Objectification, pornography, and Glen Canning, Rehtaeh Parsons' father

On Saturday I published a post by Emily Monaghan, “Pornography as Rape: The Rehtaeh Parsons case.” Monaghan pointed out the connections between pornography and violence against women, specifically with regard to the treatment of the case against Rehtaeh Parsons’ alleged rapists.

Such as with images of women in pornography, there is a belief that the sexual nature of women (and girls) is licentious. The pre-pubescent girl that lures the older man with her nymphic charms or the oversexed school girl whose body torments all of the boys in class. The male sexual value system classifies women as virgins or whores — Rehtaeh Parsons was labelled a whore and whores cannot be raped. The ruling on Rehtaeh’s rape emblematic of the presumed nature of women’s sexuality. We are taught to believe she brought this upon herself because she is whorish.

Rape culture, porn culture, misogyny and patriarchy are all interconnected. We have discussed this numerous times on Feminist Current. The short explanation is that, when we turn people into objects instead of seeing them as full human beings, it is easier for us to dehumanize them and hurt them, humiliate them, demean them, etc. Pornography and BDSM often sexualize violence against women, making sexual violence and, more generally, gender inequality, sexy. Male power and female subordination is normalized and sexualized in porn. Gang rape is featured regularly in porn. “Teens” or “schoolgirls” are among the most-searched terms. Pornhub [not linking intentionally] specifies that “teen-themed porn… was the most searched term in the world” in 2013 and in 2014 on their site. The site proudly notes that the term “gangbang” climbed substantially in searches last year as well, moving up 14 spots. Miss Teen Colorado In First Porn Ever was their second-most-viewed video.

via Pornhub's "2014 Year in Review"
via Pornhub’s “2014 Year in Review”

All this is to say that pornography is not gender neutral, it is not “just a fantasy” when we know full well that women and girls are raped and abused every day on this planet, that they are sexually harassed and objectified constantly, and that they grow up learning that their primary value is in their appearances and ability to attract and sexually satisfy men. Men and women alike learn that violence is sexy. Men and boys learn that it is ok to sexualize underage girls. They learn to sexualize underage girls — porn teaches how to do this.

Rehtaeh Parsons killed herself after being gang-raped by (allegedly — none have been charged with rape as of yet) four boys who photographed the assault and then circulated the images. Parsons was 15 at the time of the rape and 17 when she hung herself.

With all that said, it was hugely disappointing to learn that Rehtaeh Parsons’ father, Glen Canning, who has been central to and unrelenting in his activism on behalf of his daughter, had photographs posted on his “Model Mayhem” page of sexualized women, some in BDSM-style poses and outfits, some that looked underage.

I immediately contacted Canning via the email address posted on his website, asking if the photos were his, before finding, shortly thereafter, that they were indeed Canning’s photos and that he had been questioned about them before (but not, mysteriously, by the mainstream media who, it seems, made a choice not to publicize this information).

Blake Hunsley published a post at Frank Magazine earlier this month, noting:

While these photos, taken by amateur photographer, Glen, were all presumably shared with the consent of their subjects, there is something terribly off-putting about a grieving father who crusades against the exploitation of young women posting photos of young girls that would make an American Apparel marketing agent blush.

… Messages left with Glen questioning… the contents of the Model Mayhem account have not been returned.

One of the more questionable images I found on Canning’s public Model Mayhem page today was this one, taken in 2006. This girl looks very young to me…

There were other photos of women posted in Canning’s Model Mayhem gallery as well as on a site called “Deviant Art” who appear to be fully adult but strike me as pornographic nonetheless. There is no doubt that the images are objectifying…

via Glen Canning's gallery at "Deviant Art."
via Glen Canning’s gallery at “Deviant Art.”
From Canning’s Model Mayhem gallery (now deleted).

I looked through the images posted by others that Canning had “favorited” on Deviant Art — side by side were anti-rape images and sexualized photos of young women. Most of his “favorites” weren’t viewable as they had been marked “Mature Content” due to nudity (and I didn’t feel particularly inclined to register with an account in order to look at photos of naked women).

Canning's "favorite's" from Deviant Art.
Canning’s “favorite’s” from Deviant Art.

My goal in publishing this information is not to vilify Canning who has, no doubt, suffered tremendously in dealing with the loss of his daughter. But I find myself baffled and disturbed at his — and, of course, larger society’s — inability to see the contradiction in his enjoyment and consumption of pornographic imagery and his own photographs and the rape, pornification, and death of his daughter.

My reaction is similar to Hunsley’s, who writes:

After browsing through Glen’s collection of young nubiles, clicking on the link titled ‘Glen Canning Multimedia Productions’ takes you to a website that is dominated by the story of Rehtaeh, and her father’s efforts to make the internet a safer place for young women. ‘Help prevent sexual exploitation’ is the central theme of the second site. ‘Check out these fine, young hotties’ seems to be the main message of the first. The transition is jarring, to say the least.

My first email to Canning offered him the benefit of the doubt. I’d hoped either the photos weren’t his or that perhaps he’d developed an understanding of pornification and how it was tied to violence against women and gender inequality — particularly after witnessing what had happened to Rehtaeh. One hour after I sent the email, the more sexualized photos Canning had posted at Model Mayhem had been deleted. Where there were once 12 photos, there now remained only three. Seven hours after I sent the first email, I still haven’t received a response to my query, though it’s clear Canning saw my email and quickly took down the images.

I sent him a second email letting him know I had confirmed the photographs were his and asking whether he’d like to comment. I have not yet received a response. His Model Mayhem account is now closed.

Looking through Canning’s website, I found, to my dismay, that, while he hadn’t responded to Frank Magazine to comment on the images, he did respond to a “troll” who brought it up to him last spring, saying in response:

As a photographer I have done photo shoots with various models; all over 18 or in the presence of their parents (see the galleries below). I don’t hide that fact and never have, it’s up there under my name – Photographer.

This, unfortunately, implies to me that the two young-looking girls might in fact be underage, but had their parents present (which does not, to my mind, make it ok). Canning also posted links to both his Deviant Art gallery and his Model Mayhem gallery at the bottom of the post in order to be transparent and to show that he was not ashamed of these photographs — that he stood behind them as unproblematic.

