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A QUIT PORN Campaign 15 Jun 2010
Susan Hawthorne, co-director of Spinifex Press, writing from the US after attending the Stop Porn conference in Boston.

A QUIT PORN campaign is what we need to get the consumption and production levels of porn down. When QUIT started sending out their message about smoking, many more smokers were quietly killing themselves (and the effect on others was not insignificant).

Do you remember when we used to be able to smoke on planes? How you could end up on a flight from Melbourne to London in the no-smoking section and still have smoke blown all over you because the next row was the first in the smoking section? Back then, even if you complained, nothing would happen.

The same happens now with porn. Complain about its pervasiveness, and nothing happens because it’s seen as “normal”. So what’s normal? Beating up women in front of a camera? Tying women into stress positions – the same ones used to torture Iraqis in Abu Ghraib? Getting little girls to wear “I want to be a porn star” T-shirts? Calling women bitches and ho’s? In other contexts, these would be seen as hate crimes. Is it any different to beating up a person of a different class or ethnicity? How is torture in one setting considered a breach of human rights and when it’s done in porn called a turn on? How is wearing a porn star T-shirt different from the yellow star or the pink triangle? Think about it. Why is hate language against women okay, when it’s called vilification in other settings?

If you doubt these statements above, then go and see these two films, The Price of Pleasure or The Pornography of Everyday Life. (A warning: these films might cause distress for some viewers.)

Porn is streaming into homes and onto mobile phones as each generation of technology has greater capacity, is more individualised, and stills have moved to video streaming wirelessly. The US is “ahead” of Australia in saturation level, but not by much and it won’t be long before we begin to see what will become generational effects of high-consumption consumers. Where “the consumers become the consumed”, as Cameron Murphey pointed out in his talk in a workshop on Working with Men at the Stop Porn Conference in Boston last weekend organised by Gail Dines, author of Pornland and Rebecca Whisnant co-editor of Not For Sale: Feminists Resisting Pornography and Prostitution.

“Porn is bad for your health.” This is what Linda Thompson from the Women’s Support Project in Glasgow, Scotland discovered in her research. It’s long been known to be bad for women’s health. Sexually transmitted diseases and physical injury are obvious adverse effects for those involved in the production of pornography. Then there’s the post-traumatic stress disorders and the psychological effects of abuse. But these are not restricted to those involved in the production of porn. It is also an adverse effect for watchers, especially those who become compulsive watchers of porn. They lose their capacity to form (intimate) relationships with others.

Cameron Murphey also pointed out that porn causes erectile dysfunction. Not surprising then to see the usual syndrome of technological failure creating a new market opportunity: and this time it’s Viagra.

Then there are the apologists on the left who call for the dismantling of capitalism, but vocally support the profiteering of pornographers. Is this because it might hamper their enjoyment? As Betty McLellan in her book Unspeakable points out, that while free trade is bad and fair trade is good, the free speech is good and fair speech is bad when it comes to pornography. Is justice so tradable?

Porn is about injustice. It’s about hatred.

It’s bad for you (have a look at Norman Doidge’s book, The Brain that Changes Itself. Begin at p. 102 and read about the effects on adolescent brains).

It’s bad for boys (see What’s Happening to Our Boys?).

It’s bad for girls (see Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls).

It’s bad for women (see Not For Sale).

And it’s bad for men (see Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity).

It’s good for capitalism. And for organised crime. It’s good for the purveyors of violence such as the military and those engaged in genocide. It’s good for a handful of corporate exploiters. In short it’s good for patriarchy.
Who do you support? Perhaps it’s time to QUIT PORN.

I agree totally Susan. We need a Quit Porn campaign in Australia because the level of availability and consumption of pornography is ridiculous. The thing I can't understand is how men who believe themselves to be enlightened and committed to equality between the sexes can still insist that there is nothing wrong with using pornography. Pornography is one of those practices in society which ensures women remain subordinate to men. It makes equality impossible. Thanks for all those links to books by women and men who write about the destructiveness of porn. As a psychotherapist who works with both men and women, I know that it destroys relationships, it destroys men's ability to have normal, satisfying sexual relationships, and it contributes greatly to women's feeling that they are used and abused.
Posted by Betty McLellan | 17 Jun 2010
Couldn't agree more. I wholeheartedly support the Quit Porn Campaign.
Posted by Edith Pringle | 22 Jun 2010
I'm going to let Charlie Glickman's voice in here, since he speaks very much for me in this case, and more eloquently for sure:

"(…) First things first. I really understand many of the critiques that anti-porn folks have. In fact, I share some of them, myself. There’s a lot of porn that is based on and reinforces maladaptive gender roles, performance-based models of sex, racist, sexist and/or homophobic stereotypes, narrow definitions of pleasure, and more. I absolutely get that and I feel a lot of anger around that.

