Racist, sexist: why porn mags had to go
The last issue of the Picture magazine to ever hit shelves
On September 26 2019, I walked into the Park Street Sydney offices of Bauer Media Group, to meet with its CEO.
This moment had been a long time in the making.
In 2010 I wrote an expansive piece on the nature of porn titles in convenience stores - and the failure of our classification system to regulate them - for the ABC.
That same year as part of Collective Shout’s campaign against lad’s mag Zoo, I wrote this piece, ‘Because all women must be brought to their knees’, also for the ABC. Our campaign saw Zoo pulled from Coles five years ago – thanks to the help of a young Coles employee who, with support of her union, told Coles it was creating a “hostile workplace environment” by requiring young women like herself to sell the magazine and to see boys ogling the magazines in store. Coles subsequently pulled the title, which was “catastrophic for sales” and saw publication cease in 2015 (Zoo devoted its final cover to us).
In 2019, we revived the campaign, this time focusing on The Picture and People Magazine. The renewed campaign was prompted by my colleague Melinda Liszewski walking into a 7-Eleven store to get a Coke, when confronted with the headline “X-RATED AUSSIE TEENS 18 & 19-YEAR OLDS STRIP” on the cover of People Magazine. Our campaigns team spent many hours going through the titles. We discovered the fetishizing of schoolgirls, encouraging sexual fantasies for “fresh young flesh”, the extolling of nurses and female tennis players as existing for male gratification and pleasure and racially eroticized Asian women. We asked how content like this could be permitted in a society that claimed to care about the status of women. We made the point that a sexist culture was grooming sexist boys and that these titles were normalizing that idea.
Our rapid-fire social media campaign highlighting the content and the failure of 7-Eleven to exercise corporate social responsibility, along with correspondence with the CEO, resulted in 7-Eleven pulling porn titles Picture and People from 700 stores three weeks later. BP soon followed, removing the titles from 350 servos. Then Bauer Media Group’s CEO Brendon Hill offered a meeting. He had good news. Only in the role a few months, he agreed with our views that these titles were inconsistent with Bauer’s core values and pro women position statements. It was a positive exchange. We commend Brendon for his actions.Read more
Five female porn performers have died in the last three months.
Mental health issues have always been a big problem in the porn world, but the recent spate of deaths of such young porn performers raises serious questions for how women are treated in the industry.
Steve McKeown, a psychoanalyst, founder of MindFixers and owner of The McKeown Clinic, told UNILAD:
Nearly 90 per cent of women in the sex industry said they wanted to escape, but had no other means for survival and also experienced post traumatic stress disorder at rates of nearly 70 per cent equivalent to veterans of combat war.
We spoke with Dr. Gail Dines, author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, and Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality, about why this is happening, and how we can stop it.
Gail goes on to reveal a harrowing fact, gathered from her interviews with porn performers, that one of the first things directors do when a new woman come to the set is contravene one of the rules put in place on her contract, as a way of breaking her.
Dr Gail Dine, Founder and President of Culture Reframed, told UNILAD:
What I do know, because I’ve been doing this work for many years and worked with many women who are in the porn industry and have exited it, is that given the violence that happens to their bodies, given the diseases they get, they come away with PTSD because they’re raped regularly on the porn set.
Just because they’ve signed a contract doesn’t mean they’re consenting to what goes on at the porn set. A lot of them are not prepared for what’s going to happen to them. A lot of them are young, they think they’re going to be a ‘pornstar’ like Jenna Jameson was. They’re not prepared for the violence.
It was such a cliché. At the office Christmas party of the national TV show where I worked, I emerged from the loo out the back to find one of my bosses straddling the doorway, blocking my way and waiting to pounce.
I was shocked, not so much by his sexual harassment (that was de rigueur in the newsroom cultures of the day, the 1990s), as by the extent of his male entitlement and misogyny. At the time I was still breastfeeding my baby daughter, who was next door at the party with her dad and my colleagues.
This week’s revelations that TV’s darling of nearly 20 years, Don Burke of Burke’s Backyard fame, was allegedly a “psychotic bully”, a “misogynist” and a “sexual predator” who indecently assaulted, sexually harassed and bullied a string of female employees comes as no surprise to women in Australian media. According to last year’s Women in Media Report, nearly half of us have been abused, intimidated or harassed in our working lives.
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