle for control of the sexual discourse

21 Mar

One thing that remains unacknowledged in anti porn literature I’ve read is that classification guidelines in Australia already address the kind of pornographic sexual violence to which the campaigners are opposed. This is well explained in Nick Ross’s article on the classification riddle, with these examples of what the “Refused Classification” category disallows:

No depiction of violence, sexual violence, sexualised violence or coercion is allowed in the category. It does not allow sexually assaultive language. Nor does it allow consensual depictions which purposefully demean anyone involved in that activity for the enjoyment of viewers.

Fetishes such as body piercing [and tattooing], application of substances such as candle wax, ‘golden showers’, bondage, spanking or fisting are not permitted. As the category is restricted to activity between consenting adults, it does not permit any depictions of non-adult persons, including those aged 16 or 17, nor of adult persons who look like they are under 18 years….

Depictions of bestiality, necrophilia, incest, drug use, paedophilia, detailed instruction or promotion in matters of crime, high-impact violence and cruelty

And with regard specifically to violence associated with sex, the following is in the refused classification category: Violence: rough or injurious physical force, action, or treatment. This includes actual violence (shooting, punching, pushing, throwing a person, etc), implied violence (gunshot sound effect, news article, mugshots), aftermath of violence (person with injury, dead body), threat of violence (“I’ll kill you”), and violent behavior (woman holding gun while engaged in sex with man). Note down ANY and ALL violence, even if it looks contrived or unrealistic (plastic swords, etc). Depictions of dead people are also not permitted.

 When we have restrictions such as these already in place, what more can anti porn campaigners want?

In my opinion some campaigners are engaged in a moral battle to control who may desire whom, when and how. Their arguments are founded on conservative moral assumptions about what sex is or ought to be, how it can and can’t be performed, and by whom. To this end they define pornography as not about sex, but solely about violence against women.

Anti porn campaigners conflate sexual violence and exploitation with pornography to strengthen their argument against it, even though there’s a variety of porn available, from the inoffensive to the frightening. They allow no exceptions: their position is that all porn is bad because all porn is inherently violent and exploitative.

They also conflate fantasy with reality. Women who enjoy rape fantasies for example are not usually hoping to be raped. Some 31 to 57 per cent of women are estimated to have such fantasies, and there are other fantasies both women and men enjoy without the desire to act them out, as this article explains. Mentally healthy people know the difference between fantasy and reality. What I suspect anti porn campaigners would like is for people not to have fantasies of domination and submission, or any other fantasy that involves what the activists perceive as contrary to what sex is “supposed” to be. The battle is not only to control how we perform sex, but also to control how we imagine it by casting desire as violent and exploitative if it transgresses conservative boundaries.

For some women the consumption of porn is a radical act, and the acknowledgement that we experience desires not traditionally associated with our sex can be liberating. This doesn’t make us disturbed or bad. One of the dangers of the anti porn campaign is that it seeks to repress desires it considers inappropriate. This includes women’s desires, and as we have not yet entirely clawed our way out of sexual repression we need to be conscious of the possibility of losing what we’ve gained.

Porn undeniably appeals strongly to emotions and desires, otherwise there wouldn’t be so much of it. Pornography conveys a multitude of messages that elicit complicated responses. Sexual emotions are immensely complex. Many of our desires are formed or influenced long before we begin our sexual lives. Pornography, whether those against it like it or not, speaks to us about very real desires. Not all of them are easy to accept, nevertheless we are creatures of the dark as well as the light, and accept this we must, bearing in mind that we have laws in place to deal with real violence and exploitation.

Anti porn campaigners often express a view of sex that is sentimental and euphemistic. Sex should be devoid of messiness, vulgarity, impulses to power and aggression of any kind. Certain sexual acts disgust them, as campaigner Gail Dines makes graphically apparent. What really matters in sex, they claim, is the relationship. Sex as the expression of complicated emotions, not all of them pretty, sex as a performance of erotic power, male or female, and sex as a means of gratifying physical desire without emotional commitment, is apparently abhorrent to them.

As  campaigner Emma Rush wrote recently: “To be anti-porn does not mean being anti-sex. Rather, it promotes sex in the context of loving relationships.”  Yet “loving relationships” are only one avenue of sexual expression. Sex takes place in many contexts, and to imply that unless it is in a context of “loving relationship” it’s violent, destructive, immoral and pornographic is blatantly wrong. For example, is the author saying that couples in the throes of separation ought not to have sex because they no longer wish to maintain their “loving relationship?”  Is she arguing that nobody should have sex until they know they love one another? Just what is her definition of a “loving relationship?” What passes for love may at times be far from what some consider ideal, and love can be as confusing as sex.

