Fake-porn videos are being weaponised to harass and humiliate women: ‘Everybody is a potential target’
By Drew Harwell, as published at The Washington Post.
The video showed the woman in a pink off-the-shoulder top, sitting on a bed, smiling a convincing smile.
It was her face. But it had been seamlessly grafted, without her knowledge or consent, onto someone else’s body: a young pornography actress, just beginning to disrobe for the start of a graphic sex scene. A crowd of unknown users had been passing it around online.
She felt nauseated and mortified: What if her co-workers saw it? Her family, her friends? Would it change how they thought of her? Would they believe it was a fake?
“I feel violated — this icky kind of violation,” said the woman, who is in her 40s and spoke on the condition of anonymity because she worried that the video could hurt her marriage or career. “It’s this weird feeling, like you want to tear everything off the Internet. But you know you can’t.”
Airbrushing and Photoshop long ago opened photos to easy manipulation. Now, videos are becoming just as vulnerable to fakes that look deceptively real. Supercharged by powerful and widely available artificial-intelligence software developed by Google, these lifelike “deepfake” videos have quickly multiplied across the Internet, blurring the line between truth and lie.
But the videos have also been weaponised disproportionately against women, representing a new and degrading means of humiliation, harassment and abuse. The fakes are explicitly detailed, posted on popular porn sites and increasingly challenging to detect. And although their legality hasn’t been tested in court, experts say they may be protected by the First Amendment — even though they might also qualify as defamation, identity theft or fraud.
Disturbingly realistic fakes have been made with the faces of both celebrities and women who don’t live in the spotlight, and actress Scarlett Johansson told The Washington Post she worries that “it’s just a matter of time before any one person is targeted” by a lurid forgery.
Johansson has been superimposed into dozens of graphic sex scenes over the past year that have circulated across the Web: One video, falsely described as real “leaked” footage, has been watched on a major porn site more than 1.5 million times. She said she worries it may already be too late for women and children to protect themselves against the “virtually lawless (online) abyss."
“Nothing can stop someone from cutting and pasting my image or anyone else’s onto a different body and making it look as eerily realistic as desired,” she said. “The fact is that trying to protect yourself from the Internet and its depravity is basically a lost cause. . . . The Internet is a vast wormhole of darkness that eats itself.”
Read the full article at The Washington Post.
“When I became a SANE nurse, I thought the typical perpetrator was most likely going to be a creepy old man in his 60s who lured kids into his basement with lollipops, but I was so wrong. The biggest age range of perpetrators that I see in my hospital are children. In fact, for the third year in a row, our biggest age range of people committing sexual assaults are children ages 11-15 years old.”
Why are these children sexually assaulting other children? The answer is not surprising to me but it is devastating to me. “Pornography is often a main factor,” Olson says, “and sometimes the only factor, that influenced a child to act out in a sexually harmful way.” And the children that also and is working with are not isolated. Last year, the Guardian in the United Kingdom published an article entitled “Child-on-child sexual assaults soar, police figures reveal.”Read more
[Warning: this article contains graphic descriptions.]
Melinda Tankard Reist is a writer, speaker and co-founder of Collective Shout. She co-edited Big Porn Inc: Exposing the Harms of the Global Porn Industry and Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade.
"Women must be safe everywhere. On the street, walking through a park, in their homes, at work. We need to ensure that we have a culture of respect of women. We must never, ever, ever tolerate violence against women. Eurydice Dixon - we grieve her loss, we mourn with her family and we say never again."
- Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
"Women in Australia have the right to freedom of movement. It is not the fault of women if they chose to walk home from transport to their house. All of this violence is ultimately preventable and we need to tackle the enablers of violence, we need to change the attitudes of men."
- Opposition Leader Bill Shorten
She is on the run. Desperate, frantic. Wearing a head scarf, her deep dark eyes brim with worry and fear. She epitomises woman in flight, the kind of women filling our television screens, the ones with small children clinging for dear life to their mothers.
She is a woman who should evoke pity. Our hearts should lurch, we should fear for her; she is so vulnerable. Will she make it to the end of her journey unharmed?
But now, as though not terrorised enough, she is subjected to an affront so devoid of empathy it is difficult to believe. She is to be turned into porn. Refugee Porn. A displaced woman running from oppression into oppression.
"Tons of free Refugee porn videos!"; "All the hottest refugee porno movies for free!"; pick your preferences: "Syrian," "Timid Arabians," "21-year-old refugee," "Hijab pregnant porn" - and lots more. Unveiling and violating "exotic" women who are normally covered, appears to be a particular turn-on.
Refugee Porn attracts up to 800,000 search requests monthly. Sharp increases in searches for refugee porn in Germany have seen new studios springing up to service this demand, which correlates to the large number of refugees Germany has welcomed.
While some videos use porn actresses depicting refugee women, it is believed that actual refugee women are also used. Either way, the sex industry's aim is to convey and profit from a story-line - or terror plot - based on the eroticised subjugation of refugees humiliated for "dinner money."
While looking into this genre - and trying to remain sane - I noticed the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader in rare bi-partisan agreement following the death of Eurydice Dixon: saying that we must not tolerate violence against women, and that we must tackle the enablers of that violence. We are hearing pronouncements like this more and more. But while there are many enablers of violence against women, there is a particularly monstrous one that rarely rates a mention. It is the global industrialisation of the bodies of women - among them, the most powerless - as fodder for men's consumption. As Abigail Bray writes in Misogyny Re-loaded, porn and rape culture means "inhabiting a paradoxical space where the rape and murder of women is prohibited but everywhere eroticised and the object of laughter."
