Tag Archives: Sexuality

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

 

Kids and pron

9 May

It was with some reluctance that I sat down last night to watch SBS Insight’s inquiry into the effect of pornography on kids. I anticipated a roll out of the usual suspects with the usual hysterical claims that porn is warping the minds of our children and nobody can have decent relationships anymore and society’s going to hell in a hand cart unless we take down the Internet and make it all stop.

What a relief and a pleasure, then, to meet a brilliant bunch of young people with more common sense than I’ve found in some adults, and very definite ideas about the role of pornography in their lives and what they want adults to do about it.

“Porn isn’t going to go away,” declared one young woman, “and we want information about it. We want to know what’s real and what isn’t.”

All the young ‘uns had encountered hard core porn and none of them were impressed with it. Some they found hilariously funny. Unfortunately a middle-aged Anglican minister in the audience was deeply affected by their nonchalance, and said he found it terribly sad they’d ever seen any of it. Mostly they watched amateur porn, they said, to learn what to do and where things go. They would like some adult guidance through the genres, they said, because how were they to know what was fantasy and what people really do?

The only other person visibly upset by pornography was a adult male who identified himself as a practising Catholic and who said that thanks to porn, he couldn’t see women as human beings because he couldn’t get past his lust for us and find our humanity. Lust blinded him. He struggled daily with his lustful feelings, and I felt very sorry for his obvious torment. He claimed that this was all due to viewing porn and he wished he’d never set eyes on it.

Sociologist Michael Flood, a well known critic of porn, made the somewhat odd statement that “Porn shifts what we think of as normal.” Who is “we?” What is “normal?” What kind of porn is he talking about? Obviously from the kids’ point of view porn doesn’t shift what is normal, because they have no idea what is “normal” and would clearly appreciate some guidance. To his credit, Flood later claimed that we need more varied and “ethical” porn, and perhaps there’s something in that.

Obviously there are kids who are negatively affected by porn, and one of the sex educators in the audience expressed her concern for girls she worked with who were intimidated by boys’ demands for the kind of sex the girls didn’t want and didn’t enjoy. So there’s a need to teach sexual manners.

However, as one young woman firmly stated, if boys want to know what a girl wants they have to bloody well ask her. Don’t assume it’s the same thing women in porn films want. It isn’t about how creative you think you are, she told the lads. It’s about what pleases the woman. Her mum, sitting beside her, nodded vigourously and beamed with pride.

All in all the show considerably lifted my spirits. I’m very fond of young ‘uns. They almost always have more smarts than I expect. And if this group is any guide, they can watch porn, even from an early age, without incurring devastating damage. But they want our help. Not censorship. They know porn is part of our world and isn’t going away, and they want to learn how to deal with it. They want guidance. They want trust. They want education.

Hear that, morals police?

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.

Ellis and Nietzsche: let them sniff chairs

6 Jul

That ageing provocateur Bob Ellis, pictured here showing what Coke can really do to you, wrote a truly awful piece on the Drum yesterday to which on principle I will not link, basically arguing that feminism is responsible for the downfall by sex of many famous men from Oscar Wilde (???) to Dominique Strauss Kahn.

Heck, I have to link, it isn’t fair to talk about it otherwise.

The piece was almost universally howled down, and the ABC shut off the comments option at around three hundred and something, only the day after it was published.

What Ellis’s pleas for a more understanding and forgiving attitude to male desire did make me ponder, is how easily male public figures are brought down by their sexual activities, whether they’re caught playing away, sniffing chairs, exiting gay bars or cavorting in their underpants when one would wish them to be fully dressed. Though for Ellis to claim this has much to do with feminism is contestable, as there weren’t a lot of feminists braying for Oscar Wilde’s scalp, for example.

Usually these public figures are brought down by their male enemies who might very well employ some appropriate feminist rhetoric to make them look good and properly concerned about the women allegedly injured in the blokes’ peccadilloes (except in the case of Oscar Wilde and any other man brought undone by participation in gay sex or rumours of gay sex.)

What this says is that as a society we are apparently very uptight about the morals of influential men, or more likely there are forces at work who want us to think we are.

If a man is unfaithful to his wife, how does this affect his professional performance? The answer is we don’t know. Nobody’s done the studies. We make an assumption, based on current moral values about sex, fidelity and monogamy that if he’s deceiving his wife, he’s likely deceiving everybody else. This seems to me to be a slightly insane deduction. We all know how human beings can and do categorize, especially when sexual desire is at work in them.

Was Bill Clinton’s presidential performance changed for the worse as a consequence of letting Monica puff on his cigar, for example? (No, she didn’t inhale. They found the smoke on her frock.) Do we have the  right to judge a man’s whole life (or a woman’s for that matter, but sexual disgrace doesn’t seem to befall influential women to anything like the same extent) on the strength of his sexual behaviour?

