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mothers of children exposed to pornography

Diane Herceg, Texas - United States Justice Department Commission on Pornography

Gentlemen: My son, Troy Daniel Dunaway, was murdered on August 6, 1981 by the greed and avarice of the publishers of Hustler magazine.

Hustler magazine published the article "Orgasm of Death" in its 1981 edition. Its publishers edited the article, illustrated the article, distributed the article and even mailed the article to my home address. The article graphically depicted autoerotic asphyxiation. I have attached a copy of the article to this letter. At the time, Hustler knew or should have known that the magazine would end up in the hands of youth under the age of 18 and children. Their own surveys showed that a portion of their mail subscribers were under the age of 18, and that the vast majority of the homes to which the magazines were mailed had children in the home.

My son read the article "Orgasm of Death", set up the sexual experiment depicted therein, followed the explicit instructions of the article, and ended up dead. He would still be alive today were he not enticed and incited into this action by Hustler magazine's "How To Do" August 1981 article; an article which was found at his feet and which directly caused his death.

I feel these magazines should not be sold anywhere because most people do not care who buys them and will sell them to anyone just to make money. Even if only adults buy them, they are in homes where young people can see them. Most magazine publishers will print anything just to sell the magazines; not caring what happens or who gets hurt or killed, or how many families are nearly destroyed by the effects of losing a child or a family member.

I think the government should step in and put a stop to all pornography before any more lives and families are destroyed. I hope that the government will accept its responsibility in putting these peddlers of smut and death out of business forever.

Sincerely, Diane Herceg

Copyright 2000 Victims Of Pornography

* Buy Pornified: How Pornography is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families, by Pamela Paul *

taking it like a man

Beatrice Faust, co-founder of the Victorian Council for Civil Liberties, believes that there is no correlation between pornography and actions such as the aforementioned. "Numerous commissions and committees of inquiry," she wrote in the Australian, "have failed to demonstrate a causal or even permissive relationship between pornography and social harm. This plethora of evidence is all very unsatisfactory for those who want to ban pornography and tragic for feminists seeking a quick fix for ape and violence against women."

Melbourne, 1991: a 6-year-old girl met a 10-year-old boy after school and was by him led - without coercion or violence - to "the back of a vacant flat". She later explained to police that the boy had "rooted" her, inserted his "dick" into her mouth, and then sodomized her. The boy did not contest her account. Police gave evidence that in his home were "about 50 pornographic magazines". An education comes in many guises. The Crown Prosecutor commented: "Each of the sexual acts the boy inflicted on his tiny victim were graphically depicted in close-up colour ... in those magazines."

The impact of photographs and televisual images on viewers is profound in that those whom the pictures record can act as behavioural role models. "Pictures are a form of communication and highly effective," remarks Doug Watson, creative director of Mojo Advertising. "The impact they have is emotional, not logical."

After seeing an advertisement, we may find ourselves selecting the product it promoted without even knowing why; all that matters to the producers of the product and its advertisers is that we do, and their persuasiveness hinges on the emotional appeal of their imagery. The ability to absorb text and subtext is the crucible of our psychological development, and when presented with an effective image - that is to say, one that on some level startles or gratifies - we learn to link all that the image represents with the response elicited.

It's image represents with the response elicited. "It's all about the association of having a wonderful time with something that isn't necessarily good for you," explains Ross Renwick, creative director of Billy Blue Advertising. "Our advertising industry and educational system are based on rote-learning, on the acceptance of images and ideas you wouldn't have accepted unless they had been pounded into your brain."

As 7-year-old children, we sit in classrooms chanting multiplication tables, copying the alphabet, mimicking the pronunciation of our elders, absorbing the behaviour of our guardians as that which is appropriate and acceptable. As adults, we retain this "parrot" methodology. To cap: in 1994, Dr Hugh Potter, sociology lecturer at the University of New England, conducted a study of the "x-rated client" and discovered that 54% of those surveyed watched one or more pornographic videos a week. Exposure and repetition, the technology of fixation.

