Big Porn Inc: a review

10 Dec

CAUTION: IF YOU READ BIG PORN INC DON’T MAKE THE MISTAKE I DID AND TRUST THEIR SOURCES: eg ‘SPANKWIRE’ IS NOT GENITAL MUTILATION AS CLAIMED BY ROBI  SONDEREGGER, BUT A WEBSITE

There’s a chapter in Big Porn Inc titled “Neurotica: Modern Day Sexual Repression” by Dr Robi Sonderegger, clinical psychologist, expert trauma consultant, and Chief Executive of Family Challenge Australia. The chapter includes a chart of online pornographic sub-genres which lists Google generated Webpages and total monthly searches (derived from Google Adwords) for 2010.

Top of the list is teen sex (actual post-pubescent adolescents) with 81,700,000 Web pages. Because the AdWords search is publicly restricted in this sub-genre, it isn’t possible to assess the number of monthly searches. However, Google Trends reports that juvenile sex terms were the most popular of all requests in 2010.

Second on the list is animal sex, with 50,300,00 Web pages and 6,120,000 monthly searches. Bondage, involving sadism and masochism has a total of 29.5 million pages with 5 million monthly hits.

Spankwire, a sexual practice involving the violent mutilation of reproductive organs comes in with 16,600,000 Web pages and 7,480,000 monthly searches.

Rape sex, involving real or portrayed forced unconsensual sex chalks up 2,770,000 Web pages and 550,000 monthly hits, while Snuff sex involving actual death of participants, consenting or otherwise, has a total of 1,280,000 Web pages and 6,600 monthly searches. There are no figures cited for the number of consenting participants who died during the production of snuff porn.

World population is currently around 7 billion, so some 0.1% of us are searching for violent mutilating porn on the internet, with slightly less searching for animal sex and bondage. Very few of us are seeking rape sex, rough sex and snuff sex, and there are only 480 searches a month for Guro sex, which involves blood, gore, disfiguration, mutilation, urine or feces.

There is no category in the chart that covers amateur porn, a genre that is apparently the most accessed in Australia and does not involve extreme acts. Neither is this genre mentioned anywhere at all in the book as being by far the most accessed in this country.

One of the claims made by some contributors to Big Porn Inc is that we are witnessing an unprecedented explosion in the production of pornography  that is seriously interfering with the ability of many human beings to conduct satisfactory sex lives with actual partners, as well as involving more people than ever before in its allegedly damaging production.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to prove these claims as we have little historical statistical data with which to compare current trends. There are many more people in the world and there are a vast array of technologies available that allow production and distribution to a degree previously unheard of. But does this necessarily mean a larger percentage of us are involved as producers and consumers? Is there really a new epidemic of porn, or has what was previously covert become highly visible?

While the Big Porn contributors assume that porn consumption damages and even destroys the ability to enjoy actual sex, I would suggest that in situations where this appears to be the case it’s worth considering that sexual and/or relationship difficulties already exist, and porn is a symptom rather than a cause.

This needs to be more fully researched before it can be definitively claimed that porn causes sexual dysfunction.The confusion of symptoms with cause is a common one in discussions of addiction, whether we’re talking about drugs, alcohol, gambling or pornography. Addictions are usually a destructive form of self-medication and self-soothing that bring relief from emotional tension with the temporary pleasures they offer. Pornography can offer this relief to those who are seeking it. However, porn is also a subject of curiousity  and pleasure for some consumers and has nothing to do with addictive behaviour.

That human beings have a dark side is not news. I doubt there is one sexual practice in Dr Sonderegger’s chart that hasn’t been around throughout our history, albeit in less technologically sophisticated modes. With the advent of the internet, dissemination of images has become globally simple,  granting unprecedented access to consumers and making voyeurism more possible than ever before.

However, if there is a larger percentage of us emerging as chronically sexually disturbed as a consequence of this availability, it is difficult to determine. The fact that people are more likely to admit to sexual dysfunction (and to the use of pornography) than say, thirty years ago, does not mean there is necessarily a higher percentage of us in either category than there used to be.

There’s a chapter in Big Porn Inc titled “Sexting and Peer-to-Peer Porn” by Nina Funnell, in which the role of children as “active producers of pornography” is discussed. Unfortunately, some of the examples the author offers of the disastrous effects of sexting and peer-to-peer porn concern 18-year-old women, thus creating a confusing conflation of children and adults. The two are entirely separate categories and should be investigated as such.

