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Roast busting and the revival of misogynist sexual culture

In March this year US teenagers Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, were convicted of raping a 16 year old girl in August 2012, in Steubenville Ohio. The girl was sexually violated as she was dragged from party to party over the course of several hours one night, in an inebriated and unconscious state. Aside from the sexual assault itself, there are several haunting dynamics of the Steubenville rape case. There were many witnesses who did nothing. Over 900 photographs and videos were reportedly taken by those involved and by onlookers. (Mays himself was also convicted of distributing a photograph of the girl, naked.) The boys’ actions appear to have been covered up by some adults in the community and minimized by national media (eg, CNN). The sexual violence and humiliation of this girl was celebrated by friends of those involved – in real time, on social media. An infamous 12 minute online video shows one young man, almost delirious with excitement, going on and on about how “dead” (ie, passed out) the girl was; that is, the girl who had just been raped by his peers, and filmed by them and onlookers.

Steubenville is just one very high profile example of contemporary rape culture. Others, with similar dynamics, have been in the media this year. ‘Underage’ girls, who are intoxicated or drugged, are sexually violated and further humiliated through the posting of photographic or video evidence on social networking sites. For the girls who are the victims of this violence and humiliation, the impact can be devastating. Last year 15 year old California high school student Audrie Pott took her own life after having been sexually assaulted by three teenage boys while she was passed out at a party. She woke the next morning to find she had been drawn on by marker pen, photographed naked and violated. She later found that these photographs had been passed around her school. Earlier this year 17 year old Novia Scotia girl Rehtaeh Parsons took her own life, having been sexually assaulted 18 months previously when she was 15 by four boys, one of whom circulated a cell phone picture of what happened around their high school. Daisy Coleman who recently spoke out about the rape she reportedly experienced, at 14, while drugged – and who was also videotaped – twice tried to take her own life. All of these girls experienced harassment and bullying, not only by the boys who raped and humiliated them, but later by others in their peer groups and wider communities.

These cases are the horrific pinnacles of rape culture. How is it that young men can act in such hateful ways, with such grandiose senses of entitlement, in such voids of empathy and seemingly without moral bearings? I have become more and more convinced of the connection between sexual violence and a wider cultural tolerance of misogyny. Sexual violence and gang rape are not new. But something seems different about the narcissistic performative nature of these violations. That they are sometimes filmed and distributed, or gloated about, on social media. That the boasting is so open, online for anyone to see, is made possible by communication technologies that weren’t around even 10 years ago. Different kinds of behaviour become possible. That these boys and men use this technology without any apparent sense of caution for the repercussions – not only for their victims but also for their own reputations later in life and their chances of getting caught – suggests that cultural norms are changing with the technological possibilities.

At a few conferences this year I have spoken about Steubenville, and discussion turns to New Zealand. People wonder whether this kind of violence happens here too – or is it a malaise particular to the underbelly of the cheerleaders-and-football-heroes culture of American high schools?

This week we have a clear answer: it does happen here too.

Last month sketchy details were reported that two 18 year old young men were charged with the rape of a 17 year old young woman in New Plymouth. And that one of these young men along with a third man was charged with filming it.

This week we know that was not an isolated case. A group of Auckland boys who call themselves ‘roast busters’ have been busted themselves for their sexual exploits with young girls. TV3 News showed video footage (from the group’s Facebook) of Beraiah Hales and Joseph Parker promoting ‘roasting’ – a form of sexual conquest that is juvenile in design and likely devastating in impact for the girls involved. The boys describe intentionally targeting young girls for something that involves two of them penetrating the girl orally and vaginally at the same time: “two or more guys.. one dick in pussy one mouth and if there’s more then two guys then you use your hands too [sic]” (as Hales explains it on ask.fm).

TV3 reports that on their Facebook page they apparently posted videos naming the girls they ‘roasted’. The page was operating for five months until a complaint from TV3. Many girls are also named and discussed in intimate detail on ask.fm. Parker’s site was disabled today. Hopefully Hales’ will be soon – not only does it contain copious potentially harmful revelations about girls he knows, but it is incriminating. Rape comes up a lot on Hales’ site – in places he jokes about raping, in places he says they don’t rape (“I don’t need to”). They describe having sex with girls who are too intoxicated to consent. Hales repeatedly admits to having sex with girls as young as 13. The boys also talk about ‘gang banging’ girls. Someone asked Hales: “how many dudes have you done a gang bang with at one time”. Answer: “like 7 hahahahahh” (4 months ago, ask.fm). Another question: “how many girls have you banged”. Answer: “4”.

