Thursday, March 24, 2011

Nasty religious folk discriminating against the poor Sex industry

Regular visitors of my blog will know that I made a submission to the Inquiry into Billboards and Outdoor Advertising, and how the Advertising Standards Bureau is doing their job of regulating billboards and advertising on bus stops, shop fronts, etc. (Short answer? Really really badly.) I was reading through some of the submissions, by various organizations and citizens and I came across this- a submission by Fiona Patten, from the Eros foundation and Australian Sex Party. I had no idea just how infuriating it would be...

First of all, she starts with the premise that the poor adult industry is so discriminated against, and they wish they could use outdoor advertising and billboards more, but they can't because the content of their advertisements draws too many complaints. She then describes the "enormous levels of frustration" experienced by the sex industry because of the "discriminatory attitudes" or anyone who dare complain. Blah blah blah big long paragraph about punishments for discrimination etc.

Then she proceeds to give the committee instructions on how to be fair, and if they are religious to put their beliefs aside. (Isn't that kind of a given, that the committee has to try to be neutral and put their personal feelings aside?) She then quotes statistics from the last national census, saying that 92.5% of Australians do not hold strong religious beliefs. Did she get that statistic based on the religions people had ascribed to in the census? No she did not. She personally determined "religious" based on the frequency of which people attend church. So if you don't go to church every week, your religious beliefs no longer count.

Fiona believes the remaining 7.5% "punch well above their weight" in terms of making complaints. That's an interesting assumption Fiona, but any evidence to support that theory, or is that based entirely on a hunch? Oh, also, you 7.5%, you use "shrill and righteous rhetoric" and lack the ability to think logically. Because anyone with a belief in God is an idiot.

Miss Patten also calls religious people to disclose their religious beliefs when making a complaint to the ASB, in case our religious beliefs have influenced our complaint. Should the sex party anti-censorship bunch also be asked whether their opinions are based on their beliefs too, and if so, should they be excluded too?

Apparently religion reflects "cultish behaviour" and attracts "unhinged" people. Oh, and then she shares one random anecdote about a moral campaigner tricking lots of people into doing something silly, and her conclusion: "These people are alive and well and complaining about billboards".

At some point, I have to wonder with discrimination, you know, that thing that Fiona Patten went on and on about and then listed the penalties for... Does discrimination only apply to the sex industry? Because from what I can tell, the leader of an Australian Political Party just lumped every person who has religious beliefs in together, as "cultish", "unhinged" and illogical, and hinted really obviously that religious people are noisy and should pipe down?

Back to Fiona and discrimination. Apparently against the adult industry, it's unfair. It's "an opportunity for people to get on their high horse". But don't worry, only unhinged people.

She then gives several examples of billboards that have been removed unfairly, and mocks the complainants. When a woman complained about a billboard for sexpo (featuring several barely clothed women in sexualised poses) on a school bus route, Fiona's response was that this woman demonstrated "inability and awkwardness" and "clearly needs help relating to her children", and then referred to "HER SHORTCOMINGS AS A PARENT" that made her defame Sexpo. Because the only reason anyone would make a complaint to the ASB is because they are too embarrassed to talk about sex with their kids. Yeah that's it.

Fiona suggests that if the ASB receives complaints regarding the same advertisement too close together, they should be viewed as collaborating and excluded. So what if people do collaborate? If a friend and I discuss an offensive billboard and both make complaints, are our opinions less valid? According to Fiona, complainants are "unreasonably biased".

Another sex industry billboard which was removed (probably the only two EVER) was defended by Fiona as she said the amount of breast shown was "no more than...on any of the Gold Coast Beaches that day". To provide a benchmark of what is reasonable according to community standards, she held as an example a magazine cover with a topless Paris Hilton on it. See? If a magazine in the porno section of the newsagency can get away with it, why can't a billboard that an estimated 250, 000 people see?

OH more on religious weirdos. Fiona reckons that Medical Experts say 10% of the community have some kind of mental disorder (could be perfectly accurate). But- wait for it- those who complain to the ASB COME FROM THIS TEN PER CENT. Because if you have a problem with women as sex-toys, or the general exploitation of women, or sexual themes and nudity in full view of children, you have a mental disorder.

