Pornography: A culture centred around the sexual abuse & torture of females and .. Print E-mail

promoting the notion that this kind of treatment is "sex" and may be required of other women


The Sydney Morning Herald ~~ Tuesday May 29 2007

The obscenity of porn: X-rated and exploitive

By Sheila Jeffreys

The discussion on pornography needs a reality check. Pornography does not represent jolly sexual tumbling which can provide a useful form of sex education. And it is protected from analysis by the cruelty and misogyny of its language and practices, which are hard to discuss in public.

In fact, only a small percentage of the pornography on sale online or in sex shops is what the industry calls "couples" porn that is least likely to cause distress to women.

The pornography industry, along with some academic researchers, say porn is not only harmless but can be socially useful because it makes "people" more comfortable about their bodies and with sex. Those questioned in the academic studies were mostly the male consumers who probably did feel less guilty about what they fantasised doing to women, because they saw women in the pornography apparently smiling and realised that millions of men had the same ideas.

However, women - both those used in making porn and those who have porn used upon them in relationships - are much less likely to feel comfortable.

Producing pornography requires that a woman, usually young and badly needing money, often with a history of sexual and physical abuse, should dissociate emotionally from her body and typically take a number of drugs to survive the experience. These drugs will include muscle relaxants, drugs to dull consciousness, painkillers and local anaesthetic.

They may have to shave their genitals and could also be pressured into surgery to cut off their labia. They will have breast implants. And, as a consequence of their "acts", sometimes the women may require enemas. Broken bones have been suffered in some sexual poses.

Then there is the possibility of disease. Porn movies are routinely made without condoms, despite several porn actors having contracted HIV.

Information on this is available on the website of Adult Video News, the magazine of the US porn industry. Women profiled on the site are poor, mostly "18" years old, first had sex at 13 or 14 and have just left school or left school early. They are likely to be brought to Hollywood by their pimps-boyfriends. They may start out with "girl on girl" but the pressure is on to get them to "anal" in a few weeks - and then their careers may be over.

The women who are abused in pornography start very young. They are not empowered, well-educated women with worthwhile choices ahead of them. Typically, they are described as entering the industry just after turning 18, probably because it is illegal for girls under 18 to be used and the industry does not want to attract unwanted attention. They have often gone straight into it within months of leaving, or being expelled from, school and have not held any other kind of job.

One woman interviewed fresh off the bus said she had done only two days of work in any other kind of job. Often the women may say they like sex with other women, perhaps because sex with women is the first form of porn they will have to engage in; it is considered the "softest" kind and softens them up for other forms.

Looking at the Adult Video News website, the racism and cruelty to women revealed in the titles and descriptions were extreme. Meat Holes shows straightforward misogyny. Many titles refer to semen, women being covered in it and having to swallow it, as in Gobble the Goop and Big Gulps. That's just for starters, before moving on to names and descriptions of movies which run the full gamut of permutations of anal sex and racist sexual stereotyping.

As a result of the 1990s porn boom, many aspects of popular culture are now affected by the woman-hating values of pornography. The clothes girls wear, what they have to do when engaging in sex, and their aspirations are influenced to some degree by this industry.

Pornography provided a road map for the tortures at Abu Ghraib, for example, which were widely considered reprehensible once disclosed.

But the fact that this torture of women is now central to our culture, and given positive value by some in academia, is seldom remarked.

Pornography educates, as all other cultural forms - such as Shakespeare, the Bible and Bananas in Pyjamas - do. But there are no redeeming features to pornography, which shows girls and women being sexually abused, and promotes the notion that this kind of treatment is "sex" and may be required of other women.

Sheila Jeffreys is an associate professor in the School of Politics, Criminology and Sociology at the University of Melbourne.