Last Friday I heard that anti-porn author Gail Dines was going to appear on the ABC’s interactive program Q&A. As the public is invited to submit questions, I thought I’d add mine. It went something like:
Gail Dines dismisses feminist porn by saying it’s not different enough from mainstream porn. What kind of sexually explicit material would be OK by her personal feminist standards?
I signed it as “Louise Lush” because, after being mentioned in the SMH a couple of weeks ago, I should post the question as a feminist pornographer.
I hit return and the question went into moderation, along with thousands of other questions. Then, at 10.30pm on Sunday night, I got an email from one of the producers of Q&A asking me to video myself asking the question and to send it in. She also wanted to know where I lived.
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Immediately, I quailed. The idea of me appearing on national TV under my porn pseudonym – with bonus information about where I live – is not appealing. I live in a small town and every second person on my street is a fundamentalist Christian.
I declined on the video question. The producer replied the next morning saying that was OK… but where did I live?
I didn’t reply. As far as I know, the question didn’t get asked. (I couldn’t bring myself to watch it).
I guess you could say it was a cowardly response. Surely if I believe in what I do and oppose censorship I should stand up and be counted, fight the good fight and be damned what people think.
The problem is, if it was only a matter of what people think, I’d probably be OK. But it’s not that simple.
Australia has some very confusing and fucked up laws regarding porn. As far as I’m aware, I haven’t broken any of them. Still, that’s no guarantee of protection from persecution. As we saw with the prosecution against Abby Winters, it only takes one crusading journalist to kick up a stink and things can go very pear shaped indeed. It would only take one fundamentalist Christian neighbour to call the police and tell them I was making child porn and my life would become a living hell. Never mind that I don’t or that my kind of porn is possibly the most innocuous stuff in the world… that doesn’t matter when the police are raiding your house at dawn and confiscating your DVDs and computers.
I have a lot to lose. And while I want to engage in political discussions and tell the world that Gail Dines’ anti-porn stance is wrong, I’m at a distinct disadvantage.
Things are great for Gail Dines and other anti-porn activists like Sheila Jeffries and Melinda Tankard Reist. Our society gives them the high moral ground. Porn is automatically assumed to be evil so those who want to ban it can swan about and demand censorship with impunity. Gail Dines gets opinion pieces in major newspapers, radio show slots, TV appearances and special presentations at NSW Parliament House. Those who oppose that position are on the back foot already because defending porn invites automatic personal attack. And, in my case, possible breach of privacy or persecution.
I’m always conflicted about this. I wanted to start a group similar to Feminists for Free Expression in Australia. I want to have a lobby group to oppose the increasing influence of conservatives with an anti sex agenda. Problem is, I don’t want to be the spokesperson. I can’t be the spokesperson. I’m tainted. And I’m also afraid for my privacy and my livelihood. And yet I want to defend freedom of speech and speak out for feminist porn.
How can there be any kind of reasonable debate about the place of porn in society when the board is set so unevenly?
Note: Thomas Roche has written an excellent reply to Gail Dines’ SMH piece from last week. He says everything I wanted to say – and saved me the hassle of writing it myself. Thanks Thomas!