• Sat
  • Aug 30, 2014
  • Updated: 8:12am

The Porn Report

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 January, 2008, 12:00am

The Porn Report

by Alan McKee, Katherine Albury, Catharine Lumby

Melbourne University Press, HK$259

Subsidised by the Howard government's Australia Research Council, 'senior academic researchers' Katherine Albury, Alan McKee and Catharine Lumby embarked on the 'Understanding Pornography in Australia' research project, and The Porn Report is the result of their findings.

'The authors of this book believe that we need to have an informed debate about [pornography's] role in society,' the authors write. 'We had all formed the view that [its] consumption and production ... was more complex than current debates allowed, and that the idea that all porn is evil ... was simplistic.'

They seek 'rational' and 'informed' public debate about the harms allegedly done. 'Would you like to see some numbers?' they ask. 'We've got numbers.'

The 'numbers' they supply are so inconsequential as to be bizarre. Is the amount of dialogue women speak in pornographic films in any way relevant to a trafficking victim whose life will be extinguished once she is past her sexual prime?

In her outstanding anthology of essays Are Women Human? Professor Catharine MacKinnon - whose name the authors misspell - notes that to postmodernists, such 'factish things' are indeterminate, contingent, and, importantly, a matter of interpretation.

Outrageously limited in its research, The Porn Report does not, as promised, debunk current misconceptions about pornography; the misconceptions it debunks were entertained decades ago (pornography users are sad old men, all pornography is violent, and so on). The most significant current debates are ignored in favour of an interminable and irrelevant focus on the Victorian issue of obscenity, which is wholly unrelated to the actual harms caused in the making, distribution and assimilation of pornography.

Ironically, the most common current misconception - that pornography is, for the most part, harmless - is endorsed.

There is no mention of the fact that pornography was authorised as a tool of genocide during the Balkan crisis of the 1990s, or that it was shown to British troops destined for the Falklands and American soldiers in an effort to prime them for Gulf war bombing raids. There is no mention of the 13 million human beings currently trafficked for sexual purposes, such as prostitution and pornography, around the world. There is no mention of the rocketing rates of cyberporn and sex addiction, the increase in divorces in which pornography addiction is cited as a key issue, the impact of pornography on rape, the global commodification of women's bodies or the grotesque social problems caused by pornography in primitive communities.

Albury, McKee and Lumby ignore these concerns in favour of pushing their flaccid 1970s agenda: beware the 'nanny state', reclaim the sisterhood's sexual pleasure, promote clitoral orgasms and so on.

The Porn Report has nothing on US serial sex killer Ted Bundy's last interview before his execution.

'I'm not blaming pornography,' he stated. 'The issue is how this kind of literature contributed [to] and helped mould and shape [my] violent behaviour ... I've lived in prison for a long time now and I've met a lot of men who were motivated to commit violence. Without exception, every one of them was deeply involved in pornography.'

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