What do Hugh Heffner and Rupert Murdoch have in common apart from billions in the bank and global business enterprises? They both have been responsible for the de-stigmatisation of porn which has gradually resulted in the mainstreaming of porn in society.

This accusation against Heffner and Murdoch often raises titters and question of ‘so what?’ by men and some women who view feminists who oppose porn as being spoil sports. The answer to ‘so what?’ is that a causal link between the exposure of men to pornography and the rise of violence against women (VAW) has been proven time and time again. More recently in May 2011 the US Attorney General, Eric Holder, stated that there is a link between pornography and increased sex trafficking, child porn, violence against women and sexual violence.

As a Christian feminist I joined the demonstration outside the Playboy club in London on opening night some weeks ago. The protest was organised by UK feminists and was called the ‘Eff off Heff’ campaign. Murdoch owns The Sun newspaper which publishes a picture of a topless woman in every daily edition (six days a week). The Sun is the best selling newspaper in the country. Playboy sells merchandise to both men, women and children. The Sun newspaper can be bought by everyone and anyone regardless of the Page 3 girl picture. Quite often on commuter trains in the morning a man can be seen staring at the picture of the day. I

Out of the trademarks of Playboy and The Sun have grown the tentacles of empires that have facilitated the growth of other vehicles of the degradation of women such as lap dancing clubs and pole dancing clubs. This is what porn does – it degrades women and relegates them to being nothing more than playthings. A plaything is something that one uses and discards at will. A plaything is not regarded as one’s equal.

As a result of the mainstreaming of porn the images of women contained therein have become part of the seduction and the power play of sex by men. The rise in rape as a weapon of war and the incidents of rape globally in non-war situations testify to this. What a woman will not offer up can be taken by force because there are numerous porn films and pictures which show women doing this, so it must be ok. A woman who is seen as dressing provocatively is ‘asking for it’. In some cultures where women must be covered up simply being a woman is seen as ‘asking for it’.

As a feminist I am constantly fighting a cultural battle to make people aware that the sexual revolution which women fought for was not for the right to be viewed as porn objects. It was for women to have autonomy over their sexuality – the right to be viewed sexually as equal partners. Sexual autonomy does not encompass the right to be violated for the evil pleasure of others. In fact, many porn actresses themselves are not willing players and have been sexually trafficked and forced into participating.

The porn industry is also responsible for the demarcation of women: the chaste and the not chaste. In fact Christians have been partly to blame for this separation too. Crudely defined, the chaste are the marrying types and the non-chaste are the ones that men play around with but do not bring home. The right wing Christian faction speaks of women as having to be traditional homemakers who play a secondary role to men. In other words, women must remain chaste.

I firmly believe that both men and women were created in the image of God. Adam and Eve were naked upon creation but there was no sexual deviance involved. Both were free and confident in their sexuality as equals. Those in the church who think women are only good enough to do flower arranging; administration and to do the refreshments are disarming Christian women from being able to deal with the objectification of women. For as long as the Church discriminates against women and justifies the action it should come as no surprise that non-Christians blame the church for the continued discrimination against women in many spheres of life. Eve is not to blame for the sins of the world or for the sins against women.

The prime examples of other ‘fallen women’ in the bible are Mary Magdalene and Salome. Salome danced for Herod and is often described as something akin to an old fashioned lap dancer who catered for men and asked for favours in return. Mary is still seen as being prostitute though this has been disputed. Since the 1970s the Roman Catholic Church has stopped remembering Mary Magdalene’s day as being a feast of the penitent. It is tragic that Mary is remembered more for being a supposed prostitute than as the first witness to the rise of Jesus.

The fight for Christian feminism must not be marginalised. Women in the church must be allowed to speak from the centre and to take heart from Genesis. Our virtue as women must not be used as a tool of oppression. Christian women can play a part in fighting the objectifying of women in mainstream media. Fighting injustice is what Christians do. Stop the Church infighting about women’s roles and empower us instead to fight the institutions of porn which destroy womanhood.

Photos by the author.

The author of this article blogs as CHELIAH LAITY. But I'm sure she wouldn't mind in the slightest if you call her Jane.



