Melbourne’s Ormond College takes bold position against porn, students turn to liberal feminism in protest

Melbourne University

In what might be deemed a radical move, the University of Melbourne’s largest residential college banned access to pornography on campus. This means students at Ormond College will be blocked from accessing “adult sites” on Wi-Fi networks.

The reason for this is straightforward. As college master Dr. Rufus Black stated, pornography is exploitative and “presents women primarily as sex objects who are a means to the end of male pleasure.”

Simple, right?

Wrong!

While Black told Jill Stark at The Age that “allowing the college’s 400 students to access porn on its network would be condoning the objectification of women,” some students felt the ban limited “freedom of expression.” Apparently, for men, facials are an art form.

But, in truth, it isn’t “sexual expression” that’s being banned (if that’s the line of argument we’re going with), it’s just men’s “right” to access websites that sell female degradation. So “expression” is not limited in the least. No one has banned masturbation and, of course, men are still free to think about gang raping women or to sexualize “schoolgirls” inside their own heads as always. Vive la liberté!

Luckily male students angered by the ban have liberal feminism to fall back on, so they don’t need to defend their misogynist interests as such.

Stark reports that first year law student Thibaut​ Clamart​, 24, “wrote a newsletter response objecting to the ban, saying it was a ‘moralizing statement’ and that not all pornography was demeaning.”

“We all agree there is an issue with the current state of mainstream porn but banning it is not the answer. It won’t educate people, it is condescending and paternalistic,” he told her.

Do “we all agree,” Thibaut? Oh good. Good. I’m so glad to know “we all agree.”

Let’s just quickly test that statement though… You know, just to be sure. We’re all in this together, right Thi?

He tells Stark, “If their argument is that it’s about respecting women and enabling young people to discover their sexuality without having the repressive influence of porn, that makes the assumption that looking at porn is going to perpetuate those attitudes and you’re going to behave like a porn actor.”

Hmm… Seems like we may not all agree, after all. First, it’s very clear that the media we consume impacts our worldview. This is how advertising works, for example. Simply, we receive messages about products which convince us we need to buy said products. It is through advertising (as well as other forms of media, but ads were the first to do this) that we learn about supposed “flaws” we must fix — yellow teeth, perspiration, body hair, cellulite, visible pores, etc. Media teaches us how we are supposed to look, what “sexy” means, which body parts we are to sexualize, how thin we should aspire to be, and even, yes, appropriate ways men should behave towards women. To pretend as though porn has no impact on our ideas about sex, sexuality, women and men is silly.

We can simply look to culture at large to see that lessons about male entitlement are widespread and ever-present in media. Anita Sarkeesian’s recent video addresses the way in which gamers learn, quite literally, that female bodies, affection, and sexualities are things that are owed to them and that they will be rewarded with if they simply press the right buttons. When men sexually harass, catcall, grope, or rape women, we see this entitlement in action. Pornography very much exemplifies men’s sense of entitlement to access female bodies at any given moment. So much so that many see pornography and masturbation as interchangeable. This is why men believe that attempts to limit porn use are, in fact, attempts to limit “sex.”

Black, too, understands that the messages in porn are clear, arguing that his decision was based on a “well-held view that pornography depicts women for the gratification of male sexuality”.

Interestingly, Stark points out that back in the 90s, when Dr. Alan Gregory, former Master of Ormond College, was accused of sexual harassment, he responded to the complainants by accusing them of “puritan feminism.” Sound familiar?

Liberal feminism: the gift that keeps on giving. To misogynists.

When we equate male entitlement to “sexual expression,” women pay the price.

Rachel Withers, president of the University of Melbourne Student Union, told Stark she “would personally prefer to see colleges tackling issues around respect for women’s bodies and consent through educational programs and ensuring students receive comprehensive information on consent as part of their college orientation.”

Now, that’s a good idea too. A necessary part of changing attitudes is, I believe, real, good, feminist education (sex education, as well as just regular old “woman are human” education). But the problem with teaching “consent” within a context of liberalism is that, when it comes to porn and prostitution, “consent” is used against us. I mean, how would students who believe pornography equates to “freedom of expression” want consent to be taught? Would they learn that simply agreeing to exchange sex for money is good enough — end of story? Or would they talk about larger contexts of male domination and financial need as things that limit or at least shape women’s ability to “consent?”

What’s clear is that “consent” is not enough. People consent to unethical things all the time. Technically, women have “consented” to abuse for eons. They marry abusers, they agree to participate in rape porn, they go on second dates with men who’ve sexually assaulted them. We know now that women’s consent does not necessarily negate rape — they can say “yes,” but what actually goes down after that may very well constitute assault.

As Catharine MacKinnon wrote in her  book, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State:

‘‘The unquestionable starting point has been that rape is defined as distinct from intercourse, while for women it is difficult to distinguish the two under conditions of male dominance.’’

Our very understanding of what constitutes “sex” is rooted in notions of male domination and female subordination. Therefore, teaching “consent” to men is insufficient so long as we live in a rape culture and a porn culture.

So please give me a break with this “men have a right to porn, we’ll just teach them about consent” garbage. Not only do men already feel entitled to jack off to abuse, but now they’ve learned about “consent” from liberal feminists and are using that discourse to defend their right to degrade, exploit, and oppress us. Because we “consented.”

