At the beginning of the decade I’m fifteen years old. I have a paper round. I’m getting pretty tired of it – my hormones are telling me I need to be lying in bed in the mornings, not getting up at the crack of dawn to deliver newspapers. But at least I get to read them on my way round so I keep informed of what’s going on in the world and who thinks what about it all.
In November 1970 one of the newspapers in my sack – the Sun, a tabloid – has a picture of a woman with her breasts deliberately exposed on page three. Rupert Murdoch (spit! die, you bastard!), the paper’s owner, was out of the country when the editor, Larry Lamb (spit!) decided that naked female flesh would be a good boost for the paper’s circulation.
It makes me fucking angry.
I’m a fifteen year-old girl still trying to come to terms with
adult expectations about my body. Prior to puberty my body was just the
thing that I lived in. It got me from place to place, did the things I
needed it to do…arms and legs and stuff that allowed me to go about
my chosen business. Post-puberty it became something that men, strangers
in the street, whistled at, made comments about, made judgements and assumptions
about. When I was thirteen I’d been propositioned by a car full
of men: “a tenner for a fuck?”
I vacillate between trying to ‘play the game’ and trying to stay who I really am. The endless and everyday spectacle of naked female humanity paraded on page three makes me feel like a lump of meat. I identify with those women. I know they are pictured there, in their nakedness, because they have breasts and are female – just the same as me. I learn that having breasts and a vagina makes me valuable only because I have breasts and a vagina. My body, the part of me that I use to walk about in, is a ‘thing’ for male public consumption and no-one is interested in me as a person - just as no man is interested in those women in the papers as people.
The adverts and TV programmes of the time confirm this. Almost every advert uses female bodies to sell the product. The ones that stand out for me are the Lambs Navy Rum billboard ads – precursors to wet t-shirt competitions – and the TV ads for Manikin cigars, Bounty bars and Cadbury’s Flake. They all made me so mad…but there were many others – all female nipple, cleavage, crotch or buttock fixated – all reducing women to our bodies: the thing we walk about in. I give up the paper round.
And one day I happen upon a group of male school friends of mine looking at a porn mag together. Lots of graphic pictures of naked female breasts, buttocks and displayed genitalia, is all I remember. Few of those lads remain my friends after I hear the comments they make about the women in the pictures. They weren’t seeing pictures of people at all, they were looking at fuck toys and their comments make it perfectly plain that they don’t acknowledge the humanity of the women in the pictures at all. I live in one of those ‘things’ that they’re storing up images to wank to with their nasty, vicious thoughts. They’re supposed to be my friends? These are guys who offer to walk me home “just in case”? Guys who tell me to “be careful” when I wander off to use the toilet on a night out. Guy’s who tell me I’m a fab friend and a wonderful human being.
I learn that there’s something in men that enables them to lie, glibly, about caring for the safety of women.
I move in with my boyfriend – the man I eventually marry. One night, he comes home from work and starts telling me about something he’s read in Club International – a porn mag. I go ballistic. By now, I’ve rationalised my thoughts about pornography to the extent that I know porn is about the objectification and dehumanisation of women (like me) to feed the male orgasm. I hate him with a passion for looking at something like that. He tells me “they have good articles about vintage cars”. Fuck that. I don’t speak to him for weeks.
I get verbally battered on all sides every time I speak about my thoughts and feelings about pornography and the objectification of women. I get told repeatedly it’s just “harmless fun”. I have no back-up, so I shut up. It doesn’t stop me thinking, though.
I was sexually assaulted twice in this decade. Once in the street and once in the cinema. I reported it only once. I learned that it doesn’t really matter – my bodily integrity doesn’t really matter.
This decade is dominated by me being a stay-at-home mum. But I went to university and broadened my knowledge, honed my thought processes.
