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Incensed about censorship

By Melinda Tankard Reist - posted Friday, 5 December 2008


It's not enough that there are already 4.2 million porn websites. It's not enough that every second, 28,258 Internet users are viewing porn. It's not enough that every second, US$3,075.64 is spent on porn. It's not enough that worldwide porn revenue is more than US$97.06 billion, according to Internet pornography statistics, Internet Filter Review (2006).

It's not enough that Australia contributes $2 billion to worldwide porn revenues, and is in the top five porn profit generating countries.

Nor is it enough that the sex industry in Australia has grown at 8.1 per cent to $1.22 billion this financial year and that prostituting and stripping are worth $1.13 billion. (No bust in sight during sex boom, by Sean Plambeck, September 1, 2008.)

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And it's not enough that the images and symbols of pornography have become mainstream, with sexually suggestive content on billboards, kids clothing, in games and music videos.

The sex industry lobby group the Eros Association is just not satisfied. That's why it launched the Australian Sex Party in Melbourne recently. Despite wall-to-wall porn, Eros CEO Fiona Patten claims we're drowning in "wowserism".

Patten and her porn devotee friends think porn is healthy for us. Surely we should all be healthy by now. Instead a significant number of studies have pointed to a link between pornography and violence against women.

Vanessa Vega and Neil Malamuth in Predicting sexual aggression: the role of pornography in the context of general and specific risk factors, (Aggressive Behaviour, 33 (2007), 104-117) found that high pornography consumption adds significantly to the likelihood of sexual aggression. A number of other researchers have found a clear relationship between sexually callous attitudes and histories of forceful, coercive, aggressive sexual conquests including Dolf Zillmann, Jennings Bryant, Donald L Mosher and Mark Sirkin.

The Internet allows for the mass dissemination of pornography and information about how to hurt, abuse and even rape women, making the risk of physical attack correlated with pornography a greater risk than before. (Michelle Evans, Censoring Internet pornography in Australia: a call for a civil rights approach to address pornographic harms, University of Western Sydney Law Review).

Many men who commit crimes of sexual violence live on a diet of pornography. (Dr William Marshall, Use of sexually explicit stimuli by rapists, child molesters and non-offenders, Journal of Sex Research, 25, (1998): 267).

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Up to one third of child sex offenders said they had viewed pornography prior to offending. (Marshall cited in E.F. Einsiedel, Social science report (1986), prepared for the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, US Department of Justice, Washington, DC).

Compulsive porn use is wrecking relationships: "More and more clients, counsellors say, have begun to cite Internet pornography as a factor in their relationship breakdowns," wrote Adele Horin in the Sydney Morning Herald last year.

Porn is used to groom children for sex by normalising graphic depictions of sex acts in a child's mind. Growing numbers of children are even acting out what they've seen in porn on other children.

The Ninth Australasian Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect in November 2003 was told by staff from the Child at Risk Assessment Unit at the Canberra Hospital that exposure to X-rated pornography was a significant factor in children younger than 10-years-old sexually abusing other children.

In the first six months of 2003, 48 children under 10 were identified as having engaged in sexually abusive acts. Access to graphic sexual images had shaped the trend. (J. Stanley, C. Tinning and K. Kovacs, Ninth Australasian conference on child abuse and neglect, 2003).

In the UK, the number of cases in which children received court orders or warnings for sex offences has jumped by 20 per cent in the past three years; experts blame the Internet, saying that the youth behaviour has been changed by ready access to sexual imagery. ("Web is blamed for 20 per cent leap in sex attacks by children", This is London, March 3, 2007.)

The Eros Association claims to care about child protection. Yet its secretary David Watt imports adult sex magazines that glorify sex with young girls, rape and incest.

Watt is named variously as General Manager of Namda (the company name under which applications to the Classification Board were made) and, more recently on the Eros Association website as associated with Windsor Wholesale.