Black’s move is “radical” in a way, but only because we are so far gone, as a culture, we can’t even make the most obvious connections. The decision to ban access to porn on college campuses — places where rape and sexual harassment are ever-prevalent — is one that shouldn’t even be up for debate. This is not about criminalizing porn users and it won’t, in truth, even prevent students from looking at porn. They can easily go off-campus to seek out degrading images of women if they must. This is about teaching students what is right and wrong. It is about sending a larger message.

Black said, “We’re not in any way restricting their ability to do what they want with their own personal resources but the college’s internet is a common resource therefore what it gets used for is a question of community values.”

The message here is that misogyny is unacceptable on campus. And this is something we truly should all be able to agree on.

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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  • Cangle

    Viva la Melbourne!

  • Huffy Snappy

    “Luckily male students angered by the ban have liberal feminism to fall
    back on, so they don’t need to defend their misogynist interests as
    such.”

    Precisely.

  • Finally, someone in Australia does something! This nation just seems so servile most the time. I swear a Prime Minister could be ousted by a party out of nowhere and no one would do anything except send a bunch of tweets (oh wait, did that just happen? Again!)
    Seriously though, this is hardly a radical measure. If a single residential hall (which people choose to live in, when people make the choice not to watch pornography, the choice argument suddenly goes out the window for liberals) decides not to allow pornography within the hall it is not censorship. Just like banning pornography from one’s own house is not censorship. We should all have the right to avoid pornography and to associate with other people who do not consume pornography if we choose.
    This is not merely an issue of “offense”. It has been demonstrated that violent media (and I think it is reasonable to view pornography as a subset of violent media, since the majority of pornographic scenes are violent) exposure results in an increased likelihood of aggressive behaviour (I am sorry you liberals do not like that fact, but evidence does not lie, angry internet users trying to protect sources of pleasure do).
    I, for one, would be very grateful to have access to a space which is more likely to be selected by non-consumers of pornography. Bringing non-pornography consumers together could form the basis for a political movement against pornography. Yes, many of the people entering this space will be liberals who simply do not watch pornography themselves, but in my experience, the less exposure a person has to pornography, the nicer they are and people who live in such a space might just realise that. Like I said, it is not a radical measure, but it could be the start of something and if you liberals don’t like it, live in a different residential hall and preach your pro-pornography viewpoint there. It is not like you are the political radicals whose views are completely excluded from mainstream discourse. You already have most universities and spaces within universities on your side, can we have this one little space, where you do not tell us that we are ugly cunts who deserve rape and abuse (or the nicer sounding liberal feminist version of that)?
    Furthermore, I do not think it would be censorship if the Nordic Model were applied to pornography (which would mean the banning of pornography production, which is, after all, a form of prostitution). Freedom of speech does not include the right to break the law in order to produce speech. It is legal to make a film in which a person is brutally attacked (or even killed). It is not legal to actually do that to an actor in order to make a film (except in the case of pornography). Pornographers should be held to the same ethical standards as the mainstream film industry. The fact that they will inevitably fail such standards and give us justifications to shut down their operations is their problem.

    • NoAmnestyForPimps

      Oh yeah! It would be so nice to live somewhere where everyone is anti-porn. Go live somewhere else, misogynists.

  • Tired feminist

    Shouldn’t it be, like, just normal to ban pornography in an university? I mean, it’s an educational space. Even if someone doesn’t agree that pornography is misogynist, it’s still distracting at the very least. Banning pornography on campus is, if not anything else, a way of saying “we give you internet to study, you lazyass, not to play around.” This isn’t any more “moralizing” than it is for a teacher to take off the mobile phone from a student caught playing videogames or texting in the classroom. You might even think it’s unnecessary, but she/he still has the right to do so.

    • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

      People just can’t separate porn from sex these days. It’s astounding.

  • Reva

    It was just the college students opposing porn ban here…imagine a whole country doing it.This is exactly what happened in India a couple of months ago.The government decided to ban online porn and the whole nation opposed it because “watching a group of guys cumming on a woman’s face and degrading women in every way possible is a human right”.Obviously,the government had to lift the ban.They didn’t ban porn because it dehumanizes women but because it’s not a part of Indian culture and stuff.So you can imagine people’s reactions as we Indians looove copying western culture and would accept and encourage dehumanization of women as “sexual freedom” -_-

    • Meghan Murphy

      ugh

    • Tired feminist

      The whole nation? You mean the whole male portion of it, right?

      • Reva

        AND a lot of women!!It’s really sad to see how desperately Indian youth are trying to be open minded about sex.They’ll be cool with ANYTHING as long as it has sex in it.Many women watch porn and have no problem with the treatment of women in it.It’s “just sex!” for them.We have a porn star (Sunny Leone) in Bollywood now!

        • Tired feminist

          Hm… then it’s just like in the Western world. Just. The. Same.

          Seems like any exploitative capitalist crap from the West can gain ground worldwide under the guise of liberalism, “freedom”, “open-mindedness”. I don’t see it as any different from that age-old notion of western civilization as the most “advanced”.