Commentators in the sexual violence and sexuality fields like Kim McGregor from Rape Prevention Education and Francis Bird from Family Planning, have talked about the importance of the concept of consent. It’s not really a very radical or complicated idea, the idea that if two (or more) people have sex, everyone should be into it. Yet the boys don’t seem to get this, and have an archaic idea of consent. To the question “how would u get a girl? into bed [sic]”, Hales jokes (presumably) “Chloroform” (4 months ago, ask.fm). Asked “How do you manage to a [sic] girl into roasting, coming from a wannabe roaster. ;p”, Parker offers detailed guidelines:

99% of girls that we roast say “ew I would never roast I think its yuck”

what you need to know is girls dont mean what they say half the tiem.

you just have to get them in the rame of mind that roasting is nothing major and they will love it blah blah, or you can just take the Down low route and just have 1 get with her normally an once they are doing they thang the other just creeps on over and trys to roast (keeping in mind you both MUST flirt an hit on her prior to all this going down) [sic] (4 months ago, 5 people like it, ask.fm)

On the similar theme of the challenge of getting a girl to do something they might reasonably be expected to resist, someone asked Hales “how did the gang bang come about? please just explain haha like did she ask, did you suggest it..were you all in the room and all were horny like how did it start [sic]”, to which he responded “just got her drunk ;)” (4 months ago, ask.fm). Kim McGregor from Rape Prevention Education, like other commentators, have already said this sounds like rape.

Mainstream and social media have been full of condemnation of these boys. Also widely criticized has been the lack of effective police action in stopping them. Police have known about the group since 2011, but Detective Inspector Bruce Scott claims the police have been impotent to stop it: “without actual evidence my hands are tied”. The boys have been spoken to and warned, he says, “and been told their behaviour is verging on criminal, if not criminal”. Scott’s constant reference to the need for a “brave girl” to be willing to make a formal complaint before they can act is irritating, at best. Girls who have been abused by these boys are probably facing every day with courage. Reading what Hales and Parker write on ask.fm and the questions put to them builds a picture of a toxic culture for girls in those peer networks. The boys give an impression (probably a false facade) of Teflon coated masculinities – powerful, wilful and invulnerable. They set themselves up with a platform to pronounce some girls as mates, some as desirable (to “fuck” or to be in a relationship with), and others as roast-worthy. “We don’t roast girls that we think of as friends” (4 months ago, ask.fm) (Hales). Questions are asked of Hales about intimate details of particular girls’ bodies and what they’ve done sexually and how it was judged to have been. Sometimes he doesn’t tell, many times he does. This degree of public surveillance and judgement couldn’t help but create an intimidating social environment for girls.

Reading their arrogant misogynist bravado and knowing what it is claimed they have done to girls, it is difficult not to find them despicable. It would be comforting if we could believe that they were mad or bad individuals, because it is more manageable to think about how we can fix that. At the same time, it’s clear that they are part of a community in which they are not universally seen as ‘beyond the pale’. On ask.fm there are as many, maybe more, lovers than there are haters. And, from what you can tell, as many girls as boys warm to or admire them. In response to the question “What is a saying you say a lot?” Hales replies “Go ahead, Call the cops. They can’t un-rape you” (7 months ago). 19 people ‘liked’ that.

Making a plea for a brave girl to make a formal complaint seems out of step with the reality of what it must be like to be a girl who has been abused by these boys living in that situation. Going to school with their friends, and friends of friends, and already having too much of the hurtful personal details of your intimate life unwillingly opened up for other people’s eyes and opinions. Surely the justice system response needs to be more proactive and creative. Might it make a difference if some police and community joint initiative worked to provide a deeply supportive and connected structure in which girls (plural) could be given the opportunity to stand together to collectively claim back more power in the situation? (Whether that means making a formal complaint or not.) Isolated as individuals they are incredibly vulnerable. Already there is victim-blaming chatter on teenage social networking sites which naively casts responsibility on the girls for ‘knowing what they were getting into’. But if joined together in a sort of ‘class action’, standing alongside respected community and school leaders, there surely must be ways of turning around the sluggishness of the justice system’s response to this case. While always respecting the decision of any girl already hurt by these boys to protect herself in whatever way possible from further harassment and scrutiny.