People change, and it’s possible Canning has changed. These photos were taken almost ten years ago. Ten years ago I dressed up for Halloween as “a burlesque dancer”… Clearly people can learn and change. But I am extremely troubled, at this point, by his active participation in the sexualization and objectification of girls and women and his now-seemingly-contradictory activism on behalf of his daughter.

As I have argued in the past, “consent” is not the only issue when it comes to conversations about exploitation, pornography, dehumanization, sexual violence, and objectification. Even when there is consent, which Canning says there was, pornographic imagery and the objectification of women is very much connected to rape culture as it teaches men and boys that females exist for their pleasure — that we are to-be-looked-at, used, abused, and consumed. Simply because a woman or girl “consents” to this objectification does not change that message. “Consenting” to participate in the sexualization of gang-rape, for example, still sexualizes gang-rape. Sexualizing “consenting” underage girls or girls that appear underage still sexualizes underage girls.

It is this unwillingness to understand and address these connections and realities that allow for rape culture, porn culture, and the global epidemic of violence against women to continue. It is also these kinds of discoveries that make it difficult for feminists to trust and ally with men. It is these kinds of discoveries, in part, that have led me to distrust men who claim the title of “feminist” or who present themselves as leaders in our movement.

Is sexual violence or objectification only unacceptable if it happens to our daughters? Are we unwilling to look at these misogynist phenomena outside a purely individualized framing? Are certain women and girls pornifiable? The ones who “allow” it? Is it ok to objectify some women and girls but not others?

We all desperately need to start making these connections, stop making excuses, and stop compartmentalizing that which is clearly linked if we ever hope to make a dent in the fight against patriarchy and violence against women.

It remains to be seen whether or not Canning will choose to make these connections.* I hope he does.

 

UPDATE, 01/27/2015: Glen Canning responded to my email with the following comments:

Ten years ago I was a photojournalist for The Halifax Daily News and took on a few modelling jobs on the side. Some were paid and some were done for free. The people in my photos all reached out to me, they are all above age, or had a parent present.

There is nothing evil about it and I’m not sure how to respond to someone who sees that there is. I had no idea a few years later my daughter would be raped and tormented to death and something I enjoyed doing as an innocent hobby would be thrown in my face as if I wasn’t allowed to be outraged and angry.

My activism comes from my heart. I know I am doing the right thing and I sleep with a clear conscience because I know I’m a good man. If I had to wait until every part of my life was approved the men’s rights activists, rape apologists, and misogynists would have chased me away a long time ago.

I hope I’m not offending you but after all I’ve been through it gets tiring.

I hope this clarifies things.

 

 

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • marv

    Meghan, there is always a remarkably luminous character to the methodology and content of your writing. No exception today.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thank you Marv

  • Daisy

    This is quite unsettling and disturbing news.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Agreed.

  • When it comes to women’s rights, I do not trust anyone, male or female, unless I know that they are completely against pornography, extreme beauty practices and the highly sexualisation depictions of women and girls in popular culture. No exceptions. Opposition to BDSM and a desire to abolish gender also help.

    I am glad that this man is speaking out about rape and I support his decision to speak out, but that is as far as my support for him goes, unless of course he has recently realised that a woman’s boobs are not the most important part of her and that beating up or otherwise dominating women is not cool. I hope he has realised that, but it can be tough to come to that realisation when everybody is telling you the opposite.

    I do not know if he is actually involved in the BDSM community, but I have heard that is very hard to escape from. Those within it will tell that you are likely to commit acts of violence, suffer horribly or even commit suicide if you have BDSM-related desires and do not fulfil them. It all seems very cult like to me.

  • Ah, DeviantArt. I’ve gotten to know them ever since my image searches for “medicine woman,” “female shaman,” “priestess,” “goddess,” turned up grotesquely pornified depictions, many of which came from that site. http://www.sourcememory.net/veleda/?p=146

    There is definitely a disconnect here, and he knows it.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Had never heard of the site until today, but UGHHHHH those images!!! Gross!

      • jo

        Despite the name, Deviantart is a general site where all sorts of artists share their work. You can find everything from landscape photography, 13-year old kid’s anime drawings to unfortunately, “fetish” pictures. I left the site around the time they got really lax with the no porn rule. I think the ethics of the site’s moderators changed around the time streamed hardcore porn became common.

      • Cepheid

        The website itself isn’t all bad. I’ve had an account there for over a decade now, and it’s a decent place for artists and illustrators to post their work and get visibility.

        That said, they do allow a lot of softcore porn despite claiming otherwise in their rules. It’s embarrassing to see some of the stuff they let through because it’s “art”. I just avoid the unpleasant areas and focus on watching artists whose work I enjoy, since many use the site as their only online presence.

  • Mostly.Generic

    Very interesting and well-written article. Thank you for writing about this subject, especially with this level of tact. 🙂

    There is one particular aspect of the topic you brushed on which I’d like to read more about and I was wondering if there was any specific scholarly material/author you (or anyone else commenting, in fact) would think of, off the top of your head.

    The aspect in question is the one expressed in the following part about rape culture:

    Men and women alike learn that violence is sexy. Men and boys learn that it is ok to sexualize underage girls. They learn to sexualize underage girls — porn teaches how to do this.

    • C.K. Egbert

      If you are looking for some resources on pornography:
      https://antipornfeminists.wordpress.com

      For books:
      Gail Dines, “Pornland”
      Catharine MacKinnon, “Toward a Feminist Theory of the State” (the classic) or “Only Words”
      Andrea Dworkin, “Pornography: Men Possessing Women”

    • stephen m

      Mostly.Generic: You will find some references to relevant reading here:

      http://wiki.preventconnect.org/Pornography+and+Violence+Against+Women

      • stephen m

        Don’t forget Diana Russell

        Look here:

        http://www.dianarussell.com

        Example, one of Russell’s books.

        “Making Violence Sexy: Feminist Views On Pornography

        Diana E. H. Russell (Ed.), New York: Teacher’s College Press, 1993 and Buckingham, England: Open University Press, 1993.