Enabling sexual violence
Pornhub is the world's largest provider of porn content. It attracts 80 million visits a day. The company, now owned by MindGeek, is headquartered in beautiful Montreal, where its more than 1,000 employees toil day and night to bring you the best scenes of suffering on the market.
Pornhub is both a repository and disseminator of hate propaganda. It hosts evidence of crimes against women for men to enjoy. Popular videos depict brutal sexual violence against women. Sadistic titles revel in women's inability to stop the violent assaults carried out against them. The most violent have views in the millions. Many titles are centred around the sexual abuse and rape of teen and underage girls. Men are fantasising about raping young girls with impunity while government, children charities and advocacy groups try to tackle an epidemic of child sexual abuse.
Cultural norms are taught through pornography. When boys learn early to enjoy, take pleasure in, laugh at, and get off on torture and humiliation videos, when they are fed a diet of rape porn and racist sexual abuse, does the avalanche of violence against women come as a surprise?
James Ogloff, an experienced clinical forensic psychologist, was recently quoted in The Australian: "In serious sexual offending, the motivation is often a deviant sexual interest. It is very much a sexual motivation." That deviant sexual interest has to come from somewhere. Pornhub features in the top five favourite sites of boys aged 11-16, according to ChildWise UK. Rape is on the menu for boys whose sexuality is still being formed. They see, and are taught to be aroused by, girls who are choking, sobbing, vomiting, their eyes popping, having their skin bruised, being called abusive names, slapped, kicked, pounded, hair ripped out.
Tell me this is not enabling.
Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham, whose constituency was at the centre of a child sexual exploitation scandal, produced the 2016 Dare2Care Report in which she quotes one young boy who asked: "If I have a girlfriend, do I need to strangle her when I have sex with her?" Indiscriminate porn exposure acts as a kind of social grooming for this generation of boys. Girls morph into porn fantasy sex props.
Thus the number of sexual offences recorded in the Republic of Ireland has doubled since 2003: an increase of 87%, two thirds of which has occurred in the past three years. Authorities in Ireland are linking the sex crimes to pornography - especially among teenage boys. In 2016, one in five rapes in Ireland was committed by a juvenile. Eileen Finnegan is the clinical director of One in Four, a national organization that aids and counsels the victims of sex crimes and also treats offenders. All the sex offenders in treatment began offending at 10 or 11 years of age. They developed what Finnegan calls "a deviant interest" in sexual violence. And they are getting their sex education from pornography. "The escalation is astonishing," says Eileen Finnegan, regarding the rise of rape porn and its access by children.
The UK has also made the connections. In the foreword to the 2012 report Basically ... Porn is Everywhere, Deputy Children's Commissioner for England Sue Berelowitz highlighted violence done to girls by porn-influenced boys:
"The first year of our Inquiry ... revealed shocking rates of sexual violation of children and young people ... The Inquiry team heard children recount appalling stories about being raped by both older males and peers, often in extremely violent and sadistic circumstances, and in abusive situations that frequently continued for years ... The use of and children's access to pornography emerged as a key theme ... It was mentioned by boys in witness statements after being apprehended for the rape of a child, one of whom said it was 'like being in a porn movie'; we had frequent accounts of both girls' and boys' expectations of sex being drawn from pornography they had seen; and professionals told us troubling stories of the extent to which teenagers and younger children routinely access pornography, including extreme and violent images. We also found compelling evidence that too many boys believe that they have an absolute entitlement to sex at any time, in any place, in any way and with whomever they wish. Equally worryingly, we heard that too often girls feel they have no alternative but to submit to boys' demands, regardless of their own wishes."
France is also observing the links between porn exposure and violence against women. "I am surprised that we are astonished at the violence done to women today without attacking the roots of the evil," says Professor Israel Nisand, gynaecologist and President of the French National College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians. On 15 June, with several health professionals, Nisand launched a "solemn appeal" to the government to fight against the mass distribution of pornographic images, to which children are exposed. "We observe a policy inertia," he said. We see the same policy inertial here.
The dehumanization of girls
Personal accounts of the lived experience of women and girls dealing with porn-conditioned boys and men demonstrate pornography's dehumanizing power. I've written previously about my encounters with girls who tell me about boys demanding sexual favours, demanding sex acts they don't like, being pressured to provide naked images, being ranked on their bodies compared to the bodies of porn stars.
As British writer and activist Sarah Ditum has observed, "The pornographic vocabulary of sex as the violent debasement of the female body had seeped out from screens and into the lives of women." And it is no longer only porn "performers" who are taking the hit of porn (whose experiences are shamefully still largely ignored), it is women and girls everywhere, every day.
Growing numbers of young women are saying that their partners are initiating the signature sex acts of pornography: ejaculating on faces and bodies, deep-throating fellatio and anal sex. "Rosie Redstockings" - a young student at an English university - describes her experience of porn-conditioned men. She writes:
"I'm 23. Mine is the first generation to be exposed to online porn from a young age. We learnt what sex is from watching strangers on the internet, we don't know anything else.
"Here are some of the things that I have experienced ...
