This week on the political spot, Wendy Francis, the ACL's spokesperson for the dignity of women, recently attended the Porn Harm Kids Symposium in Sydney. Wendy joins Lyle Shelton to tell us the extent to which adult material is harming our children.



Just a warning, today's political spot contains topics that may be sensitive to some listeners.



 








 



 



TRANSCRIPT



 



WENDY FRANCIS ON THE POLITICAL SPOT



TUESDAY 23RD FEBRUARY 2016



 



Lyle Shelton: Welcome to the Political Spot, my name is Lyle Shelton. It’s great to have your company today. We’re going to be talking about this issue of the sexualisation of society, and pornography and its harms, particularly on children. It’s harmful to everyone but recently there was a conference held at the University of Sydney with a lot of top secular academics exploring the harms that pornography causes to children in particular. It was called ‘Porn Harms Kids’. At the conference was ACL’s spokesperson on the dignity of women Wendy Francis, and she joins me now to talk about some of the things that happened that day at the University of Sydney. Wendy welcome to the program.



Wendy Francis: Thanks very much Lyle.



Lyle Shelton: Wendy you’ve been a campaigner in this space for a long, long time even prior to your days at ACL. How did it make you feel to see this issue suddenly being discussed by serious academics who are recognising that there’s a real problem in society with this issue?



Wendy Francis: Look it was such an encouraging day. I would hardly say that it was an enjoyable day because it was pretty heavy going, but the topic was treated sensitively and it was just so encouraging to see academics from right across the board and from different places around Australia coming together and saying yes, we all agree porn harms kids and something’s got to be done about it.



Lyle Shelton: Yeah I agree and I should have disclosed I was there at the conference with you and I agree Wendy, it was a very heavy day but sadly a necessary one to help educate us. Wendy I was amazed that some of the stats that we heard, $29.4 billion a year in the US is what’s spent on the porn industry. A $29 billion a year industry and it’s responsible for thirty per cent of the traffic on the internet. Those figures are staggering.



Wendy Francis: They are staggering and even more staggering I think when it comes down to human beings is their saying that ninety per cent of our children will have viewed pretty hard porn by the time they’re eleven. So you know we really do have a crisis on our hands.



Lyle Shelton: Yes and a number of the speakers at the conference were saying that pornography really has got to those levels. As you say, ninety per cent of boys, sixty per cent of girls and the presenter who gave those figures said that was pre-smartphones. So that’s five or six years old, maybe seven years old. I shudder to think what it is now but this is really quite staggering and the conference was making the point that pornography really is at the level of a public health crisis. What did they mean by public health crisis related to pornography?



Wendy Francis: Well I took it to mean that you know they’re talking about an addiction here. Porn, watching porn, is an addiction and so we know that addictions shape behaviour and in this instance when we’re talking about pornography, it leads to problem sexual behaviour and in particular boys seeing girls as sex objects and then actually acting out dangerous practices that unfortunately the girls are feeling obliged to allow because again they’re saying sixty per cent of girls also have watched porn so they feel obliged. The other problem is in the health crisis sense is that addictions such as this also inevitably will lead to a feeling of shame and guilt and then to depression, and so we’re most certainly seeing a tsunami really of kids feeling depressed in our society and I think this is one of the reasons why.



Lyle Shelton: So instead of making children feel better, pornography is actually leading to acting out behaviours, which are obviously are not conducive to the flourishing of particularly young girls and young women, it’s leading to ideas of entitlement in boys. It’s not leading to a healthy sexuality is it, that’s what they mean by ‘public health crisis’. It’s actually causing harm to our young people.



Wendy Francis: Absolutely. Instead of intimacy being equated with love, where they’re being sold with porn it does not equal love at all or proper intimacy.



Lyle Shelton: We were told at the conference that what pornography does is it eroticises certain behaviours which then lead to attitudes in boys that at the ultimate end can lead to things like rape and violence. That was a key theme. Even so-called non-violent porn actually is a gateway to harder core things that lead to violence and even the things enable and drive domestic violence in society.



Wendy Francis: Yep. Because the thing is there’s an overwhelming gender imbalance in porn so it’s overwhelmingly the men overpowering the women but porn is also selling a lie that women are just waiting for the man to come and just have his way. So it paints the woman as being the answer to the desires of men. There’s a billboard in council at the moment that has a woman dressed extremely revealingly and the words on the billboard say ‘I’m waiting xx’. There’s been an outcry for two years. The Advertising Standards Board have ruled that it does objectify and degrade women. So they agree that it degrades women but it’s there and so overwhelmingly we’re selling this lie that women are just waiting, and so then porn actually sexualises violence against women and I think the issue there too is that men are becoming desensitised by that. So when you become desensitised and you continue to be in the same pattern of behaviour it leads to wanting more extreme violence, and so we see porn as selling the lie that men are entitled to women’s bodies. They’re being desensitised by the violence that they’re seeing. They believe in their heads because they see it on the screen that women want to be dominated and mastered by men. I think in saying that too we also need to remember that the porn audience as we’ve already mentioned is getting younger and younger and so those attitudes are being formed in boys younger and younger.