The titles imported by Namda/Windsor have been supplied to milkbars, supermarkets and petrol stations. The publishers claim the girls are 18+ years but the content and images deliberately make them appear younger.

Words like "tiny", "tight" and "tender" are used to describe body parts. The girls are often in pigtails and wearing braces. How many 18-year-olds are wearing braces? Headlines include "Pigtail Perverts", "Captive Virgins".

One young girl is shown exposing her sexual parts, with the words "I'm ready for my first time". She is holding a pink hand puppet. "Cute" girls known as "Little Miss Mischief", "frolic" on their beds with stuffed animals, depicted as fantasising about sex with older men.

Readers express their lust for the girls - and thank the editors for finding them so young. One is a 71-year-old man who urges editors to ensure the girls look as innocent as possible because that arouses him most.

If that's not sinister enough, there are headings like: "Virgin Violations, forced entries". Advertisements inside the magazines promote videos including "Helpless Girls - tantalizing videos of sexual extremes". Sounds like rape to me.

Some issues advertise what sounds like incest: "Disobedient daughter XXX DVD's ... Don't tell mom!" and "Like mother like daughter", "Daddy's big xxxx" and "All in the family".

All these examples are from a magazine titled Live Young Girls and Purely 18, imported by companies linked to the secretary of the Eros Association.

Allowing images that depict children as keen for sex makes them more vulnerable to abuse and violence. Partially covering titles makes no difference. These magazines don't need tighter ratings, they shouldn't be sold at all.

A recent check of 38 magazines in corner stores in three Melbourne suburbs by Julie Gale of Kids Free 2B Kids, a group committed to raising community and corporate awareness about the early sexualisation of children, shows the titles have been wrongly classified or should have been ruled "RC - Refused Classification" because of explicit content involving girls who are, or are depicted as, minors.

It appears our Classification Board hasn't just fallen asleep at the wheel - it never even got into the car.

The Classification Board has given the titles quoted here "serial classification", which means instead of having to clear each issue, the publishers get a two-year approval, Gale complained to the Board.

It then decided to audit three titles, among 30 imported by David Watt. Board Director Donald McDonald admitted in a letter to Gale that they had been wrongly classified.

"In the Board's view, the contents of the audited publications Purely 18 and Live Young Girls would exceed the classification of Category 1 restricted, granted by their respective Serial Classification Declarations," the letter said.

"When auditing the issue of Live Young Girls, the board noted that one advertisement included in the magazine warranted an RC classification. The advertisement is an offensive depiction of a person who is, or appears to be under 18."

So what tough action does the Board take next?

Well, it asks the distributor to write a submission arguing why it should be allowed to keep the serial classification ruling and sends a community liaison officer to explain the rules.

If this material is allowed to be sold - and sold so openly - the Classification Board is sending a message that its OK to want sex with real “live young girls”. It's time for the State and Federal Attorneys-General to intervene and stop it.

These people have been importing porn for a very long time. They should know the rules by now. And all they get is a visit from the community liaison officer, maybe even with a nice cup of tea. Has anyone called the police?

Gale's first letter to the Classification Board was sent on July 31 this year but it was only this week that BP and Shell service stations were required to remove the magazines from more than 600 outlets around Australia.

How many other mistakes have the Board made over the years these titles have been sold? Someone needs to audit the Board.

In the meantime, let's join together in wishing The Australian Sex Party a very short life.

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First published in ABC's Unleashed on November 25, 2008.



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About the Author

Melinda Tankard Reist is a Canberra author, speaker, commentator and advocate with a special interest in issues affecting women and girls. Melinda is author of Giving Sorrow Words: Women's Stories of Grief after Abortion (Duffy & Snellgrove, 2000), Defiant Birth: Women Who Resist Medical Eugenics (Spinifex Press, 2006) and editor of Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls (Spinifex Press, 2009). Melinda is a founder of Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation (www.collectiveshout.org). Melinda blogs at www.melindatankardreist.com.

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