Funnell goes on to discuss the theft and publication of private video tapes of adult “celebrities” such as Pamela Anderson and Paris Hilton having sex, (not with each other, I hasten to add in case I’m sued) under the heading “Captured girls in popular culture.” Neither woman can be described as a “girl.” This conflation of children and adult women is a common one in anti pornography literature, and as well as being offensive and un-rigorous, serves to undermine the credibility of activists’ claims.

In the US medical journal of Pediatrics on December 5 2011, there’s an article revealing research that shows the panic about children sexting is unwarranted. The survey is one of the largest ever to investigate the prevalence of sexting among minors, and researchers have concluded from their results that previous reports claiming large numbers of children are sending texts that could be viewed as pornographic are overblown.  One of the researchers observed: “This [children’s sexting] has been reported as if it were something that everyone was doing, not just in the teen population, but in the young adult population. It’s really not the case.”

In previous studies into minors sexting, young adults aged 18 and 19 were included as “children.” In a bizarre way, anti pornographers are guilty of committing a similar offense as that of which they accuse pornographers, albeit for different reasons: they both blur the boundaries of childhood and adulthood to achieve their desired outcomes.

I am offended by the judgement prevalent in the book that any one who does not  uncritically accept anti porn activist rhetoric is supportive of the exploitation  and harming of  women and children. Activist Catharine MacKinnon goes so far as to suggest that women who do not support her claims (“academic women who breathlessly defend pornography…”) do so solely in order to curry favour with men. The charge is also made that those who oppose the activists’ positions are seeking the thrill of unconventionality, and to present themselves as sexier than the anti porn collective. It is notable than disagreement with the activists’ point of view is met by them with ad hominem responses rather than considered debate.

It has never been my habit to uncritically accept any rhetoric, and I see no reason to abandon that rigour under pressure from bullies who describe me as having a prick in my head if I disagree with some of their opinions. I am no more in favour of human beings being damaged for the gratification of other human beings than are activists such as MacKinnon, Dines, Bray and Tankard Reist. Their condemnatory judgment of women who do not wholly agree with them is an indicator of their emotional immaturity, as they attack like adolescents in a playground gang.

For example, in a chapter by Helen Pringle titled : A Studied Indifference to Harm: Defending Pornography in The Porn Report” the author conducts a sustained and personal attack on academics Alan McKee, Catharine Lumby and Katherine Albury who in 2008 published the first piece of serious research on the state of pornography in Australia. In a scathing final paragraph, Pringle states: “Like many academic defenses of pornography, The Porn Report delights in its supposed unconventionality. In fact, its arguments are tired and outdated…The fact that pornography users are, like McKee himself. “intellectually competent individuals”…does not excuse the project’s studied indifference to the harm enacted in and by the sexual subordination and cruelty that defines modern pornography.”

I would argue that in certain pornographic genres ” sexual subordination and cruelty” have always been a mainstay, and there’s nothing “modern” about that at all. Perhaps Ms Pringle is unaware of anything earlier than the 1980’s, as she also mocks the authors’ references to sexual repression in the 50’s and 60’s. It would seem to me that a historical perspective on pornography is both useful and interesting. However, such a perspective may cause a re-evaluation of claims of a current apocalyptic epidemic.

Big Porn Inc is not a pleasant read, as much for the way in which the majority of the book is written, as well as disturbing explicit content. As I forged my way through it, I repeatedly asked myself, who has this book been written for? What is it’s imagined readership?

The last articles in the book consist of descriptions of various organisations set up to combat the production and distribution of porn, listed in a section titled “Resisting Big Porn Inc.” Included is the “Quit Porn Manifesto” written by the book’s publisher, Susan Hawthorne of Spinifex Press. Hawthorne likens the consumption of pornography to smoking in its insidious effects on users. She then offers some  basic strategies designed to help a user quit porn, and asks: “Who do you support? The profiteers and purveyors of violence? Or those harmed by pornography? Porn is bad for you. It’s time to quit porn.”

There are no grey areas in the world views expressed in this collection. All porn is very, very bad. This is not a position with which I am in agreement. It is a totalitarian position, and for that reason alone, the reader should be extremely wary, while at the same time taking from the collection some of the thought-provoking information it also contains. Unlike the authors, readers need not throw out the baby with the bath water.

Big Porn Inc. Melinda Tankard Reist, Abigail Bray (eds) 2011. Spinifex Press, Melbourne.