"Being told that my gag reflex was too strong ... Bullied into submitting to facials. I didn't want to. He said [jokingly] that he'd ejaculate on my face while I was asleep. He wasn't joking - I woke up with him wanking over me ... Bullied into trying anal. It hurt so much I begged him to stop. He stopped, then complained that I was being too sensitive ... He continued to ask for it ... Constant requests for threesomes ... Constant requests to let him film it ... Every single straight girl I know has had similar experiences. Every. Single. One. Some have experienced far worse. Some have given in, some have resisted, all have felt guilty and awkward for not ... giving him what he wants."
Then there's the 16-year-old girl who describes oral sex as "the new kissing":
"When you have sex with a guy they want it to be like a porno. They want anal and oral right away. Oral is, like, the new kissing ... the cum shot in the face is a big thing."
A recent study found girls were being coerced into anal sex they didn't want and which they found painful. The main reason they gave for engaging in the act was that boys "wanted to copy what they saw in pornography." Younger girls who spoke to British MP Sarah Champion for her report, told her they believed it was obligatory to have anal sex or to be shared between a partner's friends if they wanted a boyfriend to remain faithful.
Alison Pearson relays a conversation with a GP who described anal tearing from porn-inspired anal sex, increasingly happening to adolescent girls:
"A GP, let's call her Sue, said: 'I'm afraid things are much worse than people suspect'. In recent years, Sue had treated growing numbers of teenage girls with internal injuries caused by frequent anal sex; not, as Sue found out, because they wanted to, or because they enjoyed it, but because a boy expected them to. 'I'll spare you the gruesome details', said Sue, 'but these girls are very young and slight and their bodies are simply not designed for that'.
"Her patients were deeply ashamed at presenting with such injuries. They had lied to their mums about it and felt they couldn't confide in anyone else, which only added to their distress. When Sue questioned them further, they said they were humiliated by the experience but they had simply not felt they could say no. Anal sex was standard among teenagers now, even though the girls knew it hurt ...
"The girls presenting with incontinence were often under the age of consent and from loving, stable homes. Just the sort of kids who, two generations ago, would have been enjoying riding and ballet lessons, and still looking forward to their first kiss, not being coerced into violent sex by some kid who picked up his ideas about physical intimacy from porn."
At a time when the surreptitious filming of women and girls is increasing - known as "upskirting" and "downblousing" - hidden cameras is another rising porn genre. The appeal, as shown in the titles, is that the woman or girl doesn't know she is being filmed: "Girlfriend doesn't know she is being recorded"; "My 19 YO Roommate undressing - My first time spying on her" and so on ad nauseam.
It is a criminal offence to film people when they have a reasonable expectation of privacy, but men are placing hidden cameras in toilets, changing rooms and rental properties. We only hear about the ones who are identified and charged. These men will face court while Pornhub hosts and profits from the videos they created. Meanwhile, Amazon Australia has been exposed for selling a how-to guide for taking "creepshots" of women, implicitly fuelling the practice.
Porn consumption and sexual aggression
There is a growing body of literature testifying to the way that boys who take their sexual cues from porn develop sexist attitudes and aggressive behaviours, which then have "trickle down" effects on women and girls.
Porn use is linked to higher rape acceptance attitudes. A major 2012 systematic literature review found that adolescent consumption of internet pornography was linked to attitudinal changes including acceptance of male dominance and female submission as the primary sexual paradigm, with women viewed as "sexual playthings eager to fulfill male sexual desires." Adolescents intentionally exposed to violent sexually explicit material, the review found, were six times more likely to be sexually aggressive than those who were not exposed. Similarly, in a 2015 meta-analysis examining the link between pornography consumption and sexual violence, the authors found that consumption of pornography was associated with increased likelihood of committing actual acts of sexual aggression.
The evidence of this is all around us. One in four young Australian men believe it is normal for men to pressure women into sex. In the UK, one in three girls have experienced unwanted sexual touching at school, while 71% hear the terms "slut" or "slag" used to describe female students on a weekly basis.
In Australia there has been a notable increase in reports of child-on-child sexual assault, with porn being cited as a key factor turning children into "copycat sexual predators." At the other end of the age-spectrum, a secret Australian Facebook group called "Blokes Advice" deals in porn-laced threats of violence and vilification. The 200,000 male group members entertain each other with graphic descriptions of gang rape, revenge porn, advice on how to force women into anal sex and incitement to bombard women with porn. Men defended the multiple threatening and violent plots against women as "a bit of a laugh."
Likewise, The Red Zone - a 200-page report into the culture of sexual assault and harassment at many Australian university residential colleges, released earlier this year - details decades of institutionalised hazing and misogyny, including male students masturbating into the shampoo of female residents and an initiation ritual involving "male residents breaking down the doors of women's bedrooms, resulting in one student being taken to hospital."
A new documentary titled Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution, is currently screening on Netflix. It exposes the brutal reality of what happens during Spring Break, when American and international students converge on places like Florida and Cancun in Mexico. The sense of male entitlement is chilling. It feels like watching a mass pack assault, with every woman viewed as meat and conquest.
Male students are on the prowl, predators looking for the next girl to grope; they pull down a girl's top (chanting "Tits out for the boys!"), ply another with alcohol, hustle for sex and, in some cases, out in the open in full daylight, participate in gang rape to a cheer squad of men capturing it all on their phones. Young men are not only becoming inured to suffering - they are turning it into home-made ritual humiliation films to share with their friends.
Sadly, the girls have come not to expect better treatment. There's a price to be paid in not complying: when a girl says "no" and walks away, she is abused and derided. (One begs "Help me" as she tries to escape an aroused cabal who are poking and prodding her and trying to relieve her of her bikini). The boys are taken aback by resistance to the imposition of their unwanted hands and grinding penises. The college boys, for their part, make no secret of their porn consumption. They revel in it. And they enact what they have learned on screen on the bodies of real women.