Of course I’m only talking about non criminal situations. If  an influential man is found to have acted criminally in sexual matters, then that needs to be viewed as would any other criminal behaviour.

Ellis claims that a lot of good men are cut off at the balls because feminist wowsers can’t deal with their expression of their sexuality. Men have always been at the mercy of their desires, he claims, and everybody needs to cut them some slack if they Fall. High levels of testosterone go hand in hand with high levels of achievement, so there’s bound to be trouble.

There isn’t much to take away form Bob’s rave, except that it does remind me that the society in which we live seems to have a dominant moral view of sex as at best naughty, and at worst, really scary and requiring all kinds of societal controls, including marriage and monogamy. Repression is the price we pay for civilization. Give adolescents condoms and they’ll be at it in the aisles at school.

Any public figure who transgresses the dominant sexual morality runs the risk of being terminally banished, not because they’re particularly evil, or even a little bit bad, but because they’ve given their opponents a brilliant excuse to run them out of the game, under the guise of upholding society’s moral values.

While straying from one’s chosen partner is going to cause a lot of grief, does that make it immoral? If a man in a powerful position engages in a consensual sexual encounter with a woman with less power, is that an immoral act? Who is determining our moral values at this point in our history, how are they determining them, and to what purpose?

Or is there truth in Nietzsche’s claim that:

There are systems of morals which are meant to justify their author in the eyes of other people; other systems of morals are meant to tranquilize him, and make him self-satisfied; with other systems he wants to crucify and humble himself, with others he wishes to take revenge, with others to conceal himself, with others to glorify himself and gain superiority and distinction,–this system of morals helps its author to forget, that system makes him, or something of him, forgotten, many a moralist would like to exercise power and creative arbitrariness over mankind, many another, perhaps, Kant especially, gives us to understand by his morals that “what is estimable in me, is that I know how to obey–and with you it SHALL not be otherwise than with me!” In short, systems of morals are only a sign language of the emotions.”

Whatever the answer, it’s a pretty safe bet that it’s got very little to do with feminism, or even wowser feminism. Sorry, Bob. You blokes are on your own with this one.

Dear Gail Dines: Don’t use that tone with me

23 May

Gail Dines

There are certain ways of speaking that I just can’t hear. For example, the anti pornography campaigner Gail Dines, currently doing the rounds of talk shows, Writers’ Festivals, and I believe appearing on Qanda tonight, speaks in a tone that I find so aggressive, so arrogant and so unrelentingly certain of her absolute rightness, that I can’t hear what she’s saying for the tone in which she’s saying it.

In an effort to be fair, I resorted to reading transcripts of her interviews with various media. Even reading what she says left me in a state of numbed exhaustion, and feeling as if I’d been held captive in a small cage stark naked and with Glenn Beck spitting on speed. This woman knows everything. She has no uncertainties. She takes no prisoners and brooks no argument. She is rude, she is bombastic, she has no respect for anyone who dares to disagree with her, and if you ask her where to find the evidence for her radical position on pornography she tells you to buy her book. If you offer another perspective she tells you you’re like a climate change denier, refusing to pull your head out of your arse and face up to the catastrophe that’s coming at us head on (so to speak) from Internet porn.

Dines damns porn of every variety and according to her it’s all “Gonzo”, that is hard core, brutal and degrading. And here we immediately come up against the dangers of accepting a single perspective on what is considered pornographic. There is no room in Dines’ world for dissent about this. She knows that men who watch pornography are, and I quote, “amoral life support systems for erect penises.”

Paedophiles, she further claims, adopt their unsavoury practices because they become “bored” with adult women,  and to alleviate this boredom watch pornography in which adult women dress like schoolgirls. According to convicted child rapists Dines interviewed in jail, six months after viewing porn they started to rape children. This notion was entirely abhorrent to them, Dines claims, prior to their exposure to Internet porn.

How the hell, I ask, do we account for the raping of children prior to the Internet then? But Dines’ theories on this are so ridiculous it doesn’t do to dignify them with serious questions. Her only sources appear to be convicted paedophiles, who are no doubt only too happy to avoid responsibility for their actions by claiming the Internet made them do it.

People who think they know everything get right up my nose. They’re a variety of particularly unpleasant and noisy bully. They might also know a great deal, but I don’t care.  I especially hate it when they wag their fingers at me, and so many of them do that. I would really like to smack them upside their heads, but I’m too civil. As I’m not prepared to raise my voice and compete, I resort to silence. This is exactly what they want. Even when they’ve temporarily exhausted their argument, by the time you open your mouth to respond they’ve recovered and you might get out one sentence before they drown you out again. I hope Tony Jones is on his toes tonight.

This is how bullies function – by silencing everyone else, and Dines is a masterful bully. Listening to her on a panel recorded by ABC Radio National at the Writers’ Festival last evening I was thoroughly impressed with the grace, respect, and restraint with which the other panelists dealt with her aggression and  barely disguised contempt for them.  Leslie Cannold was exceptional as moderator.

