Porn, violence and (un-)healthy relationships

by Betsy MacDonald

Last week I was fortunate to be able to attend a forum near Yarmouth, NS called The Impact Of Growing Up In Our Porn Culture. Hosted by Tri-County Women’s Centre, the event featured keynote speaker Gail Dines who is a feminist anti-pornorgaphy activist, author of Pornland and sociology/women’s studies professor based in Boston, MA. It brought grassroots organizations, youth, parents and community leaders together to discuss the harmful impacts of the porn industry on children and society, and how to stop it.

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Pre-teen children are regularly watching violent pornography.

Gail Dines and her colleague Cordelia Anderson (Sensibilities Prevention Services) shared alarming evidence pointing to the exponential growth of free pornography that can be easily accessed by children on the Internet. According to one study, “children as young as 11 years old are regularly accessing hardcore gonzo pornography” (IFR, 2006).

For those unfamiliar with what porn looks like nowadays, we are not talking about mere images and videos of people having sex. We are talking about the sexual torture of women (and in some cases children) captured on video. Once considered extreme or on the margins, this violent pornography has now become mainstream and constitutes the majority of “top rated porn scenes.”

What effect is this having on children, youth and society? According to the research, it interrupts the normal emotional, sexual and neurological development of boys. It teaches them that violence against women is normal and a source of erotic pleasure, making it very difficult to form healthy, loving relationships. Not surprisingly, pornography has a known connection to sexual violence. It contributes to the hypersexualization of girls, the devastating individual and social impacts of which are well documented.

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Gail’s book!

Dines warns that the widespread distribution and use of violent, misogynistic pornography is producing a sexually traumatized generation of young people. These individuals will grow up to be parents, partners, teachers and leaders. This can and will have a devastating impact on society.

So how do we stop it? Dines advocates for the Gulliver strategy, which is a concerted effort using a variety of methods that together have the power to take down the enemy. That enemy, by the way, is the pornography industry. It is big, profitable and monopolized by a corporation called MindGeek, whose owners intentionally profit from violence against women and children.

A public health approach to stopping porn culture could go a long way toward regulating and reducing the power of the porn industry. (Think about what happened with tobacco!) An addictions approach can help children, teens and adults get un-hooked from porn. Social media campaigns and grassroots movements can help change attitudes and create alternatives. Healthy relationships education for youth (such as the HRY program!) can help prevent and challenge hypersexualized violence by promoting and teaching about respect, communication, consent and media literacy.

Speaking of alternatives, one thing I try to keep in mind is that although the pornography industry tells a powerful story that shapes (and threatens) our identities and lives, it is not the only story.  There are positive narratives all around us – of healthy relationships; of sexual autonomy and mutuality; of diverse sexualities; of passion without violence. Together these narratives have the power to replace the dominant one. To borrow a concept from the anti-globalization movement, the fight against pornography requires “one no and many yeses”.

So let’s say “no” to porn culture and “yes” to a world free from violence. We need to put this issue on the public policy agenda in Nova Scotia and Canada. The next generation is worth it!

(Check out Gail Dines here:)

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This entry was posted in community, global, hypersexualization, media, national, provincial, social action. Bookmark the permalink.

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