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.