Gail Dines writes about the pro porn lobby in Australia

Time to start telling the truth about the porn industry

I thought I was coming to Australia for a mix of work and sightseeing. Well, I was correct about the work part, but missed seeing your beautiful country since I spent much of my time holed up in the studios of ABC.

My book Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, was, thanks to the efforts of Spinifex Press, selected to be part of the Sydney Writer's Festival, so I assumed I would have a work-packed four days and then some down time.

What I didn't plan for was that the book would ignite a firestorm and I would have to battle it out with a small but very vocal pro-porn lobby that was spearheaded by academics, public intellectuals and plain old pornographers.

I have debated pro-porn advocates for many years and usually have an interesting if somewhat predictable discussion. Their agenda is to sanitize porn as a bit of harmless fun, and my job is to speak for those women and men whose life stories are disparaged as "anecdotes." While we disagree, it rarely gets personal and nasty.

So imagine my surprise when, at a Sydney Writers Festival panel, the moderator, Leslie Cannold, asked me in her opening set of questions about my "odd bedfellows" on the right, and then proceeded to dismiss the comments coming from a young woman in the audience who spoke about dating men who use porn.

As on cue, such women's experiences were denigrated as "anecdotes," even though a coherent story was beginning to emerge about the problems these women were having with men who got their major form of sex education from hardcore porn.

Cannold ignored the fact that for over forty years, feminist social scientists have been arguing that to dismiss women's experiences as non-scientific is to fall into the "Eurocentric masculinist paradigm," to use the term of sociologist Patricia Hill Collins.

Cannold's insistence that these women's experiences were mere anecdotes and not evidence requiring analysis and exploration upheld the outmoded conservative notion that women can't be trusted to speak the truth of their lives. No; for this it seems we need credentialed academics who have access to large government funds so they can do "scientific research" that privileges the stories of porn users and porn producers.

During my two weeks in Australia I heard lots of "anecdotes" that formed a coherent story about the way Australian men and women are harmed by porn. I heard from women who were married to men who had been habitually using porn for years; from men who felt their porn use was out of control; from women who had been shown porn from a young age by their fathers/brothers/babysitters/teachers who then went on to harass, molest, or rape them; from mothers who didn't want their husband's porn around their children; and so on.

The stories of people in Australia are much the same as the stories I hear from people all over the world, and yet you will not find them anywhere in the ideologically laden and methodologically flawed Porn Report that was published in Australia in 2008.

Read more at ABC Religion and Ethics website

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  • commented 2015-11-30 13:08:47 +1100
    Yes, Cannold’s behaviour was appalling.
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