Another anti porn activist, Clive Hamilton, makes this observation about “casual” sex: Perhaps this is why many people are left with a vague feeling that each time they have casual sex they give away a little of themselves, that something sacred is profaned and they are diminished as a result. Casual sex truly is meaningless sex.

The construction of a sexual ‘ideal’ or indeed an ideal of “love” that is exterior to the imperfect human condition, complete with prescriptives and prohibitions for its attainment, is not entirely dissimilar to constructing a theology, in that both demand an act of belief in a point of origin, an authoritative external presence, from which instruction on the rightness or wrongness of a practice emanates.

Claims of the rightness of a sexuality confined to “loving relationships” and the alleged profanity of casual sex must refer to the commandments of some metaphysical authority, unless Rush and Hamilton assume an infallible authority for themselves. Alternatively, their positions are social constructs, and if that is the case, we need to be convinced why they ought to have more influence over us than any other social construct. Empirical evidence for claims is the best way to establish this. Rush and Hamilton et al need to prove the “sacredness” of sex, the profanity of casual sex, and the need to confine sex to loving relationships, or risk being perceived as founding their campaign in a crypto theology that is of no real consequence to anyone other than those who believe in it.

While there is no doubt sex can be a powerfully binding metaphysical experience, this is not its only function. And isn’t it possible to have an intensely powerful experience with a “casual” partner? Sex can transport us to an altered and exalted state of consciousness. Sexual emotions can break through inhibitions and boundaries. Does it happen every time we have sex? If it doesn’t, even within a loving monogamous relationship, has sex been “profaned?”

Demagogic moral outrage of the kind exhibited by many anti porn activists is fuelled by emotions that cast any sexual practices other than those they deem acceptable as immoral and violent.  As the law already offers protection, anti porn campaigners are likely on a crusade for social purity based on personal preferences.  It’s a battle for control over sexual expression, for what people do and watch in the privacy of their homes. It’s a battle to control the manifold expressions of desire.  It’s a familiar battle for control over the public discourse on sex, and it’s one that must be contested whenever it reappears. Replacing one dominant representation of sexuality with another is no answer and does little but create another class of “deviance.”

My last word on amoral life support systems for an erect penis

7 Jan

Hysteria: Macquarie Dictionary: morbid or senseless emotionalism; emotional frenzy

It’s too time consuming to write individual responses to arguments about Gail Dines, hysteria, and pornography so I’ll write a blog and then link. Please skip this if you are absolutely sick to death of the whole thing.

It is Gail Dines’ argument that boys and men who view pornography inevitably undergo a negative transformative process that entails total loss of respect for women, and a crippling inability to conduct satisfactory relationships. Through viewing porn, boys and men come to view women as the “cunts, whores, sluts and cumdumpsters” Gail Dines says pornographers say we really are.

Boys and men who view porn become nothing more than “amoral life support systems for an erect penis” that seeks relief in the most brutal, selfish and degrading manner possible with the cunts, whores, sluts and cumdumpsters who won’t expect intimate relationship and have no sexual needs of their own, or indeed any existence of their own outside of being the cunts, whores, sluts and cumdumpsters that Gail Dines says pornographers say we women are.

Boys and men, because they are born too stupid, ignorant, base, brainless and vile to do anything else, believe the pornographers and become what Gail Dines says the pornographers claim they really are, that is ALSSFTEPs.

According to Dines, we already have millions of ALSSFTEPs in the parts of the world with internet access, who are already behaving towards women as if we are CWSC, because those millions of boys and men who view porn on the internet have inevitably transmogrified into this undesirable, sexually dysfunctional human male. No exceptions. If you watch it, that’s what you’ll become.

Even if prior to subjecting themselves to the influence of pornographers boys and men exhibited no aggression, disgust or contempt towards women, they will inevitably do so after exposure, because the pornographers have revealed to them who they really are and in so doing, have liberated them into authenticity.

According to Dines, boys and men are incapable of distinguishing between reality and fantasy. That’s why so many of them also annoyingly labour under the delusion that they are really Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible.

But wait! There’s more! Men believe pornographers even more than they believe ordinary film makers because the pornographers get to them directly through their penis. This “powerful delivery system” over rides all male reason and morality, and renders them incapable of ethical behaviour. Even if they’ve been quite moral and well-behaved thus far. The nasty, nasty dick always rules in the end. OK?

