JO BARTOSCH argues that, far from fantasy, pornography has a serious effect on men’s treatment of women
I AM tired of pretending there is no pattern, that sexual violence is just a few disordered men. I am bored of the lie that all we have to do as women is speak up and tweet #metoo. I am sick of living in a world where pornography warps our desires.
As co-director of Critical Sisters, on December 9 I will be one of those taking action and I urge others to do the same.
Damian Green might have been unlucky in being caught, but research suggests 76 per cent of all men in the UK watch pornography.
The shock over the Westminster scandals seems disingenuous to me; why should our legislators be immune from the sexism that pervades all other male-dominated institutions, from the city to the church?
Simmering under the surface, the male bonding activity that assures their dominance is the subjugation of women in the sex industry.
Women’s suffering is what oils the wheels of commerce, trips to lap-dancing clubs seal financial deals and porn is shared between boys on their mobile phones in the playground.
Mentioning the sex of perpetrators is a taboo, and mentioning the sex industry that props up masculinity is just not cricket.
Earlier this week, chair of the Commons women and equalities select committee Maria Miller wrote movingly about “girls sobbing and humiliated,” their school lives made miserable and education disrupted by sexual harassment.
What was missing from her article — which was to promote the consultation on safeguarding guidance, Keeping Children Safe in Education — was any mention of pornography.
The current guidance contains a substantial section on radicalisation — in recognition of the fact that many vulnerable young men will go online to seek out extreme, destructive ideologies to signify their masculinity.
Like radical Islam, pornography bolsters male egos by degrading and hurting women — it is the propaganda of the war on women.
Misogyny sets the scene in which technological advances are made; 12 per cent of children admit to making or being a part of a sexually explicit video.
Despite the epidemic of pornography in schools, and the use of sexually explicit images to coerce, shame and exploit children, it is mysteriously absent in government safeguarding guidance.
It should be remembered that one of the most popular searches in pornography is “teen.”
When so many men are complicit, acknowledging porn as a problem would invite some uncomfortable questions.
Pornography has colonised not only technology, but also our minds. The images in porn stare out of every mirror. Evidence of this can be traced the rise in cosmetic procedures from Brazilian waxing to labiaplasty.
A 2015 NSPCC survey revealed 40 per cent of girls between the ages of 14-16 have been pressured into sex, and a 2014 report by the Institute for Public Policy Research revealed a belief among teenagers that pain and humiliation are a normal part of sex.
Twenty-two per cent reported they had suffered physical violence or intimidation from boyfriends, including slapping, punching, strangling and being beaten with an object.
The sexual violence of men keeps women and girls in terror; it restricts our movements, our responses and even our thoughts.
Sometimes we tell ourselves stories so that we don’t have to face this reality; an 8,000 respondent-strong survey from the Fawcett Society published earlier this year found that 38 per cent of all men and 34 per cent of all women said a woman “is totally or partly to blame” if she “goes out late at night, wearing a short skirt, gets drunk and is then the victim of a sexual assault.”
This is an understandable if abhorrent inversion. These lies make us feel less at risk and clearly have a bearing on behaviour.
On a fairly regular basis, most women will deal with low-level sexual harassment. Most of us know that if we talk back, we’re bitches, and bitches are fair game. Pornography tells us that bitches are asking for it.
Pornography is not fantasy, it has a very real impact on attitudes and societal norms.
Successive researchers have found that among men, pornography consumption is significantly associated with less egalitarian attitudes toward women and more hostile sexism.
The collective displays of angst over the revelations of sexual abuse in Westminster have seen media pundits and politicians thrashing around to develop procedures to keep women safe.
While the majority of men are still masturbating to images of women being abused we will never have justice; pornography reinforces the message that women are objects onto which men project their hate.
Pornography is not about sex; it is about power and pain. It is time we recognised pornography as both the filming and the fuel of sexual violence against women.
On December 9 Critical Sisters will give the space to do just this at the Hardcore Hate conference in Gloucester.
An unapologetic gathering with speakers from second-wave stalwart Professor Sheila Jeffreys, to Iranian and Kurdish women’s rights activist Sadia Hameed, we invite people to listen, contribute and get angry about the hijacking of our minds, media and bodies by the sex industry.
We must call out pornography as a symptom and a cause of male violence.
• You can book tickets to
Critical Sister’s Hardcore Hate — Pornography as Propaganda in the War on Women here: eventbrite.co.uk/e/38156429909.