We hear a lot about preventing violence against women, however, it’s less common to hear how pornography contributes to this violence. And if we are not asking the right questions about the vehicle that’s delivering violence directly into our youth’s collective cultural psyche, we won’t be effective in responding. When we take an approach of critical porn analysis, we ask questions such as:
- How has the porn industry normalised consumption of its product?
- How has the industry shaped sexual attitudes and behaviours?
- Why does the industry produce increasingly abusive and exploitative content?
- How does porn shape people’s fantasies, sense of gender and sexual identity, relationship expectations, behaviours, and treatment of others?
- How does porn create or reinforce hyper-masculinity and hyper-femininity?
- Does porn link to increasing levels of sexual violence in relationships?
- How does porn normalise gender power imbalances and violence?
- What messages do same-sex attracted & gender diverse people receive from porn?
- What social and cultural impacts are there to normalising sexual exploitation?
- How does porn promote messages which normalise and groom viewers into being subjected to exploitation?
- How does porn promote degradation and oppression of women, same-sex attracted, gender diverse, and people of colour?
- How does consumption fuel trafficking of women and children?
- How does porn increase the harms for women in the sex trade? How does porn normalise illegal behaviours?
- How does porn normalise the perpetuation of sexual exploitation and bystander behaviour?
- How does porn normalise rape, sexual harassment, hate slurs and ‘revenge porn’?
- How is pornography grooming children to be at risk for both online and offline exploitation?
- How is pornography being used as a ‘how-to’ manual for engaging in sexually abusive behaviours towards other children?
- How does toxic porn culture normalise exploitation (e.g. sexting) amongst young people?
In order to truly understand the impacts of pornography on children and young people, the list of questions we need to ask is endless. In this 13-minute video delivered to a gender-violence prevention conference in Sweden, Liz Walker shares some of these impacts and explains why it’s important that we change the way we think about and deliver sexuality and pornography education.
Three of the four gendered drivers of violence against women are delivered directly via the vehicle of pornography: condoning of violence against women; rigid gender roles and stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity; and male peer relations that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women.
According to Our Watch, essential and supporting actions to address the gendered drivers of violence against women include:
- Challenge condoning of violence against women.
- Foster positive personal identities and challenge gender stereotypes and roles.
- Strengthen positive, equal and respectful relations between and among women and men, girls and boys.
- Promote and normalise gender equality in public and private life.
- Challenge the normalisation of violence as an expression of masculinity or male dominance.
- Prevent exposure to violence and support those affected to reduce its consequences.
- Reduce backlash by engaging men and boys in gender equality, building relationship skills and social connections.
- Promote broader social equality and address structural discrimination and disadvantage.
Pornography is opposed to each action area intended to address sexual violence. Every time pornography is normalised or dismissed as harmless, the ways in which it shapes attitudes, relationships and behaviours is negatively reinforced. Given that porn is now the main sex educator of youth, it’s impossible to implement broad social change to address violence against girls and women without calling out and directly addressing the role pornography plays.