37 Responses to “Big Porn Inc: a review”

  1. dtdownunder December 10, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    When I was a school kid in the 1970s in the former (and formerly socialist) Yugoslavia, some of us would, while shopping in Italy – even with our parents around – buy and smuggle porn magazines back home. They were available from news stands in Italy, even sold in see-through packaging. Then we’d share that in school, everybody would take a good look (girls included… sometimes even the teachers, when they’d catch us). There was no bestiality, but there were lots of close-ups of penetration and other stuff not best suited to 15-year-olds.

    All of us are long since married with kids, there are no registered sex offenders (as far as I’m aware) among the former school mates, and we’re also quite relaxed when it comes to today’s teenage kids viewing porn on the internet. It sort of goes with the territory (they just don’t have to go to Italy). Maybe it’s because we were raised to be good Marxists, I don’t know. :laughs:

    Porn, shmorn… It is a big industry, but it ain’t such a big deal.

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    • gerard oosterman December 10, 2011 at 11:51 am #

      Some time ago, they showed on ABC TV that sex education in The Netherlands started at the last years of primary school level. ( when first erections and budding breasts start to rear up and out). The teachers were provided with wooden penises and condoms and a demonstration was given leaving no doubt about the practicalities of having sex and avoiding unwanted pregnancies.
      No doubt the anti-porn purveyors would ban that as well. Have stacks of the wooden penises in an all consuming and ‘soul cleansing’ pyre.

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      • Rebecca S. Randall December 11, 2011 at 9:40 am #

        People often see red when talking about sex, and it all boils down to one question: procreational or recreational?

        The legal and scientific rhetoric about kids not being developed enough to make rational, safe decisions is starting to resemble a well oiled machine. It might be the argument used to dismiss adolescents and their sexual experiences and educations, but I think the other problem is that it’s socially unacceptable when people think of sex as procreational. The idea of child parents scares people. Procreational sex is also a big weapon in the arsenal of opponents to homosexuality and gay marriage (because you know, people only get married to start families. Barren women NEVER get married. ).

        I find it interesting when procreational sex is used to justify conservative positions like the examples above, while recreational sex has been carving a foothold for itself over the last century. Young (but not too young) people can hook up on Saturday nights, but women are still copping more of the judgemental tsktsk-ing in these interactions than men. Married couples can do whatever they want in the ‘sanctity’ of the bedroom, but again some people prefer to stick their heads in the sand and pretend these interactions are ALL procreational.

        Dr. Wilson, you mentioned in comments previously, that feminists who talk down to porn positive women, treating them like “brainless victims”, makes you angry. It makes ME angry, and we both have a right to be. I wonder if that’s because recreational sex has been unfairly gendered? I don’t have any quotes, but I’m sure at least once I saw a 2nd wave feminist who called recreational sex a patriarchal construct, thus exploitative of women. Regardless of whether or not they consented? Where’s the logic in that?

        Once again my argument is poorly structured. When social commentators stop ignoring recreational sex as a valid and popular option, maybe then we’ll see a less conservative majority.

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        • Jennifer Wilson December 11, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

          It was a big thing in 80’s radical feminism that heterosexual women were traitors, and that sex with men was always rape. Graffiti such as “castrate all men” and “all men are rapists” appeared on the walls in Sydney and other cities. There was no such thing as consensual heterosexual sex according to the radical fems – and those of us who thought there was were brainwashed and needed our consciousness raised. It was a very tiresome time! Seriously the rad fem movement put intense pressure on heterosexual women who felt themselves to be feminists, and declared that you couldn’t call yourself feminist if you were in a relationship with a man. Bunch of bullies, IMO.

          The idea that sex is only procreational is insane – and surely belongs in very obscure and rigid religious cults! It’s not a theory I can get my head around – does it mean when you get pregnant you don’t have sex again till you’re ready to get pregnant again? Then when you’re done having babies your sex life is over? How does that work for anybody?

          It never ceases to amaze me how many people there are in the world determined to tell everybody else how to conduct their sexual lives.

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      • Jennifer Wilson December 11, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

        I love the liberal and common sense Dutch attitudes abut sex, and sex work and dope. When I was there a couple of years ago, the family I stayed with were upset because they thought an influx of religious immigrants were changing Holland’s liberal society. I thought it would be very sad if that happened.

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    • Jennifer Wilson December 11, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

      See that’s what I like, a common sense, down to earth attitude that doesn’t turn everybody into criminals and creeps.