With sexuality increasingly equated with the consumption of cruelty and brutality, with boys learning to equate the dehumanization of girls and degradation of their bodies with pleasure, with girls treated as masturbatory props, there can be little doubt that will see more of what Di McLeod, director of the Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence (GCCASV), is witnessing. She wrote to me:
"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.
"There is a cost in the trickledown effect that some of us bear witness to every day ... GCCASV has experienced a 56% increase in referrals from emergency departments of local public hospitals in the past year. Women have been hurt, sustained vaginal, anogenital and other physical injuries in the perpetration of forced sexual contact ... It is rare for us to have a recent rape presentation that involves only vaginal penetration. Porn inspired sex signature acts of anal, deep throating, the money shot accompanied by choking and strangulation are the new 'norm'. Despite the sexologist saying rape and sexual assault are not relevant it is central to the women and young women whose lives have been negatively impacted."
Trying to tell boys it is time for a sexual re-assessment, or lecturing them on "consent" and "respect" simply cannot compete with the indoctrinating effect that porn has on boys. They've learned from porn to gain pleasure in violation. As Glosswitch has observed:
"They can sit in a classroom and be informed about the rights and wrongs of [consent]. They can be encouraged to think, in abstract terms, about the Woman as Person. But that is not how they encounter her in the media, nor in the minds of fellow men. Deep down, they know that their 'right' to access hardcore pornography and purchase female flesh is inviolable. The Woman as Person narrative is subordinate to the one telling them that the ultimate human right is a 'real' man's right to f**k."
We need to talk to boys about how pornography depicts sexual violence against women, and explain to them that consuming porn is not only an affront to women and girls generally, it risks hijacking their sexuality and shaping it into something that will affect their ability to experience intimacy and pleasure without violence.
A culture built upon violation
There is thus a disturbing disconnect between condemnations of violence against women that invariably follows horrifying events like the rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon and the utter silence about the role played by pornography in enabling that violence. Failing to address pornography as a driver of male violence gives future porn-inspired perpetrators a leave pass to commit it.
ABC journalist Jill Meagher was murdered in 2012 by serial predator and rapist (and consumer of rape porn) Adrian Bayley. In a Facebook comment posted on 23 June (quoted with permission), Jill's bereaved husband Tom Meagher observed the inexplicable reluctance to locate porn in the "Rape Culture Pyramid":
"It's so frustrating to see this issue ignored in mainstream conversations about male violence against women ... Generally I quite like these type of images [like the "Rape Culture Pyramid"] as a visual tool, but I have to ask, is it through moral cowardice or deference to the profiteers and guardians of sexual capitalism that you never see any mention of any facet of the sex trade in these pyramids? How on earth can anyone with a straight face claim that the ubiquity of violent porn doesn't have as much of an influence on the normalisation of female objectification and of sexual violence as locker room talk or catcalling and how can they fail to see the relationships and interplay between all of these problems (with porn acting as a deeply regressive sexual re-enforcement of the cultural misogyny that all of those other problems exemplify)? And if they do see it, then say it! It's like we can challenge any institution of patriarchy and male violence against women as long as it doesn't impact men's right to sexually access women and dictate the terms of pornographic content through endless male demand for boundary violations and increasingly younger (or younger presenting) women. If we can criticise ordinary men for failing to address violence against women (as we should), then surely we should be criticising the billionaire profiteers of this massive woman-hating industry as well as the millions of men who contribute to its ever increasing violence on a daily basis. This is a sign of a culture refusing to face [its] problems. The huge [pre-ponderance] of violence against women and dehumanising language in mainstream pornography doesn't come from nowhere, so who is it helping to pretend it's not a reinforcing influence on men who use it, the women in their lives and the wider culture that frames it and is framed by it? I'm so tired of hearing 'it's not porn itself, it's our culture' - well of course. Our culture is built upon and sustains itself on violation, porn is informed by that, but also informs and reinforces this ideology. That's how this s**t works. Violations that are mass produced, mass consumed, normalised and specifically tailored to male demand at the expense of women need to be confronted, not hidden from scrutiny for fear of alienating the 'good' men who get off on those violations, citing 'harmless fantasy' as an obfuscating sanitisation of filmed abuse. I'm baffled by intelligent people who defend this behemoth of sexual capitalism with a limp defence of 'some people choose to do it' - I mean, that is not a structural or cultural analysis, it's anecdotal whatabboutery that neither addresses the problem nor even recognise there is one. Why can't people be braver about discussing this honestly?"
If we truly care about confronting the enablers of violence against women and girls, we must tackle porn's role as, in Meagher's words, "a deeply regressive sexual re-enforcement of the cultural misogyny." If we don't, I fear that all the talk about addressing enablers and creating a safe culture for women is mere rhetoric and cant, devoid of meaning.
Melinda Tankard Reist is a writer, speaker and co-founder of Collective Shout. She co-edited Big Porn Inc: Exposing the Harms of the Global Porn Industry and Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade.
'Reprinted with permission of the author' See article here.
Schoolgirls as young as 12 will be taught how to send naked selfies in Victorian schools.
The ‘Art of safe sexting’ program is to be rolled out in classrooms to instruct school girls how to ‘safely’ send nude images of themselves, apparently by cropping out their heads and faces and any identifying features.