(…) And yet, I also have a lot of problems with the anti-porn crowd. First and foremost, I think that they either forget or willfully ignore the fact that women, queers, transfolks, and people of color are often among the first groups that get censored. (…) And then, some folks in this camp want to censor porn, despite the well-do(edited)ented effects of censorship on society.

I also think it’s really problematic that they usually make swe
Posted by Allison | 25 Jun 2010
sweeping statements about porn without acknowledging that when they talk about “porn,” the term gets used to cover all sexually explicit material, even though porn is much more diverse than they describe. Although it’s in the minority, there’s a growing amount of porn that challenges, questions, and subverts the mainstream industry and they’re usually left out. of the discussion For that matter, there’s plenty of gay porn that, while it doesn’t necessarily challenge notions of sex, certainly doesn’t fit their analyses of how porn affects women simply because there aren’t any women in these movies. There’s also heterosexual porn that shows people having fun, without themes of nonconsensual domination, humiliation, or degradation. If they used some/many/most language in their analysis, they would actually make it more valid because they would actively challenge the idea that all porn has to be a certain way.
Posted by Allison | 25 Jun 2010

There’s porn made by people who are not just consenting to perform, but are actively enthusiastic. There are people who enjoy watching people have sex and there are people who enjoy being watched. And I see no problem with that. For me, the questions comes down to: what do we need to do to maximize the sorts of porn that is grounded in pleasure, passion, joy, and consent? What do we do to shift things so that we can be sure that the performers are well treated? How can we make it so that people who don’t want to have to deal with sexually explicit media have spaces for that, and that people who want to have access to it, have spaces for that.
Posted by Allison | 25 Jun 2010
There are people who actively consent to smoking, but we are still able to acknowledge that the behaviour, on the whole, is harmful to individuals and society. Just because a few individuals in a privileged position enjoy pornography and don't like having their habit criticised, doesn't mean that we can't speak out against it.
As a woman, I would like to live in a society where my male counterparts were not able to consume women (and children) over their phones, laptops, or in magazines, books or comics. In such a world, my voice is worth less and I am more an object than a human being. To me, that feels like censorship - of my voice, and of my humanity.
Maybe Charlie Glickman could suspend his privilege long enough to consider that?
Posted by Caite | 27 Jun 2010
People who want access to pleasure, passion, joy and consent should start looking for those things in relationships with other individuals. "Performers" in pornography will not be well treated, because that's not what users demand of the industry. Pleasure, passion, joy and consent don't make money in the porn world.
We need to address the issue of demand - and given that we don't live in a utopic world with these "spaces" of equality and consent that politically correct porn users speak of - a QUIT campaign addresses the problem at its patriarchal core: starting with the users of pornography, who choose to consume a model of sexuality and sexual behaviour which is harmful to women.

Keep up the good work Susan!
Posted by Caite | 27 Jun 2010
There is no difference with gay porn -- except it's otherized men who are being abused. Clearly it takes eroticizing power differences to make that work ... which is another issue -- that queerdom has had a coopting, and not a liberating, effect. Certainly we can claim to have people who delight in their own objectification and degradation, but so what? If it weren't for the cultural overlay of hierarchy-means-sexy, it wouldn't have need to exist.

I love author Sheila Jeffreys for her clarity on this whole thing -- read "Unpacking Queer Politics" for excellent insight into how gay men fare in porn.

If porn damages minds (brains, psyches, relationship capabilities) then so-called "good" porn is still problematic! Thank you, Susan Hawthorne! Wish I could have attended.
Posted by diana | 28 Jun 2010
"a few individuals in a privileged position enjoy pornography and don't like having their habit criticised, doesn't mean that we can't speak out against it."

You're welcome to speak out against it, of course. But just like most everyone agrees that outlawing cigarettes violates rights, outlawing pornography does the same.

You're also going out on a limb saying that only "a few individuals in a privileged position" consume porn, indicating later that these are all men.

The plain truth is that plenty of women enjoy porn, myself included, and that porn is ubiquitous enough that I'm not sure what "privilege" you're speaking of, other than being sex-positive, lacking of personal shame, and living in a country where such things aren't illegal.

The "war on porn" is as ineffective and misguided as the "war on drugs." The point shouldn't be to ban anything- it should be to ensure that what is out there in the populace is made legally, respec
Posted by Allison | 10 Jul 2010
tfully and safely.

I am close with many women in the porn industry, all of whom love their jobs, get compensated fairly, and are treated with great respect in their workplace (who among us can say the same?). As you condemn porn- do you bother asking the women themselves how they feel about being part of the industry?
Instead, your arguments are paternalistic- declaring you know what's best for these women without ever asking them for their own, well-informed opinions.

Condemning porn as a whole misses the entire point- that porn should be well-regulated and part of the mainstream economy.
Posted by Allison | 10 Jul 2010

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