Pornography and the portrayal of women in the media both contribute to perpetuating violence against women and the oppression of women.
The topic was the subject of discussion among police officers from around the Pacific – including Samoa - who are attending a training programme on gender, violence against violence and laws related to gender-based violence.
The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre conducted the Police Regional Training Program for 30 officers from 11 countries with funding from the Australian Federal Police.
Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki of the Tonga Women and Children’s Crisis Centre led a discussion of the impacts of pornography and the media on women.
In her presentation, Guttenbeil-Likiliki likened the problem of pornography to a “silent epidemic” because of its secretive nature.
Unlike other addictions such as alcoholism or illegal drug use, people generally will not acknowledge a pornography addition.
Technology and the advent of the internet has assisted in the widespread availability of pornography and developed a “pornified culture” in which people have become desensitised to sexualised and graphic images in which women are sex objects, the officers heard.
“Pornography is bigger than any of the major league sports, bigger than Hollywood,” says Ms Guttenbeil-Likiliki says.
“Porn is no longer a sideshow to the mainstream; it is the mainstream.”
Men are the most common users of pornography and often find themselves enslaved to it. Pornography objectified women and created unrealistic expectations of performance for men who often have no personal connection with the women in those images.
Pornography is related to male domination and the exercise of power and control by men. Often women are expected to perform degrading acts against their will by men who are users of pornography.
Children are also exposed deliberately or inadvertently to pornography leading to a generation of early users and addicts, further perpetuating a culture of violence against women.
Pornography addiction damages relationships, marriages, families, careers, and faith-based beliefs, the officers heard.
Related to the problem of pornography is that of how women are portrayed in the media, which plays a big role on body image and how people perceive the “perfect body image”.
The media’s portrayal of women has put pressure on young women to conform to these perceived standards of beauty and performance.
This also includes the “domestication of women” in which advertisements for products or services are targeted specifically at women reiterating the gender stereotypes that a women’s place is in the home, in the kitchen doing domestic duties or when women’s bodies are used as sex objects to sell products.
The officers also underwent sensitisation sessions on L.G.B.T.Q issues and women with disabilities and their experiences of violence.