The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Posts Tagged ‘debate’

And now for feminist pornography

Posted by Nic Heath on November 24, 2009

Popular pornography is undeniably big business and, thanks to the internet, virtually ubiquitous. I mean, it isn’t something I encounter often when I’m online checking the news but if you’re halfway interested, porn is a click away.

Pete Malicki’s ‘How Liberating is Porn Really?’, published at New Matilda, sums up my thoughts pretty well about the problems in the way mainstream pornography portrays women and sexuality. He also provides a neat description of what makes your bread and butter porn, which you can read for yourself at New Matilda. The thrust of his definition hinges on the preoccupation in popular pornography with male desire and the concurrent indifference to women’s sexuality.

I recall as a teenager when the porn craze hit. Girls and boys would watch it, probably mostly a typical teen taboo-breaking exercise. Adult audiences aside, the most dangerous consequence of young people viewing mainstream porn films is that the watching often constitutes a first explicit glimpse of a sexual act. It would be impossible for a young person to be impervious to its influence; pornography sets unhealthy and unrealistic expectations for boys and girls to try to emulate in the bedroom (or wherever). I can’t imagine that sex education in schools offers a correction to this skew.

As Pete Malicki says:

“Given that porn overwhelmingly represents a version of male fantasy, female viewers will be shown what males “want” sexually. It’s pretty easy to understand why women who have been overexposed to porn might feel pressured to fit that fantasy, even without being asked to perform [such] acts.”

Behaviour isn’t all that can be affected – porn provides an aesthetic template too. Arguably the rise in labioplasty, or cosmetic labial surgery, is in some part attributable to the unrealistic “elegant-looking labia” you can see in mainstream pornography.

I suspect women who voice any opposition to popular pornography are often accused of being sexual spoilsports. Statistics show that many women watch porn, and it is possible that many of them watch your standard money shot stuff in the absence of explicit films that pay more mind to a woman’s pleasure.

Of course there is plenty of pornography out there that resists adhering just to the male gaze. In October this year the first Feminist Porn Film Award was awarded in Berlin, and you can read about the awarded film makers here, and the criteria – which include ‘no misogynistic portrayals’ and more women in production roles – here. Films that fulfill the criteria will be given a ‘PorYes’ stamp.   

It’s safe to say that watching pornography can be an ethical minefield and for those who’d like less degradation with their titillation, the PorYes seal of approval could prove helpful in finding enjoyable erotica, and the internet – often blamed for spreading misogynistic material – is the perfect vehicle for the dissemination of feminist pornography.

And I note that while the Sydney Morning Herald recently reported on the PorYes movement, Life & Style web editors stuck to house pictorial policy and used a breast-enhanced image to accompany the article.


Posted in porn | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Amongst The Anti-Choice Flamewar, An Oasis Of Sense

Posted by Clem Bastow on October 10, 2008

If, like me, the usually idiotic rhetoric of anti-choicers/pro-“life” protests is like a red rag to a bull to you, then you probably don’t want to waste your time reading the Readers’ Comments in reaction to the news that Premier Brumby is pleased the abortion law reforms have been passed.

However, amongst the ill-informed and sensationalistic sturm und drang (Murder! Babies being chopped into bits! Imagine if Brumby himself had been aborted!), I was struck by the clarity of this comment, from reader “Stephen of Sydney”:

As someone who was supposed to be aborted in Melbourne back in 1962, when abortion was still illegal, I am extremely glad that less people will have to suffer the fate that I did. That is, of being born contrary to my mother’s determined wishes that I should never be born. It always amazes me that anti-choice advocates rarely talk about the fact that there are indeed much ‘worse’ things than aborting an unwanted foetus. That includes, of course, forcing a child to be born into abject abuse and neglect. The trauma from that experience will afflict me for the rest of my life. At last, however, with this new legislation, humanity finally prevails.

