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The digital age becomes a dark age for women

By Caroline Spencer - posted Monday, 25 February 2008

We might estimate that more than half of the Australian population now has access to the Internet. Internet usage rates boomed from the year 2000. There are large class and regional differences in access, but age tends to be the main factor deciding whether you use the Internet or not. Children in Australia born in 1995 and turning five in 2000 are likely to have now, by 2008, had the Internet play a big role in their school, home, or social lives. These kids will be 13 this year.

The Australian Institute in 2003 reported that two in five boys in Australia had sought out pornography on the Internet. Just under three quarters had seen an x-rated video. A survey taken in the US in 2005 found that 38 per cent of 16 to 17-year-old boys had sought out pornography on the Internet.

Even excluding file sharing and credit card sites, these boys would have encountered no problems in finding the pornography they were looking for. In fact, they might have been surprised at the range of things they could see men doing to women. For free they could have seen pictures of men pulling women’s hair while anally penetrating them, grabbing women around their necks while orally penetrating them, or ejaculating on women’s faces while slapping them. Or they could have seen a whole group of men clawing a lone naked woman.


Looking at the pornography that’s on offer on the Internet at the moment would probably be a scary experience for most women. The days of polite dinner party debate over “erotica” are long over. It’s difficult to describe it as anything but pure woman hatred. You might think the worst part is when the pornography shows women pretending to enjoy being hurt and humiliated by men. Until you see the pornography that openly shows women crying. The thought of men and boys masturbating and “enjoying” themselves while they look at these pictures is almost too much to contemplate.

The 2007 medical journal finding that “high pornography consumption added significantly to the prediction of sexual aggression” makes sense when you see the pornography of the Internet. Holding onto the idea that women are human with human feelings must become more and more difficult for men as they watch pornography. Developing a sexuality that’s not connected to the humiliation of women is surely a difficult task under these circumstances. Leaving this view of women behind in the bedroom must also be a challenge for men encountering women in their workplaces, schools, and families. Surely it would be tempting for men to think about these women on the Internet whenever a “real life” woman annoyed them, rejected them, or stood in their way.

This is what the 2007 study’s finding linking pornography to male sexual aggression is talking about. When the day comes that a woman - either inside or outside a man’s bedroom - objects to something that he wants, pornography is right there in the man’s head as a resource. He has learnt from pornography what women are, and what rights he has in relation to them. It doesn’t matter whether or not a woman is keen, he will go ahead and exercise his “rights” regardless. The estimated 1,000 cases of drink spiking involving sexual assault in Australia in 2003 is a symptom of this training men are currently receiving through pornography.

Where do women fit in a society where large numbers of men are looking at pictures of women being brutalised and sexually humiliated?

What are women to think of the fact that our male leaders over the next decades might have had significant exposure to pornography from a young age?

Will these men be able to perceive of women as human beings with feelings? What if they don’t?


The coming decades are unchartered territory for women. We don’t know what the “social experiment” of mass pornography consumption by males will mean for us. Will the idea that women don’t relish everything men do to them become unthinkable? What if the word “rape” slips out of popular usage? Will mass porn consuming countries like Australia become uninhabitable for women and girls?

Fortunately or unfortunately, there are women around who know and can tell us exactly what the future for women under mass pornography consumption will be like. Women, who men have used in pornography; girls who have been raped as part of men using pornography; and wives who have had their husbands “ask” them to act out scenes from pornography already know.

Listening to these women and their stories is key to understanding what is at stake for women as we enter the new era. More than a vaccine for women’s cervixes, women’s lives will be saved through a campaign to fight the sex industry and stop the digital age turning into a dark age for women.

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About the Author

Caroline Spencer is a Melbourne writer.

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