        Click to Read: Making Violence Sexy

        Abstract:

        Making Violence Sexy is a collection of feminist articles, including testimonies by survivors of pornography, that together make a convincing case for the view that pornography (as distinct from erotica) causes harm to women, including acts of violence.

        The volume is organized into four parts, the first of which provides vivid and moving personal accounts of how women’s lives have been damaged by pornography. Part two gives a thorough overview of the present status of pornography in our society, as well as the raging debate over pornography and censorship. Part three details several interesting and significant studies on the effects of pornography, as well as critiques of some of the most influential non-feminist researchers. The concluding part then describes actions, both humorous and grave, that feminists have employed in their fight against pornography. Contributors include: Andrea Dworkin, Patricia Hill Collins, Catharine MacKinnon, Gloria Steinem, and John Stoltenberg. “

  • Thank you so much for writing this. I read the thread yesterday where this information was revealed and … well, I don’t quite have words for how I feel.

    Rehtaeh Parson’s certainly spent the last two years of her short life in terrible mental torment, but what about before the rape? What sort of emotional poison is it for a female child whose father obviously sees her (or at least girls exactly like her) as disposable jack-off implements – to the degree that he actually creates more of this hate literature and puts it out into the world?

    Did Rehtaeh Parsons ever enjoy a moment of peace and a feeling of safety? It’s quite possible that she did not.

    This also makes me think of girls who grow up with fathers who have porn in the house (my dad was long gone by the time I was 1 so I was relieved of the burden). I recall my friends’ dads who had stacks of penthouse, etc, under their bed and I recall clearly the twisted creepy- crawly feeling I had in my entire body being around those men.

    I don’t doubt Glen Canning feels anguish over the death of his daughter. I hope that I goodly chunk of that anguish is down to him trying to reckon with the fact that he helped to pave the way for both her rape, her public humiliation and the profound injustice of the courts inaction on the case.

    • Red Dog

      “I hope that a goodly chunk of that anguish is down to him trying to reckon with the fact that he helped to pave the way for both her rape, her public humiliation and the profound injustice of the courts inaction on the case.”

      This comment is completely out of line and offensive. The fact that Glen Canning is a photographer that ten years ago took some pictures that could be classified as erotica in no way implicates him in what happened to his daughter. Too many feminists are always accusing society in general and all men in particular of “victim blaming” but when feminists blame victims it is somehow portrayed as being somehow okay. Glen Canning is a victim. I can only imagine the grief he must be feeling.

      My uncle was violently murdered. Does the fact that once upon a time I watched a mafia movie that depicted a similar murder, or that I play Call of Duty once in a while, somehow make me partially responsible for his death? Hardly.

      I agree with the central premise of Meghan’s article that we have to give some second sober thought to the connection between hard core porn and real life objectification of women, as well as think about the big picture, about how many of these issues are interconnected. One example I would give of this is the disturbing and all too common mixing of sex and violence in the movies and the disconnect with the industry’s various rating systems.

      For example, I find it hypocritical that Hollywood says I shouldn’t let my under 14 son or daughter watch a particular movie because they might see someone flash a boob or a butt cheek, yet it is perfectly okay for them to watch a movie that portrays extreme violence including murder and torture but somehow that movie is PG13 but the one with a bit of nudity but a much more benign or even positive general message is for 17+.

      Recognizing a correlation is a much different thing than to identify a cause and effect relationship. Please acknowledge the difference when you are looking for answers to these very real issues.

      “Because patriarchy” is overly simplistic.

      • marv

        “My uncle was violently murdered. Does the fact that once upon a time I watched a mafia movie that depicted a similar murder, or that I play Call of Duty once in a while, somehow make me partially responsible for his death? Hardly….”
        “Recognizing a correlation is a much different thing than to identify a cause and effect relationship. Please acknowledge the difference when you are looking for answers to these very real issues.
        Because patriarchy” is overly simplistic.”

        You’re not conceding the incomparability of men/women with men/men. Your mentality is parallel to equating the social conditions of whites with people of colour when talking about crime. Institutional racism has adverse effects on people of colour: disproportionate incarceration and poverty in contrast to whites. Porn as a manifestation of institutional sexism impacts women’s bodies and psyches in a way men are not affected. As with racialization, pornification can be the cause of or contributing factor to suicide.

        Your uncle was the victim of male on male class violence. Porn is the product of the male domination of women as a class. Both forms of aggression are a distinct set of political circumstances. Nevertheless, male on male brutality along with productivist/consumerist porn men cause patriarchy to enlarge.

        Those who claim racial hierarchy or patriarchy are simplistic explanations for inequality are usually the privileged who have a great deal to lose by honesty. They prefer partial beliefs as a stand-in for the whole picture to protect their self-interest. By association you are shrouding the ‘real issues’.

      • ““Because patriarchy” is overly simplistic.”

        Well, I did not mention patriarchy, so who are you arguing with? But seeing as you brought it up, pointing out the existence and structural operation of patriarchy in a context where the majority will deny it’s existence is relevant – you know, like water quality is relevant to fish.

        Your false conflation of someone watching depictions of male on male violence with someone actually producing and distributing pornographic images of teenage girls is pathetically over-reaching in its desperate attempt to maintain the ongoing sexualization of girls and the adjunct ubiquitous access to pedophilic porn. So is your red herring argument about nudity vs violence in mainstream media. And no need to worry: I’m sure your boy and girl children are having no problem accessing “barely legal Asian gang-bang” videos on the web, or photos like Glen Canning’s, so don’t let Hollywood’s hypocrisy get you down. In fact, I’m sure they can both get a head-full of invaded, available female bodies on their home tv.

        The denial of the real-world conditions that enabled the torture and death of Rehtaeh Parsons and of countless girls like her, and her own father’s contribution to those conditions is what is offensive, especially if you have a daughter. It’s pretty clear that you have no sense whatsoever of the hateful and damaging social landscape that girls must navigate in the journey from childhood to adulthood, so I do hope that you were speaking hypothetically and that you are not, in fact, responsible for raising a female child.

