Big Porn Inc: Interview with Melinda Tankard Reist
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Big Porn Inc

It is time to get real about the social poison masquerading as “adult entertainment”.
Melinda Tankard Reist | 12 October 2011
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MTRIt is now widely acknowledged that the unprecedented mainstreaming of the global pornography industry is transforming intimate sexual relationships and public life, popularising new forms of hardcore misogyny, and strongly contributing to the sexualisation of children. Yet challenges to the pornography industry continue to be dismissed as uncool, anti-sex and moral panics.

A new book published in Australia, Big Porn Inc, offers a cutting edge exposé of the hidden realities of this multi-billion dollar global industry that promotes itself as a fashionable life-style choice. In the following interview, contributor and co-editor Melinda Tankard Reist explains the book’s purpose and the response it demands.

 

Photo of Melinda Tankard Reist courtesy of Fiona Basile

 

 

MercatorNet: What is the main message of the Big Porn Inc?

Melinda Tankard Reist: 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 that pornography is a multi-billion global industry profiting from commodifying sexuality and selling it back to us as industrialised, commercialised, plasticised porn sex. We also wanted to demonstrate the way pornography is colonising the public space, how everything has become pornified. We believe pornography is a public health hazard of major proportions and it’s time to address it.

How has this industry been able to grow so big? Who else is profiting from it?

The industry has a lot of power. This power has bought off law makers, regulators and enforcement bodies around the world. They know how to gain new users, how to get men (the primary users of pornography) using their product and wanting more. The internet has been a massive boon for the porn industry, estimated to reach $US100billion by 2013. There are so many who profit from it, from traffickers who sell women who are used to make pornography, to the porn companies who make the porn, to the hotels who profit more from pay-per-view porn that they do selling rooms and the mainstream companies who profit from carrying porn brands, such as Diva, a jewellery store chain for girls 8-13, which is currently pimping Playboy brand products to them.

What is the most destructive about it in your view?

There is so much about the industry which is destructive, but my main concerns is the impact on the developing sexuality of young people. Many boys are looking to porn to learn how to relate to girls. 70 % of Australian boys have seen porn by 12, 100% by 15. We are socialising and conditioning boys to see women and girls as sex objects, training them in a brutal version of masculinity. They learn that violence is sexy because they see it eroticised in pornography. A 15 year old boy interviewed for a documentary said he viewed porn to learn about sex. Then when he acted out what he’d seen on a girl, he was surprised to discover that she didn’t like being hit, slapped across the breasts, having her hair pulled and being called ‘bitch’ and ‘whore’. He was genuinely surprised. Research on the impact of porn on teen boys in Canada and Italy shows it contributes to calloused views towards women, a tolerance of violence and sexual harassment, and a view that it is OK to hold a woman down to have sex with her.  Some psychologists are reporting that girls are tolerating what amounts to abuse, because they think it’s normal, they’ve seen the same things in pornography.

What sort of reception has the book been given in Australia?

Apart from the predictable criticism from the usual critics with vested interests (who I doubt have actually read the book) and for whom the most creative response to the editors and contributors is “moralising, anti-sex wowsers” , Big Porn Inc has had good media coverage and responses from those who genuinely care about the way porn is shaping and moulding society in harmful ways. I can barely keep up with demand from groups to speak on the issue.

Is there any movement in political circles to tackle this issue seriously? What is it that the majority of politicians just don't get about it?

Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation was founded to address the objectification of women, sexualisation of girls and the broader pornification of culture. We are only two years old but have had significant success against companies which exploit the bodies of women and girls to sell products and services. Within politics, there is a reluctance to tackle the issue. The sex industry voice is powerful, loud and has lots of money to spend campaigning for business as usual. The Labour Government’s attempts to introduce mandatory filtering appear to have stalled because of threats and intimidation from the industry. The Coalition [opposition parties] is hopeless on the issue, opposed to the government’s filtering proposal but offering nothing in its place. Meanwhile children are exposed to child porn, bestiality, and extreme images of sadistic violence against women, because those with power to do something about it are reluctant to take real action.

What can the rest of us do to roll back the tide of porn?

Be informed. Understand the reach of the industry. Understand that this is an industry that uses kid’s cartoons in porn sites, that knows the mistakes children commonly make in search terms, to direct them to porn sites. Understand what the research says about how porn changes attitudes and behaviour. Have filters on at home. Talk to your kids about the issue (if you don’t, someone else will, and it may not be someone who shares your views). Don’t tolerate its use in a partner (I say this to women, who, though distressed, are often told it’s just what men do and you have to accept it). Challenge your MP to act. Resist the broader pornification of culture in clothes, toys, games, music videos, billboards. The final chapter in BPI is about resistance, groups taking action around the world to try to stem the tide.

Big Porn Inc can be purchased online through www.melindatankardreist.com


MORE ON THESE TOPICS | Australia, pornography, women
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