He who looked in Club International for ‘articles about vintage cars’ was unceremoniously ejected from my life in 1990. My thoughts about and understanding of pornography have become more focused, articulate and informed through reading Andrea Dworkin, Catherine McKinnon, Diana Russell, Catherine Itzin, and a host of women writers who articulate exactly how I feel. I know where I am with it all now. I can place it all in a political context as well as a personal one. I understand how pornography situates male power in its definition of female sexuality. I understand how pornography is the sexualisation of male power and control of women through the humiliation and domination of women. I understand how male control of women through humiliation is reinforced through the male orgasm. I understand how patriarchy, the dominant ideology, uses pornography to keep us all – women and men – in our designated ‘place’.
And then my best friend in all the world is raped.
Her husband was a huge fan of pornography. She isn’t and never has been. It went from him wanting her to wear the underwear you see women wearing in porn to actually ordering it for her. He threw out the underwear she did have and tried to fill her drawers with split crotch pants and peep-hole bras, stockings and suspender belts, lace, black and pink. Why? Hello? She’s already told him a hundred times that she won’t wear that. And then she started asking me if ‘everyone’ did anal sex because he says ‘everyone’ does it, it’s ‘all over’ the videos he watches and he wants her to do it. She doesn’t want to do it. I tell her ‘no – not everyone does that’ and she doesn’t have to if she doesn’t want to. But then he rapes her.
She was imprisoned in their bedroom for three days and two nights. Repeatedly anally raped, vaginally raped, orally raped and burned with cigarettes – yes, another ‘fun thing’ women are depicted as thoroughly enjoying in pornography – and gods know what else that she still can’t speak about, while her two year-old daughter and six year-old son were in the bedrooms next door.
She escaped (went to buy him a newspaper) sometime on the Sunday. The police brought her to me late that night. She couldn’t go home – it was a crime scene – and her children were with their paternal grandmother so she couldn’t exactly go there either. He was in prison on remand. She couldn’t sit down. Seriously, she couldn’t sit down. He’d hurt her so that she couldn’t even sit down. She was covered in burns, traumatised, and so brutalised she couldn’t sit down.
This man professed to love her. Even now, he still says that he loves her. He can’t love her as a person – he’d never subject her to that, surely? He may well just love her as a breathing enactment of pornography – his true love.
She is still traumatised to this day. She’s kept her life together for the sake of her kids but her self is still in tatters. She has no ‘self’ to speak of. She is broken.
This happened because of pornography.
Apologists might say “yes, but not every man who looks at porn reacts this way”.
I say “one is enough.”
Pornography is the tool by which women are made ‘less than’ men, so that a man can look at pictures of a woman being abused in myriad ways and get sexual gratification from the hurt caused to her. Add to that all the ‘free speech’ that’s used to name women: whores, cunts, bitches, gagging for it, loving it, etc. Reinforce it with an orgasm, and repeat. It clouds a man’s vision so that women become non-people, less than animals. Pornography destroys men’s humanity.
I have both a son and a daughter. My daughter has already been raped by a male who felt he had some kind of sexual entitlement to her body due to pornography. She caught chlamydia from him and so her chances of having a baby later on were threatened. She also has knife scars on her genitals from a seventeen year-old boy enacting a scene of rape with a knife he’d seen in pornography on her at the age of fourteen. My son is struggling with ideas of masculinity that don’t involve the sexual subordination of women. He’s aware of feminist thought and he’s doing pretty well but it’s an uphill struggle for him against all the patriarchal propaganda that’s out there.
Pornography is sexually toxic material. Pornography is socially toxic material.
I am an anti-porn star because pornography is responsible for the worst hurt experienced by the people I love most in the world.
I am an anti-porn star because pornography poisons human relationships.
I am an anti-porn star because real women/girls really get harmed in the making of pornography.
I am an anti-porn star because real women/girls really get harmed through its consumption by men/boys.
I am an anti-porn star because, in different ways, pornography oppresses women and men alike.
I am an anti-porn star because pornography is the bastion of patriarchal capitalism that commodifies the ‘thing’ I walk about in and jeopardises my bodily integrity – and that of women everywhere.
I am an anti-porn star because pornography frightens me. The hatred of
women that is so apparent in its making, its consumption, its politics,
its message, its ideology and its effects chills my soul.