Genre: Social Commentary
“Big Porn Inc represents a powerful and growing reaction against the influence of the porn merchants and society’s willingness to let them get away with one outrage after another. The book unleashes a cascade of emotions – shock, disgust, guilt, rage, and heart-felt admiration for the victims of the porn industry … A landmark publication sure to help open the eyes of the public to the modern scourge of porn and amplify the call for greater decency and respect. Because without them, there can be no true liberation.” Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University
Australian media commentator, Melinda Tankard Reist, is not shy of controversy. She is a well-known advocate against the objectification of women and the sexualisation of girls. Melinda is author of Giving Sorrow Words: Women’s Stories of Grief After Abortion, of Defiant Birth: Women Who Resist Medical Eugenics, and Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls. Her latest book, co-edited with Dr Abigail Bray is Big Porn Inc: Exposing the harms of the global pornography industry.
Here Melinda talks about what drives her to keep speaking out against the cultural norm of sexploitation, despite the sometimes aggressive response she receives for doing so.
1. Could you explain your impetus for writing 'Big Porn Inc'?
The aim of Big Porn Inc. was to blow apart the myth that porn is just about ‘naughty’ pictures of consenting sex between adults, that it is just a bit of ‘harmless fun’. We wanted to expose the fact that pornography is a multi-billion dollar global industry profiting from commodifying sexuality and selling it back to us as industrialised, commercialised, plasticised porn sex. We were especially concerned by the way boys were being conditioned and socialised by pornography, how it was shaping brutal forms of masculinity and treating women and girls as subservient, merely sexual service stations for men. We also wanted to demonstrate the way pornography is colonising the public space, how porn themes, symbols, iconography has become mainstreamed and entrenched in billboards, toys, games, clothing, music videos etc. We believe pornography is a public health hazard of major proportions which needs to be addressed before it’s too late.
2. How do you respond to your critics?
Mostly I don’t. Sometimes I re-tweet them because they add weight to my case, for example, online vilification, e.hate, sexist putdowns, threats of violence.
3. How does this book tie in with your wider initiatives?
Big Porn Inc is part of an ongoing body of work critiquing the treatment of women and girls, the way they are viewed and represented. I unpacked some of this in Getting Real: Challenging the sexualisation of girls (Spinifex Press, 2009). One of the contributors described the book as a ‘Collective shout against the pornification of culture’. I liked that phrase so much I decided to initiate a new grassroots campaigning movement, just to have an excuse to use the name. Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation targets corporations, advertisers and marketers who objectify women and sexualise girls to sell products and services. Corporate social responsibility has been sacrificed on an altar of sexism for too long.
4. The catch-cry of the marketing age has been, 'Sex sells'. Given this trend is not likely to reverse, what would be your best case scenario?
Actually we’re trying to change that. We don’t think it should be acceptable to objectify women to flog stuff. We believe it contributes to a de-valuing of women, when they are reduced to being decorative objects, conveying a message that it is in the baring of female flesh and attracting sexual attention that women derive value and worth. We see this as an issue of equality and human rights. A best case scenario would be that advertisers, marketers and corporations would come to recognise this and choose to act ethically and responsibly.
5. If you were unplugged from technology for a week, what would you do with your time?
Read, sleep, exercise, see friends. And wonder what I was missing on twitter.
6. In terms of worldview, what do you believe?
It’s a bit clichéd but I believe we are here to make a difference.
7. What do you doubt?
That I’ll receive a Christmas card from the sex industry.
8. What's in your "too hard" basket?
Any kind of paperwork.
9. Can you give us a glimpse of your next planned project?
No, because I’m trying to talk myself out of it. Another horrible book idea is trying to take up residence in my head. My friends are urging me to write one called ‘Kittens, puppies, fairies, rainbows and fluffy bunnies’ instead.
10. Melinda's favourites:
Book: Only one? That is very hard. I found Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks beautifully and profoundly rendered.
Music: I’m stuck in the '70s.
Film: Deepa Mehta’s Elements trilogy: Fire, Earth Water. Astonishing, devastating.
Motto: ‘Those who say it cannot be done shouldn’t interrupt the people doing it’.
Charity or non-profit organisation: Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation (www.collectiveshout.org)
Because Big Porn Inc has many contributors on the various aspects of the issues of pornography, I have included the table of contents below, so you can see who has contributed, and what their particular contribution is about.
And this is where you can read my personal opinion piece on boycotting Diva for marketing Playboy jewellery to young girls. http://convozine.com/26-first-person/c/25623
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Table of Contents
Melinda Tankard Reist/Abigail Bray
The Impact of Pornography on My Life
PART 1: PORNOGRAPHY CULTURES
The New Lolita: Pornography and the Sexualization of Childhood
Catharine A. MacKinnon
X-Underrated: Living in a World the Pornographers Have Made
Groomed to Consume Porn: How Sexualised Marketing Targets Children
Stories of a Rape Culture: Pornography as Propaganda
Sexting and Peer-to-Peer Porn
Diane L. Rosenfeld
Who Are You Calling a ‘Ho’?: Challenging the Porn Culture on Campus
Christopher N. Kendall
The Harms of Gay Male Pornography
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
Pornography and Animals
Neurotica: Modern Day Sexual Repression
Pornography as Sexual Authority: How Sex Therapy Promotes the Pornification of Sexuality
Big Porn + Big Pharma: Where the Pornography Industry Meets the Ideology of Medicalisation
PART 2: PORNOGRAPHY INDUSTRIES
Capital and the Crimes of Pornographers: Free to Lynch, Exploit, Rape and Torture
The Pornification of Post-feminism: Why Roddick’s $ex Shops Are a Sell Out
A Studied Indifference to Harm: Defending Pornography in The Porn Report
Melinda Tankard Reist
Sexpo and the Death of Sex
Live Pornography: Strip Clubs in the International Political Economy of Prostitution
Pornography is Infinite Prostitution
Capitalism and Pornography: The Internet as a Global Prostitution Factory
When Rape Becomes a Game: RapeLay and the Pornification of Crime
Investigating Pornography: The Journey of a Filmmaker and Researcher
PART 3: HARMING CHILDREN
Diana E.H. Russell
Russell’s Theory: Exposure to Child Pornography as a Cause of Child Sexual Victimization
Caroline S. Taylor
The Pornification of Intrafamilial Rape
Teaching Tools and Recipe Books: Pornography and the Sexual Assault of Children
Civil Justice for Victims of Child Pornography
The Victimisation of Children by Pornography: Victim Impact Statement of Amy
PART 4: PORNOGRAPHY AND THE STATE
The Power of Pornography – A South African Case Study
Asja Armanda and Natalie Nenadic
Croatia and USA
Genocide, Pornography, and the Law
Pornography in India
Pornography as Free Speech: But is it Fair?
PART 5: RESISTING BIG PORN INC
Resisting Pornography, Building a Movement: Feminist Anti-porn Activism in the UK
Stop Porn Culture!
Challenging the Demand
Anna van Heeswijk
OBJECT: Challenging ‘Sex-object Culture’
A Collective Shout for Women and Girls
Matt McCormack Evans
Men Opposing Pornography in the UK
Challenging Pornography in Japan: the Anti-Pornography and Prostitution Research Group (APP)
Quit Porn Manifesto