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  2. Julia December 11, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

    Yeah, we are always the victim…we are not supposed to have sexual desires, not even towards our husbands, where we must “lie back and think of England” and endure being assaulted for the good of the family/country/society…but woe betide if we are so depraved as to actually be deluded into thinking we enjoy it. Yet frigidity is unnatural whilst proclivity is immoral weakness, and there’s no in betweens…and it serves us right if a male predator takes advantage, though if he’s our husband then it’s his necessary right & we’ve made our bed so must lie in it.
    All men are rampaging bulls, all the time, always thinking about sex, always lusting, barely able to keep themselves in check as they are all driven to conquer and all it takes is a glimpse at a pretty ankle and they can’t help themselves. And all men are the same, all are driven by an overpowering compulsion, all the time. There’s no such thing as a man with moderate desires, nor a man only wanting sex occassionally, nor can a man be interested in anything else more than sex, it’s just something to distract his over-whelming impulse until he can get more sex…and in the porn debate there’s no such thing as a man who finds porn boring or even just mildly exciting. Porn breaks down society’s inhibiting moral restraints and the poor weak man, excited beyond all bounds by new and unimagined possiblities, out of control, simply can’t help himself, tearing down the very fabric of civilisation, to get at his next victim.

    Yeah right….

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    • Jennifer Wilson December 11, 2011 at 6:05 pm #

      Well, that about sums up the anti porn activists dark dark world,Julia! Glad I don’t live in it!

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      • Rebecca S. Randall December 11, 2011 at 11:13 pm #

        The thing they always say is “We’re not frigid! NORMAL sex is fine, just trumped up porn sex is bad for you!”

        When someone takes the time to explain to us what they mean by normal, maybe we can stop calling them frigid. Though their silence on the issue probably indicates (again) procreational sex, rather than recreational.

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  3. paul walter December 11, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    Ah Jen, had a good post up and the site wiped it when I returned to put in my address etc.
    Briefly, I see Julia’s anxieties as a sign of the times, perhaps best expressed in the calculated lawlessness we see coming out of the US and elsewhere. If we are becoming more dumbed down, manipulated and fearful; eg more reactive and subjective, thus more violent, it would explain her pessimism. Certainly its part of the message we get from TDT and Current Affair, tabloid teev, for example with its memes of intemperance violence and anarchy.
    We’ve seen good progress on the civilisational project since ww2, but I think Scandinavia, Germany, Holland, France and other enlightened places have also started going down the tube, compared to decades ago; as the population ages in western countries there seems not the tolerance and objectivity there that once was being fostered. It may be that people are reacting to the new inculcated insecurity by becoming fearful of the future and defensive.

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  4. Sam Jandwich December 12, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    “totalitarian” is a good way to describe the position being taken – which is a shame, because there are some really interesting debates to be had in this area.

    I remember reading in a later edition of Andrea Dworkin’s “Pornography”, a preface in which she gave her reaction to the commonly-expressed idea that all sex is rape. My memory is a little sketchy (and what’s up with google books? it’s not giving nearly as many previews as it used to) but basically I recall Dworkin said that this statement was a complete misreresentation of what she was arguing. Yes, sex is rape in the context of patriarchy setting the background – and so when a woman reproduces social expectations of female subordination by deliberately conforming to stereotypes of what men want in an effort to please them, that’s rape. But the whole point of Dworkin’s work was to get to a stage where such “virtual rape” didn’t have to happen. And I would argue that this is actually quite a common scenario, at least amongst reasonably well-educated people living in developed countries. Certainly in my social and professional circles, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t accept the idea that both men and women should be able to have recreational sex in a gender-neutral environment it that’s what they want.

    But it does beg the question, what about people who don’t have the same opportunities, who grow up in disadvantage, or in oppressive, male-dominated cultures, or cultures where talking about sex is taboo (like for example the culture purveyed by Big Porn Inc). I do think there is more work to do in these areas. And i somewhat suspect, though I might be wrong, that the people who would write BPI, or its supposed audience, may still be thoroughly marinated in patriarchal values.

    But why do we still see desire for violent, degrading sex. Going out on a limb here, I had a long chat on the weekend to a guy who I’d had do some work on my car… er, oh bugger I have to go. To be continued…

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  5. paul walter December 12, 2011 at 11:56 pm #

    Sam Jandwich, won’t comment much for now, but thought that a genuinely bright post.
    Poor Dworkin, initially you are left with simultaneous impulses to blue with her and give her a long consoling hug for the miseries that befell her through her life.
    Good to see she had the wit to later develop or explicate on the point you mention, concerning her thinking involving her definition of rape.