In other words no matter what else you have learned in your male life prior to accessing porn, once the pornographers get to you it is as nothing, and all men become first blank slates, and then scaffolding for ill-intentioned stiffies. So parents, stop wasting your time instilling a moral compass into your boys. Once they google porn it’s all over for them, and you. You’ll be living with an ALSSFTEP who thinks the women around him are CWSCs and there is nothing you can do to prevent that. In fact, face it, especially you daft mothers. Your male children are inherently disturbed and its only a matter of time before porn strips away the semblance of decency you’ve deluded yourself into believing you’ve encouraged in them. Better to wring their necks at birth and keep a few corralled for breeding till we’ve established global sperm banks and can do away with them forever. And their stinking porn.

But no! some Dines defenders indignantly cry! That’s not what she’s saying! She’s saying porn portrays men like that, she isn’t saying men are like that! You are misrepresenting her!

OH. Really?  REALLY? You mean Dines is saying porn is a STORY told by pornographers, and not reality? Dines is saying boys and men aren’t REALLY ALSSFTEPs, that’s just how pornographers portray them?

Then tell me, I beg you, Defenders of Dines, what is all the bloody fuss about? If Dines’ acknowledges men capable of distinguishing between fantasy and reality, if Dines’ acknowledges that the notion of men as ALSSFTEPs and women as CWSC is only a STORY told by pornographers and not actually what men and women are, then she has no fucking argument at all, and the whole anti porn thing is a gross beat up.

If that isn’t what she’s saying, then what she’d have us believe is that Gail Dines and those whom she persuades to her POV are the only people on the planet who know that porn is a story, and everyone else mistakes it for reality and adapts their behaviour accordingly  so we can be as real as porn stars too, because after viewing porn there is nothing else we care about, and nothing else we want to be.

There is nasty porn available. There are women who participate. There are men who treat women badly. Nobody is saying otherwise. But that is a very far cry from the sweeping and insulting generalisations about all men, all women and all porn that Dines makes.

My question to Gail Dines and her defenders is: do you believe that all boys and men who watch porn are or will become amoral support systems for an erect penis?

If you answer no, then your rhetoric is hysterical. If you answer yes, your rhetoric is hysterical. Either way your argument is hysterical. QED.

Hysteria: Phreudian phallusy or what?

5 Jan

In the latest issue of The King’s Tribune there’s an article by one of the editors, Justin Shaw, titled “Porn is Bad.” It’s a must read for anyone with an interest in the politics (poetics?)of porn from the perspective of an articulate and honest male consumer, rather than that of anti porn activists, or academics arguing against them.

I was delighted to read the piece, as its long been my complaint that voices such as Shaw’s are not  included in the debate. Though I hesitate to use that word, seeing as the anti porn activists brook no debate. You’re either with them or against them in their war on the producers, actors, and consumers who in their view form the pornographic axis of evil.

In the second paragraph of the piece you’ll find this comment: “Gail Dines gave a series of hysterical screeches when she visited Australia last year…” An accurate and unremarkable assessment of Dines’ performance I would have thought, but no. This innocuous observation provoked a surge of outrage on Twitter, with tweeps complaining the comment was misogynist. Everybody knows or should know, they argued, that the term “hysterical” has been used to denigrate and discredit women, especially feminists, for decades, and Shaw was allegedly perpetuating that abuse in his description of Dines.

You’ll get no argument from me that “hysterical” has indeed been used to discredit women. I just wonder though what we will be left with if we demand the discontinuation of all terms that can be used to discredit women, and for that matter, men. I have on more than one occasion used the word “hysterical”to describe the behaviours of certain male politicians, and I think I might have once unkindly attached it to Clive Hamilton after reading one of his more florid anti porn rants. Colloquially, the word is used to mean emotional excess, mental agitation, and loss of self-control.

The term “mass hysteria” is not gender specific, and is used to describe the behaviours of groups containing men, women, transgendered and un-gendered people. In sociology the more frequently used term for mass hysteria, is “moral panic.” I rest my case.

So what is the (potted) history of “hysteria?”

It was apparently Hippocrates who first used it to define “disturbances of the uterus” thought to cause all manner of ailments peculiar to women (“hystera” meaning womb) though there are arguments about that explanation of its origins.