Imagine, then, the psychological and behavioural returns of pornography, the text and subtext of which are absorbed when our ability to filter out the inappropriate is at its weakest. Firstly, pornography not only validates but promotes the linkage of sexuality and commerce. Within the industry, footage of ejaculation is known as "the money shot". In five-star international hotels, hard-core pornography is prominently listed on the "in-house" videotape "menu".

The newly-mainstream veteran of 150 pornographic movies, Annie Sprinkle, encourages all women to think of sex as "[a way] to make money" and as a tool for barter - "trade it for all kinds of things". The pornographic equation is simple:

sex = money = more sex.

Our cinematic heroines reflect the social acceptability of this equation. Reporting on the 1996 Academy Awards, Mike O'Connor wrote: "Susan Sarandon, Best Actress, [played] a lone nun in a category ... filled with prostitutes." And why shouldn't prostitutes represent womankind in the films of men to whom womankind's dominant representation is pornographic?

- from An Instinct for the Kill, by Antonella Gambotto-Burke

one man's shame

When I found my cousin's hidden stash of soft-core pornography a few weeks after being molested by an older boy at church camp, my emotional ground was broken enough for those seeds to sink deep and grow quickly into a devastating force in my life.

I began to introduce other boys to pornography. I spent as much time over at his house as I could. When my cousins stash of material was no longer titillating, I began to frequent liquor stores that sold pornography. No one at the stores seemed to mind my looking at the magazines I bought them when I could, and when I couldn't; I would steal them, and sell the pictures at school. I quickly learned that the more graphic and explicit the photos, the more money I made. This began a slow progression from the "men's magazine" pornography which I had encountered at my uncles to the hardest types of pornography I could find at the liquor stores. Several other boys became my "buddies" in these escapades. We would dare each other too ever more risky attempts to steal pornography. Often, one of us would occupy the person at the counter so the others could steal what we wanted. The thrill of this risk was intoxicating to me.

But even this thrill wasn't enough after a while, The pictures in the magazines got old, and I began to look for graphic, explicit images. To get the same high I had received in viewing the softer images of women. After a while pornography still seemed to lack the punch it once had, so I began to look for more real and dangerous ways to satisfy my desires.

I began to experiment with voyeurism, watching girl's undress through holes in the wall or windows, or sneaking into the girl's showers. I would literally do anything to see a girl's nude body. Watching girls undress was like having the pictures of my porn fantasies come to life. The tragedy was that my pornography habit kept me totally alienated from any real relationship with girls. I found it difficult to relate to real girls, who didn't behave like the girls in pornography, I didn't have girlfriends, because the girls I met or dated reacted with fear and disgust to my pornography-inspired advances toward them.

Pornography had taught me that the way to be accepted and loved was through sex, but in reality my obsession with sex brought me only alienation, loneliness, and shame. All this continued to escalate moving into harder and harder material and more risky episodes through my high school years until finally a crucial experience motivated me into a recommitment to my Higher Power.

I dropped my pornography habit cold immediately. I opened my own roofing business to support my self as I was going to college, and I met this wonderful woman at the college. After a 9-month period of dating, we got married. I firmly believed that I had turned my life around. I didn't view pornography, nor do any unhealthy sexual activity. But the injury my life had been subjected to had not been dealt with or healed properly, I was like a man walking around on a badly healed broken leg. There was a fundamental weakness only waiting for an unusual stress for another break to occur.

That stress occurred eighteen months after my marriage.

My wife was pregnant with our first child, and because of her symptoms and reaction to the pregnancy, our sexual relationship began to evaporate. As I tried to deal with the mounting stress in our marriage, I was driving past an adult bookstore one day, and my sexual frustration nagged me into going inside.

It's difficult to describe my reaction to my first visit to a hard-core adult bookstore. I was deeply shocked and disgusted at the material I saw there. I was ashamed of myself and promised myself never to go into a place like that again. But the sight of this hard-core material and my shame at being there was also like a sudden injection of some incredible drug straight into my veins. In an awful way, it excited me tremendously. And in spite of my vow to myself, I found that as my relationship with my wife worsened, I went back there - again and again. Using the pornography as a drug to numb the pain of a struggling marriage.