  1. “It is tragic that Mary is remembered more for being a supposed prostitute than as the first witness to the rise of Jesus.”

    Wow. That’s a powerful sentence.

    And here’s another:

    “Fighting injustice is what Christians do.”

    (I wish it were more reliably true.)

  2. “Fighting injustice is what Christians do.”

    That should be true. It is not a lot of the time to our shame.

    Great post!


  3. Well, Cheliah, hang onto your hat and
    brace yourself for battle once again….After I read your excellent post here, I read an article in NCR (national Cath Reporter) by Fr. Eugene Kennedy. He is speaking of what he calls “set decorator” priests who are primarily concerned with surface things. He speaks of a young priest fresh from training in Rome who spoke at a Holy Thursday Mass and said that women stand at the lowest and least level of God’s hierarchical structure of the human
    species. He said that priest are first, then men-in-general, then women. He also said that priests have different souls than lay people.
    Lest you think that this loathing of women is confined to Rome, I can tell you of an Anglo-Catholic Rector who refuses to allow the local (Episcopal) bishop who is a woman, to preside at Eucharist at “his” altar. He also imported a seminary graduate of his choice from England and when this young man was ordained the bishop, (woman)was not allowed to join the other bishops in the laying on of hands at the ordination. She stood and watched, and these photos were posted on the parish web-site. At this ordination, there was a great deal of man lace, of course……

    What I would like to ask is what makes these men believe his crap?
    What do they say to themselves?
    Serious answers would be appreciated…


  4. The really worrying thing, Nij, is that in England, at least, most of them are gay. It’s like black people voting against same sex marriage.

  5. There’s absolutely nothing in the Bible which suggest Mary Magdalene was a whore. She as evidently a leader in the first Christian community, a witness to the risen Jesus – it seems to have been essential for a first generation leader to claim this, and she was the first – and a close confidante of Jesus. By the 2nd Century, the male leadership couldn’t cope with this sort of thing, and set out to discredit her.

    I don’t take Adam as a literal man; I think he represents humanity, male and female, which God then divided into male and female to create community. Both are together in the first ‘man’, so both are equal. I don’t get these gynophobic (is that a word?) priests at all. They all seem to be priests too; are there any in churches which ordain ‘ministers’ instead?

  6. Yes, I understand that many of these priests are gay, MP, but these two are both married with children and being Anglo Catholic has been elevated to semi-cult status, I am surprised that they don’t claim that the sliced bananas on their cereal in the morning are Anglo Catholic Bananas. Despite claiming to be not Roman, they espouse the worst of Roman ideas and practices and vestments.
    Worse still, the “curate” works with college students.

    Both in politics and in Church, we are bombarded with backward- seeking ideas, some that even won’t accept scientific reality.
    and still more confusing is the fact that many women espouse this.
    I am beginning to think that the realities of modern life are so frightening that people back off and are afraid to go forward, which is really very worrisome and dangerous as these folks have a vote.
    Lord, have mercy, indeed!

  7. Ellie, the fact that Mary is remembered more for being a ‘fallen woman’ is a popular view in Christian feminine circles.

    Di, thanks for the links.

    Jim, thank you for your comment.

    Nij, the phrase ‘holier than thou’ was obviously coined for these out of date priests. It is wholly dangerous to elevate priests to a level where they are beyond scrutiny and saying things like they have higher souls than lay persons is a dangerous man made statement, surely. As you say women buy into this second class citizen rhetoric too. In a perverse reverse of the situation Playboy bunnies see themselves as empowered women.

    Robert, Mary is being discredited till today. Many female theologians view, like you do, Adam as being both male and female.

    I attended a lecture given by Lucy Winkett last year in which she spoke about Virginia Woolf’s essay ‘Three Guineas’. Virginia describes the marginalisation of women by using an image familiar to churchgoers:
    ‘There they go, our brothers who have been educated at public schools and universities…ascending those pulpits, preaching, teaching, …there traipsing along at the tail end of the procession, we go ourselves.’

  8. What? No! Thank you for letting me publish it. My only worry is that you have set the standard so high that nobody else will submit stuff whilst I am packing to move house – EVEN THOUGH THEY ALL PROMISED TO!