Unsurprisingly, Fiona is against the instituting of another regulatory body in advertising, as the industry is already over-regulated as it is. Really, Fiona? A self- regulating industry with no actual authority to do anything but make suggestions is "over-regulating"?

I read a great article here by Caroline Norma from CATWA, who wrote about the Sex Industry furthering their own interests, with little regard for the women who work for them. While the industry wants to open more brothels, they have not made even one exit program for prostitutes who want to get out of the business. Interesting fact- Research shows overwhelmingly that people in prostitution suffer rates of post-traumatic stress disorder equal to that of war veterans.

So while I would love to feel sorry for the hard-done by Sex Industry who like to get rich by exploiting the less fortunate, I will refrain. I may go make some shrill and righteous complaints though, and pray my children don't ever ask about sex because darn it, my cheeks get so pink when someone mentions the s-word!

Oh and here's a little bonus- Fiona Patten getting wooped in an intellectual conversation about a how- to guide for paedophiles being sold on Amazon. (Fiona was for the book.) Scroll down to the bottom for the video.


  1. Aww crap, the video link is gone. Too bad, it was quite satisfying to watch. Basically, Melinda Tankard Reist was arguing that the "Paedophiles guidebook" was promoting and enabling child sex offenders (which was the whole point) and Fiona Patten saying nobody should censor these books. Fiona said, "Where do we draw the line?" and MTR says something like, "We draw the line at harm to children." Fiona was stumped.

  2. having trouble posting, will try again :P

  3. I'll bet she was stumped! I am very surprised, was she saying that she is totally and completely against censorship? I think that censorship is a huuuuge issue and I would be very hesitant to put such inflexible constraints onto it by just saying "nothing should be censored". Maybe a lot of things that get censored should not be BUT to just dogmatically say "nothing should be censored" sounds very problematic to me.

    So I have read the Eros Association's submission and I personally found it to be intelligent, insightful and well written. I don't say that as an affront to your reaction of finding it "infuriating", I just thought you might be interested to know that I did not find it to be offensive or even over the top.

    I used to dislike the adult industry but I have come to discover that it is not what I thought it to be. It is an industry that promotes good sexual health and I am so wrapped to be discovering so much about my own sexuality. I think that the discrimination that Patten is talking about is the kind that I would previously have been engaged in; protesting against an industry that I really knew very little about.

  4. I think the upcoming census should hopefully give us a better idea of the religious make-up of our society.

    I don't think that Patten is saying that anyone who believes in God is an idiot. Non-believers do consider believers to be delusional though.

    I think Patten and others would happily declare their beliefs if it meant that the religious complainants would as well. At least that way we could get a fair idea of how religion is playing into things.

    I didn't get a reading of Patten insinuating that all religious people are unhinged etc. I think that she very fairly stated that religion does attract a fair few crazies (as I'm sure you have noticed) and can lead to fanaticism and 'outsiders' see religious people as brainwashed etc. There are also many many very 'good', intelligent, sane people who are religious. I don't think Patten said anything that could be read as 'most religious people are crazy'.

  5. I actually agree with Pattens assessment of the mother who complained about the Sexpo billboard. The mother's complaints do IMO show a lack of confidence in teaching her children about sexuality. Why was she embarrassed about explaining what a sex-shop is to her son? It's not a dirty place, it is a perfectly legitimate shop selling items that adults want to buy. Why does she think that billboards promoting adult shops fail to foster a moral society? again, there is nothing immoral about a sex shop. I know Mormons who go there. She said the billboard was inappropriate and offensive to women!! I am not offended, I want to go to sexyland too, why should men have all the fun!!? ...

    I think that parents should be talking to their kids about all aspects of sexuality. They deserve to know that sex is natural and healthy and fun! If this mum was embarrassed to explain a sex shop to her son then I think that there is an issue there for her. I don't wish to mock her for it, I just agree that it sounds like she has some difficulty talking openly about sex.

    The collaborating comments make sense. If people are collaborating then I think they should make joint petitions not separate ones. Just like Patten is speaking on behalf of everyone who supports Eros.

  6. I think Vanity Fair (the magazine w/Paris Hilton's boobs on it) is in the fashion section of newsagents not the porn section.

    None of the billboards in Eros's petition offended me. Her arguments were sound IMO.

