Having driven down on Saturday morning, I’m afraid I missed a few interesting-looking panels. Katherine caught a bunch of them; check out her post here.

At around 11:30, I caught the panel on pornography, with Alan McKee, Emily Maguire and Kam Raslan, chaired by Karen Brooks. They were discussing porn and it’s place in modern culture, and whether it’s really as demeaning/offensive/liberating as various socio-political groups would have us believe. I caught a few very interesting snippets of information, none of which are entirely relevant to this blog, but which I thought you might be interested in anyway.

Apparently, according to Alan McKee’s The Porn Report (co-written by Kath Albury and Catharine Lumby), in Australia 80% of porn users are men and 20% are women. There’s also a difference between good and bad porn (beyond morality and censorship), and most mainstream porn users ascribe this to production values and whether or not everyone looks like they’re having fun. Amatuer porn is apparently booming – random people in their bedrooms with a webcam, I assume – and the only type or genre of porn that was really hard to find online was child pornography. McKee also mentioned a woman he talked to who really liked porn, and mentioned that no matter what other people thought of her viewing habits, her boyfriends were never disappointed! The survey also found attitudes towards women were worse as the subject got older, more religious, and more politically conservative (gee, that’s a surprise).

Emily Macguire, author of Princesses and Pornstars: Sex, Power and Identity, had quite a bit to say about how women in porn were simultaneously desired and hated. They look and act the way their viewers want them to, but then they’re often laughed at and described in the most derrogatory terms. She also discussed raunch culture, and how this is supposedly a post-feminist movement, celebrating female sexuality etc. etc. However, given that a large part of raunch culture is selling stuff, it doesn’t have all that much to do with feminism at all. When the inevitable question of porn vs art came up, Macguire suggested a definition might be that porn is made specifically to arouse, whereas art is usually made with any number of intentions but might arouse as a side-effect. Regarding the recent Bill Henson issue, she found it extremely troubling that the commentary in the media seemed to give the impression that it was the photograph itself, and by extension the girl’s body, that was ‘revolting’, rather than the people aroused by the image. 

Kam Raslan is a Malaysian writer and film director who’s known for monstering various authoritarian governments across the world. In Malaysia, he says, porn and sex don’t officially exist, so there’s no official government regulation or policy on the whole situation (it is illegal to be a gay man, but there are no laws against gay women, so that’s something). He’s noticed a pattern among authoritarian governments, that when their rule is precarious they tend to leave certain areas of life, like sex and consumerism, alone. When they’re more confident, they’ll start meddling. Also, when it comes to porn, a trend across the world is that people want to watch people like themselves; Malays generally want to watch Malays, rather than plastic Californians. But Raslan said there’s no one-size-fits all model in the way porn is consumed across different countries.  

Finally, just so you know the legalities of the situation, it is technically illegal to sell pornography and X-rated material anywhere in Australia (except the ACT, I think). However, it’s not illegal to buy it. Most police will turn a blind eye until someone complains; the only exception is child porn, which is totally illegal across all states and territories.

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