        As Marv has so succinctly put it: “Those who claim racial hierarchy or patriarchy are simplistic explanations for inequality are usually the privileged who have a great deal to lose by honesty.” Your comment makes it clear that you are are just fine with others being damaged in the process of maintaining your privilege. Should anyone speak to the real existence of the free ride you enjoy at others’ expense you are willing to engage in a convoluted tap dance of denial in your desire to keep things as they are.

      • Lee

        “My uncle was violently murdered. Does the fact that once upon a time I watched a mafia movie that depicted a similar murder, or that I play Call of Duty once in a while, somehow make me partially responsible for his death? Hardly.”

        Did you make the movie or the game? No? Then you probably didn’t directly contribute to a culture where men learn that violence solves problems, that normalizes and glamorizes male violence, that says violence is fun (by passively consuming these things, I suppose you could make the argument that investing your dollars in a media culture of violence is a contribution to that culture at large, but creating is something more direct).

        “For example, I find it hypocritical that Hollywood says I shouldn’t let my under 14 son or daughter watch a particular movie because they might see someone flash a boob or a butt cheek, yet it is perfectly okay for them to watch a movie that portrays extreme violence including murder and torture but somehow that movie is PG13 but the one with a bit of nudity but a much more benign or even positive general message is for 17+.”

        Right, Hollywood, the people making the movies, deciding what to put out into the culture, deciding what the culture is. Would or do you confront this problem, somehow?

  • Hecuba

    Glen Canning like majority of males believes he is entitled to sexually prey on/sexually exploit women and girls but when other males sexually prey and/or allegedly subject his daughter to male sexual violence then that is a violation of his female property!

    Canning is enacting common ‘male compartmentalisation’ and this male syndrome has existed for centuries. In effect women and girls not ‘owned’ by men are other mens’ public property and it is fine for males to enact their male pseudo sex right to other mens’ female property!

    • Nailed it. It’s always ok if it’s someone else’s daughter, sister, whatnot. I’m glad he was outed so an example can be made of this.

  • Sam

    Meghan, I love your writing and your podcasts. It’s hard to find other feminists who dislike pornography and porn culture and I’m afraid that’s going to become more and more rare as I age… What do you make of this teen girl phenomenon for straight men and the twink phenomenon with gay men? The one thing that puzzles me personally is this: what is it in men’s sexuality that causes them to see nothing of visiting a prostitute (gay or straight), objectification, and obsession with young bodies? I thought of this also while listening to your podcast with Julie Bindel when she mentioned that some younger gay men were fighting back against prostitution, etc. Domination and violence are much more prevalent in straight porn, but the objectification and obsession with youth abides in both and prostitution is a problem for young gay men. What gives?

  • Philip Rose

    You sort of refer to me in this. I expect that you will detest my blog subject and entries, but I am glad at least that you agree with me about porn.
    I did find it odd that Mr Canning didn’t seem to grasp the problems arising from his photos in the context of his campaigning. He’s a very angry man (the things he says about me are a bit silly) and unfortunately he is driven by rage and revenge, which distorts his judgment.
    He didn’t take the pics down when I mentioned them but at least he has done so now.
    Also – it’s a shame he tweeted that photo of the MSVU guy, even if he did mean well.

  • So that’s her dad? Explains a lot. She grows up in a toxic soup of sex “positivity.” (I’m sure that’s how he justified the crap.) She grows up being told that’s totally cool. And why would she question it? I sure as hell didn’t question all the messages saying hard work would be rewarded and trust funds had nothing to do with it. Kids are like that. And then, when she lives the nightmare, she finds out they lied.

    Her story was awful before. Now it’s even worse.

  • pisaquari

    Rehtaeh’s rapists would likely find some of Mr. Canning’s photography arousing for the same reason they found raping his daughter arousing.

    This should unsettle him to the core.

    • Red Dog

      What unsettles me to the core is how so many of you here are quick to victim blame when it comes to Glen Canning, but very slow to see the hypocrisy of doing so.

  • jin

    as someone who, just yesterday, rallied against the justice system’s mistreatment of reteah’s case i am extremely disappointed to hear that Glen Canning actively participated in the sexualization of young girls.

    time after time men decry sexual assault and declare themselves ‘good guys’ without bothering to engage in the critical self-examination required to actually SOLVE the sexual assault endemic. if you consume porn, you are contributing to rape culture. if you objectify women, you are contributing to rape culture. and if you take sexualized photographs of young girls YOU ARE CONTRIBUTING TO RAPE CULTURE.

    ALL women suffer while men blind themselves to these truths – most obviously by being victimized by them, but also by challenging their blindness and facing the requisite punishment for standing up to male entitlement, or by keeping silent while our self-respect crumbles and we try to block out searing questions about who the men around us are, and how we can possibly expect they respect us while they actively strip women of their dignity and humanity because they think they’re entitled to super-quick, low-effort orgasms.

    Glen: your daughter was owed more than this when she was alive. not just from other men, but from YOU. now, after suffering such an agonizing loss, you owe your daughter (and all women) more. you owe us the discomfort of examining your behaviour and refusing to contribute to the rape culture. without hiding, without excuses.

  • Daisy

    wondering if Glen is still interested in this genre of photography? If he has the heart for it or plans to continue..

  • jin

    his response is even more disappointing. so many red herrings.

    rape culture IS evil and contributing to it IS evil and sexualizing young girls IS evil. stating these truths isn’t throwing anything in his face, it’s asking that he engage in the courageous reflection that actually moves the needle on these issues, as opposed to burying his head in the sand off his defensiveness and male entitlement.

    shame glen, shame.

  • Laur

    A lot of the girls/women who have their photos taken by men on model mayhem are looking to get into the porn or prostitution business. By offering to take their photos, perhaps for free, men are actively participating in preparing the girls and women to be pimped out. I have trouble believing any male photographer who belongs to this site does not know what the photographs will likely be used for.

    • Sabine

      Glen Canning’s response puts me in mind of the way #not all men flatly refuse to see their function as socially conditioned sexists grinding away in their vital roles as cogs within the evil machine that is patriarchy, hence the frankly unbelievable “innocent hobby” comment.

      How often have we heard, often angrily bellowed: “But I’M not a rapist!” – as if this instantly negates/absolves them of contributing in any other way to the systemic oppression of over half the world’s population. Nope, absolutely nothing these “harmless” men do, think or say concerning women and girls has any bearing whatsoever on how this cesspit-society functions for us *others*.