    "Because if you have a problem with women as sex-toys, or the general exploitation of women, or sexual themes and nudity in full view of children, you have a mental disorder."

    I know you were exaggerating here but Patten did not say any of this. Regarding the 10% w/mental illnesses she said "we feel that complaints over sexually based advertising attract a good deal more of these people than other industries do". I imagine that people who have experienced sexual trauma probably often find themselves dealing with mental issues and would also likely be more susceptible to feeling offended by sexually based media. I don't think Patten was drawing a link between conservatism and mental instability.

  7. I think Patten makes a good argument about regulators. I certainly don't want the police getting involved! didn't you think that bit about the state police getting involved was rather scary?!

    I want to see better working conditions and rights for prostitutes too! I think prostitution should be legalised so that the workers can be better protected. I also think that many people in the adult industry want this too! Where's your source for the 'fact' on post traumatic stress and prostitutes? It is a very vague 'fact', I'd like to see a link so that I can read more. There ARE prostitutes who choose to be prostitutes and who LOVE it.

    Caitlin, I think we both want to do the best for our kids as well as reach out and do what we can for those in society who do get taken advantage of. I just hope that you find my response to Patten's arguments interesting enough to consider. I'd love to chat with you more about it sometime :)


  8. Sometimes we just need to allow children to be children. They are not worried about sex when they are young- they just want the latest truck or doll. It's not about being embarrassed to tell them about sex, rather, giving them information suitable to their maturity levels at the time. People still have their free agency to be involved in these things, but there are suitable places for adults to go where children can still be protected from something that is meant for later in their lives.

  9. Also- religion does define us as a people. Even if we are regular attenders or not. We believe in something, God. And when we are true believers we do not wish to offend him with such images everywhere. We try to be like him. Sex is not a bad thing. But when we exploit something that is meant to bring us closer together as a couple, then it is offensive to God. If you read the Bible or Book of Mormon, there is enough evidence to support that. Hence, why religious people do get upset and have a right to stand for it. Including anyone who may not even be religious but have strong values concerning this subject.

  10. Wow, where to start…

    About the paedophile book, she was saying it shouldn’t be censored based on the argument “Where do we draw the line?” I disagree with her, because I think a line should be drawn before selling of a how-to for wannabe child sex offenders. I agree Maureen, saying that “nothing should be censored” could be very problematic.

    I suppose my main issue with this submission is that while she argued the Sex Industry is discriminated against, she made a huge, sweeping generalization about people who are religious- and made her own definition as to what constitutes ‘religious’ based on her argument. Of course there are crazies in religion, there are crazies in and out of religion- but for her to make suggestions such as religious people make up the ten per cent of the Aus Population who are mentally ill is way out there…along with a few other blatantly biased assumptions also against religious people.

    Sure, I’ll admit that for me at least, my religious beliefs are integral to who I am and what I believe. But does this make me unable to share a rational, logical argument? It’s not like I make any secret of my beliefs. I know some people find the idea of believing in God on the basis of faith nonsensical, but does that mean everything I think or say should be interpreted as nonsensical?

    I actually agree with Patten on a few small points. She pointed out that the ASB is unaware of what community standards actually are, as they have not taken a poll for 20 years. Fair enough. Time to figure out what community standards are.

    I believe Patten made representations that those who are offended by sex-themed billboards are uncomfortable with sex, or the idea of talking to their children about it. About sex shops, for example, I think it’s fair enough for them to be there. But it’s another one of those things that shouldn’t be imposed on children when they lack the emotional maturity to understand it. How about the sex shop called “Adult-shop”? It is not called “Child- shop” or “Everyone-shop”- it is for adults, and children would not be allowed to enter. Therefore, I think sex shops should be picky in what they put in the window displays and their advertising that is seen by everyone.