Just as it had in high school, my pornography addiction began to consume more and more of my time. I found reasons and excuses to visit the store for more, and more hours every day. My business began to suffer as much as my marriage. I would hide money from my wife to spend on pornography; finally, I was finally forced into bankruptcy. Still my habit progressed.

Since I went to pornography in the first place to escape, the pain of bankruptcy only increased my need for the escape of pornography. And then came a move to California, and things got better for a time. It's difficult to explain completely, but at each critical time in the progression of my addiction, I felt I was being given providential opportunities - chances to stop, and turn myself around.

But I didn't take them, I was too afraid to let anyone see the real me. I was convinced that if someone saw the real me, the one that struggled with all this evil stuff, they would find me dirty, disgusting, and would have no other choice, but to reject, abandon me. The move to California was a chance like that. For several months, I tried to commit myself to making a new start for my family and business.

Then one day my business carried me to an area where there were sexually oriented bookstores and I fell completely back into my addiction, picking up where I had left off. It became such an easy way out. I felt that I was too dirty to love, inadequate as a man, father, husband and that no woman could accept me and love me. In my pornographic fantasies, those needs for love and acceptance were seemingly met.

Once again, my addiction drew me into more and more graphic and even violent material. Gradually, I found a growing interest in sadistic pornography. In the ever-increasing violence of my fantasies, I found an outlet for my anger at all the rejection I had faced from women all my life, which wouldn't love me or meet my needs. Pornography and violence are woven together, as to say sex, anger, power, and violence should be a part of the same experience.

Porn glamorized the violence.

As my mental scenarios demanded more graphic expression, I gravitated to more and more twisted and violent pornographic images. This material that once would have nauseated me, now have become my fantasy. I want make it clear here, before I proceed with the final stages of my addiction, that pornography never FORCED me to make these choices. But at each stage, as pornography began to have longer and more influential contact with my life, my ability to resist the compulsion for it grew less and less until I was seemingly powerless to resist it. I now found myself in this helpless situation.

I remember times when I would drive by a liquor store that sold pornography and force myself, with all of my willpower and every ounce of my mental strength to drive on past . . . only to find myself involuntarily turning around and returning to the store to buy pornography. By this time, images on paper and film were beginning to lose their power to satisfy me. Increasingly, I craved the "real thing"; it started out with going to a strip tease joints.

Just as with the bookstore, my first visit left me shocked at myself. I left promising never to return again! But I was soon back, spending hours and hours watching the girls. From there I progressed to massage parlors, and finally to using prostitutes. Just as at each step before, what was at first shocking and repulsive became easier and easier to accept. In fact, it was the shock and repulsion that gave me that "rush" I craved. And I craved it more and more. I would arrange phony business trips to cover my activities, and I would hide or even steal money to cover the costs of my habits. I laid out elaborate plans to keep myself from being suspected or caught.

Even in my own mind I lived a double life. My public life was commendable, but the fruit of my private life was full of bitterness and pain. This pain only increased as I made futile attempts to draw closer to my wife sexually. I thought that the way for us to be close was for us to have a better sex life. I was hoping she would be like the women of my pornographic fantasies, she naturally responded with revulsion.

Ironically, I even tried to "spiritualize" my requests by appealing to distorted biblical ideas about her duty of "submission", that her body belongs to her husband, and that it was her responsibility to meet my needs sexually. But again my attempts at this kind of closeness only ended in more alienation and anger. As this anger was building, I found that even my visits to prostitutes didn't dissipate the rage inside me.

More and more, I found myself fantasizing about satisfying myself and venting my rage at the same time. I deserved love, and if I can't get it through the natural channels, then I will have to take it. I began to entertain thoughts of raping a woman. At first, it seemed only like a game. I would make intricate plans in my mind about how I would do it without being caught. Then I began to do "trial runs" of a rape.

I would visit dark parking lots around department stores at night and follow women home. Then I would sneak into the back yard to watch them undress through the window. These games, became real, intricate "trial runs'' of a rape. But always something stopped me. It remained, for the moment, a game. But an ever more serious game. Finally, as I was getting out of my car at a racquetball club. I saw a woman walking to her car alone in the dark parking lot. She fit my perfect woman fantasy; she was the one of my dreams. Something inside me said this is your chance, she's yours", and my game became reality. I followed her to her car and asked directions as I positioned myself in front of her open car door, then I lunged at her, and forced my way into her car, my hands on her throat.