  9. Oh, Maelo! Please say something.
    If you do I can say I’m in touch with the youth and they might make me a bishop 🙂
    And, you are so right about JCF – full of gobbledegook.

  10. I like this young lady, Jane. But do you think her blog is a bit too clever for the ne’erdowells and under achievers that usually hang around this place?

  11. LOL, I signed in accidentally as my daughter but didn’t realise that she would still show up. I need to go to sleep lest I make some more mistakes that I can’t delete! I need a curry.

  12. OMG!!!
    Talk about “like mother, like daughter.” 🙂
    I’m never coming anywhere near where you all live.
    I might get a talking to.

  13. I am writing another post as I sort of started this whole guest post thing going this time around. I think it should be ready Monday or Tuesday for your quiver. You can publish it whenever you think appropriate or of course reject it.

    I am totally eclipsed here. Not only is this a really, really good post, it is garnering much greater interest.


  14. It seems to me that pornography can be charged with dehumanizing every human being that appears in it, reducing everyone to some kind of fetish or other: be it redheads, plus sized, older people, people of a specific ethnicity, transsexual or transgendered people, cross-dressers, adults who wear diapers and suck on pacifiers, people who are into whips and chains, people who dress in school-kid outfits, etc etc etc etc etc.

    Porn is ABOUT exploitation of and to some level dehumanization of everyone. Not just women.

    And I’m a woman, saying this.

    I guess I don’t really agree with holding women up as the only injured innocents here.

    Besides, not every woman who is involved in the sex entertainment industry is there against her will. I knew one writer on another diary site who deliberately organized and set up her own erotic webpage, starring herself, as well as a sex hotline. She approached her body and her sexuality in a hugely empowered way. She was a very fair-skinned, slightly plump redhead, and she had quite a following.

    Just had to toss that in the ring.

  15. Tracie’s story about the woman with the website above leads me to ask:

    Do Christian/feminists have any place in their ideology for erotica that’s not considered exploitive ?

    I’m asking this in a genuine way, w/o any suggested sarcasm or mocking tone. I consider myself both Christian and, well…”humanist” as it were. And I certainly have been exposed to erotic material that I didn’t consider to be exploiting anyone. Afraid I’d have a hard time describing the difference between erotica vs. (exploitive) pr0n except in a sort of “I know it when I see it” way, tho’ (obviously except for extreme, edge cases involving children, non-consensual S&M, and such).

  16. David, your question is a good and reasonable one. Sexuality isn’t out of the bounds of feminism. Exploitative sexuality is.
    The answer lies in whether the female has control over her sexuality.

    The porn industry does employ women who are willing to be a part of it – as Tracie says. However, the porn industry is driven to satisfy an extreme sort of male desire which does involve degrading women. There are many men who aren’t into this but there are men who get their kicks from watching a woman being hurt. I don’t want to go into details apart from to use the words ‘fisting’ and ‘roasting’.

    There are many ex porn actresses who will testify to this. I heard one speak recently at a conference and she said she was being pursued by the ‘madams’ of the porn industry who wanted her to retract her story because it may put other women off from joining.

    Sexy lingerie isn’t porn. A woman chooses to wear it. Porn is something for public consumption.

    I am really talking about a wider picture, porn industry in both print and digital form, rather than individuals who are willing and play the game.

  17. What is your attitude towards the written word, art and animation in respect of pornography, Jane? Especially bdsm erotica.

  18. Bondage, sadomasochism etc.
    The thing is, nobody alive is involved (except the writer or artist) but there can be a high level of objectification of people as sex objects.

  19. There are also people who actively enjoy some activities that others would feel to be too extreme for them (cf. some of the things mentioned directly above).

    I think the key is that it should be desirable, pleasurable, and consensual for all the adult parties involved. Outside of that, I’m very uncomfortable with defining something as being exploitative, fetishistic, etc… by a third party not involved in the relationship.

    So, like Chelliah said, “The answer lies in whether the female has control over her sexuality.” (tho’ I would change “female” to just “person,” so we’d cover everyone).