  11. I disagree about collaborating. Like I said, if I tell a friend about a billboard before she sees it, why should she not be allowed to have her complaint counted too? Is she not still a person? Each person who takes the time to make and submit a complaint should have it considered.
    Fiona Patten used a magazine cover with Paris Hilton, who was topless, as a benchmark for community standards regarding breast nudity. I hardly think that this was a reasonable benchmark. Just because a magazine is displayed and available for sale doesn’t make it appropriate. Some petrol stations over east were found to be selling porn mags that were actually illegal in Australia, such as pseudo child pornography. It is only once somebody makes a complaint to the police that this stuff is even regulated. So I submit that just because a magazine is on display and for sale, doesn’t mean the community approves of it. There are times when I have approached newsagents or service stations about the openly displayed porn mags or lads mags because I have a problem with it. Of course, you might put me on the more conservative side of the community- but I would not say a topless picture of Paris Hilton on the cover of a mag displayed where kids see it is okay.

    Regarding the Sex industry getting more complaints than other industries, maybe that is true, but I have never actually made a complaint about a billboard by the Sex Industry. I have made several complaints, one was for an ad for jeans, one was for a boat loans company. I don’t discriminate in my complaining! If I see an ad which I believe is overly sexual or inappropriate for public viewing (e.g. like my children) then I make a complaint. Who the ad is for is not a factor for me.

    Now onto Caroline Norma’s article, the “fact” was from her article and it is referenced there. While there may be women who choose to be prostitutes, I think there are many more of them who are working out of necessity, and therefore the Adult Industry is exploiting those who are vulnerable and weak. Like I said, they are happy to legalise prostitution and make more brothels, but how about developing even one exit program so that those who don’t really want to be there can find their way onto something else?

    Anonymous, I agree with what you said about giving children information suitable to their maturity levels at the time. Highly sexualized advertising that is seen by children disrupts their natural development and forces questions that they would not have needed to ask yet. There is a growing body of evidence that says that the exposure of children to highly sexualized materials is emotionally damaging to them and leads to a whole host of nasty consequences. But that’s another post…!

  12. Anonymous - I agree that sex education is ideally delivered in an age-appropriate way. Even when children see images that may or may not need clarification we need to consider their age when thinking of what to say. We don't just "sometimes need to allow children to be children" we need to allow them this ALL of the time. I think Patten was pointing out that some people are embarrassed to talk to their children about sex and especially about sex-shops, porn etc

    When you are saying "we believe in god" etc you mean yourself and other god believers. There are many people who do not believe in god and thus do not believe that there is anything offending him/her. The Bible (and BOM) are not evidence of anything. Who wrote them? god? how do you know god exists? bcos he gave us the bible? how do we know if the bible is true? bcos god says it is? so a fictional god and a fictional book prove each other to be true?

    Non-religious people view religious peoples censoring of sexual expression to be very out of order!

    I still don't think Patten was saying that - "for her to make suggestions such as religious people make up the ten per cent of the Aus Population who are mentally ill is way out there" in fact she definately was not saying this. She said that - "we feel that complaints over sexually based advertising attract a good deal more of these people than other industries do" - there's a big difference there.

    I also don't think that Patten is suggesting that because a person believes in god they cannot make a sensible argument. I think she is saying that religious people tend to have sexual hang-ups; religions heavily control sexuality and THAT is a serious concern when we are discussing what is or is not 'appropriate' for our society.

  13. Of course sex-shops are not for children. I think Patten is making an argument that people are disproportionately complaining about advertising for the adult industry compared to ads that are violent (like the gun one in Eros' letter and the weapons manufacturers billboards) or otherwise questionably offensive.

    With collaboration everyones views and complaints should count but if you're collaborating it would seem more fair IMO to actually submit a paper together.

    It's so interesting how peoples views/tastes etc can change. I am not at all concerned about my kids seeing that pic of Paris Hilton. She looks great. They see boobs on the beach, I don't want them thinking that there is something wrong with the female body. So I just don't make a fuss about it. There's boobs, so what? I really do think that kids don't think as much about it as we do.

    Teenage girls (and me) well, I still don't like being bombarded with glamour shots of 'perfect' bodies. I think that while we lobby the media to show us 'real women' we also need to refuse to be 'hurt' by these images. They are fake so we have to remind ourselves of that and be happy within ourselves.

    I would suggest that you do "discriminate in [your] complaining!" when was the last time you complained about a violent ad? maybe you have but I think that Patten is quite right in saying that people seem to complain more about sexual ads than violent ones. And while you do not care who the ad is for I would suggest that most of your offense is over sexualised images that not everyone finds offensive.