In a five-minute video on Rosie website, girls are told that “sending a nude pic of yourself can be a fun and flirty thing to do” and given tips on “sexting done right”. It also provided information about relevant laws and some of the risks of sending naked images.
Program author Briony O’Keefe argued, “We know they are going to engage in it, so a harm minimisation approach is really important.” However, experts have slammed the program and accused it of promoting misinformation.
Former Victoria Police officer and cyber-safety expert Susan McLean called the information “flakey” and “a crap resource”, and emphasised there was no safe way to send a naked image.
Collective Shout co-founder and advocate for women and girls Melinda Tankard Reist said that encouraging teen girls to crop their heads and faces out of sexualised images serves to further dehumanise girls:
“The art of safe sexting' advises girls to crop out their faces from nude images before sending. This just de-humanises the sender even more and exposes the complicity of the program's designers in encouraging girls to send de-personalised/ disembodied sexual body parts for boys to get off on.”
The program does a disservice to girls by promoting sexting as a potentially fun and sexy activity. The reality is more complicated, with many teen girls reporting feeling pressured and coerced to send nude photos, and a widespread culture of sexual harassment, disrespect and male entitlement.
A study out of Northwestern University earlier this year revealed teen girls’ experiences of being pressured to send nude images. Researchers analysed 500 accounts from teenage girls, finding two-thirds had been asked to send explicit photos, with boys engaging in threats and harassment if they did not comply. In response, 20% of the girls gave in.
The adolescent girls shared both immediate and long-term repercussions of saying no to boys’ demands. Out of the 500, only 12 said there was no backlash from refusing boys’ requests for naked images. Girls described feeling trapped, stuck or scared of the consequences of saying both yes or no. One reported death threats after saying no. Read more.
Closer to home, a Plan International Australia and Our Watch survey in 2016 of 600 girls aged 15-19 found that levels of abuse and harassment were endemic:
58% agreed girls often receive uninvited or unwanted indecent or sexually explicit material such as texts, video clips and pornography.
51% agreed that girls are often pressured to take sexy photos of themselves and share them.
82% believe it is unacceptable for a boyfriend to ask a girlfriend to share naked photos of themselves.
The harm minimisation approach which encourages girls to crop photos of identifying features implies that the only harm in underage girls sending naked photos of themselves lies in later being identifiable. However, she would be identifiable by other means if the recipient wanted to get revenge and share the image. It’s also not unheard of for men and boys to photoshop heads onto such photos.
The program completely ignores the overarching problem of girls existing as a pornographic supply for boys. We do not see websites devoted to ‘dick pics’ or to humiliating men and boys, however boys trade sexual images of girls like trading cards. Encouraging girls to participate ‘safely’ does not challenge this culture of objectification or the entitlement of men and boys. It is clear this practice does not quench boys thirst for objectified women, it makes it worse.
“Harm minimisation” fails to address the actual factors at play- the pressures on women and girls to send sexual images against their will. Teaching young women how to acquiesce to men and boys’ coercion and sexual demands is not a solution.
While there is a need to have frank and open discussions with young people about sexting, legitimising the practice as a fun, sexy activity does a great disservice to girls, many of whom have openly described their reluctance.
Far from empowering young women, the ‘Art of Safe Sexting’ encourages underage girls to tolerate and embrace requests for sexual images even while teen girls are reporting feeling trapped, stuck, scared, pressured and coerced. Legitimising sexting does not minimise harm, it undermines girls’ ability to say no.
Content warning: This post contains content that may be distressing.
Yesterday we exposed budget shopping app Wish selling a range of child sex dolls. We were pleased when the company responded quickly, promising to remove the child sex dolls and take action against the sellers. But then we learned more.
How long have Wish known about child sex dolls?
The response from Wish on our Facebook page suggested they were not aware of the items that had “made it onto [their] platform” and that they were committed to removing such items “when [they] find them”.
But what about products they have verified for quality, like this sex doll complete with a blue tick? Did they know about them?
Yesterday we learned Wish has been selling inappropriate products for some time. One woman recounted deleting the app after being confronted with plastic vaginas for sale, one of which was a ‘child’ model. Another woman commenting on our Facebook page described how her twelve-year-old son using the app was confronted by ads for sex toys, despite providing his age upon sign up.
Child sex dolls were only the beginning
Since releasing yesterday’s blog post, we have discovered a substantial array of disturbing products available for purchase on Wish. In addition to child sex dolls, we have found realistic silicone replica vaginas, female torsos and backsides, replica female mouths and throats, disembodied child sex doll legs, feet, and heads for sale, all for men’s sexual use.
Activist Melinda Liszewski documented the chilling range of lifelike replica body parts for sale on a Twitter thread, noting the rave reviews from male consumers. View the images here- Warning, graphic content.
We have also discovered hidden spy cams for purchase alongside imagery depicting a man secretly filming a woman as she undresses. This criminal violation of women’s privacy is now a popular genre of pornography.
Wish is a major international company, with over 30 million followers on Facebook alone. The app is rated 12+, appropriate for users aged twelve and up. How could a major company be so negligent? And what are they doing about it?
It's not enough to simply remove child sex dolls from sale. All of the replica body parts modelled on the bodies of women and children for men's sexual use must go, and Wish needs to implement a policy to prevent this happening ever again.
Call to Action
Delete your Wish account.
Report individual items at firstname.lastname@example.org
Got an iPhone? Hop on the App Store and leave a review, or contact the App Store on Twitter.