  • Melanie

    Public libraries in Australia barr the use of pornography on their internet services. It’s perfectly reasonable for a public or educational institution to set the terms of their services when the issue of respect and consideration for all students or users comes into play. It has nothing to do with censorship. They can choose to study elsewhere if they don’t like it.

  • oneclickboedicea

    If a university has an equalities duty, then porn is a direct contradiction of that in that it uses hate speech against women and children and promotes acts of violence towards them. The same hate speech and violence that is the hallmark of Domestic Violence. Hate speech and violence against recognised groups of people promoted via media is against the law in the UK, apart from in porn where it is given a free pass, as apparently promoting hate speech and violence against women doesn’t contribute to the 1/2 million gendered attacks on women in their own homes that women in the UK currently report. Hate speech against women apparently doesn’t follow the same social patterns that racist/homophobic/disabled/religious hate speech and violence does … yeah right.

    • Meghan Murphy

      This is a good point. It seems like, considering laws against hate speech, most porn could easily be made illegal. Why not? Why is hate speech in porn acceptable? Are women not a marginalized group? Is hate speech against women not recognized? (I kind of know the answers to these questions, of course, but seriously. This seems like basic stuff to me.)

      • oneclickboedicea

        I wonder if there would be any mileage in crowd funding a legal action against hate speech in porn under equalities duty. Hits the pornographers where it hurts. Their wallets.

      • Sabine

        You’ve hit the nail on the head: women simply are not genuinely recognized as being a marginalized group no matter what the evidence to the contrary blatantly depicts. The hatred has been so entrenched for so long it’s become “natural” (within the patriarchal-capitalist nightmare we have been born into). It’s beyond basic stuff but only to the few of us who recognize the world we’re living in as an asylum!

      • will

        My understanding is that this is the exact strategy that MacKinnon and Dworkin were pursuing in the 80s. I’m not entirely confident I have that correct.

        It seems that because the speech, which is clearly hateful and clearly creates unsafe physical and psychological conditions for women, also triggers sexual arousal, then it gets a pass. I think that’s where libfems get confused – it makes them tingle, so it must be OK because politics is all about how good I might feel at a given moment.

        • Meghan Murphy

          My understanding of the MacKinnon/Dworkin Ordinance was that it was mainly intended to allow women harmed in porn to seek damages through the court? I could be missing something though…

  • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

    I can’t believe anyone could possibly have a problem with this. Aside from the misogyny of porn, it’s not appropriate to be sexual in all places at all times. This seems to me not unlike banning porn on work computers. I don’t think anyone would be opposed to that…or is that to be the next frontier? Women will be expected to put up with knowing those in cubicles around them have the “right” to view sexual and degrading images at work?

    • Hierophant2

      Exactly. No one should be allowed to view porn in public. You wanna do it, do it in your own home. What’s the big deal? What level of asshole do you have to be to view porn in public?

    • Sabine

      Totally right. Like Meghan says, we are so far gone as a society we are not even able to recognize what should be absolutely obvious. This reaction, as if some kind of human rights abuse is happening because men are being denied boners-on-tap no matter where they are, is pathetic.

  • Tangelo

    Excellent move by Ormond college. If I was studying at an American university, living in a residence with college wifi that didn’t block adult sites, I’d file a Title IX complaint. Would be interesting to see if it could prevail.

  • andeväsen

    “The unquestionable starting point has been that rape is defined as distinct from intercourse, while for women it is difficult to distinguish the two under conditions of male dominance.’’
    This is so right. Consent presupposes a situation where men and women are equal participants in the dialogue. Another approach from the arsenal at the disposal of student unions to reduce campus VAW is to teach “negotiation skills” to female students, which is similar to approaches that some in the health sector have taken to addressing VAW for women in prostitution – teach them to “negotiate” condom use. Individual women are asked to fight a war on their own, rather than changing the context of the war for all.

  • niheja

    It’s like corporations have more rights than women. Video games and porn being defended as “freedom of expression” when their true purpose is to promote consumerism, to fuse sex and masculinity with materialism. And the defenders claim to represent the marginalized rather than the powerful. Delusional.

  • FRUMKIN

    While I don’t, in principle, object in any way to the university’s banning access to pornography, I do disagree with a couple of Murphy’s premises. Chief among these is that “the media we consume impacts our worldview.” She offers advertising as an example. Speaking for myself, I, like everyone else, am bombarded constantly by advertisements telling me to buy this or that, yet I never buy these products. The reason that I don’t is that I am capable of thinking for myself. If I do not need or want a widget, I am not easily manipulated into buying one. Pornography is the same. It, of course, runs the gamut from the most innocuous (to side-step for the moment the argument, not entirely without merit, that pornography is intrinsically objectifying of and thus demeaning to women by virtue of its commodifying and making available women’s bodies for male consumption) to truly vile stuff. Yet pornography – which I have looked at and continue to look at on occasion – has never shaped my view of women in any way other than to confirm me in my conviction that their bodies are endlessly attractive and desirable to me. But just as I would be sexually attracted to women’s bodies if pornography did not exist, pornography has not altered or shaped my sexuality in any way as far as I can tell. For example, I have seen (albeit fleetingly) bondage and abuse videos in which a male is being flogged by a female. Seeing that imagery in no way influenced me to become a masochist and I certainly was not aroused by it. By the same token, seeing abuse videos in which the female is abused, has never made me want to act out the abuse depicted therein. I do not believe that people approach pornography as tabula rasas and that the pornography then inscribes upon the viewer the particular sexuality that is depicted in the pornography but rather that it is the other way around: a person will desire such and such thing or act and then, in the absence of its availability in real life, will merely seek out a visual representation of it as an ersatz sexual experience.

