Event: Melbourne Writers Festival — Censorship, The Body & Porn.

With a panel consisting of David Marr, Slutwalk Melbourne mastermind Karen Pickering and author of Money Shot, Jeff Sparrow, Saturday’s Censorship, The Body & Porn session was going to be full of surprises.

I think at this stage, when it comes to porn, we’ve heard (and probably seen) it all. Marr mentioned pedophilia, and that the banning of images like Bill Henson’s is nonsensical when pedophiles have access to all the “church ceilings” in the world!

Sparrow said that we place too much importance on children respecting authority—“Do what your uncle tells you. Do what the babysitter tells you.”—when in reality, authority figures known to the child are more likely to be the ones abusing them.

Marr also asserted that porn puts all of our “human horribleness” on display:

“If you want to know what human beings are like, don’t forget the distasteful categories of porn: that’s what human beings are… It is there to paint a portrait of humanity.”

I don’t necessarily agree with that, but speaking of displays of sexuality, Sparrow had a lot to say about that as he spent a good deal of time researching the sex industry for his latest book.

Interestingly, he mentioned going to Sexpo and Planetshakers, an Aussie youth church group associated with the Pentecostal Christian church, and how they both essentially offer up sex as a commodity, and who can offer the best price for it.

Of course, in this narrow-minded society, if you’re sexually unattractive your value goes down and you’re ridiculed on websites like Is Anyone Up, a revenge-porn Tumblr, essentially. If you deign to be sexually attractive (not necessarily active) in public then you “deserve everything that’s coming to you”, but if you’re sexually unattractive, the same rules apply. And you’d better enjoy it, too, ’cause we all know you won’t be getting it elsewhere.

50 Shades of Grey was certainly in the crossfire, too, with bondage and anything that even “pinks the skin” in the porn industry receiving an unclassified and essentially illegal status, whilst the “mommy porn” novel sweeping the world is literally sold in the supermarket, but deals with the same subject matter.

Sparrow said there are two sides to the success of something like 50 Shades of Grey and, I guess, the not-necessarily-positive “pornification” and sexualisation of modern culture. On the one hand, 50 Shades is “extremely transgressive” and would have been banned 30 years ago, however it also upholds “deeply conservative” views on sex, gender and society.

I’m about halfway through the book and I can certainly attest to that. More to come on this issue.