Today, on November 25th, we recognise White Ribbon Day – Australia’s campaign to prevent men’s violence against women. There is definitely a part of the conversation missing: violence against women eroticised by pornography.

Violence against women deserves copious amounts of attention while ever girls and women are being murdered or abused – emotionally, financially, physically, sexually, or any other way. Not to discount the important awareness raising that White Ribbon brings to the issue of VAW, it seems as though in their press releases and fact sheets, porn barely gets a mention except in this context:

Sexual assault may be located on a continuum of behaviours from sexual harassment, indecent assault to rape. These behaviours may include lewdness, stalking, indecent assault, date rape, drug-assisted sexual assault, child sexual assault, incest, exposure of a person to pornography, use of a person in pornography, and threats or attempts to sexually assault.

All of these behaviours are portrayed as ‘erotic’ in pornography. White Ribbon also briefly acknowledges that sexual harassment can include the use of the Internet, mobile phones and SMS to transmit pornographic and other offensive material. It’s disappointing that a national organisation campaigning violence against women doesn’t mention anything else about porn and its role in eroticising violence.

Of course, causes of violence against women are multilayered and complex, yet the Young Australians’ attitudes to violence against women 2013 survey indicates that pornography is one of the factors that needs addressing. It outlines that any attitudes, media or literature that fosters negative attitudes towards women can be an influence in accepting violence. It goes on to say that people in other age groups are similarly exposed to many of these factors discussed (e.g. violent pornography). However, these factors are understood to have a particular impact among young people because:

  • Young people are at a life stage when their identity and values are being formed
  • The contemporary context is the only world known to young people, who have less prior life experience to call upon than their older counterparts
  • Many factors relate to consumption and leisure, which have particular significance in the lives of young people (Connolly et al. 2010).

The Our Watch Report 2015 commissioned by The Line Campaign found that 45% of young men are influenced by or have varying degrees of acceptance towards coercive and disrespectful behaviour, putting them at greater risk of perpetuating abuse; and 7% are ‘on the trajectory’, suggesting that without intervention, this cohort is potentially the next wave of sex offenders. Significant influences include pornography and porn-inspired popular culture, leaving young people poorly prepared for negotiating healthy sexual relationships.

Readily accessible pornography reinforces negative gender stereotypes; perpetuates rape myths; normalises violence; condones sexually abusive attitudes and language; and minimises the value of intimate and loving relationships. One study found that physical aggression in pornography such as gagging (54% of porn scenes); choking (27% of scenes) and slapping (75% of scenes) is overwhelmingly (94%) directed at women.

In #3 – The controversies surrounding porn, I mentioned that the World Association of Sexual Health states that people have the right to be free from all forms of violence and coercion. Yet that is so far from what is the reality in many porn scenes. At the bottom of this blog I have included a slide that I show in our Professional Development training sessions. It took me just minutes to collate these disturbing scenes and it has been found that almost 90% of mainstream porn is aggressively violent in nature – physically, sexually, emotionally and verbally.

In an extensive article Pornography, Violence and Sexual Entitlement: An Unspeakable Truth by Laura McNally, the links are clearly drawn. Quoting directly from this article, Nathan DeGuara, manager of the Men’s Referral Service, has seen a strong correlation between pornography and domestic violence, with increasing sexual expectations directly linked to porn use. Di McLeod, the Director of the Gold Coast Centre for Sexual Violence, has this to say about intimate partner violence:

In the past few years we have had a huge increase in intimate partner rape of women from 14 to 80+. The biggest common denominator is consumption of porn by the offender … We have seen a huge increase in deprivation of liberty, physical injuries, torture, drugging, filming and sharing footage without consent. I founded the centre 25 years ago and what is now considered to be the norm in 2015 is frightening.

Countless people live and breathe the realities of the societal scourge of violence against women. To ignore the role of pornography in eroticising violence is perilous.


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Liz Walker

About Liz Walker

Sexuality & pornography educator and advocate. Liz provides consultancy, schools education & presentations, and is sought after internationally.