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Sunday, May 26, 2024
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The very violent elephant in the room

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“Mon, do you watch much porn?”

I was sitting in a restaurant about a decade ago when the male friend I was dining with posed this question to me, completely out of the blue.

After almost choking on the piece of fish I was eating, I replied very quickly, “I don’t watch any; I’ve never seen it.”

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My friend was not intending to be inappropriate, rather he was trying to be educative.

He told me that as a woman in the dating game, I should be aware of what modern-day pornography looked like and how it affects the men who watch it.

My friend rightly expected that I assumed pornography might be graphic but was still largely sensual. It isn’t. It’s violent and dehumanising.

Following our conversation, I read Pornland, an extraordinary book by Gale Dines.

In the book Dines describes what she found by clicking on links that appeared on the first page of Google results for the search term “porn.”

She describes extreme acts of violence, such as women being dragged and choked by men yelling obscenities at them and other grave acts too graphic to describe here.

I’ve been thinking about this conversation and Dines’ book this week as the national conversation turns once again to the perpetration of violence against women by men.

Already this year, 26 women have been victims of homicide in what appear to be gender-based attacks.

These have been rightly condemned, and federal and state political leaders and commentators from all sides are calling for increased action to keep women safe.

Roundtables will be convened, royal commissions called for and education campaigns rolled out. Men will be told to ‘step up’ and take responsibility for their own actions and exhorted to not condone disrespect of women by their male friends.

While all of this is good, I wonder if the roundtables or royal commissions or calls for respect will consider whether the consumption of pornography from an early age is a contributing factor to violence against women.

The first exposure to pornography for young boys is getting earlier and earlier, with the average age of first viewing being around ten.

By the time they reach 30, 39 per cent of our young men are watching porn daily while another 46 per cent watch at least weekly.

Like any addiction, a person needs to increase their dosage to achieve the same dopamine hit, so a 30-year-old daily consumer of porn is likely needing to watch some pretty violent material to get the same rush he did as a teen.

Whatever one’s view on the morality of watching porn, I really do think it’s time for us to address the reality that the majority of young Australian men are fed on a diet of violent pornography from age 10 and, as a result, have psychosexually developed in a way that finds violence against women arousing.

If we believe that everything should be on the table when it comes to the protection of women, then we must have a conversation about using all means possible to restrict the amount of porn available online, particularly to kids.

It is possible to do something.

The Australian Government has stared down Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest man, and sought a court order to have footage of the stabbing attack on Mar Mari Emmanuel removed from X.

So we know the government has at least some appetite to restrict access to violent content that could provoke future attacks. If they are willing to expend so much effort for a 20-second video, can they have a think about the millions of hours of violent pornographic content as well?

The National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032, a joint initiative of the federal, state and territory governments, dedicated around 200 words to the potential contribution of pornography to violence against women, with the relevant action being to encourage the technology industry to put measures in place.

Outside of this, there does not seem to be any attention given to the potential links between pornography and violence being perpetrated against women, and very few are willing to speak about it publicly because pornography is viewed as a ‘victimless’ national pastime.

This really isn’t good enough.

To be clear, I think pornography is immoral but this column isn’t about that. I think women will be safer if there are fewer men who regularly watch violent porn, and if exposure to pornography occurs only after boys have been given the opportunity to go through puberty and adolescence without it being in their faces.

As a woman, I think I deserve this type of protection from my government.

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