    And this brings me to the crux of the matter: pornography, I do not believe, shapes our views of women and ourselves as much as it confirms them, thus, pornography is merely the symptom: the disease is sexism and patriarchal culture itself. Pornography does not spring, spontaneously, from the Earth. Like a mold which develops and thrives only in suitable environments, pornography, especially those forms that depict and thus define heterosexual sex as essentially an act of domination and subjugation of the female by the male, arises out of a culture that already holds those views of sex. Thus, the question is, does pornography create that environment or does it, like the mold, merely thrive in that environment. My sense is that it is the latter.

    • Meghan Murphy

      You are delusional if you think you aren’t enormously impacted by advertising and media in general.

      • FRUMKIN

        Isn’t that solipsistic? If each of us is incapable of viewing our culture (of which advertising and media, regrettably, are a dominant part) critically, and are incapable of seeing through advertising and media’s attempts to manipulate us, then there can be no penetrating social criticism and no effective deconstruction of our culture (commercial and otherwise). If we are all like Plato’s cave dwellers, what possible means would be available to any of us to understand, let alone explain, how our culture functions? There would be no Marxian dialectics nor, for that matter, feminism. For myself, I eschew advertising and media but when I view it it invariably rings false. I am not deluded by it and, therefore, do not believe myself to be delusional.

        On an entirely different matter – had I known that you yourself were going to respond to my comment above I would have referred to you in the second person and not the third; sorry for that.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Of course we are capable of viewing our culture — media included — critically and pushing back against sexist messaging (I mean, that’s what we DO as feminists), but we also, as feminists, choose NOT to masturbate to porn, thereby training our brains to be turned on by male dominance and violence against women.

          I mean, I can tell you from my own experience — I used to buy fashion/beauty magazines sometimes — Cosmo, Glamour, etc. I noticed that every single time I did, I’d start thinking I needed to buy all these beauty products! Like, I’d be taking notes on all this stuff I was supposed to buy that I didn’t even know existed prior to opening the magazine. It’s not like I was stupid or not media literate — I was in university, completing a Women’s Studies degree! I don’t buy those kinds of magazines anymore because I don’t want to spend my time or brain energy on them, particularly when they simply teach me to be a consumer and to feel bad about my body even more than I already do, as a woman in this culture, but I know if I picked one up today, it would have a similar impact, despite the fact that I very clearly know better.

          • FRUMKIN

            I alluded briefly in my first comment to the argument that pornography is intrinsically objectifying of women’s bodies and, by extension, of women themselves. I said that I would side-step that question but because you address this directly I need to to do the same.

            (First, let me just say parenthetically that I always use the term “pornography” rather than “porn” for the following reasons. First, because the term “porn” is so frequently used, I believe that it has the tendency in some contexts to confer legitimacy on pornography, perhaps because pornography has become so normalized in our pornography-saturated society. On the other hand, in the context in which you use the term “porn,” it actually has the opposite connotation: it makes it sound as disreputable as it is. So when discussing it, I try to use a neutral, value-free term: hence, my use of “pornography.”)

            While I have no doubt whatsoever that the majority of pornography not only depicts but endorses, promotes, and even extolls male domination of and violence toward women, I disagree with what I believe to be your premise that all pornography necessarily and by its very nature does so. The question as to whether pornography is, intrinsically, objectifying of women’s bodies and women is appealing, logical, and even commonsensical on its face. After all, what is pornography but women’s bodies being turned into a commodity of sorts for the sexual delectation of the male sexual consumer? But there are a couple of problems with this formulation. What about gay pornography? And what about the developing genre of authentic lesbian pornography? (I am not speaking of fake “lesbian” pornography, which is in fact heterosexual women engaging in lesbian sex acts, which is, I strongly suspect, precisely its appeal to heterosexual male viewers of that type of pornography.) If, by its very nature, because it commodifies and objectives women’s bodies and sells them – or at least sells electronic images of them – to male viewers, which amounts to the same thing, pornography constitutes a form of hate speech toward women (and I think that much or most of it unambiguously does), how then does one explain gay pornography? If visual representations of a sex object are inextricably related to patriarchal culture and the perpetuation of male privilege, there would be only heterosexual pornography aimed at a heterosexual male audience. I do not doubt for a minute that this does indeed constitute the majority of pornography but the fact there are other genres of pornography that not only are not demeaning to women but that these include one that does not even have any women in it at least calls into question the premise that pornography is intrinsically and by definition objectifying of and demeaning to women specifically. I am of the view that it is not. As I suggested in my first comment, I believe that pornography is merely the symptom and not the disease itself. I can conceive of or imagine what pornography would look like in a sexually egalitarian society but it also occurs to me that perhaps in a truly sexually egalitarian society there would be no need for pornography or at least no impulse to produce it so perhaps it simply would not exist.

