UK: Joanna Yeates murder illustrates need to criminalise pornography’s incitement of gender hatred Print E-mail

 London ~ Saturday October 29, 2011, page 47

Joanna Yeates murder: legislation needed on incitement to gender hatred

Vincent Tabak was a user of violent porn, and whatever the apologists say, porn does normalise violence against women
By Julie Bindel

 Joanna Yeates was murdered by Vincent Tabak, who, the court heard, had habitually accessed violent porn. (Avon And Somerset Police/PA)

Vincent Tabak, the murderer of Joanna Yeates, has now been revealed as a habitual user of violent pornography. Images of women being tortured, strangled during sex, bound, gagged and degraded by men were found by police on Tabak's computer, as well as a film in which two women were bundled into a car boot.

Joanna Yeates had suffered more than 40 injuries to her face, throat and arms. Her T-shirt had been pulled up above her breasts and a sample of Tabak's DNA was found on her chest. Prior to him killing Yeates, Tabak had been in contact with prostitution agencies. There is strong evidence that, as well as being a man who liked seeing women being strangled and tortured, he was a prolific punter.

I am not surprised. Common sense tells us that men who masturbate to porn involving the severe degradation and abuse of women are actually attracted to the idea of doing it directly to a woman. If I admitted fantasising about putting kittens in a microwave, or cutting the ears off dogs, would you feel OK with me being around your animals? If I told you I experience a sexual thrill at the thought of black men being lynched would you not conclude I was a chronic racist?

Pornography causes harm. It is not as straightforward as some people might argue. I do not believe that a man watches a woman being raped on camera and goes out looking for a woman to rape. But here's the thing – in order for violent pornography to exist, a woman has to be harmed in its production, and there has to be a market for it. That means there are men out there (and it is overwhelmingly men) who get a sexual thrill from seeing women hurt and abused.

Recent research by the American psychologist Melissa Farley, in which she compared men who admit to paying for sex with those who do not, found that: "Over time, as a result of their prostitution and pornography use, sex buyers reported that their sexual preferences changed such that they sought more sadomasochistic and anal sex."

Farley's study also showed that high pornography users were higher than low pornography users in acceptance of rape myths and of violence against women than non-users.

There is no simple solution. Eliminating violent pornography will not prevent sexual violence and pornography does not, in and of itself, create men like Tabak. But the normalisation of sadistically violent imagery and the merging of pain, torture, degradation and sexual pleasure reinforces the view held by some men that women are subhuman playthings, and there to be abused.

Much pornography accessed on the internet has now become so extreme that acts that were almost nonexistent a decade ago are now commonplace. These days the most popular acts depicted include vaginal, oral and anal penetration by three or more men at the same time; double anal; double vaginal; a female gagging from having a penis thrust into her throat; and ejaculation into a woman's face, eyes and mouth. I once found an image on the internet of a dead, naked woman in a ditch, her flesh crawling with maggots, who had been beaten and raped. There are men who will find that picture sexually arousing. That woman had possibly been murdered and then turned into pornography. There is, whatever the libertarians and porn apologists say, a direct link between violence against women and pornography.

I am not advocating the state censorship of pornography, just that we bring in legislation akin to that which criminalises racial hatred. We should introduce a crime of incitement to sexual hatred in order to sanction those who produce and consume images of females being tortured and violated because of their gender.

Tabak is an extreme example of how pornography can feed sadistic fantasy to the point of where it is no longer enough to be a passive viewer

London ~ Saturday October 29, 2011, page 6

Vincent Tabak and the porn searches the jury did not hear about

Prosecutors argue the killer's respectable outward life was a lie, hiding a fascination with sexual violence towards women

By Steven Morris
Vincent Tabak at Stonehenge. (Rex Features)

Vincent Tabak appeared to be an intelligent, sociable, loving man devoted to his girlfriend, his family and friends. But when police examined his background after his arrest over the death of Joanna Yeates they unearthed a secret life that they believe helps to explain why he killed his next-door neighbour.

Computer analysts found the Dutch engineer appeared to have a fascination with pornography depicting violence towards women. In some of the films he viewed, men held women by the neck while they had sex.

Detectives found that while away on business Tabak contacted escorts and prostitutes, and during a trip to California may have paid for sex.

Prosecutors in the case believe Tabak's fixation on hardcore pornography helps to make the case that this was a sex crime. They feel that his research on and suspected use of prostitutes shows that his respectable outward life was a lie.

After his arrest in January, analysts delved deep into four computers Tabak had access to and found disturbing material. Police discovered images and films showing women bound, gagged, degraded and controlled by men. They also found a film in which two women were bundled into a car boot.

In legal argument not heard by the jury, Nigel Lickley QC, prosecuting, said Tabak clearly liked films showing women being held by the neck and claimed this ought to be spelled out in open court. "It might shed light on the need to hold a woman for long enough and the need to squeeze hard enough to take her life," he said.

Detectives were particularly interested by three images of a slight, blonde-haired woman resembling Yeates who in one shot was pulling up her pink top to expose her breasts. When Yeates's body was found three miles from her Bristol flat, her pink top was pulled up exposing her bra and part of one breast. Tabak's DNA was found on her chest.

The pictures of the blonde woman in pink had a "resonance" with the way Yeates's body was found, Lickley argued. Police believe Tabak may have pulled her shirt up either before or after death.