In the mid to late nineteen hundreds the many and varied symptoms of hysteria were attributed to sexual dissatisfaction, and physicians treated their female patients with “pelvic massage”, that is, clitoral stimulation to orgasm. In order to spare physicians this arduous task, women were eventually dispatched to midwives for treatment, and then offered vibrators.

An aside: I can attest to the value of midwife administered orgasms. My second child was born in a bean bag at home, and I was attended by a midwife. At some point in my labourings, she tenderly applied an herbal cream to my lady bits and in the process, brought me to a spectacular orgasm. As I was groaning anyway, none of the assembled spectators were any the wiser. I strongly recommend this practice as an aid to delivery.

Back to hysteria. French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot became fascinated by inexplicable paralysis in some of his female patients. As there appeared to be no organic reason for their troubles, he decided psychological factors were to blame. To this end he hypnotised them, in an effort to discover the repressed traumas he suspected were being expressed physically.

And then came Freud. Fascinated by Charcot’s theories, Freud gave the world his brilliant (if not always accepted) theories of repression and conversion disorder. Initially he confided to his colleague and friend Wilhelm Fliess (a man with bizarre opinions about the purpose of the human nose, but that’s another story) his belief that much of the hysteria he found in his female patients originated in premature and abusive sexual experiences during their childhoods in middle class families. This was perpetrated on them by relatives, or nannies. With no means of expressing their trauma, or even acknowledging it, Freud’s female patients converted their distress into any number of psychological and physical symptoms that were, in his terms, hysterical. That is, without apparent organic cause, sexual in origin, and particular to women.

Unsurprisingly, Freud’s insights into middle class family life did him no good in the climate of the times, and it’s alleged that he dropped them in order to save his reputation. He then came up with his Oedipus Theory, and there’s debate as to whether that did him a lot of good either, but that’s also another story.

The problem is the symptoms of hysteria are still inevitably defined as female, yet we know this is a nonsense. As Freud well knew men are also sexually abused, and can suffer after effects every bit as “hysterical” as those endured by women. Freud would have done us all a favour if he’d coined a non-gendered term to describe the symptoms he observed in both male and female patients as a consequence of repressed trauma, but alas, he did not, and here we are in 2012 still fighting about hysteria.

In defense of Shaw, his sentence doesn’t read to me like a misogynist use of the term: I can think of no other that so accurately describes Dines’ performances and her intention to inspire moral panic (mass hysteria) in her audiences.

And she almost succeeded for this viewer when she used the acronym ATM to describe a sexual practice that I do not find inspirational. In the elegant words of @ruminski this concerns [redacted lower body orifice] to [redacted upper body orifice]. It has nothing to do with cash dispensers, except if you’re paying for it.

Following Meatloaf, I will do anything for love, yes I will do anything for love, I will do anything for love, but I won’t do that. No, I won’t do that.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water and attempt to rid ourselves of all language that can be used to denigrate somebody. Intention is everything. In my view, Ms Dines speaks hysterically on the topic of pornography, with the intention of provoking moral panic. I can only hope that the outrage provoked by Shaw’s use of the term does not blind readers to the importance of his observations. I wish he’d publish them on the Drum as well.

Wilson and Dines: together at the ABC Religion and Ethics website

21 Dec

It seems my review of Big Porn Inc annoyed the world’s foremost anti pornography campaigner, Gail Dines. She’s written this piece in response and Scott Stephens, editor of the ABC’s Religion and Ethics online, has put my review up as well, in the interests of balance.

If you look at the list of relevant articles beside my piece, you’ll see mine is the only one apart from Professor Alan McKee offering an alternative point of view, so they’re probable going to have to publish quite a few more before balance is attained.

Real or hyperreal: can we still distinguish?

7 Dec

There’s a piece in The Drum this week by Clementine Ford titled “We’re all real women…” My first thought was, is that like in the “real” Julia Gillard, or what? Since the PM adopted that manner of self-description the word “real” appears to have entered a state of extreme fluidity, and I don’t really know what it means anymore.

This is disconcerting because “real” was one of the words in our language that one used to be able to rely on through consensus. The term “unreal”is also clear when used as praise, and we can’t really apply it to describe what women are when they aren’t “real.”

I almost wrote “being real” just then. But I don’t think we should go there this morning. One step at a time.

There are millions of words that are totally unreliable and change meaning at the drop of a hat, often appropriated by politicians to obscure rather than reveal. “Real” was not, until the PM co-opted it, one of those words, at least not in the sense of being used to reassure the populace that the subject of enunciation was now entering a novel phase of authenticity.

