Thursday, August 28, 2008

Catharine Lumby: The Porn Report

Professor Catharine Lumby has spent the last three years studying pornography, and is one of the co-authors of The Porn Report, the most comprehensive examination of pornography and its consumers in Australia. Her findings are not what you might expect. Here, she's addressing the Sydney Institute - The Sydney Institute

Professor Catharine Lumby is the Director of the Journalism and Media Research Centre at The University of NSW. She is the author of six books and numerous journal articles.Professor Lumby is a well-known public commentator who has worked as a news reporter, feature writer and columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Bulletin magazine. She sits on the Education and Welfare Committee and the Research Committee of the National Rugby League, advising them on gender issues. She is also a member of the Advertising Standards Board.

Human Nature

The following question was asked in the Secular Sexuality group on Atheist Nexis.

What is your response to this video?

My response follows.

The juxtaposition of the lyrics - expressing a desire for sexual freedom - with the video - depicting a visual theme of Bondage & Domination - is very interesting, and illustrates the message of the song very well.

We human beings are sexual beings. A rather self-evident statement, as is the following statement: There ain't nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, the second statement is one that continues to be needed to be expressed. The repression of sexuality, particularly of female sexuality, is an evil that is still present in our society, and an evil that ought to be fought against.

I did hesitate in using the word 'evil', given the religious overtones of the word. But is it a word that I think appropriate to adopt in terms of secular morality or ethics. It does have a force of meaning that 'moral wrong' or 'ethical wrong' just doesn't express. In the secular world, we generally have no problem with condemning slavery as an evil. The shaming of women, and also of men, for the expression of their sexual desire is also an evil.

Though the song is, I'm guessing, a personal response by Madonna to the criticism she has received for her unashamed sexual expression in her art, it is also a song for all women. The lyric "Would it sound better if I were a man?" is perhaps the most important of the song in expressing the double standard regarding the expression of human sexual desire and activity that does exist within our societies: men can fuck around and do whatever, women must be contained in a box. It is a lyric that also anticipates the criticism Madonna expects to receive simply for expressing her desire for sexual liberation.

Generally speaking I've not been a great fan of Madonna over the course of her career. But I am becoming more of a fan the more I understand what it is she is actually expressing through her music. Madonna is an important cultural icon, and messages such as the one she is expressing in this music video are the type we need to hear more of.

And adopt into our culture.

(tip o' the hat to The Nerd)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


In our supposedly post-modern world it may seem that there is no longer any need for Feminism. Women in Australia are able to own property in their own name, vote in elections, gain higher education, enter the workforce or pursue a career, exercise reproductive choice through fertility control drugs, abortion or maternal leave, initiate divorce, and possess a myriad other rights and privileges so numerous and common place that we barely give it another thought. Indeed, we would think it odd, scandalous even, if women were not in possession of these rights and privileges.

Sadly though, there is still a need for Feminism. I write sadly because as with any social movement that seeks change for the better, Feminism is a philosophy that seeks to eliminate its own necessity. The day we no longer need Feminism is the day that Feminism has achieved its objectives. It is a day that can not come soon enough.

One area of life for women that is still very much present is that of violence. Such violence occurs in many, many forms, and is a daily experience for many, if not most women. It may take the form of sexual shaming in calling women sluts, whores, and other such derogatory terms for no greater offence than the clothes she wears. It may be the leer and cat-calling by a stranger. Or it may be in the form of physical violence.

Domestic violence (also known as Family or Intimate Partner Violence) is an grave issue that is very much still a part of life for many women women, not only in Australia but throughout the world. In 2002 the Australian Bureau of Statistics conducted the Personal Safety Survey. Amongst the findings were that in the 12 months preceding the Survey:
  • 5.8% of women experienced an incident of violence
  • 4.7% of women experienced physical violence
  • 1.6% of women experienced sexual violence
The Commonwealth Government's Office for Women provides a list of Crisis/Help Line telephone numbers for each State and Territory.

I also recommend to the reader the blog flowers... Though authored in South Africa, the information it provides the reader is universally useful.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Genius of Charles Darwin (Part One)

A documentary programme called The Genius of Charles Darwin: Presented by Richard Dawkins is airing in the UK television station Channel 4. There is google video of episode one available over at Pharyngula in one part.

Or you can head over to the home of the man himself and watch it in five YouTube parts, or even download a Quicktime video (146MB) here. Richard has even provided a link to a torrent of the episode for download.

It's the first of a three part series. Richard does fine work with his documentaries, and the standard of this one is certainly on par with his previous films. Evolution presented in such an easy and understandable manner. I very much look forward to the next two episodes.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The McCain Ad and a Response

The reader may be aware of the brouhaha in the US over the ad by McCain criticising Obama for behaving more like a celebrity than a Presidential candidate. In it, Obama is compared to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Here is the ad:

What is interesting about this ad is the choice of comparison: Spears, the good girl Mouseketeer virgin teen-queen turned vagina-exposing slut, and Hilton the vacuous airhead heiress amatuer-sex-video slut. Harlot hussy whores the both of them, who will do anything for a spot of publicity, lacking in any sense of morality and decorum, and beloved by millions of dumb young kids. A vote for Obama is clearly a vote for the moral decay of the US. Or so is the message McCain would imply.

Though Spears is clearly a troubled young woman, and Hilton is lost in a wasteland of inherited wealth, they are both very smart cookies, and not the dumb blond bimbos they are usually seen as. They each know what their market is, and they cater to it superbly. And rake in the cash. Though I'm not a fan of either of them, I do acknowledge that they do what they do well, even if there is the occasional stumble.

Obama was quick to release a counter-ad in reply to McCain's, but that is not so interesting. Par for the course in a political campaign. Tit-for-tat, and all that. But there has been another reply ad released, this one by Hilton. Here it is:

It's a good ad. Parody, of course, but a good ad nonetheless. And her energy policy actually makes sense! I could almost vote for her - if I were eligible to vote in this election.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


The few regular readers I have will notice, if they have a modicum of observational skills, that there is something different about this blag. Three things in particular.

1. There is a shmancy new header to replace the boring old header previously present.
2. The template the blag uses has changed.
3. All of the previous posts have been erased, such that this is now the first entry.

Somewhat bored and unhappy with the way the blag had been progressing, I took the radical step of throwing out the old and starting anew.

Ahhh! Feels better already.

Got a problem with it? Take it up with my old mate, Bruce.