Pornography

Is it really harmless?
If you use pornography, think about what message you are giving yourself and others about women. Is your desire for sexual gratification more important than valuing and respect for women?

Pornography reduces women to sexual objects, and often portrays them as passive recipients of degrading and/or violent acts. Very few women make a substantial living out of the pornography industry, and many face very difficult working conditions.

Pornography use by boys and young men is also resulting in unrealistic and artificial expectations of both women and men when engaging in sex, which both pressures women to ‘consent’ to acts that they find demeaning, and takes away from the enjoyment and intimacy of the experience.

What’s wrong with this picture?
Read this succinct outline of the harmfulness of pornography to women and gender equality, and its links to sex trafficking. What’s wrong with this picture? Examining the harms of pornography and the links to sex trafficking is published by mensworkinc.com.

Here’s NTV’s Rodney Vlais talking about the links between the sex industry, pornography and men’s violence against women.

Sexual objectification and degrading of women:
pornography, advertising and the media

Pornography and pornographic imagery has infiltrated mainstream culture; advertising, music videos, fashion, toys, billboards, magazines and TV shows. This mainstreaming of pornography, or the ‘pornification’ of culture, harms women and particularly harms the development of girls and young women.  A statement from the Women’s Forum Australia on the sexualisation and objectification of women speaks to these concerns.

Two Australian based websites name and shame corporations, marketers, advertisers and media engaging in practices which are offensive and harmful, especially to women and girls, but also to men and boys. For people concerned about the ‘pornification’ of culture and its harmful impacts, they give voice to their concerns and direct the widespread concern into targeted campaigns to bring about change.

Collective Shout “is a grassroots campaigning movement against the objectification of women and sexualisation of girls in media, advertising and popular culture” The website contains many examples of corporations, advertisers, marketers and media who objectify and sexualise women and girls to sell products and services.”

MTR is the blog of Melinda Tankard Reist  “is a Canberra author, speaker, media commentator, blogger and advocate for women and girls. She is well known for her work on the objectification of women and sexualisation of girls and working to address violence against women.”

Questions to reflect on:
– As you browse through the articles on Collective Shout and Melinda Tankard Reist’s website, what comes to mind in terms of the various companies you buy from who exploit women in their bid for your dollars?
– How do you feel about buying from them after reading about their objectification of and condoning of violence towards women?

About-Face calls the messages women and girls receive about their bodies and themselves a ‘toxic media environment’ which dictates an unrealistic and narrow view of how women and girls should look.

Portrayal of women in advertising
Women are increasingly portrayed in objectified and sexualised ways, as sexual objects and/or sexually available:
– increasingly women’s body parts are used to sell products,
– these images are increasingly pornographic and violent, and
– the stereotypical portrayal of beauty is unrealistic, super-thin, white (skin) hot and sexy.

Violence and eroticism
Another advertising trend is the blending of violence and eroticism, and/or glorification of violence against women. Here are some examples from advertisers, Rivers, Calvin Klein and 12 magazine.

When women are objectified, they are dehumanised. When they are thought of as not human, it becomes easy to exploit them. Recently Zoo magazine took their exploitation of women to a new low, hosting a competition for the ‘hottest asylum seeker’.

Questions to reflect on:
– As you read through this article from Zoo magazine, which contains excerpts from the competition text, what message do you think it sends to its male readers about women who have been traumatised and women in general?
– How does violence against women being used as a marketing tool impact on the women in your life?
– Given that one in three women experience violence, how do you think they feel when they see these violent and exploitative images used to sell products?
– What message do these companies send to women about their real experiences?

Sexualisation of children
The psychological and physical health of children is being harmed by the increasing trend of sexualisation of children in the media. Kids Free 2B Kids is a group of Australians concerned about the increasing sexualisation of kids in the media, advertising, and clothing industries. They define sexualisation of children as exposing children to inappropriate sexualised imagery in a bid to sell products and make profit:
– a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behaviour, to the exclusion of other characteristics,
– a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness with being sexy,
– a person is sexually objectified, that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making.

American Psychological Association indentifies direct sexualisation as how children are portrayed or posed in advertising
and indirect sexualistaion as What children are exposed to in their environment, including advertising intended for an adult audience.

The founder of Kids Free 2B Kids, Julie Gale says, “children are constantly being bombarded by sexual imagery. Examples are everywhere; billboards, the internet, music video clips, TV, magazines. In the unregulated children’s magazine arena, our kids are constantly being manipulated by messages such as ‘look thin, hot and sexy’, ‘buy lots, then you’ll be popular and happy'”.

Bratz Dolls for 5 to 10 year olds

Children are not only being marketed sexualised toys, they are also exposed to billboardimages and are inundated with adult sexualised imagery. Read the KidsFree2BeKids  submission to the inquiry into the regulation of billboard and outdoor advertising.