Russell Brown points out on Twitter that there has been plenty of evidence of criminal wrong-doing by the group – much of it posted online by the boys themselves. Enough surely to have warranted some kind of further investigation into the boys’ activities – with or without a complainant’s formal report. Phones and computers could have been searched, he suggests. The boys themselves could have been questioned according to Kim McGregor. Some of them may have been bystanders who are witnesses to crimes. Police have been aware of the group since 2011. They knew about their Facebook page, but didn’t take action to shut it down, despite acknowledging the suffering it has likely caused girls that are abused and named. The boys themselves have projected a cocky imperviousness to calls for justice. Someone challenged Hales about statutory rape and having sex with an underage girl. His response: “I’ve already been to the police about that haha and im not going to jail sooo idk what you’re on about” (4 months ago, ask.fm). It will be a challenge, and it may be painful for the girls who have survived this abuse, but it does seem unlikely that he will not end up facing charges.

The even bigger challenge is how to dismantle whatever it is that is supporting the widespread revival of misogyny and ongoing sexual violence that allows these boys to act like this for so long. These acts of abuse reflect a “trend of degradation” according to Peter Boshier from the White Ribbon campaign. The whole idea of masculinity and what it means to be a man in our society has to be looked at. Francis Bird and Kim McGregor have both raised the role of pornography in contributing to this misogynist sexual culture. Pornography is a mixed bag, but the everyday kind of mainstream pornography that many young men now regularly consume glorifies hostility towards women. Young women are props for male sexual pleasure – participating as second class human beings whose sole purpose is the consumer’s enjoyment. It is essential as part of our efforts to prevent sexual violence that we start talking about pornography, its portrayals of women and men and sex. And asking questions about the ethics of celebrating male sexual domination and female submission and aggression towards women in the name of sexual pleasure. Research looking at the way men talk about pornography shows a detachment from the ethical dilemmas that this should pose in a society that on the surface values gender equality. We are doing young men (and women) a disservice by not offering critical ways of thinking about it. Up until recently, the main social message about pornography has been one of liberal tolerance, as though it was only about sex, sexual freedom, and sexual pleasure. An issue for individuals and their private lives. Not an issue for communities and public discussion, as it should be on the grounds that it isn’t only about sex, but is also promoting hateful depictions of women. The concern about pornography is not a simple case of ‘monkey see, monkey do’, although there is anecdotal evidence that that is happening with young people who have grown up getting their “sexist education” (as Michael Flood puts it) from porn. Maree Crabbe and Dave Corlett’s recent Australian documentary, Love and Sex in an Age of Pornography, based on numerous interviews with young people and people in the pornography industry illustrates this connection.

The issue is really more about the sexual norms and cultural values it reinforces and promotes, even if they don’t originate with pornography. It is about the social vocabulary that pornography, and other things like some popular music lyrics, offers us for talking about – and thinking about and acting towards – women. So whether Hales and Parker watched a lot of porn, for instance, is irrelevant, because its contribution is in shaping the wider cultural context in which they go about their business. Shaping the reception to their actions and how it is responded to by their peer communities and wider society. In fact Parker claims not to watch porn, but in the manner of doing so echoes the dominant message of mainstream pornography:  “I dont watch porn i got bitches to fuck [sic]” (4 months ago, ask.fm).

Nicola Gavey

 

Response to / reflections on Love and Sex in an Age of Pornography

As a member of the research team for Pornography in the Public Eye, I know my way around contemporary pornography research: the issues, the important figures and the often heated disagreements. As my response to the film ‘Love and Sex in an Age of Pornography’, I thought I would lay out what I think makes directors Maree Crabbe and David Corlett’s work on mainstream pornography really stand out.

1. Taking the Questions to the Key Players
If you’ve read a bit in this area, you’ll know that heaps of research addressing pornography involves a researcher looking at a sample of magazines, videos or clips and analysing them according to their particular criteria. Unsurprisingly, disagreements over what constitutes a ‘representative’ sample and how to distinguish violence and assault from rough and tumble sex plague the field and often degenerate into an antagonistic “my data is more accurate” or “my reading is better/more sophisticated than yours” impasse.