      Pretty much all women have a very real fear of being raped, a fear made all the more valid by the sky-high figures reeled off year after year, decade after decade, century after century. And that’s not taking into account the inestimable number that go unreported due to fear of not being believed, possible violent reprisals and the ever-present shame-game thanks to having been bludgeoned into believing that we women and children are somehow “asking for it” (burka’d or not.)

      This man seriously cannot see how he has actively contributed towards creating a society in which young women barely out of childhood are viewed as objects to fuck or wank over (or laugh over as they are passed around to be raped and filmed for “fun”)? If that’s the case then that’s some very powerful denial going on and given what happened to his daughter I am not at all surprised.

      I feel incredibly sorry and sad that he has lost his daughter in such a dreadful, tragic way. I feel genuine sympathy. But to try and pretend there is no irony in someone campaigning against rape who clearly views teenaged girls as sex objects and has photographed them as such, thus DIRECTLY contributing to the porny, rapey world we live in, is ridiculous.

      Sleep with a clear conscience? Brrrrrrr!

  • The Real Cie

    I’ll give the man the benefit of the doubt and say I’m sure he doesn’t want anyone to be raped or otherwise injured. However, his obsession with Lolita-like young women (even if they are over the age of 18) is creepy at best.

    • Red Dog

      I fail to see how taking a few pictures many years ago qualifies as an “obsession”.

  • In response to the man’s more recent email, how can he still think it is okay to create images that glamourise female submission and push the view that women enjoy being sexually dominated, given that these are exactly the sorts of believes that lead to rape and sexual violence?

    Nobody is questioning whether he should have gotten angry about his daughter’s rape (though as Hecuba pointed out, his motives could easily be somewhat patriarchal and conservative), we are questioning whether it was a good idea for him to create those photos. I know it happened ten years ago and I would have forgiven him had he later denounced those images, but he clearly endorses him.

    Like a lot of liberals, he confuses a political critique of a behaviour, for a personal attack against him. I do not care whether he is a “good person” or not. The point is that he did not do a good thing by creating those images and if he really wants to be a good person, he should do some research concerning the effects of such images on women and on society generally. If he can’t be stuffed reading the science, he can listen to what some ordinary, young women had to say about sexualised depictions of females. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Uf7UpkbfmY

    The man seems to be under the impression that men can be easily split into “good men” and “bad men”, but it is not that simple. Men who have not committed rape or any other form of sexual violence may still have the same aggressive, dominating personalities that rapists do and men with those personalities are not good people in my view, even if they have not broken the law. Recognising that you have the capacity to do evil and that there are culture influences that are trying to push you in the direction of evil is an important part of being good. And yes, moral relativists, like it or not, I do believe that some character traits and behaviours are evil.

    • I know it happened ten years ago and I would have forgiven him had he later denounced those images, but he clearly endorses him.

      Clearly he still thinks those pictures are ok, and still has NOT connected the dots. Because when did he take down those pictures? When his daughter was raped (and filmed being raped)? – NO. When his daughter committed suicide because of the humiliation and injustice? – NO. He only took down those pictures when directly emailed about his participation in the sexualisation of young girls/teens, and his public championing for Rehtaeh. Speaks volumes to his denial in the indirect participation of what happened to his daughter and the millions like her.

      The truly disturbing part of his email was:
      …they are all above age, or had a parent present

      The latter part indicates that yes, at least some of the ‘models’ were indeed underage. Who gives a fuck if their (sicko and irresponsible) parents were there or not, it is still the sexualisation of young teenaged girls, and at the very least, ‘low grade’ child pornography.

      Weasel Words Mr Canning, Weasel Words.

      • I would call it “soft core” child pornography. Hard core child pornography would be far more “low grade”.

        The fact that he clearly used under age females is indeed disturbing. The “parents were present” quote, suggests that he only cares about following the law, not about doing the right thing. I can’t stand those kinds of people. They are such sheep.

  • Pam Rubin

    In Halifax I am closer to this situation than some people. I felt my heart sink looking at the photos.

    It is good that those pictures are not out there anymore, and I appreciate Meghan’s national role as a journalist. It would help to hear from those in the photographs.

    But I am continuing to appreciate Glen Canning’s activism here in Halifax. It is hard to understand from outside Halifax how much his determination has created possibilities here for questioning the systems in place. Or the degree to which he has been set upon by the perpetrators and their families, Frank magazine, online trolls and others IRL. It is a lot to know how to handle.

    Some have rightly pointed out that the truest male allies are not in the spotlight but support women leading. On reflection, though, I don’t think Glen Canning has had much choice about being in the spotlight or not.

    I am also recalling my own learning curve about pornstitution, and would not want to be judged on my language and opinions of 20 or even 15 years ago.

    It is unfamiliar to find myself here, given all the betrayals in life, but I am giving the benefit of the doubt this time.

    Thanks Feminist Current for providing a space.

    • Meghan Murphy

      No I can’t imagine any of would like to be judged based on things we did or believed years ago and had since reflected on and changed our minds… That said, I wish his response had conveyed some kind of understanding rather than simply defending the photographs as ‘not evil.’ If he has since changed his mind, I think he could do better do communicate that.

      • river

        His response to you sounds like every male photographer I’ve worked with. And they all use girls and women that way. None of those women came in with their pose in mind, with Glen just hitting the shutter. He posed them. He suggested the poses, he suggested the locations (the bed??) and he set them up based on his previous experience at this kind of shooting. For each pose we see there will be at least two dozen shots of the same pose which he rejected. This man will have a couple hard drives filled with what I call PORN.

    • Sabine

      Sadly his opinions today include the writing off of his pornification of, by the looks of it, barely legal girls as “an innocent hobby”. He has not shown any evolution in his views of women in the response he made to Meghan but instead sounds predictably defensive. The guy is in denial.

  • Wildis She

    Did you see what Rethaeh’s page (run by Leah, her mom) posted concerning this topic (not specifically Canning, but on pornography and sexualization)?