Terrified, she asked me what I was going to do to her. I told her. All I saw as I looked into her eyes was fear. Those that shocked me like a someone had hit me with a baseball bat, and woke me up. Suddenly, with my hands around her throat, I realized what was happening - how far I had come down a horrible road. I came to the sickening realization that I had intended to kill this woman, if necessary, to keep my terrible secret.

Reeling from the shock of my awakening, I released her, muttered something about having made "a mistake", and walked in a daze straight to my car. I need to emphasize that not until that moment, when I was a razor's edge away from killing someone, was I finally forced to admit that I had a terrible, uncontrollable problem. Up until that time, even though my will was being increasingly sapped by my addiction, I had still managed to lie to myself. Now the truth descended on my like an avalanche. Once the truth was out, it pursued me relentlessly.

Naturally, the woman had seen me walk to my car and taken my license number. As I was home beginning to open my secret up to my wife, the police came to my door and arrested me. After that came time in jail. I tried to defend myself by pointing to my sterling reputation in the community. This was just a onetime occurrence, my attorney argued. And so I was given a lenient sentence. Unlike problems such as alcoholism, my problems with pornography and sex were the type of sin that unspoken rules prevented openly discussing - or forgiving. I became a spiritual "leper" and found little support from some of my former "friends".

Little wonder, then, that I didn't "confess" my entire pornography problem. I was still playing a game of damage control, and I revealed as little as possible. I bitterly regretted having been caught. But it was not the process that led to my personal catastrophe. Naturally, the strain on my marriage, already near the breaking point, reached a critical stage during, the aftermath of the rape attempt. In a last-ditch effort to save my marriage, I took my wife on a getaway to Santa Barbara, CA only to find us in a hot and bitter fight.

Deep in my heart, I still resented the rejection I felt from everyone, especially my wife. In a self-justifying tirade I rehearsed to myself how my entire problem had really been my wife's fault. "If only she had met my needs," I thought. "If only she had totally accepted me, I wouldn't have had to look elsewhere." I believed that if a woman kept her husband sexually satisfied he wouldn't be looking outside the home.

So it was my wife's fault for never meeting my sexual needs, not realizing that I had this problem way before I met my wife, and that I was the one who was truly responsible for my problems. My marriage, I decided, was over, and then, something extraordinary happened. Like a cornered animal with no where to run, I finally found myself face to face with the TRUTH, and my life started on a different path that was the beginning of my journey to healing. Please don't think I was instantly healed of my addiction. It was a process, and not always an easy one.

But at that moment, a door cracked open and lighted up the first step on the road to freedom to control my own life again.

Copyright 2002 Victims of Pornography

pornography as defamation: an excerpt

By Professor Catharine Mackinnon

Here and now, there is something virtually never included in the lexicon of group defamation. People are being callously dehumanized, horribly brutalized, and sometimes killed. Verbal, visual, and physical atrocities are committed, demeaning an entire group because of a condition of birth, targeting them for physical atrocities which are being done.

This case is distinctive in a number of ways, including the fact that a lot of money is being made from the defamatory materials, and that the connections between the material and specific physical abuses are far better documented than in any other instance.

Yet the atrocity is not acknowledged but is widely denied. Its ideas are neither widely identified as false nor generally condemned.

On the contrary, the materials are rather widely celebrated, alternately defended as freedom itself and as the price "we" must pay for freedom. Not only is this permitted to happen, it is defended by many as a measure of principle. I refer to the "cunts" of the leaflet: to pornography and the situation of women.

Part of the problem in this case is the lack of recognition, militant at times, that there is such a thing as the condition of women of which this body of materials could be a part. In reality, the status and treatment of women has certain regularities across time and space, making gender a group experience of inequality on the basis of sex.