  14. Thanks for clearing up the 'fact' about prostitution. I didn't find it clear in your post. I'd recommend putting the source in brackets after the quote. The article is very interesting and I am very much in support of what she is writing. It looks like we need to separate 'adult industry' and 'sex industry'. The adult industry truly is for every adult who wants it whereas the sex industry (or prostitution) is not everyones cup of tea and certainly does need to be carefully regulated in order to protect the workers. So I think that your arguments about the victims of prostitution are not actually part of the debate about advertising for the adult industry. If we separate the two then I think we will get a clearer picture of what we are talking about. I think you and I would be holding the same picket signs if we were at a rally to protect prostitutes rights.

    As far as our kids and advertising goes I think that the best answer again is for us to flood their lives with wonderful child-centered images and activities. Turn the news off, turn the tv off, get rid of the trashy mags, keep them away from video stores!!! (ugh! pet hate there) and then when they see bumper stickers, bill boards, t-shirts etc allow them to ask you questions and then view that as a great opportunity to talk about sex.

  15. I don’t think I have ever complained about a violent billboard. I don’t actually recall having ever seen one before. However, I have seen countless advertisements using female bodies to sell completely unrelated products.

    If we are talking about religious people complaining, as a religious person myself, I also avoid graphic violence in media. If I felt that an ad had inappropriate violent themes or violence that was too graphic for the public arena, I would make a complaint. I think in this way, a lot of Mormons are similar. Think about movies- it’s not just overly sexual content or nudity many of us choose to avoid, it is violence and particularly crude language. If we are “prudish”, then we are prudish around the board!

    Maybe I am confusing the Adult Industry and the Sex Industry…I can’t remember if Fiona ever used the term “Adult Industry”… but surely there is some overlap between the two, even if it is just a blurred line.

    I agree with what you say about turning off the tv, etc. I guess I feel so strongly about this because it makes me mad that my children’s right to grow up free from overly sexual themes and advertising is trumped by everyone else’s right to make money. Damn whores….meanwhile, I called this Real estate agent guy "whorish" a few weeks back, sooo therapeutic! : )

  16. So I guess I'd just highlight here that Patten was trying to say that the adult industry is disproportionately complained about in regards to advertising, particularly billboard advertising. The fact that as a Mormon you also try to avoid violence and profanity is one thing; however not many people complain about violence or profanity as they do about sexual content. I think that Patten is trying to highlight that the adult industry is being discriminated against because it offends the sensibilities of some people in the community and these people are very vocal about it.

    If you compared say you and I (or the person who complained about the sexyland billboard and I) then you have two young mothers; white, educated aussies (what other things do we have in common?) the main difference being our religious beliefs. I have no problem with the billboard but you would seek to have it removed? So how do you figure these things out. How do you get the consensus of the public? If the people who are not offended by it don't think to tell the regulatory board (who would?) then how can we know what to do about it. This is why I really appreciate the Eros paper, it does put the voices of the un-offended in there.

    Patten refers to the 'adult industry' throughout her paper. I think that all industries have things that don't work so well and that need to be attended to, hence the need for unions. The adult industry itself is an industry that promotes sexual health. I don't think the adult industry should be viewed as evil or bad simply because prostitution exists and is not always run well. Anyone with any sense and compassion wants prostitution to be properly managed. Prostitution has always and will always exist, we need to protect the workers. Just like with abortion, there will always be a need for it so lets make it safe.

    Your last comment really highlighted for me the reality that advertising in general is an imposing thing for our kids. They have grown up in a world saturated by it, more-so than us. Maybe they are better at coping with it than us, we see it as ever more oppressive because we see the change over time, they just see what they have grown up with?

    Overall I just want to say that I appreciate Pattens paper and that I don't feel a need to censor sexual advertising as much as you do and so this difference between our opinions surely requires some thought. Is it a matter of taste? If I feel fine about my kids to seeing a bit of flesh or advertising for sexpo does that make me a bad parent? I don't think so. It just means that we have different views on sexuality and what we prefer to see or not see. How do we inhabit the same spaces? makes me think about the wider implications. We are all so different, how do we all get along?!

  17. I'm so over the sexualisation of our society. This is great Caitlin. I'm off now to read some of the links...


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