  • Nadine

    31 years ago, at the age of nine years old but looking more like 13…young boys around 14-15 years raped me after they consumed and look at pornographic magazines and movies…. Its hard to describe what it does to me again when I see and hear about a story like that….. Its scary to see how it is now days and for me its a nightmare to be in contact with any or thoses images, story, sexualization of our environnent, the behavior of some men and there look, specially at very young girls…. Even though I worked on me a lot, its still waking up a post traumatic stress disorder each time… Imagine being in a relationship with a men and having a father who is not a photographer but look for porn and blame you for what happened….. My father and the boys were calling me a slut…at 9… Not knowing, at that age what this was all about and thought that making love was two people kissing on the mouth…….. Dont know why I share all this… Im so saturated from all that patriarcal shit still going on…..and that a lot of people just dont see or get its …..the relation between pornography, young and sexual abuses and rape… !?? And the growing of that…..being so easily accessible, so often, so everywhere you turn, normalised sexual violence day after day, after day….. I had and still have very difficult times …but never attempt for my life…. I consider myself a survivor of patriarcal system of denying women …for too long.. Like a lot of others of my sisters….. We need to stand all together and keep moving forward…… Continue the fight for more humanity and an whole new system. Something inspiring: I read about men ending the use of pornography cause a lot of them realized the damage on them, with their own sexuality, relationship, …so let open our minds for a better world my friends…….. Thanks Meghan for everything and all the others who stand up

    • C.K. Egbert

      So sorry that happened to you Nadine. I can understand how this would be very triggering for you. It is extremely frustrating when men and liberals refuse to hear how women have been harmed by pornography and how it is a harm against women. Solidarity.

  • My response is here: http://glencanning.com/2015/02/rehtaeh-parsons-photography-and-glen-canning/

    I’ve also reached out to three of the models I worked with who remain good friends. I will post their replies once I hear back from them.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Are you kidding me Glen?? I “took the bait”?? I have been writing about this for years. I am truly amazed at your unwillingness to be accountable and even try to understand our critique. And to compare me to some obsessive, misogynist troll? All you’ve done here is blame others and make this about yourself and your feelings. This is about a larger critique of the objectification of girls and women and how that translates into violence. Not about you and your feelings. I’m sorry to be harsh but I really, really, really tried my very best to be gentle and compassionate in our communication and this response from you is truly disappointing and shows a complete lack of willingness to learn and to be accountable for ones’ own choices and behaviour. This is not about you being “judged.” You could VERY easily have responded to my emails and then to this post by saying, you know, at the time I didn’t see things that way, but now I do and I understand, hear, and respect your arguments. But you didn’t. You’ve presented me as “a sicko” and a “troll” to your fans so they can further support your defensiveness and self-pity. This is NOT about you being attacked. This is not about evil feminists trying to bring you down. It is about making connections and about treating women and girls as full human beings. I am truly appalled.

      • Morag

        “And to compare me to some obsessive, misogynist troll?”

        Oh, Meghan, I saw that he did that. Actually, it was worse than that, because he also wrote something along the lines of “at least the MRAs are honest …” Meaning, of course, that anti-pornography, anti-violence feminists are implicitly more evil than the men who hate women so much, they enjoy stalking and harassing the bereaved father of a teen girl.

        I feel just sick about this.

        You have made an excellent, very clear, and entirely justified reply to Glen. I stand by you and Rehtaeh. I stand by all girls and women who have been harmed by boys and men they way she was harmed.

        My mind boggles, still, at how women’s words are not heard, how we are defamed when we speak.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Believe me I feel fucking sick too. This strikes me as some deep-seated narcissism and a bad case of the ‘good guy’ syndrome.

          • Sabine

            “This is NOT about you being attacked. This is not about evil feminists trying to bring you down. It is about making connections and about treating women and girls as full human beings.”

            Yes, 100%.

            Why is this so hard for Mr. Canning to understand???? I too feel appalled by his response and apparent brick wall mentality when it comes to connecting the dots here. One cannot defend the dehumanizing and objectifying pornification of girls and women in order to sexually arouse men whilst campaigning for their safety from rape in the same breath.

            “self-deceit – a misconception that is favorable to the person who holds it.”

    • Morag

      Glen,

      What Ms Murphy wrote was in defence of Rehtaeh and her memory.

      What she wrote was yet another call for an end to this culture that victimizes girls like Rehtaeh. We (the women and men who comment here) stand by your daughter, and we stand by Meghan Murphy, and all feminist writers and activists who understand how rape is promoted, perpetuated, justified, minimized, denied, unpunished, joked about … I could go on and on, but it is unbearable.

      We were once vulnerable girls, and we are also mothers of daughters, and so we stand by you, too. We know that your loss is almost unspeakable.

      What we do NOT stand beside, what we cannot support, is male photographers who would rather talk about their love of cameras, and “portraiture” and “erotic” or “artistic” images of young women in neutralized terms. Rather than about the objectification and sexualization of young women in a culture where girls and women are sexually abused, assaulted and raped. In such a culture, “sexy” images have meanings already built into them: do it to her; that’s what she’s for.

      Pornography is part of the web of cultural institutions that tell us that females are natural resources for male use, abuse, pleasure, enjoyment. We know this; it is not up for debate. But, we are getting the message from you that you don’t know this, and that you would rather slander us than listen to and look at the evidence.

      • Those words and those photographs sicken me. The fact that a man who is campaigning to make the internet “safer” for women and girls wrote those words and took those photographs disturbs me. That the parent of a young woman who endured such horror and died so tragically could do these things fills me with despair.

        Yes, I stand by Rehteah and the many girls like her and I grieve for the horrific emotional and psychological landscape she had to navigate in her short life.

        • Meghan Murphy

          By the way, I left this comment on Glen’s post, which he deleted:

          “Why not ‘name names,” Glen? Why not let people in on the arguments, ideas, and critiques, rather than simply presenting me as some kind of misogynist internet troll? http://feministcurrent.com/10471/objectification-pornography-and-glen-canning-rehtaeh-parsons-father/#comment-246455

          COOL ACCOUNTABILITY, GLEN.

          • Laur

            Sigh. I was just about to post on glen’s blog with the link to your article, but now I won’t bother.

