Tuesday Talks with Laura McNelly

I often get asked the question “What causes domestic violence?”  I totally believe that the escalation in violence toward woman is linked to gender inequality and to pornography.  When we understand that by the age of 13  %90 of boys have been introduced to porn, that children as young as 10 and 11 can walk into Coles and Woolies and purchase porn like Zoo Weekly and that small children are directed to porn sites from their iPads when they simply type in words like ‘Dora the Explora’ then we realise that we are in a war that is bigger than we ever realised and its raging in our homes, supermarkets and in our communities.

You can help – go here to sign this petition to stop the sale of Zoo in Coles and Woolworths:

http://www.collectiveshout.org/video_media_release_coles_and_woolworths_sells_zoo_weekly_porn_mag_to_children

This post was originally published 3 months ago.  Since then collective shout has had a huge win and Zoo magazine has been taken out of supermarkets. 

Patriarchy, male dominated systems, male control, stupid talk about female submission all fuel the already explosive misunderstandings of equality and respect between the genders.

This article by Laura Mc Nelly from ABC Religion and Ethics describes the direct links between pornography, inequality and violence toward women.  This is a  must read for anyone who is genuinely interested in this global crisis.  We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand any longer.  It’s going to take all of us to stop this global epidemic. ** Trigger warnings to those who have suffered trauma and abuse.

Love  Lisa

Pornography, Violence and Sexual Entitlement: An Unspeakable Truth

by Laura McNally

ABC RELIGION AND ETHICS 29 MAY 2015

A young woman stands in a room with several men around her. She tells the men that she is taking women’s studies at university. They respond by grabbing her throat to silence her. They move onto slapping her and pulling off her clothes.

The scene that follows is too graphic to recount. After the men finish, they ask her: “What do you think of feminism now?”

The woman in this film later stated she was not comfortable with what happened. Apparently, though, this was not sexual assault but a form of sexual expression – pornography.

Indeed, depictions of sexual violence are often promoted as an expression of women’s rights. “You could do a porn where a girl is getting choked and hit and spit on, the guy’s calling her a dirty slut and stuff and that’s okay. That can still be feminist,” says Joanna Angel, self-described feminist porn actress.

Such pornographic violence is symptomatic of a broader, global trend. This trend ranges from the brutal opportunism often seen in the wake of economic and environmental disasters, where vulnerable women are specifically targeted with violence or coerced into sex slavery; through to the proliferation new forms of sexual objectification, such as labiaplasty, men extorting younger girls to send pornographic images, child-on-child sex assault and new technology for global sex trading; through to the ever-widening gender pay gap and the increasing feminization of poverty.

In Australia, most violent crimes have been in decline, but the rates of domestic and sexual violence are soaring. Gendered violence has escalated to the point that now two women are killed each week – twice the historical average. As at the time of writing, 35 women have been killed in Australia this year alone, the majority of them by male partners.

Human hand stretch out from prison bars

While this spike in murders has sparked much hand-wringing about the problem of male violence against women, not only have there have been funding cuts to women’s refuges and support services, there has also been a conspicuous refusal to address the sexist attitudes that lead to such violence in the first place.

There is significant evidence that boys today are more sexist than their grandfathers’ generation, particularly when it comes to sexual expectations. Research conducted by The Line found that one in four young Australian men think it is normal for men to pressure women into sex. This is followed by a sharp increase in underage sexual assault convictions, an issue previously unheard of.

While traditional conceptions of gender were once enshrined in law and social norms, today men and women hold more equal roles than in generations past. What then is driving this renewed and more potent sexism toward women? Paul Linossier, CEO of Our Watch, a group campaigning against domestic violence, says the fundamental problem is attitudes towards women:

“We need to go upstream and understand that behind men’s control of women and the murder of intimate partners sits two key drivers; gender inequality and holding to traditional and rigid gender stereotypes.”

In terms of broad gender equality, Australia fares quite well. Australia boasts a fairly modern and egalitarian approach to women’s political and economic participation. Yet, there is another dimension to gender inequality often goes unaddressed. Innumerable studies implicate the role of Westernised “raunch culture” in driving sexism – that is, pornography and its ubiquity in everyday life.

Access to pornography is perhaps the most marked change across these generations. Exposure now begins as young as 9 with the average age at 11 and the largest group of pornography consumers being boys aged 12 to 17 years. Gone are the days of hiding Playboy under the mattress; today, the most commonly viewed form of pornography includes verbal and physical aggression against women in nearly 90% of the films that are freely available – indeed, almost unavoidable – on the internet.