In a perfect world, his comment would be the voice of reason that would make the anti-choicers see the light, but we don’t live in that world, so for now, let’s just be thankful that Victoria’s Parliament has kicked a massive goal for reproductive rights and women’s freedom of choice.

Posted in Blog Watch, Media Watch, Politics, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Latest On Abortion Law Reform In Victoria

Posted by Clem Bastow on October 8, 2008

Further updates from the front line in the abortion law reform debate in Victorian Parliament indicate that the reforms could very well be passed sooner rather than later, with a number of key MPs previously opposed to the reforms now indicating their support for the changes. Labor MP Jenny Mikakos’ response was particularly notable:

The shock move came as Labor MP Jenny Mikakos also backed change despite her strong religious background, declaring that Christian values did not override her belief in an individual’s right to choose.

“I can reconcile myself as a Christian as being both anti-abortion and pro-choice,” she told Parliament last night.

And, from The Age‘s coverage:

Labor’s Jenny Mikakos also admitted having doubts about abortion because of her strong Greek Orthodox faith, but decided she would support it because she believed she could not deny the choice of abortion to other women.

In other words, while you may not believe in obtaining an abortion yourself, or for your partner, who are you to prevent others with differing belief systems from doing so?

It’s a shame there aren’t more people like Mikakos speaking up in this debate; it’s essential to get it out there that personal religious beliefs shouldn’t trump general human rights (can someone fax Denis Hart?) when it comes to the health and wellbeing of a woman versus an unborn “child”.

I use inverted commas around “child” in this context because, despite what the anti-choicers seem to suggest, I don’t see that there will be a huge increase in either abortions full stop, or late term – post-24-week – abortions if this reform is passed; thus, the majority of terminations will occur well before there is any chance of the foetus having any chance of even heavily assisted survival outside the womb.

Posted in Media Watch, Politics, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Sunrise Asks Its Viewers: “Are Women To Blame For Footballers Behaving Badly?”

Posted by Clem Bastow on October 6, 2008

Thanks to keen-eyed and early-rising reader Christine for the heads up on this little doozy: Channel Seven’s Sunrise (those storied social justice merchants) chose for their “soapbox” topic this morning, “Are Women To Blame For Footballers Behaving Badly?

I missed the on-air discussion so can make no comment about that, but here’s the website’s slug:

Scandals plagued all codes of football in Australia in the last year.

The worst incidents gaining national coverage were often blamed on alcohol or drug abuse, but could the women around the footballers be to blame?

A study called “Rogue men and predatory women – female fans’ perceptions of Australian footballers’ sexual conduct” has just been published in a Sociology journal with very revealing findings.

That introductory paragraph doesn’t bode well for the findings, does it? Said research revealed the following:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Media Watch, Politics, Sex And Love, Sport | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Abortion: Do The Crime, Do The… Time?

Posted by Talia Cain on September 24, 2008

One particular aspect of the abortion debate that is rarely discussed is that if performing-slash-undergoing an abortion should be deemed an illegal act, then what is due punishment for the woman who commits this “crime”? Last year, Anna Quindlen of Newsweek wrote a compelling article addressing this conundrum, titled “How Much Jail Time?”.

Quindlen is not surprised by the responses of pro-lifers to this question in a mini-documentary:

The man behind the camera is asking demonstrators who want abortion criminalized what the penalty should be for a woman who has one nonetheless. You have rarely seen people look more gobsmacked. It’s as though the guy has asked them to solve quadratic equations. Here are a range of responses: “I’ve never really thought about it.” “I don’t have an answer for that.” “I don’t know.” “Just pray for them.”

It poses questions to those who classify abortion as murder. What do you propose as punishment? You consider it murder, so the first step would be incarcerating the medical team that perform and assist in the procedure. Will there be a non-parole period? Should the sentence differ if the aborted foetus is 1 week old or 28 weeks old? Surely not if you believe that “life begins at conception”. What of the woman that seeks out the aborting of a foetus? She’s a willing participant – perhaps a lesser sentence of say, manslaughter?