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    • Sam Jandwich December 13, 2011 at 10:30 am #

      Thank you Paul!

      Hmmm I was going to keep going wasn’t I, but I’m in a particularly foul mood today and don’t feel like writing about my welder anymore.

      But suffice to say, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard men, and especially those who have gone through divorces where kids are involved, say variations on “if you are ever thinking about getting romantically involved with a woman then make sure you protect yourself, because they simply can’t be trusted”. I can’t say I agree with this statement, partly because I think it’s important to develop your ability to recognise the small minority of untrustworthy people that exists, whether male or female. However as always truth comes from subjectivity when looking at social situations, and this does make me think that yet another thing we should be asking ourselves is whether our social and legal institutions actually cause misogyny… and whether misogyny is in any way connected to exploitative sexual desire, which is another open question.

      And just in case it’s not obvious, I do think that patriarchy exists in some contexts, like for example all-boys schools, at least up to the mid-90’s, and that where this privileges men’s entitlement to women I think it can inexorably lead to dehumanisation, misogyny, and rape fantasies. But I don’t think it’s the only source, and in any case I think it’s rapidly being marginalised and is set to disappear completely, in Australia at least, once the last of the Generation X’s retire.

      What a shame then that ostensibly intelligent writers like Catherine MacKinnon and Abigail Bray waste their time on storms in teacups like this one, when there’s so much more substantial ground to cover.

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  6. Gruffbutt December 13, 2011 at 3:46 am #

    By all accounts, dolphins, those champions of the quickie, are a pretty happy lot.

    And those chimpanzees that aren’t chimpanzees (can’t remember the name and too lazy to look it up) with their often-available-but-only-if-I-say-so females… (Bloody memory…author here recently wrote about them…book title something like ‘If you want fidelity, get a dog’…well, spank me and call me Flipper…)

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    • Rebecca S. Randall December 13, 2011 at 9:52 am #

      Yes I know that author! He did a public presentation on the same topic. I never finished watching it, and I had never heard of bonobos before his talk.

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  7. paul walter December 13, 2011 at 4:39 am #

    Gruffbutt, you mean Bonobos or Pigmy Chimpanzees. Maybe one day humanity will also evolve into a higher species devoted to making love not war, also.

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  8. paul walter December 13, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    Better still Sam. They don’t see the ethnological/cultural forest, with its hints of determinism, for the trees of their own individuation- like homophobia, racism, mysoginy, man-hating, etc. The idea that they’re not as in control and rational as they think- they could be “reactive”, is spooky and a blow to self esteem. They react to the discomfort by asserting themselves against the visible symbols they are taught through media, that are said to be the cause of their anxieties: “others” from offshore, gays, political activists and people who question the system and how it works.
    They can’t accept the propositon that we are to some extent manufactured by reality as well as manufacturing of it.
    You can argue that things like blogsites are deprogramming units, modern agoras or congregations where people gather to compare a wider vison of reality against our own tampered with conditioning, our own reference points for revision where necessary. The trick is to be objective, the impulse is toward reinforcement of the conditioning rather than its ameloration into reality. Open mindness can be hard work, far easier to go to a site of fellow travellers (or 2GB) and have the prejudices reinforced through comfort postings.
    But living an illusion means you get over taken by reality. So we are here to make sure when we cross the road and someone warns us a bus is coming, we are not so emboldened or self deceived as to remain on the road, taking on the bus speeding toward us.The dialectic can set us free or enslave us, depending on how we approach things, depending on the quality of our own groundings in life, our potential for objectivity against the rigidity of belief.

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  9. Sam A December 14, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    Spankwire is also a porn website featuring ‘normal’ (i.e. not mutilation) porn.

    Or so i’ve heard . .

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    • Jennifer Wilson December 14, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

      Yes, as far as I can discover Spankwire is a website, and also a term used to describe genital mutilation porn. If the term is Googled I don’t know how it could be established whether the Googler was seeking the former or the latter.

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  10. neilmc December 14, 2011 at 7:55 pm #

    I’ve seen people use Dr Robi Sonderegger in a few ways to attempt to add credibility to what they are doing. Hey, who wouldn’t trust a renowned child Psychologist and child trama counsellor right?

    He’s an interesting character. Something like 2008 he pitched some ideas to some Christian business leaders at Edge City Church in Adelaide. In his presentation he bragged about using his credentials as a child psychologist to get access to schools and children to operate as a clandestine Christian preacher.

