The ‘Pornography Effect’

If you had told me five years ago that I would be chairing a conference on pornography, I would simply not have believed you. I would more than likely have told you that pornography is not an area that I am interested in…and certainly not a subject that I want to talk about.

However, as much as I continue not to want to talk about pornography, I find myself doing so with increasing frequency, and it seems with growing urgency. Indeed, if you were to ask me what I see as one of the biggest issues systemically harming women and girls right now, pornography is pretty much top of the list.

Firstly, a little about Trevi. We are a women’s charity based in Plymouth Devon. We work with over 700 women every year with a range of different needs. We support women who are facing homelessness, women who are caught up in the criminal justice system, women going through children’s care proceedings, women who are struggling with their mental health. We work with young women, older women, mothers and grandmothers. The work is complex, and our services span across many different sectors. But whilst we may work with many different needs, one issue is fairly consistent…the vast majority of the women that we support are survivors of male violence. The trauma that women have experienced is frequently attributable to harm inflicted by men – sexual, physical or emotional…and although as a women’s charity, it is absolutely our job to focus our energy on direct support to victims, we also have an obligation to do as Desmond Tutu suggested and ‘go upstream’…

“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”
So, in the case of our work, what are the wider factors in society that contribute to the normalisation of violence towards women and girls?
As was highlighted repeatedly throughout our conference, the acts carried out in pornography are extremely violent and deeply disturbing. Within the first few seconds of an average porn scene, (accessible for free) the viewer will witness a woman being called offensive names, gagged, anally penetrated (often by multiple men) and spat at. Viewers are frequently not seeing sex, but sexual violence. How can we ever hope to challenge violence against women and girls so long as content such as this is easily accessible, by an ever-younger audience, and deemed simply ‘part of life’.

It therefore seemed only right that as a women’s charity we platformed a conversation about the links between what men are watching and the acts women are subjected to.

I think it is testament to the energy locally in Plymouth / the Southwest that so many incredible speakers / services were keen to be involved. We had a fantastic line up, which included three speakers from overseas. Throughout the day we had over 700 attendees, and one of the most consistent pieces of feedback has been how shocked people were, but also immensely thankful that they had been able to better inform themselves.

Of course, for the team at Trevi, we are now largely back to the day job of supporting women and their families. However, we remain committed to anything that will help address violence against women and girls. So….watch this space for the next conference!

Hannah Shead, Trevi CEO

t: 01752 255 758

t: 01752 255 758