In their documentary, Maree and David take the questions to the key players – porn industry moguls, professional porn actors and young consumers. In doing so, they get compelling and authoritative answers to questions about production and consumption. Young people’s analysis of what porn sex is about is depressingly gendered: young men do it and young women take it. Interviews with industry performers and producers support their analysis: mainstream pornography is about pushing women’s bodies to the limit: female performers are praised for ‘taking everything’ thrown at them – except, arguably, the big bucks. While some claim that mainstream pornography can be empowering for women, you don’t need to look far for the misogyny in this industry, with mogul John Stagliano declaring that ‘pussies are bullshit’.

Without reducing the complexity of their interviewees’ stories to a simple didactic message, this documentary demonstrates the lessons young people are learning from mainstream pornography: gendered lessons about what sex is, who it is for and what they are expected to do to / for others sexually. As one young man candidly tell us, he thought ‘all chicks dig this, all chicks like it there, all chicks want it there…it went bad’.

2. Porn Sex is a Job – and it’s Hard Work
Secondly and refreshingly, Maree and David’s film is not invested in portraying mainstream pornography performers as either victimised or gloriously empowered. Their interviews with a range of male and female performers make it clear that for these people, having sex on camera is a job. It’s about money not pleasure, and it’s hard work. Porn sex is not what these people do at home for fun, and it is made possible by body-altering practices: men take Viagra for physical endurance, and women ‘prepare’ their bodies so that they can accommodate sex practices which would otherwise be painful and uncomfortable.

These narratives from performers remind us that mainstream pornography is a choreographed product, not an unmediated recording of the sexual proclivities of performers. This message has the potential to disrupt what I think is one of the most disturbing messages mainstream pornography puts across – that whatever’s being done sexually to a woman, she likes it and deserves it.

These are just two reasons why ‘Love and Sex in an Age of Pornography’ is of considerable public and scholarly value. We need to face up to what it is we’re consuming and the gendered lessons we’re learning from it, and Maree and David’s documentary provides an ideal springboard for these difficult conversations.

Octavia Calder-Dawe

Pornography: Driving Consumption and Shaping Appetites

‘Love and Sex in an Age of Pornography’ sensitively broaches the subject of misogyny and its infusion within mainstream pornographic material. Within a social context where a ‘male sexual drive discourse’ perpetuates a ‘need’ for male gratification, pornography appears to ‘sate’ these appetites. However, as pornography producers working from a business driven model that continually ‘pushes (a submissive partner’s) boundaries (and bodily integrity)’ in an effort to create a film that stands out in a competitive environment, it also shapes and reinscribes what is acceptable, normative and culturally permissible for those who engage with it. These were the main messages I gleaned from the film.

As a young woman who grew up through an increasingly digital age, where the cultural meanings attached to internet pornography shifted from being ‘edgy and sexually deviant’ to ‘mainstream’, this cultural analysis gave a language to my increasing and unarticulated discomfort about the some of the content that appears in pornographic film. The film drew on a range of sources, canvassing broad perspectives on pornography, from those who produce it, those who appear in it, those who watch it, to those whose lives are impacted by it. Young people’s accounts emphasised how pornography consumption influenced their understandings of sex, and mislead them about what to expect in sexual contexts. Film directors spoke without any sense of personal or social responsibility for the impact of increasingly normalised misogynist pornographic material. Accounts from pornography performers emphasised an upbeat and positive view of their work while discussion about managing the physical demands of the job, and distinguishing between ‘sex with a partner’ and ‘sex for work’, belied some of the inherent difficulties and challenges. Overall, the range of perspectives challenged a suggestion that mainstream pornography, which is informed by and creates broader gendered inequality, is ‘just sex’ and innocuous in its delivery and people’s consumption of it.

It is often difficult to broach a critical perspective on pornography without being shot down for being a ‘prude’ or being perceived to ‘have personal issues’ that are irrelevant to pornography. By outlining the social issues through a range of sources, and not over-stating the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ aspects of pornography, ‘Love and Sex in an Age of Pornography’ achieves a gentle and thought provoking critique of the industry and its effects. Through articulating and mobilising a critique of a shifting social phenomenon, this film has wide spread applicability to those who think pornography is ‘just sex’, those whose lives have been influenced by it, and those who are unaware of its pervasiveness and social impact.

Guest post by
Jade Le Grice, Maori feminist researcher

Feminism this week

What an interesting week for feminism.

On the stage of national politics, one of the contenders for the Labour Party leadership has been touting himself as inclusive and popular yet dismissively stating “I’ve never been at the top of the hit parade with feminists”. Oblivious, it would seem, to how exclusionary this sounds.