    Some edited (though still in context) audio of his pitch to Christian investors can be found in this video clip:
    http://www.fileserve.com/file/sQFQyJf/DrRobiRant.wmv

    (if you find the photo slide show distracting, just minimise the video window while the clip plays)

    The full presentation was on the Edge City Church website for a while as a MP3. I’m struggling to find the full thing online now.

    My opinion of Dr Robi as a psychologist and researcher is that he is a manipulator and is happy to be very dishonest if he believes he is serving Jesus.

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    • Jennifer Wilson December 14, 2011 at 8:59 pm #

      It’s very interesting how these people convince themselves that it’s OK to lie and deceive if they’re doing it for Jesus. That’s some weird moral compass

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      • neilmc December 14, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

        Yes, it is pretty odd.

        Dr Robi is pretty charismatic and spends a lot of time speaking to Christian conference gatherings and workshops with authority as an expert in psychology.

        He seems to taylor his message, statistics and scientific exaggeration or misdirection depending on his audience.

        I’d hope that as charismatic as he is, the audience at that Edge Church gathering didn’t swallow his “stats” on child pornography in Australia.

        It’s apparently a $3billion industry and the bulk of the consumers are Children! I’d like to know where Aussie kids are finding this $3 billion (or large chunk of) to pay for child pornography and how they are completing the transactions. Surely parents would suspect something was up on their credit card statements…….

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  11. Aj December 14, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    Another contender for misinformation is Nina Funnell’s claims about the “theft and publication of private video tapes”. Despite their protestations, both Pamela Anderson and Paris Hilton agreed to the sale of their “stolen” sex tapes. The law in the US isn’t so devoid that you can publish stolen footage of someone having sex and expect to get away with it. In particular, both releases have 2257 notifications, which mean that both Anderson and Hilton signed that they were over 18 and agreed to the distribution of their films. For proof of this, consider the very different reaction by law enforcement to two really stolen photos of Scarlett Johansson, and tell me you don’t think either Anderson or Hilton could have taken Vivid to the cleaners if they wanted.

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    • Jennifer Wilson December 14, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

      Yes, I did wonder about that Aj. Do these Big Porn authors think everyone is stupid?

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  12. Ian December 14, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

    Hi Jennifer,
    Great article on the ABC Drum. I am a first time reader of your articles and it was interesting and very refreshing. So much so that I found this website so I could commend you on a well written piece.
    I don’t feel so guilty now when I wear my gimp mask at home with my consenting partner, in fact after she read your article she is getting her own one too. My guilt has gone.Bring out the Gimp.
    Cheers again
    Ian

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  13. Sam Jandwich December 16, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    There’s not much to do at work today so I wrote something about something that I sometimes think is the elephant in the room in the debate on pornography. What better place to put it than the depths of a place where no sheep will nibble at it? Rated PG:-)

    Here’s what it’s like to be a boy: last night I had a number of dreams. One involved sailing, one involved cats and a forest, one involved my brother, and one involved a beautiful red-lipped, raven-haired, beauty-spotted, thoughtful-eyed-behind-thoughtful-glasses young woman, whose black strapless dress seemed to be pulled slowly from below by unseen forces revealing her soft-curved alabaster-skinned body. And that’s where the dream ended. But they say that men think about sex every 50 seconds, and ever since I woke up I think I must have replayed this scene in my mind at least as often as that, I have a vaguely pleasurable sensation of pressure in my erogenous zones and a heightened sense of interest in spending some quality time being naked under the sheets with, not just my partner, but with any of the women I know whom I imagine might have some sense of mutual interest. I imagine what I would have to do to get to that stage. I catch myself glancing a little too longingly at attractive women in the street, at their faces and down the length of their bodies, breasts, stomach, hips, buttocks, thighs, every stimulating perception seems to maintain and contribute to this general feeling that I would like nothing more than to *have* someone, to interact on an overwhelmingly physical basis, acknowledging that mutual pleasure exists, but thinking mainly of satisfying my own needs (one of which being to make the other person delirious with pleasure). I will feel like this either until something manages to distract me – and a distraction by definition is only temporary – or until I have an orgasm. This unfortunately cannot be achieved spontaneously, but will involve rubbing my penis against some suitable surface, quickly enough and for sufficient time to increase the level of stimulation at every stroke, and raises the question of what to do with the sticky, potentially embarrassing mess left behind.

