Anna Krohn: Joining deadly dots on porn and women

Melinda Tankard-Reist speaks to thousands of youth at last year’s ACYF gathering in Sydney.

By now, tens of thousands of Australian people have expressed their anger and horror at the rape and murder of the young and talented Melbourne comedian, Eurydice Dixon.

It is right that her name, her feisty intelligence and her lop-sided smile live on more strongly than the chilling and depersonalised image of a lifeless shape in a black body bag.

Underpinning the widespread and commendable public honour to Eurydice’s life, and the promises of “reform” and renewed safety by politicians and police officers, is the looming horror of “stranger danger” and the unspeakable questions: the how’s and why’s of Eurydice’s last minutes on earth and those of her 19-year old attacker. So much at this stage is unknown by the public.

Last week I shared my concerns with Melinda Tankard Reist, one of Australia’s most articulate and compelling social commentators and activists. She is a tireless educator against the objectification of girls and women.

Melinda commented on the Opposition Leader and Prime Minister’s shared pronouncements about tackling, “the enablers of violence against women.” She observed: “There are many enablers of this type of violence. But there is one monstrous one- staring us in the face. But it isn’t mentioned…”

The public discussion is hobbled because this enabler has become so universalised and so accessible, such an unquestioned and insatiably burgeoning “commodity” of our fractured relationships and darkened souls.

Melinda Tankard-Reist

Melinda calls it the “globalised industrialised consumerism” of women and children for male consumption- often in the most degraded, belittling and violent forms: multi-nationalised and pervasive pornography and pornographised culture.

“Big Porn” as she dubs it, colonises not only the domestic “attitudes of men” but the imaginations of boys and increasingly the role-playing and expectations of girls.

It pervades the lyrics and imagery of the music industry and the leering snorts of reality TV. Melinda explains what reliable studies and her own encounters with young students confirm: “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, is the avalanche of violence against women so surprising?”

In the book that Melinda edited with Abigail Bray Big Porn Inc (Spinefex, 2012) chapter after chapter reveals that even pre-teen children are receiving their relationship and sex-education via pornified images and narratives.

They absorb the gross “entitlement” inherent in all porn-scape: that despite the protests, resistance and screams of pain: women and children are “really” animals or increasingly, mechanised body parts that (not who) are “asking for it.”

Melinda speaks of a recent porn trend, “robotised children” who are depicted “covering their faces and screaming”, their fear becomes the intoxicating fuel for male arousal.

Melinda notes some of the book’s findings: “A study of Canadian boys with an average age of 14, found a correlation between their frequent consumption of porn and their agreement with the idea that it is acceptable to hold a girl down and force her to have sex.

Another study of Italian adolescents 14-19 found an association between porn use and sexually harassing a peer and forcing someone into sex”.

There is chilling confirmation that the imagination and expectations of young girls has been groomed by porn-scenarios.

Recently one young girl asked Melinda: “Is it romantic for a boy to stalk me?” Another girl asked: “Is it okay if he wants to beat me, spit in my face and pull my hair?”

Pornography lives on heightening male excitement, which rides upon the dehumanisation of its vulnerable “targets”.

Melinda, spoke of an emerging ‘genre’ being widely sought through on-line sites: “It’s called ‘Refugee Porn’- and although I have seen so much I wished I would never see, this chilled me in a whole new way.”

“The sites offer choices about whether the viewers victims wear a hajib or not. Women on the run, some with babies, some pregnant, all desperate… every woman, child or elderly is offered up to the global porn complex…”, Melinda’s voice trails off in disgust.

Eurydice’s murder and assault recalls the rape/murder of the Irish ABC personality, Jill Meagher in Melbourne nearly six years ago.

Jill’s attacker, Adrian Bayley, now in jail for life, was at the time out on parole. He rehearsed his porn-fuelled power over prostitutes and strippers before he “hunted” down Jill Meagher.

One stripper wrote: “he’d touched me and told me how he wanted to choke women and things.” One of Bayley’s girlfriends told police that he was using her computer to access rape porn.

Jill Meagher’s widower, Tom, who has returned to his native Ireland, wrote an unflinching piece arguing that it was dangerous to dismiss these horrific crimes as the acts of monsters and outsiders.

He points that sexual violence against girls and women is most often perpetrated in a culture that makes forceful and degrading sexualised violence the domain of the “normal guy.”

Elsewhere, he acknowledges that graphic online pornography “destroys the emotional lives of young people” and contributes to them have deformed and distorted ideas of human relationships.

At the moment it is not known what Jaymes Todd, the person alleged by Police to have murdered Eurydice Dixon was doing before her death.

Melinda observes unstintingly: “Even if it’s not directly causative, Todd has been raised in a porn culture, which uses sadistic violence, and the fantasy that women ‘like to be destroyed’ as a masturbatory aid and democratic right.”