Lyle Shelton: Yes and then we wonder why we have a domestic violence crisis in Australia. If this is the attitude towards sex and intimacy that young people and particularly boys are being socialised into, it’s no surprise this is then being born out in frustration and then ultimately violence against their partners.



Wendy Francis: No surprise at all, and you just have to talk to people like Braveheart’s Hetty Johnston to have back up on that, the experts, and this is what was so good about this conference because we’re not just talking from me who is a grandmother concerned for the next generation. We were talking about top academic people and you just have to go to people like Rosie Batty or Hetty Johnston and ask them whether porn plays into domestic violence and you will just get a resounding ‘yes’.



Lyle Shelton: Yes I remember Rosie Batty saying on Q and A that her ex-husband who tragically killed their son was very much in to pornography and that’s a sad thing.



I’m talking with Wendy Francis. She’s the Australian Christian Lobby’s spokesperson for the dignity of women. She has been a long-term campaigner for outdoor advertising to be G-rated, for safe public spaces for our kids. We’ll be coming back to this conversation about ‘Porn Harms Kids’ conference right after this.



Welcome back. You’re back with the Political Spot. Lyle Shelton’s my name and with me is Wendy Francis and we’re talking about a conference that was held recently at the University of Sydney entitled ‘Porn Harms Kids’. A number of top academics were speaking at it. Wendy, one of those academics was Dr Michael Flood of the Australia Institute and he along with a colleague some years ago produced a ground-breaking report into pornography and it’s harms but it was sadly ignored, but he was very powerful in his presentation because he did debunked some of the perceptions that we have of the whole pornography industry. He said the adult industry likes to tell the public that this is just about couples. What did he mean by that? He said this wasn’t true but what was he meaning when he was saying this is the agenda of the adult industry?



Wendy Francis: Well I don’t think the adult industry wants the picture to be other single men lonely sitting in a dark room with a computer as his companion. They don’t want that image. I’ve seen so many in the adult industry sell the line that watching porn together saves marriages. There’s even been billboards, you know ‘stop in here and save your relationship’ or whatever, and it’s an absolute lie. I mean in effect there are other people in your relationship and in most cases it’s the husband who’s actually cheating on you in his mind. It’s unfaithful, it’s not developing faithful relationships, it’s actually doing the opposite. And the other sad thing about that whole line is that porn actually affects the ability to have sex with your spouse and to enjoy a natural sexual relationship. It actually affects the ability of the man to actually have just loving sex with his wife.



Lyle Shelton: Yeah. This is something which those of us who are Christians follows of Jesus Christ and who look to have functional family lives that glorify God and with an understanding of Christian morality and faithfulness, we get these things intuitively and they’re taught in our churches and that’s a great help to us but to hear secular academics actually, I guess in line with what we know as truth from our Christian teaching, was quite extraordinary and the way you’ve just explained it, and it really does debunk the myths of the so-called adult industry.



Wendy Francis: Absolutely. But we’re still getting sold, you know, there’s a – I’m from Queensland – and there’s a adult shop that’s expanding up here and the guy, in his mission to the government to try and expand his adult shop, one of his arguments was how many marriages he saved over the years. So we are being sold this lie constantly and it’s just such a relief to have academics come out and say you know what, it’s actually completely the opposite.



Lyle Shelton: Yep. We also heard at the conference Wendy from Dr Caroline Norma of RMIT and she was talking about the family law system and how often family law court judges are placing kids back with their fathers who have porn addictions, and this is in many cases that the judges know that the child is being exposed to whether accidently or even on purpose to pornography and yet the child is still being placed back with that father and that situation. That shouldn’t be happening should it, according to the law?



Wendy Francis: No it shouldn’t be and this was probably one the times in the day when I felt the heaviest because you can just imagine what’s happening to these children being exposed to the porn, often very violent porn, in their homes. But what’s happening is, what Caroline explained is that there’s a difference, so the judges are making a difference, they’re clarifying between whether children are being exposed to porn for the purpose of grooming versus being just used in the home and children are present, whether they’re being allowed to watch or whether it’s accidental. But the effect on the child is exactly the same but they are being confronted with these images that are often, and this was backed up by the conference as well, changing the trajectory of their lives because they’re seeing things at a very young age that they can’t possibly be expected to process, often very violent, but the judges are putting them back in the homes and saying well it wasn’t for the purpose of grooming and so that’s where the child is best placed.



