Preventing men’s violence against women: 16 Days of Activism

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign running from 25th November to 10th December. This year’s theme is Unite: Invest to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls.

To prevent men’s violence against women, we need to address the attitudes and cultural drivers at its roots. Over this year’s 16 Days, we’ve been exposing contributors to violence against women and girls - like porn, the sex industry, sexual objectification (including sex dolls modelled on the bodies of women and girls) and media, advertising and popular culture that objectify women and eroticise violence against them. We can’t just condemn the violence, we have to address the drivers of it.

How porn contributes to violence against women


A major contributor to violence against women and girls – one that often goes ignored – is porn. Porn not only fuels men’s violence against women - it is a record of it. Porn is the filmed abuse of women.

Mainstream porn is dominated by acts of sexualised violence against women. A 2010 content analysis of popular porn videos found that 88.2% of scenes contained physical aggression, and that perpetrators were usually male and the targets of their aggression overwhelmingly female.

This year, a report by the French equality watchdog found that as much as 90% of pornographic content online features verbal, physical and sexual violence towards women, and a significant amount constituted torture.

Porn is not harmless, and it’s not just a fantasy. For the women who are abused, degraded, humiliated and raped on camera, it is very real.


Porn also contributes to violence off camera, inspiring consumers to act out violent and degrading porn scenarios on their sexual partners. Mainstream porn promotes male dominance and female subordination, eroticises violence against women and it shapes consumers’ sexual tastes, attitudes and practices – with women and girls paying the price.

Porn dehumanises women as objects existing for men’s sexual use, and sends the message that men are entitled to sex in any way, in any place and at any time. It is at odds with intimacy, respect and equality.

As long as men and boys are raised on and regularly masturbating to violent and misogynist pornography depicting women enjoying being degraded and brutalised, we will not be successful in eradicating violence against women.


Research has found porn features prominently in accounts of women who have experienced Intimate Partner Sexual Violence (IPSV).

Researchers Lauren Tarzia and Meagan Tyler noted the ways porn was directly implicated in survivors’ experiences of IPSV.

“Women reported pornography being used as a ‘manual’ to determine what kinds of abuse they would be subjected to. They reported being forced to watch pornography to groom them or coerce them into particular sex acts.”

Last year, Movement Director Melinda Tankard Reist’s latest book He Chose Porn Over Me was published by Spinifex Press. It features the personal accounts of 25 women who share their experiences of harm at the hands of porn-consuming partners. These women described their experiences being subjected to degrading porn-inspired sex acts, being used “like a blow up doll”, sexual assault, and partners preying on their children. (You can find the book here.)

Strangulation (often referred to as sexual choking) is a staple act in mainstream porn. As porn and porn culture have infiltrated our lives, strangulation – despite its serious risks – has now become a common sex act outside porn, with many women reporting being strangled by male partners during sex.

Strangulation is a particularly serious form of violence against women. It can be fatal, with victims at risk of brain damage or death even weeks or months later. Experts note that strangulation does not have to be prolonged or forceful to cause long-term damage, including strokes, depression, memory loss, seizures, motor and speech disorders and paralysis.

Women and girls are increasingly reporting pressure to submit to violent and unwanted sex acts. A 2019 study from Indiana School of Public Health found that nearly a quarter of women in the US have felt scared during sex, with a number of these having been strangled without warning by their male partners – and some women have died.

Porn’s portrayal of strangulation as sexy and desirable has real-world consequences for women.


The porn industry also fetishises Indigenous women and women of colour, and perpetuates harmful sexist and racist stereotypes that contribute to violence against them.

In her documentary ‘Let Me Tell Ya'll 'bout Black Chicks’, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Washington Dr Carolyn West documented common racist tropes in pornography, such as depictions of black women and men as animalistic, sexual beasts, black women as insatiable and the objectification of their bodies. The porn industry perpetuates “a belief that black women’s innate hypersexuality made them unrapeable and undeserving of protection and sympathy,” she said.

We’re previously exposed Pornhub for hosting and profiting from racist and hateful content. For eight years, Pornhub hosted a channel named ‘Asian Street Meat’, where white male sex tourist predators targeted impoverished girls on the streets in Thailand and filmed themselves causing pain and distress to the young women (who may actually be children).

In 2019, Movement Director Melinda Tankard Reist and Campaigns Manager Melinda Liszewski gave evidence at the parliamentary hearing for the Inquiry into Age Verification for Online Wagering and Online Pornography. Melinda L shared a few of the racist video titles and descriptions she had documented on Pornhub, including ‘Aboriginal sluts’, ‘Black slave girl brutalised’ and ‘Indian virgin teen’, depicting women of colour being abused, tortured and possibly raped.

