"This blog is a bit unusual and needs a little introduction. We've just finished the formal training part of our volunteer training programme and have just welcomed 8 new volunteer support workers into the organisation for their 6 month induction. The training is intense and of course we are dealing with challenging issues, such is the nature of our work. The training programme is accredited and women have to produce a portfolio of written work. One of the assessment tools we use is reflective logs and reproduced below (with full permission) is the log done by Laura recently on pornography. We're using this because she's managed to write so eloquently and honestly about pornography and we are delighted to welcome her and the other 7 members of the group into our organisation."
The log is reproduced in full for ease of reading.
What was the situation, event or experience?
The whole session on pornography.
What did it make me feel and think initially?
Feelings: indifference, embarrassment, surprise, confusion. Some initial thoughts: pornography has always been part of the furniture;
- isn't this strange, talking about porn with someone I barely know? Aren't we confident? Wait a minute no, we're awkward
-372 million pornographic pages on the internet - no surprises there
- can pornography be good sometimes?
What did I do/how did I react?
At the start I kept thinking about sex scenes in films and having naughty thoughts. I looked around at the rest of the group to see how they were faring. They looked either concerned, a bit cross, or closed-bookish. My partner in the -what does porn mean to you? exercise had a poker face. I became shy. I was glad there were lots of facts and figures for us to go "ooh" and "ah" at, so I didn't have to risk speaking and possibly ruining it all.
My own memories of encounters with porn bubbled up: aged nine, in a place I'd known was forbidden so of course I'd gone straight in; next at about 16 when I got a boyfriend it was all around his bedroom. Then at university I watched it on DVDs with friends out of curiosity. As a photography student my thoughts were always first and foremost, what terrible lighting.
As the session went on it occurred to me that the "actual" pornography I've come across I've not enjoyed that much at all.
Watching the Blurred Lines documentary I found the mention of the Steubenville rape case particularly upsetting. The perpetrators were shown joking around like they were just playing cards. To me this seemed to get to the heart of what's happened to porn and the way it's been distributed in my lifetime. What's unacceptable has been changed somehow, and sprinkled into everyday activities and gestures. It's really hard to explain how this is - partly because of shame I think, at my own passive role in it all?
During the video of Ran Gavrieli's "Why I Stopped Watching Porn" talk the remark that hurt most was have you seen any Miley Cirus, Lady Gaga video clips or commercials? That's porn with clothes on. So girls get this notion that if you want to be worthy of love first and foremost you have to be worthy of sexual desire. I looked at one of our handouts and it showed pictures of women on the front covers of "lads" mags. Their eyes were pleading "love me, love me" and it made me want to cry.
What were my thoughts and feelings afterwards?
I enjoyed the atmosphere of the creative /collage session at the end. You could feel the processing and sifting of people's thoughts. For some reason I wanted to recall childhood and safety. When I was little I invented my own names for people, things and events. At one point I used to carefully arrange beads and pieces of paper on a tray and call it a "dumper hance." So that is why my piece of card says "dumper hance." My feelings later on were most of the ones listed above plus resentment, horror and quite a bit of despair.
What I was curious about in terms of my thoughts, feelings and actions?
In going back over the material provided I noticed how my initial reaction to some of the things presented was one of flatness, like for example with the slide on the alarming use of "rape" in pornography. Why was that?
I have an urge to look more closely at how pornography is "marketed" in the present day and what it is actually doing to us, particularly younger people. I want to read "Pornland" by Gail Dines. I want hard facts. On the other hand do I want to know, or do I risk curling up in a ball saying, "the world was full of wonder 'til you opened my eyes?"
What I have learned from this experience, event or situation?
That pornography has a lot to answer for! I might be slow on the uptake but I think the session helped re-define the boundary between erotica /loveliness and hard, unkind porn. I think we can become confused about this boundary. I've also learned more about the role of new technology in perpetuating ideas of women as useless, throwaway things. Porn has always been around, but now what was once an individual's passing idea can be shared instantly and on a massive scale. In this sense the collision of our still-patriarchal system with the internet has got to be one of the most harmful meetings of modern times.
How might this be helpful to me in my work for Devon rape Crisis Service?
A caller to DRCS might wonder whether what she's been through might actually be classed as "OK these days;" she might perhaps question this out loud. I feel the information on pornography we've looked at has helped to properly re-align us with what we already know: women are not just there to be used and objectified; this will hopefully strengthen my skills and confidence in helping a survivor to start to distance herself from such thoughts.