Reprinted with permission from the author
When I turned on the computer this morning to see a story about how female students have been targeted in a pornography ring run by school boys, my stomach turned. I have been a secondary school teacher for over a decade and the schools implicated in the scandal are all familiar to me.
Over the past few years we have been shocked by the dramatic rise in domestic violence. We have seen a state government taskforce established and generous funding pledged from the Federal Government in order to put an end to domestic and family violence.
Despite this, the problem grows and the pornography industry thrives. Over the last few years we have witnessed an onslaught of freely available pornography. At the click of a button, anyone with an internet connection has easy and unrestricted access to a smorgasbord of sex.
At this point some might pull out the ‘prude’ card. Many may advocate for ‘adult rights’ that we should be free and liberal, that sex is now casual and porn is just normal… So let’s just look at the research.
A Utah senator has stated that pornography is causing major social and emotional problems.
In February 2016, Collective Shout hosted the first-ever Australian symposium on the harmfulness of pornography to young people. Pornography was identified as being a public health crisis requiring urgent intervention.
In March of 2016 the Senate Environment and Communications Reference Committee held an inquiry into harm being done to Australian children through access to pornography. In a submission written by Collective Shout in March this year, the devastating effects of pornography were all too clear to see.
In the submission, the Director of the Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence Di Macleod wrote:
“In the past few years we have had a huge increase in intimate partner rape of women from 14 to 80+. The biggest common denominator is consumption of porn by the offender. With offenders not able to differentiate between fantasy and reality, believing women are ‘up for it’ 24/7, ascribing to the myth that ‘no means yes and yes means anal’, oblivious to injuries caused and never ever considering consent. We have seen a huge increase in deprivation of liberty, physical injuries, torture, drugging, filming and sharing footage without consent.
I founded the center 25 years ago and what is now considered to be the norm in 2015 is frightening. I wonder where we will be in another 10 years!”
As a teacher I have witnessed first hand the rising number of sexual acts between students and an increase in reports of sexual harassment and assault.
In class students often ask me about “hypothetical” situations. “Miss, I know you’re not a lawyer, but hypothetically, if my friend was in a situation where her boyfriend pressured her to send him a naked photo and he told her he would break up with her if she didn’t… and then passed it onto all of his friends…” or “You mean Miss, that it’s actually sexual assault if they grab your bum or boobs when you don’t want them too? But that happens all the time…”
And it’s not just the frequency, but also the severity of the situations that have increased over the years. Offences by school-aged children have quadrupled in only four years according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
International studies also found that boys exposed to pornography are more likely to engage in sexual harassment with a 2011 US study finding that “adolescents who are intentionally exposed to violent sexually explicit material were six times more likely to be sexually aggressive than those who were not exposed.”
Another study also found exposure to pornography is “associated with greater acceptance of stereotyped and sexist notions about gender and sexual roles, including notions of women as sexual objects.”
Dr Michael Flood, a professor from University of Wollongong, established a strong link between pornography and sexual violence. He says “consistent and reliable evidence that exposure to pornography is related to male sexual aggression against women.”
Perhaps the most chilling though is where Dr Flood noted “in a study of Canadian teenagers with an average age of 14, there was a correlation between boys’ frequent consumption of pornography and their agreement with the idea that it is acceptable to hold a girl down and for her to have sex.”
The weight of the evidence presented is stunning. It is the inaction that is even more confronting. To think that, despite this evidence, no real action has been taken to address this issue.
I’m not professing to be an expert. I have no background in or experience in sex work or the pornography industry, I’m not a professor or academic or doctor… But I am a teacher and more importantly a mother, and I want more for my son.
Pornography overwhelmingly centers on acts of violence and degradation toward women. How then can we expect to end domestic violence, to expect love and respect, when pornography demands the opposite?
Prime Minster Turnbull has been quoted as saying “It is 'un-Australian to disrespect women”. It is therefore un-Australian to tolerate pornography. Pornography is rotting the brains of our children. It is etching and cultivating the behaviours and ideas behind domestic violence.
It promotes and normalises acts where men are violent towards submissive women. It encourages relationships in which women are only seen and used for their bodies, instead of being loved and cherished for their minds and souls.
Pornography is not an adult privilege. It is not victimless. It is the disease and driving force behind the degradation of women and domestic violence. As long as pornography exists women will be objectified. Gender inequality will rule. Men will continue to be enslaved and women and will not stop suffering.
Twenty years ago no one had an understanding of the damage asbestos would do to our lungs. In the same way we are only just beginning to understand the damage pornography is doing to our minds. To quote one of my colleagues: “Pornography is the asbestos of this generation, it is the silent killer.”
For the sake of the next generation, their health, their relationships and their future, a significant shift needs to occur. For domestic violence to come to an end, so too must our acceptance and love of pornography.
The author works full time as a high school teacher, specialising in Legal Studies. She is passionate about student welfare and empowering her students to make a difference in the community.
If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.
Originally published on Mamamia