It might be a misjudgement to dismiss feminism so thoughtlessly. Any reports of its death have certainly been greatly exaggerated. You don’t need to hang around for long in the blogosphere to find a whole community of witty and incisive feminism.

We might not need feminism anymore to espouse the ideal of women’s equality. Everyone is supposed to agree with that – right? But we do need it to shatter the illusion that we have achieved it.

Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism Project powerfully – and painfully – does just that. Started in April 2012, it has already amassed over 35,000 women’s experiences of mundane everyday sexism. The project has over 92,000 followers on Twitter.

Speaking of Twitter, a lot of people are concerned at the moment about the virulent misogyny, which includes rape, death, and bomb threats, levered against women in the media. From Anita Sarkeesian, who has been addressing the sexism in video games, to Caroline Criado-Perez for lobbying for a woman to be on the British ten pound note, to Mary Beard for having the audacity to appear on TV not conforming to the usual beauty uniform, many women speaking out or bucking the status quo in 2012 and 2013 continue to face misogynist abuse. After several hours of searching I can’t find anything resembling this gender-based abuse towards cisgender men.

As the brilliant feminist writer Laurie Penny said a few years ago (herself having received rape and death threats for daring to criticize neoliberal economic policy):

An opinion, it seems, is the short skirt of the internet. Having one and flaunting it is somehow asking an amorphous mass of almost-entirely male keyboard-bashers to tell you how they’d like to rape, kill and urinate on you.

But back to this week – and to end on a high note. The phenomenal global response to Auckland’s own Law Revue Girls feminist parody of Robin Thicke’s charming Blurred Lines! Their version, Defined Lines, called out the sexism in his lyrics and visual portrayal of gendered sexuality. Around two million views in a week…

Maybe there is a message here for blokey politicians and their fan club – feminism is not so uncool anymore. Retrosexism might not be the thing to flaunt right now.

Nicola Gavey

Jones, the Pope, and the Porn

Since Shane Jones stepped up last week to contest the Labour Party leadership, the colours of red (blooded male) and blue (movies) have once again drifted through our media. References to Jones’ use of his ministerial credit card to pay for porn have predictably been fodder for humorous jibes. But just as predictably the subject has had a short half life – as it did in 2010. The sense that it is no-one else’s business and not relevant to big picture politics has largely won out on the public stage. Perhaps this is as it should be for the moment. Jones has a kind of impervious masculine charisma that lets him wear his viewing habits on his sleeve and deflect any questions about ‘that’ as not only irrelevant, but preachy and emasculating.

To be fair, Shane Jones is no oddity for watching pornography. Recent local research suggests he is in wide company. Gareth Terry and Virginia Braun found that 30% of men (average age 28) say they regularly watch pornography. An additional 39% watch it ‘sometimes’. Only 15% don’t look at it at all.

For anyone in that ‘not watching it at all category’ (that is 60% of women, by the way), and not yet desensitized to what it is like, the bread and butter of mainstream porn can be enough to make you wince, if not cry. It is thoroughly saturated with a celebration of male sexual dominance. It portrays women as willing recipients of acts that are unlikely to be on most women’s ‘must do’ lists – e.g., having a penis that has just been in your (or another woman’s) anus thrust into your mouth, having a penis rammed forcefully down your throat so that you get a nice gag reflex, having a couple of men’s penises in your orifices at the same time. Oh, and having ejaculate dumped on your face or body – the planting of the imperial flag?

Our research, talking to young men and to experts around New Zealand, suggests that this sort of stuff is standard fare within the mainstream pornography watched by heterosexual men. It is, perhaps, what you might expect to find in our hotel rooms. Research from the United States on popular blue movies, found that 90% of scenes analysed contained an aggressive act (such as spanking, gagging, slapping, hair pulling) – over 90% of these acts were directed towards women.

Not all research comes up with such high figures. The reason for this is that some researchers don’t count these kinds of acts as ‘aggression’ if the person on the receiving end doesn’t appear to try and avoid them. So if a woman is being slapped and gagged, but just lies (or kneels) there, and doesn’t show her displeasure, it is not considered aggression. Some academics call this consensual BDSM. Or they suggest it doesn’t mean what it seems to mean – it is open to interpretation. But this doesn’t sit well with those of us who’ve had a foot in the sexual or domestic violence sectors. We know that in real life it is more likely than not that this sort of sexual treatment of a woman does not happen with her consent: and when that’s the case it is sexual violence.