No politician in my living memory has ever risked admitting they’d previously been false, before Julia Gillard did it.

What her claim to have suddenly become “real” signified was that prior to her announcement, the PM had apparently been inhabiting a hyperreal universe in which, according to French theorist Jean Baudrillard, human consciousness is tricked into detaching from real emotional engagement, opting instead for simulation and endless reproduction of fundamentally empty experience from which it is compelled to continually move forward.

This is the equivalent of emotionally experiencing theme parks such as Disneyland as real suburban living, and  Las Vegas casinos such as the Paris and the Venetian as real cities. That is, reality has been replaced with signs and symbols, making it ultimately irrelevant. I can testify to this. I haven’t been to Venice, but I have been to the Venetian in Las Vegas. Watching a program on television filmed in Venice I found myself thinking, that’s just like the Venetian in Vegas. This is but a small example of Baudrillard’s theory, and I am appalled at myself.

However, in comparison with the Las Vegas Venetian and Disneyland other places seem very real, and this is the purpose of it all. The hyperreal conceals the fact that the real is no longer real, by making the no-longer-real look real when one leaves the hyperreal and re-enters the “real” world.

Who is responsible for this mind-fucking post modern conspiracy I cannot say, except to suggest that the media and capitalism play a pivotal role.

Then there is the question of what value one attaches to the “real.” In the case of women, if anti pornography campaigner Gail Dines and her ilk are to be believed, the hyperreal destroys all value in the real, and men who inhabit the hyperrealistic world of pornography either attempt to persuade “real” women into imitating the simulacra (now there’s a mind-boggling concept), or they become incapable of interaction with the “real” because she isn’t exciting enough.

In the case of Ford’s article, I think “real” signifies women who feel themselves to be whole without the trappings of fashion, considerations of weight and size, and male approval. Whereas in Ms Gillard’s case I believe she was referring to a political presentation that apparently went from not real to real in a nano second, though given the magazine cover above, I’m inclined to think there was also a physical dimension to her claims.

I myself personally have never seen much difference between what the PM considered not real about herself, and what is apparently the genuine article. This is almost certainly my own fault, an unfortunate inability to detect subtle nuance for which I should be punished.

So, if both the PM and Ms Ford find it necessary to assert the “realness” of women, albeit in differing ways, is this an attempt to reclaim us from a hyperreal existence in which we cannot  distinguish reality from fantasy? A frantic effort to rescue us from the consequences of struggling to maintain our sanity in a world teeming with simulacra?

The news in Jezebel today that Swedish fashion house  H&M have stopped airbrushing human beings and instead have replaced them with computer-generated virtual bodies with “real” female human heads digitally imposed, would suggest this is the case.  Such a move does confirm that as Baudrillard suggested, simulacra work to obliterate the notion that reality is in any way relevant to our understanding of our lives. If Jezebel hadn’t outed them, we  would have assumed we were looking at human beings (albeit enhanced) rather than cyborg hybrids.

The question is, what does all that mean?

Well, absolutely sod all according to Baudrillard, who claims that all meaning is rendered meaningless by being infinitely mutable. Which brings me back to the meaning of “real.” Along with Clementine Ford and the PM I was labouring under the illusion that “real” meant something. It doesn’t. It’s a crock. It’s as mutable as any other word. There is nothing to hold on to, we are drowning in fluidity, and this is not a pipe.

The woman and the octopus, or how anti porn activists sabotage their own message

20 Oct

This article was first published in On Line Opinion

It ought to be de rigueur for anyone warning society about the perils of pornography to first state what they consider to be pornographic. As it is, the word is used to describe everything and anything to do with the public display of sexual behaviours, from the most innocuous, to the most stupid, to the most alarming, violent, and frightening. In fact, the word is rapidly becoming meaningless as anything other than code for “here come the wowsers,” and activists have only themselves to blame for this. They are heeded largely by those who already agree with them, which is useless in terms of getting any serious action going against the kind of pornography that damages people. They refuse to see that in tarring all pornography with the same brush they are sabotaging the message with generalizations and stereotypes, and that this deafens people.

In reality, many of those who dispute the anti pornography position are decent people, highly indignant at the activists’ lack of discrimination in determining the pornographic, and understandably resistant to having someone else’s moral perspective imposed upon them. One person’s sexually objectifying and degrading music video is another’s reference to surrealism and the politics of race, yet it could likely be that both are in agreement on the undesirability of violent porn.