            The people reading the article only have glen’s word to go on that we’re disingenuous trolls looking for someone to attack! I don’t understand why someone would get so defensive about this. It also doesn’t sound like he shared this post with the women who he emailed for their support.

            Women in this culture are taught from day one to look as sexxy as possible, so it isn’t a surprise at all that women defend topless modeling–especially when they’re doing it! Many women on this site have defended pics similar to what glen took at some point in our lives. Furthermore, there is currently a campaign against topless pics on Page 3, which you just did a podcast on, so clearly this is a bigger issue for the readers of Feminist Current than simply trolling glen. We are women, and we’re saying the pictures are harmful! Does that not matter?

            I don’t understand why glen couldn’t have said, “you’ve brought up some good points. I’m going to need to think about them,” if this wasn’t something he had thought about before. None of what glen says changes the fact that many women go on model mayhem looking to get pics done so they can get into porn/prostitution. Many men specifically seek out these women, and others are all too happy to oblige. He also has no way of knowing how these pics were used.

            His post is so simplistic. I know you gave him every benefit of the doubt, meghan and were concerned about being too hard on him. But now he wants to pretend he’s a victim–of what? Being encouraged to make connections between what happened to Reteah and a culture that objectifies women? We all have, at some time, contributed to that culture in one way or another. I don’t understand why women are so much more willing to admit to their mistakes while men, as a whole, blame the other person and continue in denial.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I left a comment saying essentially the same thing — “You could have just said, you know, I didn’t know then what I know now and I see your point — these images objectified and sexualized women and I now understand how that connects to violence against women. Instead you refused to admit there was anything problematic AT ALL about the photos, defended them, and played the victim.” He deleted the comment and blocked me from his site. I am repulsed. To think anyone would have this man speak about violence against women is just gross to me. Like I said in the post, it’s these kinds of reasons that make women mistrust male “allies.”

          • Glen Canning

            Comments on my site need to be approved. It wasn’t deleted. It’s there.

            And why is Philip Rose still here?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Actually you deleted all three of them. So you lack accountability, integrity, and you’re dishonest.

          • Joan

            Why did you do this publically and not in private Meghan? It looks self-serving.

          • Meghan Murphy

            1) I did contact him privately and he refused to be accountable, acknowledge my point, or admit there was anything problematic about the images.
            2) How, exactly, does this post serve me?
            3) Would it be preferable if I knew but didn’t say anything or try to engage with him about the issue?

          • I have no idea how your writing about this or the resulting exchange is “self-serving”. What a load. I guess you’re just supposed to stay quiet about this shit: “Nope. No elephant here!”

            Anyone who wants to shut you up is doing so in service of their own denial.

            These are exactly the sort of conversations we need to have, urgently. Thank you Meghan for your courage in the face of all of the unfair criticism you receive for speaking up.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Thanks lizor… I find it ever so strange when people accuse me of things like ‘click-bait’ or that I write these posts for my own gain somehow… I don’t understand what it is they think I gain? I don’t get money for ‘clicks’ in any substantial way, that’s for sure, and in cases like these, it’s made me more enemies than friends. Like, it’s not as though I wrote this post joyfully, rather I did it with much deliberation and certainly I tried to be as compassionate as possible while staying true to what I believe is an important conversation…

          • Meghan you have been thoughtful and measured every step of the way. It is very complex territory here and few could have addressed the glaring contradiction, the piece of the story that renders all of the good action into a lie, with the sort of intelligence and sensitivity that you have.

            From what I have witnessed in reading this blog and how you manage the comments thread, you always weigh the situation carefully. Even with your extensive knowledge base and long-term investment in the feminist project, both of which make you an exceptional authority on the sociality of sex and power, you are NEVER arrogant. It’s a rare and admirable trait and I think it sets an example of courage and integrity that threatens a lot of people.. Calling you self serving in any case, but especially this one, is nothing short of projection. Please don’t let it get to you (in case it is).

          • Meghan Murphy

            Thank you so much, lizor. I very much appreciate that. I do, truly, try to make the most ethical choices I can in what I choose to cover and how… And still I second-guess myself in certain circumstances. But I would hope readers would at least avoid assuming that I don’t just post whatever, willy-nilly, without thinking it through first. This doesn’t mean what I cover and how I cover it is always perfect or will always be, but certainly I do try to make choices and decisions thoughtfully and ethically and with the larger movement in mind, first and foremost.

            This particular post was difficult for me to write and the decision to write it at all was not taken lightly. At the end of the day I felt the conversation was an important one to have and at the basis of much of our conversations and the work we do here and beyond (meaning the work of our sisters and the work of the feminist readers and commenters here on the site — the work we all do as feminists). I also felt, from a journalistic perspective, that it was information I felt wasn’t better kept hidden…

            Again, my goal was never to attack or to ‘take down’ Glen. It wasn’t to “call him out,” either. It was to have this conversation and to make connections, with the hope that he — and others (men in particular) — would learn and come to understand how objectification is connected to rape culture and porn culture and that they must be responsible for intervening when it comes to the behaviour of the men around them, as well as be responsible for their own roles in the perpetuation of rape/porn culture. It’s that ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too’ thing… I don’t think all individuals need to be perfect — I am certainly not — but I do feel the stakes are a little higher when we’re talking about the kinds of media/images MEN create and consume and how those media/images impact women as a whole.

          • Joan

            How long before you made this public? Did you write it and then contact him?

          • Meghan Murphy

            I contacted him, didn’t hear back, published, heard back, updated post with his response. What difference does it make? His response doesn’t/didn’t change the intent, message, or arguments in the post.

            Hows about you answer my questions now?

    • You’re not fooling anyone here with the MRA styled response that somehow us feminazis are bringing you down. Why do I want to read yet another patriarchal crap of a response when I’ve read the response to the email in which you pass the buck to the parents?

      See dude, you’re supposed to know better. You seriously need young women to defend the indefensible when it’s male demand like yours that produced pornified images like that in the first place?

      It just goes to show when men are confronted with their bad behaviour they’ll try to get a few women as shields to stick out front. It’s all their fault right?

