Why Can't I Look At P*rn?


This article is part of newmatilda.com’s Urban Intervention experiment. For more information read this.

Day Four

Everyone I’ve told about this experiment, about a dozen people, has asked exactly the same question: "Why can’t you look at porn?"

Referring, one would assume, not to my life long allergy but to the ban on pornography within prescribed areas under the NT Intervention — which I must admit, I was unaware of as well until starting this process.

I have absolutely no idea.

Pornography is mentioned in the Little Children are Sacred report as one of 12 factors behind the prevalence of sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities. There are several horrific scenes described by the report involving pornography. The report makes no mention, let alone recommendation, of a total ban. Instead it advises proper enforcement of the existing laws regarding the exhibition of porn to minors.

Throughout the report, it is mostly community councils and leadership groups that bring the problem of pornography to the attention of its authors. They are deeply concerned about sexualised and violent images coming in to their community and want to put a stop it. Yet bizarrely, despite community leaders being the impetus for the policy, there was no consultation process conducted with communities prior to implementing the ban.

Instead, with signature sensitivity, the Federal Government placed large warning signs out the front of prescribed areas warning that alcohol and porn were prohibited; a great achievement in reducing the dignity of residents. It also implied some kind of moral decay or perversion in some areas where there had never been a problem with porn.

A draft report of the NTER Review Board that was leaked to Paul Toohey of The Australian — before Jenny Macklin gave a "two week extension" to the report’s authors during which it was considerably sanitised — included quotes such as this one from a resident of Ngukkurr in Arnhem Land, "The Intervention is telling the rest of Australia and the world that all blackfellas are pedophiles". The final report alludes to an increase in racist stereotyping of Aboriginal people as a result of the signs.

I recently spoke to an Alice Springs social worker who recalled one of several similar incidents where a "woman had a seven-year-old kid asking what pornography is" after seeing one of the signs. She had to explain it to him.

After complaints, every sign in the Northern Territory was changed — at great cost, which locals have pointed out could have gone into constructive programs had the government consulted the community sooner — and now in exactly the same typeface it says "no restricted materials" instead of no porn, which does little to dissuade stereotypes or correct the grievous and moronic error. There is absolutely no case-by-case consideration or avenue for communities to appeal the policy.

So, to simulate the signs, we’re putting a sign up on my balcony that reads: "Warning: Prescribed area. No Liquor or Pornography".

[Err, due to a miscommunication with the printer the "Pornography" bit was unfortunately left off … Ed]

After we’re finished I might hang it in my room.

It’s not like I’ll be racially stereotyped, but how would you feel if the Government put up signs outside your home warning that there was a problem so bad that alcohol and porn were banned from your premises? And remember, you have no recourse against it.

Today I had calls from three groups of friends and I found myself deciding what to do tonight based on what would be the most interesting for this article.

The Coogee Palace Hotel isn’t much better than its infamous neighbour, the Coogee Bay Hotel. It’s polished shit. This made it a great place for high school kids to drink. For old times I went there with a group of friends.

At one point, a bouncer sweeping the floor asked me for ID. I confidently reached into my pocket, but found that in the rush to leave my apartment I didn’t grab my cards. I was thrown out. Even if I could catch a bus back to Bondi Junction where the trains leave from, it would have been 45 minutes before another one pitched up, so I caught a cab to the junction and a train from there.

I’m down to $85 with 11 days to go, my budget is blown. The smallest mistake, accident or breakdown and your whole fortnight is screwed. This was a single careless cab fare; imagine a car breakdown, a friend in need of money, a personal emergency. Your only options are to take out a Centrelink loan or hope a charity will pitch in.

I should make it, but a careless first couple of days has cost me.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.