Picture this: Summer in the early ‘80’s, a nine year old girl dressed in shorts and a singlet top stands surrounded by porn centrefolds beside her molester in his shed. He tells her she looks sexy, and she is confused because she knows that sexy is an ‘adult’ thing, and that her Mum picked out her clothes. She is not flattered.
Now picture this: Today. The same situation as above. Would a young girl be confused about receiving sexual attention, or possibly be flattered after being exposed to highly sexualised adult material all her life? If we think it’s inappropriate for a nine year old to act in a sexually provocative way, aren’t we sending mixed messages to children?
I’ve always been aware of the impact highly sexualised adult material can have on children as the above story is based on my personal experience. Now that I have children I have noticed how much more prolific this material has become in the public domain, and how much more of it is placed at children’s eye level. This is a concern to me, not only because I believe it contributes to ‘grooming’ children for paedophiles, but also because of the way it can negatively impact on a child’s self esteem and healthy development and create very one-dimensional and warped views of women and sexuality.
What stirred me to action was when I walked into my local milk bar with my four year old son, and these so-called soft ‘p’ men’s magazines were right in front of him at his eye level beside the lollies and ice creams.
I raised it, very politely, with the shopkeeper. I mentioned that I was a bit concerned about children’s exposure to this sort of material. He told me it was his right to have it there and it was legal. Basically, he said ‘bad luck’.
I was quite shocked, so I went home and looked up the classification guidelines. I thought that surely the government wouldn’t allow material with these highly sexualised images and captions on their covers to be placed so blatantly in front of children, but I was wrong.
I found out that Category 1 and ‘unrestricted M15+’ prnogrpghic publications including ‘Lads Mags’ such as Ralph and Zoo, could legally be displayed anywhere – including in full view of children. The guidelines state they’re ‘not recommended for people under 15yrs’ (or 18yrs depending on the category), yet they allow them to be marketed to young children.
I sent a letter to the Classification Board, and got a response from Donald McDonald - the director (at that time). He basically said, ‘we can’t keep everybody happy and we are reflecting current community standards’. This didn’t surprise me as they take their ‘community standards’ from the amount of complaints they receive, and knowing how difficult it was for me to decipher who I should direct my complaint to, it was any wonder no-one ever got through!
I was sure I wasn’t alone, so I decided to follow it up and start a bit of a campaign.
I felt it was important for other people to be able to add their voices, so I created a website, basically a tool to
lead people to the petition,
give some examples and information about the campaign
allow people to add their comments and ideas.
There have been some wonderful and very supportive comments, particularly those from people in the fields of child psychology, teaching etc. The display of adult sexualised material in front of children is a part of the sexualisation of children, and most people with any common sense agree it is not a good thing. Yet there’s great apathy out there as people also seem to think they can’t do anything about it.
So, that is what this petition is all about. It is a tool enabling people to say ‘we don’t like this. Let’s try and create change. Let’s fix it for our kids, for their health and well being’.
If as an adult you choose to access this type of material, as long as it is legal, that is your choice and your right. But it is our choice and responsibility as parents and adults to protect our children from what we think may be harmful to them. Most reasonable adults and self respecting parents believe p*rn is harmful to children.
To me, it’s a no-brainer. We already know people are very concerned about the message that highly sexualised imagery sends to their daughters about how women should look and behave – that women should be available. It also sends messages to the boys that this is how women are; this is how women should be; this is what you should look for.
I actually think kids are being ripped-off. The adult entertainment industry over marketing the ‘sex sells’ message are robbing our children of their opportunity to grow, learn and develop at their own pace. Who on earth (with half a brain) would want their children to grow up indoctrinated with the sex industry’s narrow view of women, sex and sexuality?