The time at which Tabak was looking at some of these images was also important, the police and prosecution believe. Police found that on the morning of the killing, 17 December last year, Tabak had accessed a pornographic website, although it is not clear if he viewed any films. He "certainly" had pornography on his mind, said Lickley.

And after Yeates's death Tabak switched between looking at online articles relating to Yeates and watching pornographic films. On one day within two minutes he went from researching the Yeates inquiry to viewing pornographic films, some of which contained images of women being held by the throat. In a film viewed at this time a woman tells a man: "Choke me."

Lickley argued that the pornography found on Tabak's computer could indicate that on 17 December he graduated from being a viewer of violent images to a "participant".

In further legal argument it emerged that in the months leading up to Yeates's death Tabak researched and contacted escort agencies. In May 2010 while on a business trip in Newcastle, Tabak apparently accessed a website called AdultWork that lists "adult service providers".

Detectives claim they established that he made late-night calls to numbers associated with escort agencies. In November Tabak went to California on business and again began researching sex sites and contacting escort agencies.

One site he looked at was called 007exoticgirls. He paid a subscription to another, theeroticreview, which offers "escort contact information". Names in which police found he had shown an interest included "Princess Butter" and "Rebecca Divine".

On Friday 3 December, two weeks before he killed Yeates, Tabak made telephone contact with "Mimi", Lickley told the judge. The call was returned and almost immediately Tabak made two cash withdrawals of $100 each.

On 5 December Tabak left the hotel his company had paid for and checked in under a false name, Francis Tabak, at the Peach Tree Inn in San Luis Obispo, 150 miles from Los Angeles. The prosecution believes the withdrawal of cash and the checking into a hotel under a false name could be evidence of him paying for sexual services.

Mr Justice Field, the trial judge, accepted that the viewing of pornography showing violence or a threat of violence was "reprehensible". But he did not allow the jury to hear the evidence because he felt its value in explaining why Tabak acted as he did could not outweigh the prejudice it would cause his defence.

He also turned down the prosecution's suggestion that the evidence about escort agencies should go before the jury to correct the impression Tabak gave of being sexually naive and in a loving, monogamous relationship. The jury was left ignorant of what the police believed was important evidence.

There is little that seems extraordinary in Tabak's life before the events of last year. He was born in 1978 and brought up in the small town of Uden, near Eindhoven in the Netherlands. He has three sisters and a brother. At the age of 18 Tabak began studying at the faculty of architecture, building and planning at Eindhoven University of Technology. He graduated in 2003 with a master of science degree and started a PhD, his topic how people use space in buildings and public areas.

Tabak finally left university when he was 29. His first job began in September 2007 in Bath at the headquarters of the international engineering consultants Buro Happold, where he worked as a "people flow analyst", examining how people moved around schools, airports and sports stadiums. On the day Yeates died he was looking at how pilgrims circulate around Mecca.

By the time his PhD was published, in 2008, there had been joy and sadness in his personal life. His father, Gerald, died. "I miss you and regret that you are not able to see the end result of my PhD," Tabak wrote in the acknowledgments to his thesis.

But he had met his first serious (possibly his only) girlfriend, Tanja Morson, the daughter of a Harvard-educated lawyer, through the Guardian's online dating site Soulmates. In the same acknowledgments he thanked Morson for her support. "I am very happy she entered my life," he wrote.

Tabak's first home in the UK was a flat in a Georgian terrace in Bath. In June 2009 he and Morson, who worked for Dyson in Wiltshire, moved in together in Canynge Road, Clifton, Bristol's upmarket hilltop village. The pair seemed content and friends say they had discussed marrying and starting a family.

Tabak enjoyed drinks after work and once organised an outing to see a Dutch comedian when he toured the UK. He liked sports, including sailing and bowling. He was interested in photography and travelling, having visited South America and Asia.

Snaps of Tabak and Morson capture the couple on days out at Stonehenge and wearing curious clothes (him in a purple skirt, her in a cloth cap and painted-on moustache) at a festival.

Friends say he could be immature and needy. When police interviewed him in Amsterdam on New Year's Eve they were surprised at how his sister fussed over him. After Tabak killed Yeates, he sent desperate text messages to Morson in which, while hiding what he had done, he tried to "reach out to her" for support.

Tabak's actions after he killed Yeates show a mixture of cunning and naivety. Police believe, for instance, that he was sharp enough to buy rock salt to place on a spot in the snow between his flat and Yeates's where he had dropped the body, and so cover his tracks. He began to carefully research the difference between murder and manslaughter.

But his big mistake was to contact the police after they arrested his landlord, Christopher Jefferies, and try to help pin the blame on him. In doing so he asked too many questions about the police investigation and roused the suspicions of the detective sent to interview him.

It seems odd that Tabak went from being a viewer of pornography and, possibly, a user of prostitutes to a killer in one leap. Tabak has no criminal record and said in the witness box that he had never been in a police station before his arrest. He steadfastly denied he had got a sexual thrill out of killing Yeates or being aroused when he strangled her.

Most of the mysteries that captivated the public at the time of Yeates's disappearance – the missing pizza and the sock missing from Yeates's body when it was found – have been resolved. Tabak says he threw them in the bin and did not eat the pizza. The central puzzle – exactly why he acted as he did – remains the biggest mystery of all.