Australian law enforcement has long seen the link between pornography and sexual violence, though this connection is persistently rejected by those who argue that porn is sexually liberating. Early epistemological studies were once mixed in their findings about porn, but today the evidence is mounting. A 2010 meta-analysis reviewed all studies from the 1980s until today; it found a strong correlation between exposure and aggressive attitudes. VicHealth released the following findings in their review in 2006:

“Exposure to sexually violent material increases male viewers’ acceptance of rape myths, desensitises them to sexual violence, erodes their empathy for victims of violence, and informs more callous attitudes towards female victims … adults also show an increase in behavioural aggression following exposure to pornography, again especially violent pornography.”

Not only does the research implicate the role of pornography, but front-line service providers are witnessing this firsthand. Nathan DeGuara, manager of the Men’s Referral Service, has seen a strong correlation between pornography and domestic violence, with increasing sexual expectations directly linked to porn use. Di McLeod, the Director of the Gold Coast Centre for Sexual Violence, has this to say about intimate partner violence:

“In the past few years we have had a huge increase in intimate partner rape of women from 14 to 80+. The biggest common denominator is consumption of porn by the offender … We have seen a huge increase in deprivation of liberty, physical injuries, torture, drugging, filming and sharing footage without consent. I founded the centre 25 years ago and what is now considered to be the norm in 2015 is frightening.”

Recent UK research shows that nearly half of teenage girls are coerced into unwanted sexual acts. Underage girls are presenting with bowel incontinence and anal tearing as a result of boyfriends who insist on replicating pornographic scenarios they have watched. At the extreme end of the spectrum, entire online forums are dedicated to men celebrating stories of rape and sexual assault. According to sites such as The Philosophy of Rape, it is “absolutely justifiable” that men have sex, even by force, if women don’t provide what they “need.” This is the world that porn has built, and post-millennials are the first to fully experience it.

Young women are also speaking out concerning the way pornographic expectations have become the norm for their generation. 23 year old Rosie had this to say on her experiences:

“Being told that my gag reflex was too strong… Bullied into submitting to facials. I didn’t want to. He said [jokingly] that he’d ejaculate on my face while I was asleep. He wasn’t joking – I woke up with him wanking over me … Bullied into trying anal. It hurt so much I begged him to stop. He stopped, then complained that I was being too sensitive … He continued to ask for it … Constant requests for threesomes … Constant requests to let him film it … Every single straight girl I know has had similar experiences. Every. Single. One. Some have experienced far worse. Some have given in, some have resisted, all have felt guilty and awkward for not … giving him what he wants.”

Despite the seriousness of accounts like Rosie’s, there is still little, if any, criticism of pornification that isn’t immediately disregarded as censorious, prudish or puritan.

The use of hackneyed defences like “diversity” and “free choice” have led to intense denial of the harms of pornography. Such is the extent of pro-porn denialism, that it is now bandied around as a form of women’s rights. Behind this denialism is almost certainly a generational age-gap, but there is importantly also the presence of industry-political ties. Lobby groups who brand themselves as progressive or even feminist are working hard to relax legislation, branding anyone who questions their agenda as “anti sex.”

But the proliferation of the sex industry is occurring in everyday life, with stripping and pornographic modelling being rife in social media, pop culture and advertising, even evolving into so-called sports and fitness. Far from the sex industry being stigmatised, it is increasingly being rated as a career goal by young girls.

This glamorisation obscures the dangerous reality. Despite the oft-repeated claim that “consenting adults choose this,” the reality is that choice is becoming increasingly constrained, particularly for young and vulnerable people.

The denial of the sex industry’s role in perpetuating sexism and its rebranding as “feminist” is a serious impediment to tackling gender inequality. While there is vocal commentary around reducing domestic and sexual violence in Australia, those voices are conspicuously quiet when the violence depicted is in pornography. Too many women’s advocates remain complicit in the sexual entitlement and unadorned violence that this industry is making normative.

While campaigns seek longer jail terms that will keep sex offenders out of society, this won’t change the terrain that is funnelling more and more young men down this dangerous path. The police cannot arrest their way out of the problem, nor can a lesson on sexual health undo a lifetime of socialisation.

Marches and protests against domestic violence rage on, discussions continue to unpack male entitlement, yet the elephant in the room remains unacknowledged. One of the most omnipresent and unavoidable drivers of sexist violence is seemingly invisible. To address sexist violence, advocates must challenge the lie that pornography is progressive.

Laura McNally is a psychologist, consultant, author and doctoral candidate. Her research draws upon critical and feminist theory. She is also a contributor to The Freedom Fallacy: Limits of Liberal Feminism. You can click the link to order.

http://www.abc.net.au/religion/

 

 

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