    I have tried to read into the genealogies of sexual desire to try to find any evidence that it is in any way connected to the domain of “nurture” – whether there is anything in my past which may have contributed to my propensity to feel sexy, and under what circumstances, and how that operates. Self-inquiry is one of my favourite pursuits. But I just can’t get past step one. I am assuredly and undeniably an animal. I *just need* sexual stimulation and release. It is a psychosomatic necessity, just like eating or going to the toilet. Just like eating or going to the toilet, it can be done well or it can be done badly – though this is merely a tangential conversation to have with oneself in the depths of desire, or dispassionately, or anywhere in between (this is the “how”, which is concerned with sexualities, techniques, positions, fetishes, pornography, and, er… relationships?). But it exists, outside of culture, pragmatism, health, or relationships*. It’s not so much that I won’t be fulfilled unless I get it, but that the desire won’t go away and the thoughts won’t stop intruding on my ability to concentrate until I do something about it. It’s as simple as that.

    Oh yes, and I’m vaguely aware that women have similar sensations, but when it comes down to it I have absolutely no idea whatsoever as to the correctness or otherwise of that thought.

    *This however is the interesting part – and probably the major jumping-off point for MTR & Co. And here basically what I think is that if the way you engage with matters sexual negatively impacts on your relationships then that means you have some level of dysfunction – but for most people this is not the case.

    So, what do y’all think of that?

    Like

    • Jennifer Wilson December 17, 2011 at 5:16 am #

      Civilisation and its discontents is what I think. There’s our “animal” desires and needs that are necessarily curbed, because nobody has a right to demand sexual gratification. We are in a constant state of tension between desire and the necessity to behave respectfully towards others and not perceive them as a means to our end (if you’re a boy you can read that as a double entendre). So we’re encultured to learn the means through which we can control desire. Religion is one of those means, a dysfunctional one, I’d say but powerful nonetheless. In a monogamous society, relationship is another means – the trade-off is the agreement to provide sexual relief for one another, but then the spectre of varying levels of desire emerges, and how to manage that.

      Women also experience that sexual haze you describe so well, Sam. What I think is that we all have to find ways of managing our sexual desire, and most of us do. There’s fierce argument about which ways are “acceptable” and not acceptable, depending on the norms of the social group you identify with. The problems arise when one group attempts to impose it’s norms on another, like MTR et al, and use god as a justification for that.

      Dysfunction is when it’s making you or your partner unhappy, but that could be entirely to do with varying levels of desire and how that is expressed rather than a real sexual dysfunction. But I agree with you, sexual desire exists as a primary force and need, more complex than eating and toileting because of the emotions involved but just as essential to well being.

      IMO there’s altogether too much hoo haa made about sex, just because it is such a powerful force, I think, and arouses fear as well as desire. We’ve lumbered it with all kinds of regulation, and spend half our lives trying to either get round the regulation or submitting, while desire blithely carries on regardless of our struggle to get it under control. As Freud argued, repression is the price we pay for civilisation – which I’m not against, I don’t long for a world in which we are governed by the id and infantile desire for gratification. As for why you or anybody feels so sexy – unless it causes a real problem, embrace it, would be my take.

      Desire is the elephant in the pornography debate room, I agree. The anti porn people tend to behave as if it is an unmentionable crime and only to be felt for and experienced with one person your entire life. That’s fine if it’s what you want, but they need the world to conform. They do not address desire, and they fail to see that repression of desire is unhealthy. It isn’t always possible to express it as one would wish, but it should always be acknowledged to oneself and accepted by oneself. Owning our desire, taking responsibility for it, and finding ways to express it that don’t involve harming unwilling others is being a grown up, I’d say. Denying it, repressing it, being ashamed and guilty are the way to invoke sexual dysfunction. I don’t care what MTR et all do in their lives. I do care that they attempt to impose their “norms” on everybody else.

      If we go outside our relationship then we’re going to have to deal with the consequences, however that doesn’t stop us doing it! That’s desire for you. You know your actions are going to bring down trouble in spades yet you do it anyway because it’s like, irresistible! But I strongly believe that everyone has the right to their private thoughts, desires and dreams.We don’t have to share them if we don’t want to. It shouldn’t be a requirement in a relationship that people give up their private inner spaces if they don’t want to. I’m pretty sure most hetero men fantasise about women other than their partners and that doesn’t mean they are going to be “unfaithful” or that they love their women any the less. Whether or not they reveal those fantasies depends on the relationship but nobody should think they have to. Respecting your partner’s right to private thoughts is essential, IMO.