Traditionally, women have been disenfranchised, excluded from public life and denied an effective voice in public rules, denied even the use of their own names. Women are still commonly relegated to the least compensated and most degraded occupations. Their forced dependency is exploited and venerated as woman's role; their work is devalued because they are doing it, as women are devalued through devaluing the work they do.

Women remain reproductively colonized, subjected to systematic physical and sexual insecurity and violation, and blamed for it. Women are commonly raped, battered, sexually harassed, sexually abused as children, forced into motherhood and prostitution, depersonalized, denigrated and objectified -- and told this is just and equal by the left, and inevitable and natural by the right.

Women's abilities and contributions continue to be suppressed, their achievements denied and marginalized and, when valued, appropriated, and their children stolen. Women are used, abused, bought, sold, and silenced. Little of this has changed to the present; some of it has gotten better, and some of it has gotten worse.

The level of victimization of women varies within and across cultures; in the contemporary United States, for example, women of color are hardest hit. But no woman is exempt from this condition from the moment of her birth to the moment of her death, in the eyes of the law, or in the memory of her children. This condition is imposed by force. Some force comes in the more covert forms of socialization, pressure, and inculcation to passivity and femininity, some in the more overt forms of poverty and sexual violence.

In the United States, the average woman does not yet have an income that is two-thirds that of the average man. Forty-four percent of American women report rape or attempted rape at least once in their lives. Thirty-eight percent report having been sexually abused as children . Between a quarter and a third are battered in their homes. Eighty-five percent have been, or will be, sexually harassed in the workplace, thirty-five percent of them physically.

Most prostitutes are female.

Although these facts are uncontested and incontestible, neither are they really acknowledged or faced. Mostly this reality is elided because neither women nor men like thinking about it, and because men like living it, or at least benefit from it. So its victims go under without a trace. Life and letters are unchanged.

Law and politics go on as usual. Virtually nothing is done about any of it, by anyone, anywhere. Pornography has a central role in actualizing this system of subordination in the contemporary West, beginning with the conditions of its production. Women in pornography are bound, battered, tortured, harassed, raped, and sometimes killed; or, in the glossy men's entertainment magazines, "merely" humiliated, molested, objectified, and used.

In all pornography, women are prostituted.

This is done because it means sexual pleasure to pornography's consumers and profits to its providers, largely organized crime. But to those who are exploited, it means being bound, battered, tortured, harassed, raped, and sometimes killed, or merely humiliated, molested, objectified, and used. It is done because someone who has more power than they do, someone who matters, someone with rights, a full human being and a full citizen, gets pleasure from seeing it, or doing it, or seeing it as a form of doing it. In order to produce what the consumer wants to see, it must first be done to someone, usually a woman, a woman with few real choices.

Because he wants to see it done, it is done to her.

To understand how pornography works, one must know what is there. In the hundreds and hundreds of magazines, pictures, films, videocassettes, and so-called books now available across America in outlets from adult stores to corner groceries, women's legs are splayed in postures of sexual submission, display, and access.

We are named after men's insults to parts of our bodies and mated with animals. We are hung like meat. Children are presented as adult women; adult women are presented as children, fusing the vulnerability of a child with the sluttish eagerness to be fucked said to be natural to the female of every age. Racial hatred is sexualized; racial stereotypes are made into sexual fetishes. Asian women are presented so passive they cannot be said to be alive, bound so they are not recognizably human, hanging from trees and light fixtures and clothes hooks in closets.

Black women are presented as animalistic bitches, bruised and bleeding, struggling against their bonds. Jewish women orgasm in reenactments of actual death camp tortures. In so-called lesbian pornography, women do what men imagine women do when men are not around, so men can watch. Pregnant women, nursing mothers, amputees, other disabled or ill women, and retarded girls, their conditions fetishized, are used for sexual excitement. In the pornography of sadism and masochism, better termed assault and battery, women are bound, burned, whipped, pierced, flayed, and tortured.

In some pornography called "snuff," women or children are tortured to death, murdered to make a sex film. The material features incest, forced sex, sexual mutilation, humiliation, beatings, bondage, and sexual torture, in which the dominance and exploitation are directed primarily against women.

