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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.

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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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