From the outset the activists are frequently defensive, oppositional, and cult-like in their fervor and insistence that their interpretation is the “right” and only one. This is no way to get a message out to anybody other than those who already agree with you.

Agreeing on the pornographic

While what is considered pornographic can be very subjective, there are some criteria which most of us would agree could be used to set a community standard. Government regulation is already in effect in every medium other than the Internet, and I think, outdoor advertising. The Internet is a rogue beast. I would agree with the same restrictions on Internet content as are in place in every other medium. The problem is technical: how do we do that?

It’s likely true that since the advent of the Internet, public tolerance for sexually explicit images has risen as they are more easily accessed than ever before by greater numbers of people. The anti pornography crowd can rail as much as they like, they aren’t going to stop the production of these images, and they aren’t going to stop people viewing them. The very best we can hope for is enough restriction to protect children and limit access, safeguards we already have in place for other media, and that should be in place for outdoor advertising as well.

Woman with octopus

There is also no reason to oppose all sexually explicit images, as if the sexually explicit in itself is dangerous and anti social. This past weekend, for example, I visited the Queensland Art Gallery and came upon a work by Japanese artist Masami Teraoka called “Sarah and the Octopus/Seventh Heaven,” in which a woman is being pleasured by an octopus. (Yes, I would have laughed if someone just told me about it. Seeing it was another thing altogether.) In Japanese erotica images of women enjoying sexual pleasure with tentacled sea creatures is nothing remarkable, though the images are often interpreted in Western culture as being pornographic depictions of rape.

I found the painting erotic, and could see no signs that the female subject was feeling anything other than intense pleasure. I did wonder momentarily what Gail Dines would say about it, and assumed her comments would likely be stridently negative. As I gazed at the painting I thought that there are people who would like to stop me looking at an image such as this one, because they believe it will do me and the wider society psycho-sexual harm. Such people see sexual violence in every pornographic image. They see pornography itself as an act of violence against women, and they want me to “see” as they do.

Their vision casts images such as this painting in a negative and destructive light. I would never consider Teraoka’s work as dangerously pornographic unless that had first been suggested to me as a lens through which I ought to view it. So it is that the careless manner of speaking negatively about all pornography causes everything to be viewed as dangerously pornographic, and we are left with no other possible or legitimate ways of seeing. This is a tyranny and oppression we should resist.

For example, Clive Hamilton argues in his essay on photographer Bill Henson’s controversial images of adolescence that:

It is tragic that those who are responsible for sexualising children have robbed us of the ability to see Bill Henson’s photographs the way he intended. In destroying the sexual innocence of children they have destroyed the innocence of innocence.

Those who are responsible for “sexualising” children have not robbed us of anything in my opinion. On the contrary, those who like Hamilton and Dines demand that we relinquish our “innocent” gaze and replace it with the gaze of, in this case, the paedophile, are those who are responsible for attempting to if not rob, certainly alter for the worse our ability both to see innocence, and to see innocently. Henson should have known better, Hamilton concludes, and he should have realized that in today’s world photographs such as his cannot be “innocently” viewed. Therefore they should not be offered for viewing at all.

Personally, I will resist to my dying breath the efforts of anti pornographers to make me view the entire imaged world through a sexually dangerous and dysfunctional lens, whether I’m looking at Henson, music videos, Japanese erotica or Cosmopolitan. To look in innocence means to look without prejudice and preconditions, and to trust in the integrity of one’s own gaze. Hamilton’s ability to innocently gaze may well have been irrevocably damaged by those who seek to “sexualize” children. Mine has not, and I do not wish to join him in that trauma.

How to stop people wanting and making violent porn

The only way people will not participate in violent pornography, either by producing it or as viewers, is if they have a sense of self-worth that prevents them demeaning and abusing others or allowing themselves to be demeaned and abused. How are we going to produce human beings like that, given the culture in which we live and raise our young? The degradation of human beings is endemic in Western capitalist society indeed it’s a necessity if this form of society is to survive. Violent pornography is but one expression of this degradation. Like drug trafficking and people smuggling, it will never be “stopped” because there’s too much money and too much corruption involved in its production and distribution.

The best we can do is to educate our young to care for themselves and others, with the goal of creating a society in which degradation isn’t inherent. The rest is just sound and fury, unless the activists open their minds and hearts enough to engage with those who might not entirely agree with them, but who may well be on their side in some aspects of their battle.

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