            My point – I’m sorry to be so long-winded – is simply that I believe that while most pornography constitutes a form of sexist propaganda, it need not do so. I believe that the sexism and the propaganda are superimposed upon the sex that is depicted in pornography, not unlike the phenomenon in which sexism can be superimposed upon sex itself. But I do not believe that the mere act of visually depicting a woman’s body for the purposes of the sexual titillation of the heterosexual male viewer necessarily constitutes a sexist or violent act toward women, just as the visual representation of men for the sexual titlliation of gay male viewers or of actual (not male-fantasy) lesbians for the sexual titillation of actual lesbians does not necessarily constitute a sexist or violent act toward gay men or lesbians respectively . I mention this (at long last) because of your comment above, in which you seem to equate pornography and the act of looking at it (as a masturbatory aid) with “male dominance and violence against women.” I do not believe that it is axiomatic that pornography constitutes male dominance and violence against women. I believe that pornography absolutely does do these things much or most of the time, but I do not believe that the sexist and patriarchal strains that run through pornography are endemic to the medium itself.

            This really boils down to two alternative propositions: either pornography is essentially a form of propaganda, and the sex is incidental (merely the palimpsest over which the sexist propaganda is inscribed), or pornography is essentially sexual in nature, and the propaganda that we see in so much of it (that is, its celebration and advocacy of subjugating women) is incidental and just happens to be a reflection of the fact that we live in a sexist and patriarchal culture. I believe that the latter is the case. Besides the existence of gay and lesbian pornography (and, incidentally, believe it or not, there actually is also a genre of loving, respectful, love-making heterosexual pornography that incorporates the principle of mutual giving and receiving of pleasure) to which I alluded above, I have come to this conclusion by way of analogy to, of all things, an entomological experiment.

            In a species of moth, the female secretes a pheromone which acts as what ethnologists call a “releaser,” that is, it triggers the male sexual response. it is so powerful that minuscule amounts of this pheromone, when placed on a petrie dish, will attract male moths of the same species from miles around. What is more, not recognizing that the pheromone has been extracted from the female moth herself, the poor males will attempt to copulate with the petrie dish. This, i believe, accurately represents what pornography is in our species. Pornographic images of women’s bodies for human males are analogous to the isolated pheromone of the female moth. Pornography is simply a distillation of a crucial element of male sexual arousal, namely visual stimulation. Pornography provides males with access to a distillation of most (though not all) of what it is about women that arouses men, namely, their bodies. The form of the human female body is to the heterosexual human male what that pheromone from the female moth is to the male moths in her species. The electronic images of women’s bodies which is extracted from the women whose bodies are rented (or stolen) for the purposes of making pornography is to the male pornography-consumer what the extracted pheromone from that female moth is to her male “suitors.”

            Does it make sense to say that, in the pheromone experiment, the act of reducing the female to her pheremonal essence is somehow demeaning to her? Or that it is objectifying her, since she is reduced to a stimulus and nothing more? It is my contention that, at its most basic level, this is all that human pornography is: an unnatural distillation of the sexual essence of female attractiveness for heterosexual males which consists primarily in female bodies. To the extent that these bodies are used in demeaning ways or in ways that subjugate them and, by extension, the women to whom these bodies belong, pornography then transcends the purely sexual and becomes propaganda and even a form of hate speech. But the mere image of a naked woman represented in a way that celebrates her beauty and, yes, celebrates her humanity too, does not, I contend, constitute an act of male dominance of or violence against women.

            Of course, even if pornography is essentially neutral and not intrinsically sexist and patriarchal, that does not mean that pornography – even the most innocuous pornography – is natural nor necessarily healthy. After all, we wouldn’t describe a male moths’s attempting coitus with a petrie dish as particularly functional or healthy behavior, would we? On balance, the world would probably be better off without it.

    • DeColonise

      While I read this post I came to think of a part of a book called Four Arguments For The Elimination of Television and this segment in the book came to me, well, I had to look it up.

      “Western society, biased towards the objective mental mode of experience, tends to be blind not only to the power of images but also to the fact that we are nearly defenceless against their effect. Since we are educated and thoughtful, as we like to think, we believe we can choose among the things that will influence us. We accept fact, we reject lies. We go to movies, we watch television, we see photographs, and as the images pour into us, we believe we can choose among those we wish to absorb and those we don’t. We assume that our rational processes protect us from implantation, or brainwashing. What we fail to realize is the difference between fact and image. Our objective processes can help us resist only one kind of implantation. There is no rejection of images.

      Raise your eyes from your monitor/phone for a moment. Look about the place you are currently at. Can you reject what you are seeing ?

      You may watch television and “know” those are actors performing, but the image of one person stabbing another is in you. You’ve got it. It’s yours. Thinking will not halt its entry into you or anyone else watching.

      You may watch the actor playing doctor in the commercial, speaking seriously, professionally, authoritatively. You know this is an actor, but you ingest him nonetheless. His authoritativeness becomes yours.

      I believe it sums the problem up very well. Whether we like it or not we are subject to these images. Whether we like it or not we do get them inside of us and when they are in us, we can’t choose which images will pop up in certain given situations.