Hearings held by the Minneapolis City Council when our pornography ordinance was introduced there documented the harms of pornography's making and use in proceedings a member of the city's Civil Rights Commission likened to the Nuremberg Trials. The studies of researchers and clinicians documented the same reality women documented from life: pornography increases attitudes and behaviors of aggression and other discrimination by men against women.

Women told how pornography was used to break their self-esteem, train them into sexual submission, season them to forced sex, intimidate them out of job opportunities, blackmail them into prostitution and keep them there, terrorize and humiliate them into sexual compliance, and silence their dissent.

They told of being used to make pornography under coercion, of the force that gave them no choice about viewing the pornography or performing the sex. They told how pornography stimulates and condones rape, battery, sexual harassment, sexual abuse of children, and forced prostitution. Those not expressly coerced into pornography were there for the same reasons prostitutes are in prostitution: poverty, sexual abuse as children, homelessness, hopelessness, drug addiction, and desperation.

Those who say women are in pornography by choice should explain why it is women who have the fewest choices who are in it most.

Copyright 2002 Catharine Mackinnon

the documented effects of pornography

Defenders of pornography argue that it is not harmful, and thus should not be regulated or banned. Citing the 1970 Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, they conclude that there is no relationship between exposure to erotic material and subsequent behavior.

But two subsequent decades of research based on the increased production of more explicit and violent forms of pornography has shown the profound effects pornography can have on human behavior.

Psychologist Edward Donnerstein (University of Wisconsin) found that brief exposure to violent forms of pornography can lead to anti-social attitudes and behavior.

Male viewers tend to be more aggressive towards women, less responsive to pain and suffering of rape victims, and more willing to accept various myths about rape.1

Dr. Dolf Zimmerman and Dr. Jennings Bryant showed that continued exposure to pornography had serious adverse effects on beliefs about sexuality in general and on attitudes toward women in particular.

They also found that pornography desensitizes people to rape as a criminal offense.2

These researchers also found that massive exposure to pornography encourages a desire for increasingly deviant materials which involve violence, like sadomasochism and rape.3

Author Diana Russell notes in her book Rape and Marriage the correlation between deviant behavior (including abuse) and pornography. She also found that pornography leads men and women to experience conflict, suffering, and sexual dissatisfaction.4

Researcher Victor Cline (University of Utah) has documented in his research how men become addicted to pornographic materials, begin to desire more explicit or deviant material, and end up acting out what they have seen.5

According to Charles Keating of Citizens for Decency Through Law, research reveals that 77 percent of child molesters of boys and 87 percent of child molesters of girls admitted imitating the sexual behavior they had seen modeled in pornography.

Sociologists Murray Straus and Larry Baron (University of New Hampshire) found that rape rates are highest in states which have high sales of sex magazines and lax enforcement of pornography laws.6

Michigan state police detective Darrell Pope found that of the 38,000 sexual assault cases in Michigan (1956-1979), in 41 percent of the cases pornographic material was viewed just prior to or during the crime.

This agrees with research done by psychotherapist David Scott who found that "half the rapists studied used pornography to arouse themselves immediately prior to seeking out a victim."

The Final Report of the 1986 Attorney General's Commission on Pornography lists a full chapter of testimony (197-223) from victims whose assailants had previously viewed pornographic materials.

The adverse effects range from physical harm (rape, torture, murder, STD) to psychological harm (suicidal thoughts, fear, shame, nightmares).

  • Approximately 70% of the pornographic magazines sold eventually end up in the hands of minors; and
  • About 1.2 million children are annually exploited through child pornography and prostitution.7

1 Pornography and Violence Against Women, 1980.

2 "Pornography, Sexual Callousness, and the Trivialization of Rape," Journal of Communication, 1982.

3 "The Effect of Erotica Featuring Sadomasochism and Bestiality of Motivated Inter-Male Aggressions," Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 1981.

4 Rape and Marriage, 1982. 5 "Where Do You Draw the Line?" 1974.

6 "Legitimate Violence and Rape: A Test of the Cultural Spillover Theory," 1985.

7 Henry Boatwright, Chairman of the U.S. Advisory Board of Social Concerns.

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