I think it’s important to teach kids about sex amongst conversations about love and respect – but that’s not the message they’re getting from p*rn magazines with captions such as ‘Fit to F*^k’, ‘Sex Anywhere’, ‘F*^kable Flatties…’, ‘C*m on my Braces’, etc. Even if you want to remove love from it there is still so much more in a sexual encounter that isn’t incorporated into this material. Whatever your ‘adult’ take on sex and sexuality, at the end of the day, we should at least allow kids to be kids and discover this at their own pace.
As far as I am concerned there is plenty of evidence to support removing this material from the realm of children. I have been challenged, though generally by people who have a vested interest in this material. Attempts are made to categorise me by saying I must be religious, right wing, left wing, extreme feminist, a wowser, zealot, and everything in between! I think it’s a sure sign of a weak defense when all you can do is try to attach a label. One of my favorites is ‘You are always saying “think of the children, think of the children”.
Well, what is so wrong with thinking of the children? I find that really bizarre as an ‘accusation’, although it usually comes from a die hard porn protector who doesn’t have kids.
They also say things like ‘You are a wowser. It is just that you don’t want to see this stuff yourself when you walk into the service station’.
Well, there’s no ‘hidden agenda’ - I’m the first to admit I don’t like seeing tacky, crass, one-dimensional crap that objectifies women when I go to pay for my milk or petrol either, but I’m an adult and I wouldn’t bother going to these lengths to protect myself from it. But now that it’s directly in front of children, that’s a different story!
I have been banned from my local general store, although my kids have told me that the shopkeeper told one of their school friends that they could come in, only I couldn’t. How hilarious. ‘Yeah, okay kids, in you go to buy your lollies and look at the porn. Mummy will just wait outside.’ Then I’d be in trouble for not supervising my kids when they pick up the magazines and look inside! It’s sometimes an inconvenience as we live in a semi-rural area and it’s the only store, but I just make sure I’m more organised. Some people just don’t like strong women.
I hope that this petition is taken seriously. I hope I have made it simple enough so that people of all backgrounds, all religions, people from all walks of life, will find it accessible.
I hope people will promote this campaign. That is most important. Everyone needs to get active on this. Apathy is alive and well, but people need to realise that they do have the power to change things. We need as many people as possible to sign - they can print the petition off the internet or sign online. It is very simple.
Then we can go back to the government and say ‘Well, you say you are reflecting community standards but you are not. This is what the community really thinks.’ Of course, the government should be doing this work themselves, but it is not happening, so we must do it if we want change. It’s not going to happen by itself.
If we (and I say ‘we’ because I feel this campaign belongs to all of us) are successful then we can tackle other cases of involuntary exposure to inappropriate material, such as some outdoor advertising and things like the range of captioned T-shirts for children and babies that I think are equally damaging and demeaning eg ‘Daddy only wanted a blow job; I am a tits man’ - all these offensive ‘slogans for bogans’ that end up on kids.
P-WORD T-SHIRTS MADE FOR KIDS
Last Christmas I walked past a Supre clothing shop for teenagers and there was a T-shirt hanging on a rack outside the front door that said ‘Santa’s little bitch’. I went in to the shop and asked to speak to the manager. She only looked to me to be about sixteen but she might have been a bit older.
I said that the T-shirt was really offensive to me and my family and I couldn’t believe it was being sold, especially to the tween market this shop caters for. I said I really didn’t appreciate the message. She said she was really sorry as it was supposed to be at the back of the store.
I replied ‘Oh! So you do agree it belongs at the ‘back of the store’, but someone can still buy it and perhaps wear it to a barbecue that my kids are at, and I will explain to them then what that message means?’. She looked at me bewildered, then said ‘Hmmm. I see what you mean.’ Where is the responsibility of these Corporates for what message they are sending to kids, in particular?
And Governments - they are elected to represent the people – including children and their rights. If enough of us say we don’t want something, then that is how it should be.
Once we have enough ammunition (so far we have almost 16,000 signatures online at www.sayno4kids.com and on paper, but we should be able to get 80,000 if all of those signatories could encourage another 5 people to sign), that would surely give a strong enough message and ensure a positive outcome.