      I can highly recommend getting this book and read it front to back. This short little segment does not really do it justice but I do believe you will get a good insight in a really growing problem among us humans that is clearly not good for us.

      • FRUMKIN

        It has to be providential that you made that comment (although, being an atheist, I do not believe in providence) because that’s one of those books that I’ve been meaning to read for decades, so you’ve inspired me to move it up on my list.

        I actually just responded to M.M.’s reply (my reply back is “awaiting moderation” so I don’t want to repeat everything that I just wrote) and that reply (mine) coincidentally anticipates your comment just now. So I will not repeat it in its entirety but, to approach this from a slightly different angle, all of us, I suppose, are shaped by our cultures and influenced, perhaps is a better word – by media, but if that is true of me than it is equally true of every one participating in this thread and no less true of M.M. herself.

        I reject the notion that we are all so obtuse and blind to the pernicious ways that the media and advertising attempt to warp us that we are defenseless against it. For that matter, I reject the notion that we are all so obtuse and blind to the pernicious ways that sexist and patriarchal culture attempts to warp us that we are defenseless against it. If there is no hope, we may as well pack up and go home. What, after all, is the goal of feminism if not to change culture by deconstructing it? But if no one is capable of deconstructing it, how is that feminism exists?

        • Meghan Murphy

          (Just wanted to respond to you comment bouncing back to ‘awaiting moderation’ — for some reason after I approve comments disqus randomly unapproves them and I have to go back in and manually approve again. I have no idea why. Just so you don’t think it was intentional, it wasn’t!)

          • FRUMKIN

            That’s okay. Disqus can be vexing!

        • DeColonise

          🙂 You will enjoy it I’m sure. And its not about being defenceless. Its about the impacts television (and in modern time also the internet of course that does the same) has on you as an individual.

          Yes, all of us are tainted by television unless you belong to the lucky few in which parents managed to have you not in front of a television at all when you were growing up.
          How do we learn language for example as children ? we mimic our parents, we mimic those who speaks around us. In fact how you begin to develop who you are, as in behaviour patterns and so on, is in large because how one mimic humans around you. That’s how we learn. What happens if humans to a great degree are shaped by actors on a television screen ? There is no denying today that a lot of parents for example use television as a babysitter. Which is horrifying to say the least.

          I stopped watching television altogether years ago and I can notice a difference in me over time. How deeply I have been tainted by television is hard to tell but I know its been a great deal. When I was young I used to watch a lot of movies behind my parents back and I remember not being very old how me and my friends used to play “war” because we had been watching the rambo movies and we found them “awesome” (yes, its laughable propaganda movies but as a young person you don’t think about that).

          I’m am an former porn user and one of the reasons when I knew I had to stop watching, because of the impacts it had on me, was that I could walk down a city and walk past a woman and all of a sudden a thought popped up in my head which could be anything from “I wonder what the colour of her underwear is” to trying to picture her naked, and not just naked, naked in very specific positions. I had no control over this. I could not dismiss them until they popped up in my head.
          Now I don’t think picturing someone naked is totally unhealthy or cruel but I want such images/fantasies to be out of MY imagination not that the person is being naked in positions that is not imagined by me but rather implanted by porn.
          It took me quite a few years to adjust to a sexuality that is healthy after I stopped watching porn and I believe some things will stay with me forever. Some things is beyond repair at this point but I can be aware of them and not let it get to me.

          No we ain’t defenceless, but we get tainted. Some more than others. But if we had been totally defenceless we would not have had this conversation to begin with. Women like Meghan would not run sites such as this one and so on.

      • Sally

        Thanks for this comment! I am sadly reminded of the time I made the terrible mistake of watching the trailer online for “The Human Centipede”. The images pervaded my consciousness and subconsciousness so deeply that I felt very disturbed and irked for weeks afterward. I refused to watch the movie with all of my friends who simply found the entire concept to be “funny” and apparently “laughed” through the entire thing. I just simply couldn’t see the degradation of the individuals in the movie as a light-hearted matter, because in a word, it was “disgusting.” The images in the trailer haunted me for a very long time, and this trailer was really only a few seconds… maybe 30 seconds long at most. Now, imagine being a person who watches porn on a daily, or bi-weekly basis, as apparently most males I’ve asked have admitted to in their own lives. And not just for 30 seconds, but for 10-30 minutes on average. No one will ever be able to convince me that porn has absolutely no affect on someone’s pysche. I suppose you could chalk it all up to me being “overly sensitive”, but I truly believe that no mentally healthy and rational person would willingly continue to subject themselves images of degradation, of REAL human beings (in porn), unless there was something deeply wrong with the individual, whether through socialization or through mental illness. And you know what? I don’t care if anyone is offended by me saying there is something “deeply wrong” with an individual who continues to find pleasure in the degradation and exploitation of others, no matter how objective they claim to be. I really don’t flipping buy it.