If you have an Android phone, visit Google Play to leave a review or report the app, and contact them on Twitter.
‘Beat the p***y up’ – the way we talk about sex with women
By Jessica Eaton
This blog contains a discussion of violent language to discuss sex, sexual violence and porn. It also contains the titles to real porn films that a lot of people may find disturbing. Please take care of yourself whilst reading this and seek support after reading if you need to.
As a massive old skool (and sometimes new skool) RnB, Rap and Hip Hop fan, I often find myself experiencing some pretty serious cognitive dissonance to try to enjoy my music without yelling at the radio or crying into my crisps.
As a younger feminist, I used to tell myself that it was okay that women were called bitches and hoes because that’s the way that artist chose to express themselves (I know, I know, so progressive).
As I got older, I started to resent the use of the word ‘bitch’ in my once-favourite songs. I stopped listening to some artists because I couldn’t stand the way they spoke about women and sex. The next challenge was dealing with the rise of female artists using ‘bitch’ and ‘nasty hoe’ to describe themselves. I thought the rise of female MCs, rappers and writers would eliminate this constant woman-hating but it didn’t. Nicki, Cardi B, Lil Kim, Missy Elliott – they made me wanna two-step and cry at the same time.
(Edit: I would just like to add that misogynistic and rape-glorifying lyrics are found in Death Metal too so this issue clearly isn’t unique to my music preferences, but I have never listened to it so didn’t know until someone told me today! Here’s a link.)
It is often the case in music that women sing about loving men and men sing about f*cking women. And it’s this that I want to talk about.
I noticed recently that the range of ways men sing, rap and talk about having sex with women has become inherently violent. They aren’t talking about ‘getting jiggy’ or ‘having fun’ or ‘doing the deed’ – I mean, they are not even calling it sex anymore. Not only that, but they are not even naming or identifying the woman anymore.
I decided to sit and think about all the violent ways men describe having sex with women these days, and came up with this list in about 3 minutes. I am sure there are many more and people will contact me with others.
List of violent terms to describe having sex with women:
Beat that p***y up
Beat it up
There are two main points here. The first is that sex is being described in very violent terms and the second is that the word ‘that’ is used in place of ‘her’ to objectify the woman they are talking about. These men aren’t saying ‘I would love to have sex with her’ or ‘I would shag her’ or even ‘I would f**k her’ – they are saying ‘I would f**k that’. ‘That’ is not a pronoun. ‘That’ is not a name. ‘That’ is used for objects. I’ll come back to this point.
The first point is the violence in the language. Hit. Destroy. Ruin. Bang. Beat up. Smash. Smack. Hurt. These are words that describe violence and injury. They don’t describe sex. They don’t describe the type of sex any woman wants to have.
When I started to search the terms I had heard and read, I easily found memes, articles, discussions and blogs using this language about women in a completely normalised way. Men saying to their friends ‘The girl next door, I would ruin that!’ or ‘She’s gonna get it hard. Beat that p***y up!’ The image of all of the guys saying they would rape the sleeping girl on the sofa. I found hundreds of song lyrics like the ones I have listened to.
Gucci Mane released a song called ‘Beat it up’ about having sex with women. So did Slim Thug. So did Chris Brown. And no, I’m not talking about one song they all featured on, I’m talking about three separately produced songs about ‘beating that p***y up’.
Here are the lyrics from Slim Thug:
Guess what? I’m f**kin tonight
Whether you know it or not, Ima beat that pussy right
Yeah I’m f**kin tonight, Ima beat it up
In song lyrics, R Kelly says he ‘beats the p***y up like Django’and Lil Wayne says he ‘beat that p***y up like Emmett Till’.
Chris Brown says he f**ks women back to sleep in ‘Back to sleep’. I don’t really know why he would want to make a woman he has sex with fall asleep but the song lyrics are creepy as shit:
F**k you to sleep, wake you up again, I go so deep, beat it up again
Just let me rock, f**k you back to sleep, girl
Don’t say no, girl, don’t you talk
Just hold on tight to me, girl
F**k you back to sleep, girl.
The issue here is that these influential men in our popular culture and music industry are openly using sexually violent references to having sex with women and then every day adults (and children) are singing along to Chris Brown riffin’ about the women he wakes up to make them have sex with him again when they are too tired. We are so oblivious to what we are listening to, this language quickly becomes the norm.
One article I found listed every artist they could find who referred to sex as ‘beating the p***y up’ and they found over 15 current male artists using that term in hit songs. Jay-Z to Lil Wayne – they were all describing sex as harming women.
After searching for evidence on each one of the terms I listed above, I found a website discussing what ‘destroy that’ and ‘ruin that’ meant and was surprised to find how open men were when talking about what they meant. I had thought that maybe it was being used semi-consciously by men who were using it in banter, but they were using it literally. One page defined it as ‘having sex with her so rough that you cause injuries, the more physical injuries the rougher it probably was’. One man said he used it with his friends to mean destroying or ruining a ‘nice girl’ by having very aggressive sex with her or by taking her virginity.
It reminded me of a film I watched (and use in my teaching) about mail order brides and the way white, wealthy guys were buying and sexually exploiting women as servile brides from deprived areas. There was this one guy who used military metaphors to discuss meeting and having sex with potential brides. He made my skin crawl.
He is sat in a dark club when he says to the camera:
“Uh, the search and destroy mission for today is to circulate, work the room, identify a target and go for it. If plan A doesn’t work, I retreat, rally the troops and then go out and then try plan B uhh to capture the target.”