Actually, not even all women performing in porn might be as content with their role in an aggressive sexual conquest as it might appear (remember: they are acting). What happens if they do end up shedding a tear, or looking frightened while they are gagging with ‘something’ down their throat? Porn that has been through the New Zealand classification system will mostly likely have had those particularly troubling bits edited out. So what you see is not always the full story.

Jones reminds us that he is “not running to be the Pope”, he is “running to be the leader of the Labour Party”. But this completely misses the point. The moral issue is not to do with sex per se. Uneasiness about mainstream pornography is not unease about sex or masturbation or anything like that. It is about our society’s comfort with fusing sex and aggression. It is to do with the treatment of women – in sexually and racially demeaning ways. Making this point is not about blood-letting masculinity. Not all pornography trots out the idea that women are there to be roughly played  around with. The stuff that doesn’t is harder to find, but probably preferred viewing for those wanting to move beyond old models of masculine sexual entitlement.

I don’t think it is too much to ask that our male leaders think and speak out about the place of gender in their politics. That in promising to hold a torch for ‘inclusivity’ they think about how they are including women in that vision, and on what terms. Jones should not be pilloried for a predilection for porn which, if we go by the statistics, is probably shared by at least some of his colleagues. But if his image is ever to be resurrected in the private minds of many women he needs to find a way to overshadow his association with porn with some real leadership against misogyny and sexual aggression.

Nicola Gavey

Pornography in the Public Eye comes to fruition

It’s been a busy week. Pornography in the Public Eye finally comes to fruition!

We are excited to be launching this new website, Sexual Politics Now. On Friday our exhibition A Different View: Artists address pornography opens, and on Saturday we kick off 8 weeks of public events. And as if that’s not enough The Porn Project, which is an independent fringe art campaign that we have links to, just closed this week after an intense ten days of art, activism, spoken word, performance, and panel discussions about pornography, misogyny and racism.

The whole point of Pornography in the Public Eye is to put the issue of pornography in the spotlight – to create spaces for thinking critically about what is going on in and around it. And spaces for figuring out creative collective responses to it.

The idea for the project was seeded 3 or 4 years ago. Students in my gender and psychology course were picking pornography as a topic to research, and their presentations pointed to the persistence of misogyny and sexism within everyday porn. Denise Ritchie, founder of local NGO Stop Demand, was starting to talk about pornography and draw people’s attention to new norms in what it depicted. She argued that those of us interested in sexual violence prevention couldn’t afford to turn a blind eye to this whole slice of contemporary sexual culture. But at the same time, the topic was getting no traction in the media and other arena for public discussion. A local pornographer’s flimsy claim that pornography was linked to a reduction in sexual violence could go pretty much unchallenged. And when there was a mini-scandal involving pornography and a prominent public figure the issue quickly got wrapped up as one to do with mishaps around money. Any opportunity to probe into questions of sexual ethics and gender politics was steadfastly averted. The whole issue was dropped like a hot potato.

In picking up the issue of pornography and putting it on the table for discussion, we know it is complicated and delicate. We know there are risks of offending and embarrassing people. We know there are risks of missteps and oversteps. But when the sexual humiliation of women runs through everyday mainstream pornography, and it houses racist stereotypes of women and men, it seems precious to ignore this for the sake of politeness or out of fear of putting a foot wrong.

We are trying to tackle these issues in a way that keeps the critical focus on sexism, misogyny and racism – while trying to remain noncommittal about pornography more generally. We are doing this because we want to talk with anyone who values equality and respect for all, whether they love, hate, or are indifferent to porn. We are working with words, with images, and with performance – seeking to spark conversations and possibilities for new ways of seeing the issues within and beyond pornography. We are working with people who have different views on and relationships to the genre – trying to balance inclusiveness and open-mindedness with care not to end up reiterating the very things we are trying to unsettle. This creates spaces that can be uncomfortable and challenging – probably touching all of us at times, from one angle or another. But we do know already that people are ready to talk about these issues. Over 600 people directly engaged with The Porn Project events over the past couple of weeks. People are starting to talk. Let’s keep the conversations going and expand the spaces for constructive dialogue around pornography, sexism, racism, and misogyny.

Nicola Gavey