        • Meghan Murphy

          omg! That trailer totally traumatized me. I do not understand how or why anyone would choose to watch something like that… But then again, I don’t understand why people watch horror movies in general. I don’t enjoy having imagery like that burned into my brain, nor do I enjoy feeling terrified…

          • Angelique Nolan

            The trailer for Hostel caused me to have nightmares for quite awhile. It’s a movie about two young women who are travelling in some foreign country and are…sexually tortured to death? At least according to the trailer. It’s frustrating that movie trailers have gotten so graphic that it’s now possible to get the imagery from horrible, traumatizing hate flicks into the heads of people that conscientiously abstain from viewing them.

  • Sabine

    “So please give me a break with this “men have a right to porn, we’ll just teach them about consent” garbage. Not only do men already feel entitled to jack off to abuse, but now they’ve learned about “consent” from liberal feminists and are using that discourse to defend their right to degrade, exploit, and oppress us. Because we “consented.””
    Yup.

  • As much as I hate porn, I strongly disagree with filters on principle, especially in higher education. Here’s why: The UK government did this a few years back citing porn as the reason but mostly they just used it to block sites they decided we shouldn’t see that had nothing to do with porn. Boys and men who want to access porn can access porn one way or another as long as it’s there for them to find. It’s lip service, it doesn’t work and it nearly always has an ulterior motive behind it.

    Most Unis tend to have a policy on how their servers are to be used already. It seems more appropriate (and constructive) to discipline individual students who get caught violating policy when they’re supposed to be using servers to aid their studies etc.

    Porn itself cannot be tackled until it is widely acknowledged that it is an exploitative violation of human rights to publish images of prostituted people in this way so that those who upload depictions of sexual violence can be criminalised for it, sites hosting illegal images can be struck down and the owners of their servers can be held accountable for facilitating crime.

    This just looks backdoor political censorship with a friendly “progressive” face to me and it gives the other side too much ammunition to excuse their mission to censor feminists from university, as well.

  • Rachel

    I hate porn. Hate it hate it hate it. I would also love to live in some society where people understood the damage that it creates on all levels. Not just the usual “poor men it can make them suffer erectile disfunction and make them see their partner as less attractive boo hoo”. I hate the fact that they are turning to lib fem to protect their boners. But what’s new hey? I actually can’t believe just how accepted it is now. Like to the point where it’s featured so much in pop culture. When I was a teen of course it was accepted that ‘all boys’ watch it, as it’s been for a while I guess, and that was hard enough to deal with. But now it’s just a whole new level of acceptance, where people actually defend it as some male right. Gross.

  • Mellie

    Will they exempt gay male porn, which by definition doesn’t involve women??

    • Meghan Murphy

      I assume this isn’t a serious question, but rather a rhetorical one, but it’s not as though “equal objectification” will resolve the impact porn culture has on women… Which is to say, it’s not like we want gay men to be sexualized, objectified, or degraded either… (Though of course the context for female objectification is different than it is for males.)

    • Tired feminist

      Gay porn borrows much of the language from heterosexual porn. Just notice how the more submissive guys are labelled as “feminine” or “emasculated”.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Because on the internet everyone’s opinion holds equal weight! So the opinions of trolls hold the same weight as, say, Catharine MacKinnon. #twitterfeminism.

    • Do you not get the impression that people pay more attention to comments if they believe they were written by a man? I really notice that. With that said, I got called a ‘mangina’ the other day…

  • Meghan Murphy

    Try Robert Jensen’s “Getting Off,” Gail Dines’ “Pornland,” “Big Porn Inc” (a compilation of essays), or Dworkin’s “Pornography.”

    • Kingnoname

      I wouldn’t suppose you know of any more neutral pieces. It’s just every author you have mentioned has campaigned to criminalize pornography. I’ll read them of course, I have already read Pornland and most of Dworkin’s ‘Pornography.’ I find many of these pieces only really resonate when you already support the argument the author is putting forward. Regardless that thank you for your response and have a nice day.

      • Meghan Murphy

        To criminalize pornography? No… In any case, why would you want to read something ‘neutral’ about violence against women?

  • You must really love it when women are choked with a penis, slapped and spit on.

    YOU. YOU. YOU.

  • Meghan Murphy

    What and who counts as ‘neutral’?

    • Kingnoname

      By neutral I mean objective. I was asking for a piece which includes serious research. Not appeals to emotion. Not appeals to allegiances. Not correlation fallacies. Not assumptions of intent. A longitudinal study would be nice, but I would settle for a couple hundred person studies. In short I want real evidence not at best social trends but on repeatable experiments.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Ok but what I’m trying to point out to you is that there is no such thing as ‘neutral.’ No one is unbiased. Research will always be unbiased because people are unbiased. Also, when it comes to issues like male violence against women, there is evidence and research but there are also thoughts, feelings, emotions, politics, and ideology and all of it is relevant. People are, at the end of the day, what’s at stake. Beyond that, as you may or may not be aware, what has long been presented as ‘neutral’ are white male voices. Everyone else is seen as ‘biased’ because they are not the ‘norm.’ You think feminism is biased and not ‘neutral’ because it is based on aims, ideas, experiences, emotions, research, evidence, and ideology that is woman-centered.

        • Tired feminist

          Meghan you don’t need to approve this comment but I think you meant “research will always be biased because people are biased”…

          • Meghan Murphy

            Yes! That is what I meant. Sorry. I’m tired. (Edited now — thanks!)