Lyle Shelton: Yeah and those judges are ignoring the obvious harms to a child even through supposedly accidental exposure. So that was an important issue highlighted. Wendy, it’s not all bad news though. You’ve been leading a charge to reverse this trend in society and having some great impact. You mentioned the billboard in Townsville. That’s probably not a great example because the classification board keeps ignoring that but nonetheless some of your campaigning has been successful and you’ve recently complained to the Communications Minister Mitch Fifield about some pornographic magazines. Tell us about what happened there.



Wendy Francis: Yeah this is a really good thing because there’s two magazines that are being sold in Queensland in service stations, in newsagents. A child can go into the newsagent and pick up a New Idea and a Picture or People magazine, go to the counter. They could pick up a Strawberry Shortcake colouring book and pick up one of these magazines. So they’re completely open for children to buy. They are just awful and the reason why I actually even was bought to their attention was that there’s an inquiry that ACL are participating in against the sexualisation of children and so I wanted to see what children could actually buy. But my complaint to Senator Fifield has resulted in a review of these two magazines and so that’s just great news.



Lyle Shelton: So you purchased a bundle of these magazines and then wrote to the Minister and explained to him, showed him some of the extreme material that kids could just pick up at a service station or a corner store.



Wendy Francis: I did and you know I wouldn’t actually go into details because it was just so awful, so awful that I didn’t even talk to my husband Peter about it cause there are just horrendous stuff in these magazines that are actually completely open for children so things like grown women dressed in school uniforms, very, very explicit. It’s awful.



Lyle Shelton: That’s outrageous. I mean the implication being that men should go after school girls, I mean this is what the pornography industry is doing folks and there are people in politics, Fiona Patten in the Upper House in the Victorian parliament is an apologist for the industry which does these things in these magazines. We shouldn’t be tolerating it.



Wendy Francis: No.



Lyle Shelton: Wendy, that’s fantastic that you’ve got that review on the way and we’ll certainly let people know the outcome of that, but we all have a responsibility to here don’t we to speak up and not to walk past this stuff. You’ve produced a resource to help particularly children but all of us to think differently about this, rather than just accept it’s presence in our society. Can you tell us about this resource you’ve produced?



Wendy Francis: The ACL have supported me in doing this resource and it really came about because I wanted to prepare my own grandchildren for what was inevitable and the inevitability of them being confronted with stuff in public is a reality and so we’v just come up with a really simple three T’s: turn, so as soon as you see something that you know is inappropriate, turn your eyes away from it straight away, think about something good so immediately for children for instance, put in your minds a play game with your friends or your favourite animal. So turn, think and then tell. Tell your parent or a trusted adult what you saw and where you saw it because it’s really important that adults know what is being seen particularly if it’s on a mobile phone at school for instance. So we just did this, we’ve done posters and magnets, turn, think and tell and encouraging parents to instruct their children in this way. So something, we’re not trying to put anything into children’s minds, we’re just trying to prepare them for when something does come across their way.



Lyle Shelton: That’s fantastic Wendy, and those are available through ACL. You can contact ACL through acl.org.au. Wendy the other really positive thing that’s been talked about, and this what at the conference as well, is the whole idea of filtering the internet. We have the technology to do this, it’s been done in England to a certain degree. This is really something we’ve got to get on the agenda here as well, isn’t it?



Wendy Francis: Absolutely. So in the UK, they’re doing a couple of things. The first thing that they’re doing is that the large ISP provider are providing an opt-in rather than an opt-out, so in Australia when you get your computer or your smartphone it’s automatically that everything’s available to you so porn is readily available, and you’ve got to go in and put filters on to opt-out. In the UK they’ve just reversed it and so instead of having to opt-out, you’ve got to opt-in so any adult can actually still legally obtain legal porn which is still bad enough but they can opt-in but children don’t have to actually be exposed to something on a new device. But the other thing that they’re doing is that they’re saying that they’re putting an onus on the porn industry and so they’re saying now that the porn industry are going to be liable if they don’t have adequate gateways for under eighteen’s to not be able to get on to their site. So they are demanding from porn suppliers that there has to be a gateway that children cannot enter. So those are two really good things that we’re encouraging our government to actually look carefully at and to adopt for our country.



Lyle Shelton: That’s fantastic Wendy. Well we’re making progress in this issue. The fact that a bunch of secular academics are talking about the harms, the fact that there’s strides being made in filtering, the fact that people like you are getting the Minister for Communications to review this material, this is a long way from where we were twenty years ago. So we should all be encouraged and we should continue to speak up. Wendy you’re a great inspiration in this area and we look forward to talking to you more in the future about this. Thanks for joining us today on the Political Spot.



Wendy Francis: Thanks Lyle.