Questions to reflect on:
– Thinking about your own children, or other children in your life, in what areas do you see sexualisation of their toys, clothes in magazines they might read or TV shows they watch?
– When you wander through children’s stores or catalogues, take note of how much that you see are child sized versions of adults clothes, magazines,or jewellery. How might you teach children to analyse and critically think about how they are being marketed to by these corporations?
– In what ways can you help them to resist such strong marketing strategies?

Find out more, read Corporate Paedophilia: sexualisation of children in Australia, an Australian Institute paer by Emma Rush and Andrea La Nauze.

Pornography, strip clubs and prostitution
With the pornification of mainstream culture, strip clubs and pole dancing clubs are becoming increasingly normal, challenging ideas about women’s equality. Strip clubs are interlinked with prostitution which is harmful to women. The prostitution industry promotes a model of sex in which women are bought and sold as objects for men’s pleasure.

Find out more from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women is a feminist, human rights, non-government organisation that works overseas and in Australia to oppose all forms of sexual exploitation.

The way out is to tell
speak of the acts perpetrated upon us,
speak the atrocities,
speak the injustices,
speak the personal violations of the soul.
Someone will listen,
someone will believe our stories,
someone will join us.
Charlotte Pierce-Baker

Pornography boom
Before the internet pornography boom, it took some effort to obtain pornography, requiring men to leave the house to purchase pornography from ‘adult book shops’ and then having to keep it hidden. Today however, accessing pornography is easy from one’s computer or mobile phone and its use is anonymous and easy to hide. One click and it’s gone from the computer or phone screen.

The amount of pornography on the internet can be difficult to fathom. A total of 4.2 million websites contain pornography; that’s 12 percent of the total number of websites online worldwide.

Internet Pornography Statistics
Pornographic websites: 4.2 million (12 per cent of total websites),
Pornographic pages: 420 million,
Daily pornographic search engine requests: 68 million (25 per cent of total search engine requests),
Daily pornographic emails: 2.5 billion (8 per cent of total emails),
Internet users who view porn: 42.7 per cent,
Received unwanted exposure to sexual material: 34 per cent,
Average daily pornographic emails/user:    4.5 per internet user,
Monthly pornographic downloads (Peer-to-peer): 1.5 billion (35 per cent of all downloads),
Daily Gnutella ‘child pornography’ requests: 116,000,
Websites offering illegal child pornography: 100,000,
Youths who received sexual solicitation: 1 in 7 (down from 2003 statistic of 1 in 3),
Worldwide visitors to pornographic web sites: 72 million,
Monthly internet pornography Sales: $4.9 billion,
Source: Top 10 Reviews.

Pornography is man-centric and harms women
Matt McCormack Evans says nearly all mainstream pornography is depicted from a man’s perspective and discusses how “the prioritisation of the male perspective is the norm in pretty much all moving image media.” This affects how women are portrayed in regular Hollywood movies. Read one man’s account of his use of pornography, his analysis over many years of his (and other men’s) use and subsequent activism against pornography.

Several large-scale studies over the last 20 years have documented considerable violence in mainstream pornography. Specifically, acts such as slapping, kicking, hitting and choking, and there is now an entire sub-genre of pornography dedicated to the choking of women.

How pornography makes me feel…
Women are deeply affected by their exposure to pornography and also their partner’s use of pornography. An 18 year old woman speaks about how pornography makes her feel worthless, critiqued and judged.

Men’s use of pornography is increasingly harming relationships. More and more women are struggling with the impact of their partner’s pornography use. Read how porn is wrecking relationships.

Any Google search on pornography and relationships will return countless stories from women speaking of their distress, shock, hurt, feeling betrayed, distrust, erosion of self esteem, inadequacy – the list seems endless – after  discovering their partner has been using pornography:
– “I feel betrayed by my husband’s porn consumption.”
– “How can my husband be using this stuff for his own sexual gratification rather than being intimate with me?”
– “How can I compete for the attention of my husband with these porn stars who are younger women who have flawless bodies?”
– “He suddenly confessed to me that he had been secretly checking out porn all along because he simply didn’t feel that I was enough to satisfy his desires.”
– “Is it OK for my husband to secretly watch porn when I am feeling left out of our sex life?”
– “I literally feel like my heart is being trampled on I feel terrible. a year ago I felt amazing with him…now I feel like a fool and so so rejected….I’ve gone from feeling sexy adored to old ugly and unwanted because porn is before me …I hate what he has made me feel.”

Questions to reflect on:
– In what ways does reading the effects of pornography use make you think twice about pornography and the pornography industry, including your own current or previous use of pornography?
– What do you notice in your environments that objectifies or reduces women to sexual objects, or which stereotypes them?”
– How can you open up a dialogue with sons, brothers, friends andcolleagues about the harmful effects of pornography on all women and encourage them to rethink their use of pornography?

I am only one, / But still I am one. / I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something; / And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
Edward Everett Hale, author (1822-1909)

Read more the impact of using pornography:
Eroticising inequality: technology, pornography and young people from the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRC),
The truth about the porn industry (a story from the Guardian newspaper in the UK), and
– XYonline’s pornography index. (XY is a website with a focus on men, masculinities, and gender politics).

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