While all women are harmed by porn that eroticises violence against them, indigenous women and women of colour are statistically particularly vulnerable to violence. Aboriginal women are 11 times more likely to die from male violence than non-Aboriginal women, and more likely to experience sexual violence and to be hospitalised from it.

We can’t deny that porn is a driver of violence against women in Indigenous and CALD communities.


While boys are being groomed by porn, girls are paying the price. Movement Director Melinda Tankard Reist, who conducts workshops with girls in schools around the country, says the stories are getting worse and the children are getting younger. Girls are sharing accounts of daily sexual harassment, emotional manipulation, cruelty, and coercion by male classmates groomed by porn. They ask MTR to pass on the following messages to the boys:

‘Please ask the boys to stop making sexual moaning noises in class'
'Please ask the boys to stop telling us about the porn they watched last night'
'Please ask the boys to stop ranking us according to the bodies of porn stars'
'Please ask the boys to stop making jokes about our bodies'
'Please ask the boys to stop rubbing up against us in the corridors'
'Please ask the boys to stop sending us dick pics'
'Please ask the boys to stop calling our mothers MILFS'
'Please ask the boys to stop threatening to rape us if we don't send nudes'
(Young women of colour, Yrs 7-8) 'Please ask the boys to stop calling us their dirty little sex slaves'
'Please ask the boys to stop telling us they are going to take us to their sex dungeon'
'Please ask the boys to stop airdropping porn on the school bus'
(Lesbian girls) 'Please ask the boys to stop telling us they're going to rape us straight'

Until we address porn and its role in grooming boys, women and girls will remain at risk.

How the sex industry drives male violence against women


While there is increasing recognition of the scale and impact of men’s violence against women, and Government initiatives to reduce it, any progress will be limited as long as men’s paid sexual access to women in the sex trade is endorsed. The sex industry is both a site of, and driver of, men’s violence against women.

Commercial sexual exploitation is a system of male violence against vulnerable women and girls. Sex trade survivors describe their experiences not as ‘sex work’, but as paid rape.

When the sex trade – including sex buying, pimping, and brothel keeping – is legalised or decriminalised, it normalises the belief that women are commodities to be bought and sold for men’s sexual gratification, and that men have a right to sexual access to women’s bodies – attitudes at the root of violence against women. Legitimising the sex trade sends the message that men’s sexual entitlement matters more than women’s lives.

We stand with survivors in calling for the Nordic/Equality model which recognises prostitution and trafficking as a form of male violence against women and children, and decriminalises sellers but criminalises their exploiters.


OnlyFans is a subscriber-only social media platform that allows people to sell pornographic content of themselves. While OnlyFans “modelling” is portrayed as a glamorous and lucrative career choice for young women, in reality it puts women at risk and leaves them vulnerable to exploitation.

An increasing number of young female content creators report degrading and violent requests, abusive and predatory treatment, as well as doxxing, image-based abuse and stalking. Under pressure to provide increasingly explicit content to keep subscribers, some did things they were not comfortable with.

“Every time I posted something, my followers would say, ‘That’s good but it’s not enough’. I felt like I had to keep getting more extreme. I told myself that I was empowered and wanted to pretend that I was, but I felt horrible. I was smiling in those pictures, but I wasn’t there. I was doing things like a robot. And I couldn’t stop, because everyone was telling me I had to keep going. I was being forced — honestly, it felt like that,” said content creator Celestia.

Celestia’s followers pushed her to post more nudity, live sex shows and to use sex toys. They were always asking for more. She then progressed to porn, but left after a month or so, and after a breakdown, disappeared from the online world. Read more.

In July, we joined with the National Centre on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) and thousands of grassroots advocates in an open letter urging the US Attorney General to investigate OnlyFans for facilitating sex trafficking, child sexual abuse material and image-based sexual abuse.

(See also our joint research with CATWA - Side Hustles and Sexual Exploitation: Australian news media reporting and commentary on the sex industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

How objectifying women drives men's violence against them


The routine, everyday sexual objectification of women is a known factor in violence against them. Twenty years of research finds:

“regular, everyday exposure to [sexually objectifying portrayals of women] are directly associated with a range of consequences, including higher levels of body dissatisfaction, greater self-objectification, greater support of sexist beliefs and of adversarial sexual beliefs, and greater tolerance of sexual violence toward women. Moreover, experimental exposure to this content leads both women and men to have a diminished view of women’s competence, morality and humanity.”


When women are routinely sexualised and objectified, reduced to a series of parts and treated as objects for men’s sexual entertainment and use, it becomes easier to justify violence against them.

As John Stoltenberg wrote:

“There is a perceptible sense in which every act of sexual objectifying occurs on a continuum of dehumanization that promises male violence at its far end. The depersonalisation that begins in sexual objectification is what makes violence possible; for once you have made a person out to be a thing, you can do anything you want.”