      • Tired feminist

        Non-scientific material can include serious research and/or thoughtful analyses and also appeal to emotion. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. Also, there aren’t many scientific studies about pornography to refer to (Gail Dines does refer to some); it’s not as if universities and funding organizations were all eager to support research that threatens male entitlement that much. From what I read of Dworkin, for example, I got the feeling that she intentionally doesn’t give two shits about academic conventions. She basically doesn’t care whether academics or scientists will believe her or not – partially, I think, because she was well aware of how white-male-normative the concept of “neutrality” is. Yet her analyses of the social structures that support pornography are coherent. If you decide to only take a piece seriously if it has zero appeal to emotion, you’re entitled to your opinions (although I frankly think you’re in denial), only don’t expect feminists to care about them.

  • Tired feminist

    I don’t think you’ve read the piece I linked beyond its title, otherwise you’d know your “you should be grateful for my precious attention” card has already been discussed there.

  • Meghan Murphy

    I don’t understand why you don’t think that the global oppression of women, objectification, rape culture, porn culture, male violence against women, etc. don’t count as ‘evidence?’

    • Tired feminist

      I think he’s in denial. In every feminist thread about pornography there’s one of those. He wants to convince himself that he can keep watching porn and that we don’t know what we’re talking about. No amount of evidence will be “substantial” enough for him because it’s not what he’s really looking for.

  • marv

    Your threshold for defining violence is woefully inadequate. For a woman to be put on display as a play thing – fuck toy – for men is in itself a violation of her dignity and humanity no matter if she is there by brute force or not. Portraying a woman as a nice piece of ass is the initial act of aggression against her along with the social training that put her there. Any aware person viewing pornography would deeply feel in their hearts the porn models’ abused physical and emotional social status. An oblivious person wouldn’t notice because of his own biased conditioning towards objectivity.

  • Meghan Murphy

    No. I mean ‘neutral,’ not the norm. This is why the white male reporter is always seen as NEUTRAL and UNBIASED when, in fact, he is neither.

    Seeing as you aren’t finding this ‘fruitful’ and we are finding it mansplainy and trollish, perhaps you might prefer another forum?

    • Meghan Murphy

      This will be your last comment here, Kingnoname. Thanks & bye.

  • Meghan Murphy

    “Our movement,” says the MRA. Haahahhahaa.

  • Tired feminist

    No evidence will be “solid” enough for someone who is unembarrassed enough to say that women aren’t oppressed in the West, that rape culture has nothing to do with pornography, that wage gap has nothing to do with patriarchy, that male violence against women isn’t systemic… your problem is not with anti-pornography discourse, your problem is with feminism.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Exactly.

  • Tired feminist

    Ooooh, poor meeeenz… Should they get the wifi money back? Tsc tsc, this Guardian should be ashamed to care more about women’s bodies than about men’s pockets…

  • JP

    Do you happen to have Aspergers or something? Your refusal to empathize with the humanity of women without some kind of hard-science evidence that women actually “feel” is kind of weird. I can only conclude that you actually can’t empathize and so you dismiss all emotion as logical fallacies. We are talking about a social issue. We are talking about a philisophical issue. We are not talking about what spectrum of color frogs can see. We are talking about respect. Respect is emotional. No amount of reading will help you understand if you are in fact incapable of empathy, or if you can’t see things from a view that isn’t white/male.

    • pjwhite

      I have a nephew with Asperger’s and he is much more sensitive and compassionate that this troll could ever hope to be. He is 19 and in love with Taylor Swift. He’s adorable. And his parents tell me he’s never expressed any interest in porn.

  • pjwhite

    You clearly asked the question in bad faith, but try this: “Hot Young Girls” documentary. Also, Linda Lovelace’s autobiography. Also, do you know that a popular image in porn is a man ejaculating into a woman’s face? You don’t find that degrading? Would you do that to a woman you loved? Okay, then.

  • Sally

    I find that when people accuse women of “subjectivity” or not being “neutral” or “objective” enough, it’s usually just code for “You’re too emotional and therefore your opinions are invalid,” as if you can’t be emotional and have a valid opinion at the same time. It’s also a form of gaslighting, trying to convince us our own interpretations of reality, and therefore our emotional response to is, can’t be trusted and therefore we need only trust the male interpretation and perception in order to be considered “logical” and worthy of male consideration.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Right exactly. And there is a long history of this.

  • Sally

    It’s quite insane that we even need television in society, but for many people it is an escape from the stressful lives they have, so I understand why people watch it. That said, I hope people continue to see just how damaging it is and start to cut it out of their lives. The internet on the other hand is a way different animal. We not only use it for viewing content, but accessing communication tools, which is a lot harder to cut out of our lives. It’s going to be very difficult to completely cut out the harmful messages of advertising on the internet, especially since so many things go uncesored unless you change your settings in your parent filter or something in your firewall. My mother doesn’t even let my younger siblings use the internet that much. She monitors everything they do. She does it from a conservative christian perspective, but I’m honestly greatful that my 17 year old sister is not being exposed to these constant baragement of harmful ads. She is a very well-adjusted young woman with much higher self-esteem than most teenage girls I’ve met.