Dymocks book shop: porn merchants?

Take Action! From Melinda Tankard Reist's blog

If Playboy isn’t porn what is?

Today a guest blog post by Clive Hamilton, Australian author, Professor of Public Ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University and a contributor to Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls.

Here Clive takes on Dymocks Bookstore for selling Playboy and makes the point: “If promoting porn is today’s high ground, the surrounding landscape must have sunk pretty low.”

clive.jpgThere it is, next to the “Great Holiday Fiction”, “School Holiday Reads” and “Books for Cooks”, unmissable at eye level as you walk into Dymocks—the boxed set containing the first ten years of Playboy.

I suppose we should expect it; the porn industry has so successfully mainstreamed its product that even a “family company” like Dymocks doesn’t think twice before cashing in.

When I expressed surprise to the sales assistant that Dymocks should be selling porn, she replied, a little embarrassed: “Well, it’s not porn really, not these days”.

We know what she means; the first ten years of Playboy were pretty tame by today’s hardcore standards. But if Playboy is not porn, then what is it? Light entertainment? A leisure product? Family fun?

dymocks-playboy.jpgIt’s true that few today would object to the sale of pictures of naked women displaying bare breasts and some thigh (if my memory of teen years is reliable). Innocuous really, in an age where everything that the most perverse and disturbed mind can imagine can be viewed on the internet.

But Dymocks’ decision to sell the Playboy collection, and to put it in the most prominent spot, further normalizes porn, breaking down the barrier between pornographic imagery and mainstream culture. When kids walk into Dymocks the message, explicit or subliminal, is that Playboy is acceptable everywhere.

And while the first ten years of the original stick mag were tame, the last ten years are anything but. So would Dymocks stock a boxed set with the last ten years of the magazine? Complete with … well, I don’t know what. But if Playboy has to compete with the internet, then inside its covers the term “explicit” has been redefined. And its online material is more explicit again – even moreso Playboy TV. So Dymocks has made itself a convenient stepping stone from the relatively innocuous to the hard-core.

Perhaps Dymocks’ managers would feel uncomfortable asking the young women who staff their shops to sell pictures of “extreme close-ups”. If so, where does the line fall between “not really porn” and porn? 1980? 1990? 2000? When exactly did “not really porn” become porn?

So the venerable old book retailer is now a willing part of the porn industry’s unrelenting campaign to mainstream its product, aiding the transformation of the sexual exploitation of women into something cool, so that today young women can proudly wear the Playboy logo to signal their open-mindedness.

Dymocks boasts of being a “family owned business” that looks for “the opportunity … to take the high ground”. If promoting soft porn is today’s high ground, the surrounding landscape must have sunk pretty low.

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