      Like

  14. Sam Jandwich December 17, 2011 at 9:24 am #

    5.16am? You’ve excelled yourself!!

    That’s a really nice summation Jennifer. And yes ultimately I agree, there is too much hoo haa about sex. The fact that we live in the interesting times we do, when we’re still negotiating our emergence from a society structured around religion to one in which individual and collective ethics are in a constant, balanced tug-of-war, means that we need to talk about it, perhaps because it’s a good “canary in the coal mine” kind of issue. but when it comes down to it I’m quite glad we have the internet, and let’s face it, a “degree” of anonymity, to explore these issues!

    And now I’m off to the boat for the weekend. Catch ya!

    Like

  15. Austin G. Mackell December 19, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    one thing i want to add,

    Only comprehensive look at the numbers that i have heard of comes up with the conclusion that

    porn up = rape down

    http://anthonydamato.law.northwestern.edu/Adobefiles/porn.pdf

    Same is true of violent movies, which don’t seem to cause violence.

    Like

    • Jennifer Wilson December 19, 2011 at 6:18 pm #

      Thanks for that link – that’s pretty interesting. I’ve heard others make this claim, but nobody wants to take much notice!

      Like

  16. Matthew February 14, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    I just found this review of the book; http://earlybirdcatchestheworm.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/is-big-porn-inc-anti-vaccination-as-well-as-anti-porn/

    So what is Renate Klein’s problem with Gardasil? It really sounds a bit similar to that Jenny McCarthy bullshit about vaccinations and autism. But I suppose it’s more like the usual religious right crap where it is better that girls don’t get their shot of Gardasil just in case they turn into ravenous sluts. Yep, getting cervical cancer is so much better than being a tart. The more I look into those around MTR the more I’m convinced it’s all a giant Trojan horse for the religious right.

    I still haven’t found a copy of the book. Who in hell is selling this damn thing? I thought I’d head into a Christian bookshop to see if they actually stocked it, but the one in Belconnen (yes, MTR land, allegedly) seems to have moved and I really couldn’t be stuffed tracking it down.

    Like

    • Hypocritophobe February 14, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

      You need to look in the FICTION area.
      Klein backs MTR.It’s a simple and that.You has not even ruled out the use of dodgy data to run their agenda.
      Last time I looked at the questions posed to her directly at the ABC Religious blog on Porn,she came up vacant.

      Not answering simple questions like that?
      What does that say about their ‘fact free’ fear campaigns?

      They’re trying to create a world of angry bitter sexless women,from the youth they pound on the school circuit.

      It’s crystal clear their is an ultra conservative right wing agenda.Precisely why they are trying to distance themselves from overt connections to any individual church.

      Sleazy?

      Like

  17. Hypocritophobe February 14, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    EDIT
    OOps))
    “It’s a simple *as* that.*She* has not even ruled out the use of dodgy data to run their agenda.

    Like

    • Matthew February 14, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

      “You need to look in the FICTION area”

      Oh, you so nasty. The thing that gets me is that Spinifex are claiming the book is in its second print run, but who in god’s name is selling it? Seriously it’s nowhere to be found in my area. Or maybe Canberra bookstores have taste. Not to encourage piracy, but I’d prefer to find the book on a torrent somewhere so I’m not funding further material from the authors or publishers.

      The contributors to the book are a really mixed bunch; you have the clearly religious right (Maggie Hamilton, Melinda Liszewski, Robi Sonderegger and MTR), then you have MTR’s cheer squad of sexual conservatives (Nina Funnell, Susan Hawthorne, Sheila Jeffreys, Caroline Taylor, Meagan Tyler, Caroline Norma, Renate Klein, Helen Pringle and Abigail Bray) and a bunch of blow ins from OS whose agenda is widely known (Gail Dines, Catharine A MacKinnon, Melissa Farley and Robert Jensen). The rest of the contributors I have never heard of. I was sort of joking about the right wing religious conspiracy stuff, but sometimes I really wonder.

      Whatever their actual agenda is and whoever is funding them, they all have scant to no evidence to back up their outrageous claims. I think it’s really sad that many of them seem to be running the public debate on the sex industry (MTR, Clive Hamilton, Dines, Farley) and filling it with half truths and blatant lies, or even worse steering public debate on sexuality.

      Like

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  1. Big Porn Inc: not a pleasant read | Subversive Press - December 14, 2011

    […] This article first appeared on No Place For Sheep. […]

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