A world sodden with violence against women

Sarah Ditum connects a pornographic murder of a teenage girl to pornography.

She starts with a character in Ali Smith’s novel How to be Both, a teenage girl named George who watches a pornographic clip over and over as a way of acknowledging what happened to the girl depicted in the clip.

Most people, of course, do not watch pornography for the same high-minded reasons as George. Most of them watch it to get off, and most of them are men – pornography is produced by and for men, an orgiastic confirmation of the most brutal sexual and racial stereotypes. At this point, it’s habitual for pornography defenders to step in and muddy the waters. Not all porn is like that, you will be told, and anyway how can you define porn, and even if you could, how would you prove that pornography actually caused harm?

One thing at a time. There is actually a perfectly good and workable definition of pornography – it’s from Dworkin and MacKinnon’s Antipornography Civil Rights Ordinance. This is it: “Pornography is the graphic sexually explicit subordination of women through pictures and/or words.” They also specify that in porn, women will be dehumanised as sexual objects, or shown to enjoy pain and humiliation, or to take pleasure in being raped, or shown tied or mutilated or injured, or presented in sexually submissive poses, or reduced to body parts.

So the kind that’s erotic and mutual doesn’t qualify.

It is not a question of whether pornography “caused” Matthews and Hoare to commit their crime. What matters is this: in a world sodden with violence against women, pornography is one more form of it. Matthews and Hoare apparently made no distinction between legal images and the video of the rape. All served the same need to see women (in Hoare’s case, other women besides herself) subordinated and dehumanised. Pornography is the propaganda of gender. Through it, men and women alike learn what women are supposed to be for: something to fuck, something to use, something to hurt if you’d like to, and something to dispose of when you’re finished. Matthews and Hoare dismembered Becky Watts with a circular saw.

There are CCTV photos of them buying the equipment they needed to get rid of Becky Watts’s body. People are probably using them as porn now.

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