Censorship, Porn — May 10, 2012 at 11:26 am

Porn On Australian Current Affairs Shows

About this time last year I wrote a post called Beware These Skewed Statistics About Porn “Addiction”. I talked about preliminary research by two University of Sydney academics, Gomathi and Raj Sitharthan, who had conducted a survey of 800 people, focusing on compulsive behaviour toward porn, or, as it’s misleadingly called “porn addiction.”* The survey specifically invited participants who self-identified as having a problem with porn. Many of the questions focused not on regular porn use but problematic behaviours and ultimately asked about the best way to “cure” the “addiction.

At the time, news outlets had taken the preliminary results of that survey and happily applied it to the population at large, running scare-stories about the terrible impact porn was having on the lives of everybody.

A year later, it’s happening again. The ABC’s 7.30 Report last night ran an inflammatory report, ramping up the bogeyman of porn addiction. For reporter Rebecca Baillie, an 800-person survey of self-identified problem porn users can easily be applied to the entire porn-watching population. Worse still, she then went on to suggest that a compulsive use of adult porn led to an inevitable use of child abuse material. You can read the transcript and see the video here.

Never mind that in the report, Raj Sitharthan says first up:

You’re talking about a small minority or a small group of people where excessive viewing does become a problem. It’s that group that we need to target on, not everybody who uses porn.

Never mind that Professor Alan McKee, who has done actual scientific research into porn use says:

Some people argue that if you start off by looking at mainstream heterosexual pornography then you’ll be drawn on to then looking at sadomasochistic pornography and then looking at child pornography and then finally at snuff pornography where people are murdered. That’s the slippery slide theory. There is absolutely no scientific evidence for that.

Nope. Baillie promptly dismissed that and went for the full-on scare-a-rama, complete with comments from the Australian Federal Police cyber crime unit (and their comments seem to have been taken out of context).

I participated in the Twitter discussion afterwards. It’s pretty clear that for many people, porn is a monolithic monstrosity and the only way to deal with it is to ban it completely. That attitude is not helped by the kind of biased report just screened by our national broadcaster.

Thankfully, SBS offered something a little more useful on Tuesday night. Their episode of Insight looked at young people’s use of porn and – refreshingly – actually bothered to ask young people about it. Just take a second to ponder that. In all the hand flapping media reports that surround the “dangers of porn” for teens, I can think of very few that got their hands dirty and talked to the kids themselves.

The full transcript is here. What is apparent is that teens are very much aware of the problems of porn and they approach it with a relatively even keel. But they want more information. They want education about sex and they want to talk about porn. There were some brilliant quotes from kids like:

You can’t tell from porn. If you want to know what your partner wants ask her. You don’t – like you’ll never get a true perspective or true like idea of what a woman would want from porn, ever, because again, every woman’s interests are different so maybe there’s someone that does enjoy it, that’s fine. But you need to know personally what, yeah, what they think.

I can basically sum up my first sexual experience in pretty much five words, is that the right hole? There’s unfortunately, I’m not sure how many of you remember primary school or secondary school and sex education but it was black and white diagrams. … For me, pornography became something like okay, I’m willing to approach this from a research perspective, which is kind of sad. I looked at porn for tips. One of the best things I have learnt from pornography is how to kiss someone. I actually learned some good tactics from a video that was entirely dedicated to two girls practicing their kissing technique but it actually helped me. There’s stuff you can learn from it, even if it’s a highly fantasised reality.

There were some very supportive parents in that audience and it was really apparent that open and honest communication with kids about sex and porn makes a huge different to how it’s approached. I’m a huge advocate of comprehensive sex education that includes discussions of porn. And I think there’s no substitute for talking about it with your kids.

Something else to note from both stories: the anecdotes/first person stories of people struggling with pornography were often from people who were Christian or had a Christian background. Naturally, you know I’m going to say it: the guilt and shame surrounding sexuality in organised religion could well be the real source of their struggles, not the porn.

* “Porn addiction” is not a clinical diagnosis. Compulsive use of porn is very different from a physical addiction such as alcoholism. While I don’t deny that some people develop negative and compulsive behaviours toward porn, it is extremely unhelpful to use the term “addiction”. Plus it feeds into the guilt and shame industry propagated by the church which seeks to make money by “curing” people of their “addiction.” By all means, lets talk about the negative aspects of porn and let’s talk about inappropriate uses of it. But we need to move on from hysterical news reports that view all porn as dangerous and all users as victims.

 

Image is from Sex Is Funny

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Sharing the love « The Lady Garden

  2. With new measures being taken against porn in the UK and Mitt Romney promising to shut down the industry if he is elected in the US, it’s nice to see someone talking about porn in a constructive way. And great that teenagers are finally being asked to join the discussion. If such discussions happened more often, we might all be sparred the antics of the few people out there who seem just as obsessed with porn as the “porn addicts” they deride.