By Wendy Francis, ACL’s spokesperson on the dignity of women
Increasingly academics, ethicists, feminists and theologians alike are rejecting the idea that porn should continue to be seen as mainstream.
Melbourne University’s largest residential institution, Ormond College, is the latest in a growing list of large organisations to take a strong position against the objectification of women in pornography.
They did this by blocking access to adult sites on their Wi-Fi network, with their reason for doing so being their position that pornography does not allow people at a "formative stage of life" to develop a "healthy sexuality".
College master, Dr Rufus Black, himself an ethicist and theologist, believes pornography is exploitative and that it presents women primarily as sex objects who are a means to the end of male pleasure.
“Pornographic material overwhelmingly presents women in ways that are profoundly incompatible with our understanding of what it is to treat people with respect and dignity," he said.
Ormond College’s ban on pornography is an example of a growing number of people and organisations who hold the view that pornography inherently promotes inequality as it depicts women for the gratification of male sexuality.
Sex educator, Maree? Pratt, said that there are high levels of gendered aggression in pornography, with 88 per cent depicting physical aggression such as gagging and choking, and 48 per cent including verbal aggression.
"Pornography is shaping young people's sexual understandings, expectations and practices," she said. "A study last year from the UK showed a normalisation of coercive heterosexual anal sex among 16 to 18-year-olds."
I have just returned from Orlando, Florida were I participated in the Global Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation conference on behalf of the Australian Christian Lobby.
It was this coalition’s advocacy that resulted in Hilton hotels and resorts worldwide announcing this month that they are removing all pornography from their hotel entertainment systems.
Whilst this is a welcome announcement, it is long overdue. We don’t congratulate someone who stops abusing their partner – we expect it. Porn is physical and mental abuse. Many other hotels such as the Marriott chain have long since recognised the harms of pornography and removed it from their establishments.
Following on from a recent and ongoing campaign led by Collective Shout, Coles stores have removed Zoo magazine from their shelves in recognition of it being unsuitable for children to view.
Woolworths, however, are standing by their right to sell porn in their stores despite a petition with close to 40,000 signatures calling on them to remove it. Our Federal and State Attorney Generals also are standing by their decision not to classify this magazine which promotes violence against women, contains highly sexualised material and advertises R18+ games to minors.
Dr Caroline Norma, lecturer at Melbourne’s RMIT University stated that it is now widely acknowledged that the unprecedented mainstreaming of the global pornography industry is transforming the sexual politics of intimate and public life, popularising new forms of hardcore misogyny, and strongly contributing to the sexualisation of children.
Despite challenges to the pornography industry continuing to be dismissed as anti-sex and moral panic by advocates for porn such as Australia’s Sex Party, there are clearly many in our community who recognise the damage that porn is doing to our society and doing all they can to change direction.