He doesn’t even say woman. He doesn’t even talk about humans. He talks about destroying and identifying targets.
This links to the second point I wanted to make – that this language dehumanises and dementalises women – it reduces them to their ‘p***y’ or their ‘ass’ that the men are going to ‘hurt’ or ‘hit’ or ‘crush’ or ‘beat that up’. They no longer converse about sex in human terms – they talk in metaphors and disconnected, dehumanised language. They refer to women as ‘that’ or they only talk about her body parts. She is there to be used, abused and hurt for their pleasure.
Where is this sexually violent language coming from?
Well, sorry to be the not-the-fun-kind-of-feminist, but its porn and societal misogyny. There is no doubt about where this is coming from. Work by people like Julia Long and Gail Dines has long told us that porn has become more and more violent, with Long (2012) arguing that over 90% of porn now features violence against women including hitting, slapping, kicking, choking, hurting, whipping and deliberately painful and extremely degrading sex acts.
You only have to look at the titles of porn films on Pornhub or X Videos to see the way they describe women in violent and degrading terms to see where this is coming from.
Here are some examples that are on porn sites today (18th May 2018):
‘Passed out slut letting me f**k her brains out’ (this film is of a clearly unconscious young girl being raped on Pornhub)
‘Unwanted painful anal’ (another allowed to stay on Pornhub despite clearly describing a rape)
‘Rip her up’ (the name of a series of videos in which women are raped)
‘Blonde babe gets brutally slapped and f**ked’
‘Beauty humiliated and ruined – BRUTAL’
‘Teen gets anally destroyed – hear her real screams and crying’
‘Heavily pregnant teen used by men’ (Pornhub allows this!)
Men’s compulsive pornography use has led to increasing numbers seeking treatment, reported the Evening Standard:
One Harley Street clinic has reported a 100 per cent rise in referrals in the past six years. The rise is partly blamed on the volume of high-speed streaming sites that offer hardcore content.
Harley Street psychotherapist Rob Watt, who managed the Priory’s addiction treatment programme, warned that a generation of teenage boys faced difficulty forming healthy relationships if their developing brains were exposed to such endless free porn.
Experts describe the neurological processes in porn users, including teenage boys:
Mr Watt said:
“Sex addicts presenting today are unrecognisable to clients presenting 10 years ago. We are increasingly seeing more people presenting with a compulsive behaviour on pornography and, in the younger generation, this is becoming more pronounced. With porn, you can find bigger, better, faster, harder consistently."
"Dopamine is the neurochemical of desire and you might as well be on coke, having one line and not putting it down until the bag’s finished. There’s a tolerance level that develops — in other words, what did it for you yesterday doesn’t do it today, and there’s some pretty dark stuff going on out there.”
Psychologists are also concerned that, in the adolescent brain, when an “arousal template” is ingrained, porn users will struggle to maintain future relationships and treat partners respectfully. Mr Watt said this developmental immaturity led youngsters to become “emotionally illiterate and socially inept”.
“Well you see what is happening in porn and you almost get worried about other peoples relationships and it puts me off having any future relationships as it is very male dominated and not romantic or trusting - or promoting good relationships.” - states a thirteen-year-old girl.
According to new research, concern around young people’s pornography viewing in the UK is warranted, particularly as the majority of boys who watch online porn believe it presents sex in a realistic and accurate light.
Published by Middlesex University, the study of 1001 children and young people found that of those who had seen online pornography, 94% had been exposed to it by fourteen years of age. Disturbingly, many of these report having seen pornographic images by chance via ‘pop-up’ adverts rather than having sought them out intentionally. In fact, children and young people were as likely to see pornography by chance via a ‘pop up’ as they were by intentionally searching for it or having someone show it to them.
The study revealed that of those who had viewed pornography, 53% of boys and 39% of girls said they believed it presented a realistic depiction of sex.
Dr Elena Martellozzo explains,
“If boys believe that online pornography provides a realistic view of sexual relationships, then this may lead to inappropriate expectations of girls and women. Girls too may feel pressured to live up to these unrealistic, and perhaps non-consensual, interpretations of sex. This is clearly not positive for developing future healthy relationships.”
According to the research, boys in particular expressed a desire to imitate some of the behaviours they had seen in pornography. Of the 13- to 14-year-olds who responded to this question, 39% wanted to model the behaviour they had seen. Similarly, 21% of 11- to 12-year-olds wanted this too.
Further concerns were raised by girls apprehensive about the way pornography could influence boys’ perceptions of girls and their expectations surrounding relationships and sex.
“It can make a boy not look for love, just look for sex, and it can pressure us girls to act and look and behave in a certain way before we might be ready for it,” said one 13-year-old girl.
“It teaches people about sex and what it is like to have it - but I think it teaches people a fake understanding of sex. What we see on these videos isn’t what actually happens in real life,” said a 14-year-old girl.
Importantly, 48% of respondents whose teachers had talked to them about online pornography agreed that “sexual activities should be safe for everyone involved”. In contrast, agreement with this statement drops to only 37% among those whose teachers had not talked to them about online pornography.
The findings of this study suggest that sex and relationship education has the potential to help young people better understand the importance of respectful and consensual relationships. But this too must be done with care.
Chief executive of the NSPCC, Peter Wanlesssaid,
“Exposing children to porn at a young age before they are equipped to cope with it can be extremely damaging. Industry and government need to take more responsibility to ensure that young people are protected. Age-appropriate sex and relationship education in schools, dealing with issues such as online pornography and children sending indecent images, are crucial.”
