Nothing gets a rise out of the Right quite like porn

2010-03-13 10:56

By Gail Smith

Multichoices capitulation to a Solidarity-led campaign to stop it from launching a porn channel is testament to the power of the moral majority.  And is a meaningless ‘victory’ in the struggle against sexual violence.  

Pornography that hurts, violates, mutilates, or humiliates women in any way is repugnant to me as a feminist.  The exploitation of women in porn is what made it a burning issue for women’s rights activists.

My problems with porn notwithstanding DSTV’s submission to right-wing and religious pressure groups is equally disturbing and raises some red flags.  

Pornography is a complex issue, one not solved by kowtowing to conservatives who cite protection of the child and pornography’s apparent power to incite rape.  These spurious arguments neither protect children nor address the real causes of rape.  

Similar sentiments around the ‘protection of the innocents’ were once used as a compelling argument against mixed marriages, and to demonise gays and lesbians as over-sexed predators who were a danger to children.

The agenda of the religious right is antithetical to women’s rights.  Morality-based arguments often hold women to a double standard.  The only acceptable sex within the paradigm of moral conservatism is confined to heterosexual marriage.

The moral crusade led by trade union Solidarity and other faith-based organizations such as the Christian Action Network and the Muslim Judicial Council is symptomatic of a dangerous conservatism that is gaining ground and eroding our constitutionally enshrined rights to freedom of expression.  

It mirrors the prudishness that seeks to censor any displays of sexuality that don’t conform to the heterosexual norm.  As recently demonstrated by Arts and Culture Minister Lulu Xingwana’s knee jerk reaction to Nandipha Mntambo and Zanele Muholi’s work.  Despite the fact that neither pieces were sexually explicit, or showed any graphic depictions of sexual organs or postures, or were intended to arouse.  All accepted elements in the definition of pornography.

Solidarity’s claim of a link between porn and sexual violence, and that porn is dangerous to children is based entirely on anecdotal evidence. It works to serve their conservative agenda.

It deflects serious attention away from the real causes of rape and sexual violence, such as poverty and inequality, unemployment, violence between parents, widespread alcohol abuse, and the proliferation of guns. These causes are not the result of anecdotal evidence but of hard research conducted by the Medical Research Council.

The religious right is concerned not so much by the issues of coercion, objectification and degradation that concerns feminists about porn.

In a statement by The Film and Publications Board (FPB) following the decision by Multichoice to abandon its pornography channel, the FPB claims this as a ‘victory for the gender and children’s rights movement’.  

Unless Solidarity and its moral henchmen have magically solved the structural and budgetary constraints that hinder the war on sexual violence, or miraculously transformed the lack of political will that hinders progress around child protection, the victory they claim is Pyrrhic.  

One where everyone loses, except the moral majority.


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