Women’s Forum CEO talks about how porn is normalising violence against women on BBC

Women’s Forum CEO talks about how porn is normalising violence against women on BBC

Women’s Forum Australia CEO, Rachael Wong, was recently invited to join a discussion on BBC Global Questions about ‘Sexism and Violence Against Women’. The discussion centred around why women in so many countries continue to endure sexism and sexual violence, and why change seems so difficult to achieve.

On the panel were two former female presidents, one from Africa and one from Europe, who both have a long history of advocating for women's rights. One was Mary Robinson, Ireland's first female president, and the other was Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former president of Liberia and the first female head of state in Africa.

Rachael made the point that pornography is shaping misogynistic attitudes and normalising violence against women, and that until we seriously address this issue, we will never achieve equality between the sexes.

“[We need] to recognise that porn is normalising violence against women and that it is conditioning men, many from when they are just young boys, to view women and girls as sexual objects to be used and abused. And this is to say nothing of the sexual violence and exploitation that takes place within the porn industry itself. It is time governments acknowledge the inherently destructive nature of porn and regulate it accordingly, like they do with other harmful, addictive materials.”

While it didn’t make it onto the final edit of the show, the BBC host Zeinab Badawi posed the following important question: “What do you do about the women who willingly work in the porn industry or allow themselves to be objectified in a sexual manner?”

Rachael responded that “the majority of those women come from underprivileged backgrounds and are not there by genuine choice. And despite what kind of backgrounds those women come from, what they are doing is perpetuating violence against women and perpetuating the degradation of their fellow women.”

There are many things that can and should be done to address sexism and violence against women, particularly in relation to the insidious objectification of women in culture (for example, through porn, films, advertising etc).  

There needs to be more education around the inextricable links between these cultural forces and violence against women. There needs to be stronger regulations prohibiting sexual objectification in advertising. And the entertainment industry needs a complete overhaul – they were the ones responsible for spearheading #MeToo, yet they are also the ones responsible for promoting a culture where abusive behaviour thrives.  

But by far the most critical thing is for governments to seriously tackle the issue of pornography and to address the myriad of health and social crises that are the result of a generation raised on porn.

Women’s Forum Australia is an independent think tank that undertakes research, education and public policy advocacy on issues affecting women and girls, with a particular focus on addressing behaviours and practices that are harmful and abusive to them. We are a non-partisan, non-religious, tax-deductible charity. We do not receive any government funding and rely solely on donations to make an impact. Support our work today.

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