I would have flown out of my chair and slugged Gail Dines. I would have chucked a Glenn Milne at the Walkleys.Well, I probably wouldn’t have actually done that. I’m not good at physical violence except in my fantasies, and then only well after the event.

Dines is flogging some appalling garbage. Some important and interesting material might well be in there somewhere. But the combination of  garbage and the manner in which it is delivered is too much for me. Surely the issue of violent and degrading pornography  on the Internet, and what we can do as responsible adults to protect children from accessing this, is too important to be hijacked by this self – promoting flogger of pseudo sociological snake oil?

It’s all bad in Dinesland. If you visit, don’t stay there too long.

The conservative sexual crusader wants kilos of McFadden’s flesh

3 Mar

At Melinda Tankard Reist’s website today there’s a list of tweets from the hapless Brian McFadden, promising to donate money to rape crisis centres, and saying he’s sorry that his lyrics have been misunderstood.

He reiterates that he intended them as an intimate song for fiancee Delta Goodrem, and not as triggers for women who’ve been sexually assaulted while drunk.

I’m inclined to believe the bloke. I don’t think for  minute he wrote that song with the intention of glorifying or encouraging the rape of senselessly drunk women.

But his apologies and donations are not enough for Melinda Tankard Reist. Not a truckload of money, she writes, will make up for the damage he has done to women.

Even in a court of law, intention counts when you’re passing sentence. But not in the courts of Christian sexual conservatism.

MTR also holds Delta Goodrem partially responsible. Why didn’t Delta check the lyrics before allowing Brian to record them, she asks. Is Delta so inured to sexual violence that she didn’t even notice what Brian was on about?

This would be unfortunate, MTR implies, as Delta is a spokeswoman for Avon Voices, a group that raises awareness of violence against women.

I guess the sexual conservatives also hold women responsible for what the men they live with do.

Personally, I think that’s a pretty low and unnecessarily malicious swipe.

Then there’s a letter from a victim of sexual assault whilst she was drunk, telling how McFadden’s song has brought it all back and is severely distressing her.

Nina Funnell then writes a long reassuring response to the victim, and I hope the woman follows this up with counselling.

There are triggers that cause memories of sexual assault, and many other traumatic experiences to flood back into consciousness, often without any warning.  This is very hard for the survivor to deal with.

Triggers can be almost anything. I once worked with someone whose flashbacks were caused by pieces of green soap with a particular smell. Triggers are impossible to predict, extremely individual, and powerfully connected to the original trauma.

As much as the survivor would like never to have encounter these triggers, it is literally impossible to clear the world of them.

In some instances they may be so particular as to rarely emerge. Sometimes they aren’t known until the moment they strike. In many instances the triggers are all too common, and people have to deal with them on a daily basis.

It would be a foolish therapist indeed who recommended total avoidance of anything likely to act as a trigger. That would be condemning the survivor to a miserable life.

What we can do is teach cognitive behavioural techniques that can be used to manage the distressing flashbacks. This has the added advantage of empowering the survivor, both with the skills to handle bad times, and with the sense that she or he has some control over circumstances that can feel uncontrollable.

Given the proliferation of sexual topics in popular culture, it’s unrealistic to blame any artist for triggering a survivor’s flashbacks. As the triggers are so individual, its impossible to know what they might be.

As stupid as you might think McFadden’s song is, blaming him for activating post traumatic stress disorder is wrong. You might as well blame the manufacturer of green soap, and I believe McFadden, in his intentions, is as  undeserving of blame.

The world is not an easy place to live in when you’re suffering post traumatic stress disorder. Many people don’t understand it, and have a low tolerance of sufferers who can seem difficult, withdrawn, moody, angry, weepy, and generally not interested in much. It’s tough, having first to withstand the trauma, and then to spend your time dealing with the aftermath.

The most difficult part is working with people towards an acceptance of their experiences, in the sense that they cannot be changed and must be lived with, as must the aftermath. The survivor has to take responsibility for learning to do this. This is the cornerstone of recovery. It can take many years, and nobody can do it for them.

I don’t think it helps survivors to be encouraged to look for someone to blame in the world around them. Nobody deliberately triggers someone’s flashbacks, unless they are entirely sadistic and know the survivor well enough to be able to do it.

If a creator of any kind must first consider if something in their work will cause distress to someone somewhere, and then abandon it in case it does, then nothing will be created.

I think Tankard Reist’s crusade against McFadden, and now Goodrem as well, is bordering on the vicious. She wants what she wants, which is an abject confession that they’ve caused immeasurable distress to women everywhere by recording the song. If she doesn’t get that, she will hound them, of that I’m certain.

She is displaying all the signs of the outraged self-righteous good Christian woman bent on vengeance, not only on him but on the woman he loves, and that is not a pretty sight.

And let’s remember, he isn’t a rapist. He wrote a song.

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