      • Meghan Murphy

        I’ve seen this pattern play out sooo many times it’s gross. Man gets called out, gets women to rep for him, plays the victim, hides behind women, encouraging them to fight the MEAN FEMINISTS on his behalf.

        • Red Dog

          I think we need to all get better at connecting dots where they exist, and not looking for them where they don’t.

          These photos Glen took over a decade ago look pretty benign to me. None of them show women submitting to men, none of them show or hint at violence against women, none, frankly, even come close to what I would call “pornographic”. Erotica, yes. Pretty mild. It is a tenuous connection at best.

          While I appreciated Meghan’s article, and my opinion was that it was a thoughtfully written piece, I was very disturbed by some of the comments posted by others here. You can see from Glen’s blog posting in response, that he felt the same way. I don’t know if any of you have lost a loved one, let alone a child, to an act of violence (like murder, or suicide related to bullying), but I have. If you haven’t, you have no idea. Please show some some class. Some of you clearly have no idea what this means, so for those who fit this description, I would ask for Meghan to show some class and to not publish the most hateful and ignorant comments.

          I appreciated Glen’s responses. I don’t agree 100% with everything either Glen or Meghan said, but it is frightful to see that two people who by all indications both want the same thing (a reduction in violence against young women) find themselves on the attack against each other.

          Please, everyone. Take a step back. Take a few breaths. Rather than being quick to get your own words in, in the hope of furthering your own personal political agenda, or in the hope of being “right”, try instead to be kind, and understanding. You can do this without agreeing 100% with the other person’s viewpoint.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I don’t feel that I ‘attacked’ anyone nor do I feel I have acted ‘without class,’ whatever that means… I wonder when the last time was that you asked a man to act with ‘class.’

          • Morag

            “Rather than being quick to get your own words in, in the hope of furthering your own personal political agenda … ”

            What the hell does THAT mean?

            What’s on the “agenda” is stopping male sexual violence against women (not “reducing” it to a comfortable level, to a few girls and women who can be sacrificed, like lambs, to ever-lasting male supremacy).

            Yeah, sexual violence is “personal” and yeah, we want to “further” our “political agenda” to end it. You speak as if we were power-hungry men trying to get into office, rather than women who don’t want to be raped. Women who don’t want other girls and women to be raped. Imagine that.

            Jesus Christ, listen to yourself, would you?

          • Dear Red Dog, unless I missed something I didn’t see a word of condolence in regards to your loss. My condolences to you, your family and friends.

  • marv

    Men like Canning are possessed by the spirit of porn to the extent of it becoming integral to their identities. When they hear and see the rebuking voices of feminists it burns like a fire in the ears and eyes. It’s as excruciating as peering into the Sun with the naked eye and listening to the ear splitting cracks of rolling thunder. They panic screaming, “these voices must not be allowed to speak any more lest we die by facing our accountability”. To admit the truth would result in the porn persona convulsing their bodies with loud shrieks of agony before departing.

    To surrender the porn self along with the whole masculine identity is an even more terrifying thing. Yet without feminism men will never become human, to see women as their equals, or find peace and joy.

    • marv

      More accurately the emotions of porn fixated men are rage, fury and tantrums when confronted.

  • Mindboggling response from GC. But I guess it really shouldn’t be. Mindboggling, that is. As Morag said, he’s suffered an unspeakable loss. To realize he contributed to it, even as a minor tributary, could well be unendurable pain. So it makes sense he’s in denial, even though it’s boggling at the same time. Pushing back on that much reality must take nuclear fission levels of emotional energy. The pieces are going to be pretty small when it all gives way.

  • susan

    I have no words for this. I just can’t believe it. He was her father. HER FATHER. How could he behave in this way so devoid of humanity?

    Maybe I have a skewed vision of the father-daughter relationship. I am very close to my father and he has been incredibly loving and caring my entire life. That’s just not the reality for most girls. Very sad.

  • river

    Thank you for keeping this up. You’re doing the right thing. I’m sorry this kind of journalistic integrity can only happen here.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks river

  • Wildis She

    I’m a long time reader of Feminist Current and I whole heartedly agree with your argument Meghan. However, out of respect of the women in the photographs, it might be prudent to take down the pictures and instead described the photos instead. Or at the very least blur out their faces or blur the image so that others get the idea but don’t see faces.

    Is there a reason I might not understand as to why to leave them up untouched? I understand evidence is important, but i do question the cost.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I hear your point, but considering that there isn’t anywhere else online to see the photos, now that Canning has taken them down, I feel it’s useful to see what we’re talking about here… I assume the women know the photos are online and publicly accessible and are ok with that, as they were on his website for ten years…? Something I will continue to consider though. Thanks for your thoughts.

      • Wildis She

        The argument that the women are okay with their pictures is precisely the argument we debate. That is to say that the context they are okay with it is an environment in which women’s worth is solely in their sexual appeal and the resources their energy and bodies provide men.

        I understand that seeing the pictures are important to get your point across, especially it not being accessible elsewhere. To say that these images exists.

        Canning’s response and blurring the faces in the images prove this.

        I say this with the utmost respect and appreciation of your writing.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I’m not arguing ‘consent’ = ‘ok’… I’m arguing that the images are needed in order to understand what we’re talking about… I don’t see including the images, which are publicly available (or were, until I contacted Canning to ask about them and then wrote this post), as crossing an ethical line… I honestly feel (especially based on some comments on this posts and responses I’ve received) that simply describing the photos would have a far less impactful result than including them, in a way that would diminish and obscure the point we are trying to make. I also don’t think it would be effective to scrub them from the internet without actually getting a response from Canning that shows he has understood or acknowledged the point being made about objectification and its connection to women’s subordination and violence against women. That is my opinion from a journalistic perspective as well as a feminist one… Blurring their faces seems a potentially useful solution that I will look into. I do respect and appreciate your opinion, I just don’t completely agree at this point.

          • Wildis She

            I’m am very aware of your arguments against the tyranny of consent. You’ve written about it before and very well.

            This is just to let you know that I know you know. 🙂

          • Meghan Murphy

            I know… (ha). Honestly, I appreciate your feedback and it is something I have and will continue thinking about — but at this point I do feel it’s more useful to keep them up than not. Thanks again for your thoughts.