It’s stupid for me to play the guessing game, I’m pro-choice and believe abortion should be legal – so you tell me the answers. I’m fairly certain there would an uproar if we started to see women put through our courts and flung into jail for a harrowing decision they have made about their own body and pregnancy. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Faith and Religion, Politics, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , | 10 Comments »

Denis Hart Would Rather Shut Down An Entire Hospital Than Have It Perform One Abortion

Posted by Clem Bastow on September 23, 2008

The abortion debate, and specifically, debate surrounding its decriminalisation in Victoria, is always bound to stir up highly emotive responses, and none more notably than when religious beliefs become involved. So, it’s no surprise to hear that Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart has thrown his two cents in.

What might be a surprise, however, is to hear the extent to which Hart will oppose abortion’s decriminalisation in Victoria – to wit, shutting down entire hospitals, if law reform makes providing either abortions or referrals for them (i.e. from medical practitioners and hospitals) mandatory.

Archbishop Hart said Catholic hospitals would not provide referrals for abortions — nor perform them — which would be mandatory under the law.

“In the worst-case scenario, if a government is determined to enforce such laws, we have no option. We might get out of hospitals altogether,” Archbishop Hart told The Age.

“Catholic hospitals cannot be part of any abortion. That has to be respected in the community. Even providing a referral is a co-operation in evil, and that impacts very strongly on us as Catholics,” he said.

He said the law would require Catholic doctors and nurses with a conscientious objection to abortion to break the law. “This poses a real threat to the continued existence of Catholic hospitals.”

To put that into perspective, Catholic hospitals in the Melbourne area include St Vincent’s (public and private), Mercy (public and private) and Cabrini, amongst others – roughly 15 in total – in other words, some of Melbourne’s major healthcare providers. And it’s safe to say that their general healthcare and emergency services provided would far outnumber abortions or abortion referrals, if the law reform comes through, no matter how much of an avalanche of terminations the pro-lifers always like to tell us will happen if abortion is decriminalised.

The excellent Lauredhel at Hoyden About Town has more on the topic.

Posted in Blog Watch, Faith and Religion, Media Watch, Politics, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Jezebel’s Moe And “Condom-Gate”: Hang The STIs, Bareback Feels Better!

Posted by Clem Bastow on July 26, 2008

Another week, another Jezebel “controversy” – Jezebel writer (and star of the last Jezebel vs. the world debacle, and who this week joined and then left Radar within a matter of whiplash-inducing moments) Moe Tkacik has walked into another blogosphere fracas with her Thursday post, “Sex Without Condoms Is Actually Better Than Diamonds, People!”

Here’s an excerpt:

[…] I have only really engaged in bareback sex with the types of dudes who don’t fear HPV and whose diseases I don’t particularly fear, because the worst thing I can think of about most of them is the ensuing lifetime of awkward conversations, and the worst thing about that is that awkward conversations summon memories, and summoning bad memories every time you’re about to fuck a new person is no way to live, but, if you can smile and say (hypothetically!) “Hey, just so you know, I have [insert STD here], but I got them from this really hilarious guy who is still one of my best friends, so it was kind of worth it,” before you do it with a new person, it’s almost nice. Like: oh yeah, that was a good time.

My instinctual reaction was (and remains), man, when did women buy the “But it feels better, baybeee” line, too?

I know Moe has made a point of discussing her experience with STIs, and I commend her for that – such is the state of the world that people who have STIs (or have had) are made to feel as though a) they can’t discuss it freely because b) it’s gross or yucky or dirty. Like Moe, this is something I feel particularly strongly about.

But considering this, I find it hard to believe that Moe can be so glib about practising unsafe sex. Because you know what? It’s easy to buy the ‘bareback feels better’ line – until an STI stops the party.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Blog Watch, Media Watch, Sex And Love, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »