Guestblog: Sabine Zoellner reports on the Porn debate at Women of the World Festival, 10/3/’13

The panel consisted of:

Julia Long – feminist activist and academic

Martin Daubney – journalist and former editor of Loaded magazine

Chitra Nagarajan – Black Feminists UK

Helena Kennedy –  chair and lawyer for human rights QC

PORNOGRAPHY – Sunday, 10.03.2013

After the introduction of the 4 participants it became clear that the nature of the talk was set up in a controversial and provocative nature on purpose: a radical feminist (for whom porn starts with a topless model on page 3 of The Sun), a playboyish former editor of a lads magazine, a black feminist and a human rights lawyer as the chair lady to keep things under control.

Chitra from Black Feminists UK expressed her points in the least radical but more informative way than the other two. It turned out though quite quickly that the introduction of the racial aspect overloaded the already complex and unfocused subject of pornography so that unfortunately she remained a rather marginal figure throughout the entire talk.

The discussion involving the audience formed the main part of the talk and started already after about 20 minutes.

Helena Kennedy came across as slightly patronising in picking the speakers claiming that she “can see very well who came first” and the audience remained quite noisy and tense throughout.

She kept ignoring a gentleman sitting behind me raising his arm patiently for most of the 90 minutes though (which I found was a shame as I think it is highly interesting to hear what men who join a feminist festival have to say…)

As a summary of key points and facts that evolved after a while we learned for example (unverified in some cases):

– porn functions as substitute for sex education due to easy availability via the internet

– porn is a euro american capitalist oppressive experience

– there is an increase in problems with erections with teenage boys (all of them admitted they’d watch porn frequently)

– there is no proof of connection between porn and sex crime

– the media in general is 95% driven by men

– in capital crime investigation there seems to be an increasing number of cases where pornography is found when searching suspects’ homes

– there is more acceptance of homosexual porn nowadays

– porn has become more extreme nowadays

– there is an increase in human trafficking – men have a higher desire to practise what they see in porns (which is often only possible with prostitutes)

– the porn sector has a turnover of £97 billion per year

– there must be a focus on legislation to make porn less available for under 18s; credit card payment was mentioned as an option

– there is a lack of space in sex education at school – it needs to have a massive makeover to integrate the current porn consumption by under 18s

– there are observations that young girls are being pressured into anal and facial sex because of boys wanting to experience what they saw in porns

Questions raised:

– is porn watching related to class/privilege/poverty?

– can a woman watch porn and be a feminist at the same time?

– should porn be made illegal?

In summary it seemed obvious that it is difficult to capture the gist of this versatile subject within 2 hours of discussion.

The impression remains that the discussion got no further than scratching on the surface of the subject as too many different aspects were thrown in – starting with the definition of what pornography really is (spectrum went from a topless lady on page 3 of The Sun, people enjoying having sex and being filmed, the erotica of the early “Emmanuelle” movies up to movies showing violent and humiliating sexual practices).

I also have to say the way the talk was held slightly wound me up. The emotions that were triggered by the organisers on purpose prevented people from being objective.

The subject of porn was kept too undefined and generic from the beginning as if a real focus point that could have lead to a consensus and/or conclusions was not intended to be created by the organisers.

Therefore I feel that everyone came in and also went home with their same own opinion.

At least this applies to myself:

My first key point was and is that pornography must not be available for under 18s (at least in a similar way as it was before the internet era).

I feel relief that I am not a teenage girl in this day and age that has to face first sexual and relationship experience with boys who ask for sex the way they see it (mostly unmonitored) in pornography.

I also think that there should be a ban on violent and abusive forms of pornography in general, eg where one of the parties involved is subject to disrespect and humiliation. I do believe that this type of film has a bad impact on people’s (adults as well as under 18s) minds and therewith society.

And a finishing note:

At the end of the talk I turned and told the gentleman behind me that I felt gutted that he didn’t get to speak and asked him what he was about to say.

To add to the complexity of the subject he said he thought that sending porn videos via mobile phones could spice up the love lives of long term relationships. Oh well…

By Sabine Zoellner

Sabine first modelled with Spirited Bodies over a year ago, before that she had always been on the other side of the easel. She was helping on our stall at the Women of the World Festival, and stepped in to model as well. Here follow some of her drawings.

No 3

No 1

No 4

No 2

No 5

For a recording of the discussion, check here:  http://wow.southbankcentre.co.uk/events/pornography/

Author: estherbunting

Performer, artist, writer

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