The growing trade in sex dolls modelled on the bodies of women and girls is in direct opposition to efforts to fight men’s violence against women. As Campaigns Manager and author of Sex Dolls, Robots and Woman Hating Caitlin Roper writes:

“Sex dolls further entrench sexist attitudes towards women, men’s entitlement to sex, and contribute to rape culture and men’s violence against women.

“A sex doll made in the female form functions as a woman or girl as an object to be owned and used. One that is constantly sexually available, has no consciousness, no voice and no autonomy, that exists to be sexually penetrated, and can be packed away after the user is done.

“Some sex doll owners admit their desire to practice violence was their primary motivation for buying a doll. They wanted a lifelike, female-bodied doll on which they could perform acts of sexualised violence, BDSM and torture, to practice tying a woman up rendering her ‘helpless’, and acting out detailed sex slavery scenarios. Some were so rough that they broke their dolls.

“There are a growing number of cases where abandoned sex dolls are initially mistaken for dead women and girls. Some were found decapitated, mutilated, and ripped apart.

“Contrary to the claims of sex doll advocates, providing realistic replica women for men to enact violence doesn’t prevent violence, it is violence in and of itself. The violence isn’t simulated, it’s not a ‘fantasy’, it’s real – and men are carrying out this violence on a silicone body that looks and feels like a real woman.”

You can find her book at Spinifex Press.


Child sex abuse dolls - lifelike, anatomically correct sex dolls modeled on the bodies of little girls, toddlers and even babies - facilitate new ways for men to prey on girls.

Child sex abuse dolls normalise and legitimise men’s sexual use and abuse of girls, and put girls at risk. Some companies even offer child sex abuse dolls made in the likeness of actual girls, inviting male buyers to send in a photo of the little girl they want their doll to resemble.

We’ve exposed a number of global online platforms selling these products and successfully campaigned to get them removed. As a result of our campaigns, child sex abuse dolls have been pulled from Wish, Alibaba, Etsy, Made-in-China and Shopee, as well as Twitter and Instagram.

But we’re not stopping there. We want to see uniform legislation criminalising child sex abuse dolls and replica child body parts globally.

A culture that eroticises violence against women fuels male violence against women


Honey Birdette eroticises violence against women.

For years, the Playboy-owned sex store has relied on sexist and objectifying representations of women to flog their products, despite claiming to empower women.

But far from “female empowerment”, Honey Birdette portrayals of women headless, faceless, bound, chained and objectified convey the exact opposite - the sexualised subjugation of women.

From advertising imagery depicting models in BDSM-style lingerie brandishing whips, to porn-themed images of women bound, chained and apparently choking, Honey Birdette advertising presents violence against women as erotic and desirable.
We cannot stand by while unethical corporates like Honey Birdette continue to objectify women and glamourise violence against them. Selling female sexual subordination might be profitable, but women's lives are worth more.


Research out of Birmingham City University in the UK has found that the normalisation of ‘rough sex’ and BDSM in popular culture has generated a “culturally approved script” for men who kill women.

Criminologist Professor Elizabeth Yardley conducted research on women killed in so-called “sex games gone wrong”, an increasing trend which often results in men being tried for a lesser crime such as manslaughter. She writes:

“The normalization and mainstreaming of ‘rough sex’ in popular culture through films like Fifty Shades of Grey, and the way in which porn and women’s magazines present acts like strangulation as ‘play’ have created a culturally approved script for perpetrators of violence against women – regardless of whether or not they have an established relationship with a victim. Indeed, over half of the perpetrators in my sample claimed that the victim initiated the specific ‘rough sex’ act that led to her death. As such, abusers are using women’s sexual liberation to explain and justify their violence to those they have silenced.”

From Playboy-owned sex store Honey Birdette’s BDSM-themed advertising, book and film franchises like Fifty Shades of Grey and 365 Days and the glorification of sexual ‘choking’ on TikTok and Instagram, the message is that violence against women is sexy and desirable.


When women are routinely sexualised and objectified in media, advertising and popular culture, and when violence against them is trivialised, sexualised or even glorified, this has real-world consequences. Men’s violence against women isn’t an anomaly; it is the natural manifestation of a culture in which women are regarded as inferior to men, as objects of sexual recreation and entertainment.

This widespread violence doesn’t just happen; it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It flourishes in a culture that is openly hostile to women, one in which the debasement of women is culturally sanctioned. If we want to prevent men’s violence against women, we need to change the culture. Read more.


Although the campaign is coming to an end, we know that every day is a day that women experience violence. So, with your support, we will work every day - as we have done the past 14 years - to bring an end to this global scourge. Please join us - subscribe here.

See also

The cultural sanctioning of violence against women

You look so good in blood! Violence is like, so hot right now

Huffington Post: Male Violence Is The Worst Problem In The World

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  • Caitlin Roper
    published this page in News 2023-12-10 14:19:55 +1100

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