About the Author: Violeta Buljubasic detests pornography and anything that resembles it. Cognisant of its devastating consequences, she believes that porn and the raunch culture from which it stems are symptoms of a ubiquitous ill that has removed sex and sexuality from their original design. Moved by the work of Collective Shout, Fight the New Drug, and NCOSE, Violeta hopes to be part of the solution to this insidious problem.
Online child safety advocate Rachel Downie says parents are unaware of about 80 per cent of what their teen engages in on the internet at home.
Ms Downie, a former teacher, told ABC she had surveyed more than 20,000 students over the last five years, asking "what's something you do on the internet at home that you know you're not allowed to do?"
The results were concerning, with teens viewing violent real-life content, such as fights, muggings and pornography that looks non-consensual.
Photo by Rachel Downie
Ms Downie said 51 per cent of children, mostly boys, had viewed pornography or other illicit material, while one-fifth of respondents admitted to bullying, trolling and stalking for fun.
For some behaviours, the children themselves were screaming out for stronger regulation.
She said parents were often unaware of how far "down the spiral kids are".
"After every presentation, and it's usually with mums, they want to come chat to me afterwards about the fact that their 12, 13, 14-year-old son is addicted to pornography.
Ms Downie said it is a confusing, unchartered time for parents, exacerbated by the demands of school and society for children to be technologically savvy.
"What we're doing is 'ping, you're 12 here's your phone', 'ping you're 13, here's your own computer' and it's happening much earlier.
Ms Downie went on to give advice to parents on what they can do:
Ultimately, Ms Downie said adequate parental supervision and keeping conversations open is the key to tackling the issue.
"If you're not checking you wouldn't know, and it's not good enough anymore to say 'hey my 12-year-old daughter is a great kid, I really trust her'.
"I'm certainly not an advocate for banning everything because that's not the world we live in, but I am a very strong advocate for your need to know what they're doing.
"It's about being a grown-up and being the boss and getting your techno power back and saying, 'look we're going to set some boundaries around this stuff at home'."
Ms Downie said having those conversations with children and teens was crucial to building helping young people cope in the real and emotional online world.
Opening those lines of communication and setting boundaries should be done earlier, than later.
*Warning- this blog post contains graphic descriptions of violence in pornography*
One of the more common defences of pornography is that it is not ‘real’, that it is merely a fantasy. But this is not the case. Fantasy occurs in the mind.
The filmed sexual aggression of women by men in pornography is anything but a fantasy, and for the women being brutalised on camera, it is very real.
A pornographic scene of a woman being choked cannot be produced without an actual woman being choked in front of the camera, for the enjoyment of male viewers. When acts of sexual violence, humiliation and cruelty are carried out on the bodies of real life women, they cease to be fantasy and becomes a reality.
Some consumers of pornography argue that female porn performers enjoy violent and degrading sex acts. However, various porn performers have spoken out about the violence and trauma they have endured in the pornography industry. One of these women is actress Nikki Benz.
Earlier this month, Benz filed a lawsuit against porn production company Brazzers, its parent company MindGeek, and two fellow actors for sexual battery, over an incident during a shoot in 2016, where she was allegedly “struck on the face, head and breasts hard enough to cause her to bleed”. On Twitter, Benz claimed she was stomped on, and the director himself participated in choking her. “I guess rape scenes are in now huh?” She tweeted.
Racquel Rosario Sanchez wrote of the incident:
While [Benz] had consented to working with a co-star, Ramon Nomar, on a particular shoot, the director, Tony T. inserted himself in the scenes, as if he were an actor, participating in abusing Benz. She said she called “cut” several times, but was ignored, as Tony T. said to her, “Open your eyes bitch… Open your f*cking eyes.” Water was poured on the walls and floor in order to cover up her blood. Benz’ suit explains: “[Tony T.] would film with one hand and choke Benz with the other hand. Nomar stomped on Benz’s head. Between Tony T. and Nomar, Benz was hit, slapped, choked, and thrown on the ground and against the wall.” Read more.
Just last month, two female porn performers, Leigh Raven and Riley Nixon spoke about the brutal violence they endured on a porn set in a YouTube video.
Raven described being forced to endure acts of extreme violence by her male co-stars, including being hit very hard across the face, fellatio so rough it caused her to choke, painful intercourse leaving her with tears streaming down her face and being choked to the point of almost losing consciousness, before her male co-star ejaculated all over her face.
“It wasn’t a fake slap — it wasn’t a slap that we typically use in porn to make things look a little bit more intense than they actually are. It’s very painful and it definitely stunned me. I, you know, saw stars, so to speak...I was squeezing his leg, his left thigh, I think, as hard as I could while pushing away and wincing in pain and tears coming down my face, and he would smack my hand away, say some sort of ‘dumb white bitch’ comment and how I needed to take the whole dick.” Read more.
While there are women choose to enter the pornography industry, some do so without a full understanding of what they are in for.
In an interview earlier this year, Dr Gail Dines of Culture Reframed responded to a recent spate of deaths of female porn actresses:
“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."
“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."
“So many women I’ve spoken to have said to me ‘you know if you asked me two years ago, I would have given you the best story you’ve ever heard about how great it is and how empowered I felt’. It’s all bullsh*t. It’s a way to protect yourself psychologically, from the violence that’s being done to you.”