If anyone in our universities still does “media studies” – the sort of thing Keith Windschuttle used to do when he was still a Marxist – they could do worse than look at the lead story on page six of yesterday’s Australian. It’s a minor classic of distortion, although whether due to incompetence or dishonesty is anyone’s guess.

The headline is “P-rn ‘flooding’ black communities”. It starts with a call from Attorney-General Philip Ruddock for police “to confiscate illegal imported p-rnographic and violent videos” in indigenous communities, and goes on to talk about “mail-order sales to remote communities of X-rated p-rnography legal only in the territories.” It quotes an indigenous leader who “singled out the ACT as a purveyor of mail-order X-rated p-rn”, and an academic who said: “If we are going to talk about violence against Aboriginal children and women … we need to understand the impact the videos are having.”

Although the equation isn’t made explicit, a reader with no prior knowledge would inescapably conclude that “X-rated” and “violent” were, if not actually synonymous, at least substantially overlapping categories. The truth, however, is exactly the opposite: the “X” classification is the only one that specifically forbids violence.

To quote the National Classification Code, X-rated films are those that “contain real depictions of actual s-xual activity between consenting adults in which there is no violence, s-xual violence, s-xualised violence, coercion, s-xually assaultive language…”.

The message of the code is that, while s-x plus violence is the worst thing, explicit s-x on its own is much worse than explicit violence on its own. This is so far out of touch with community standards that it explains why the anti-s-x brigade needs to distort the position so as not to forfeit public support. Then again, it would also explain how a reporter who didn’t go to the trouble of reading the code could easily get mixed up.

If we really want to send a message against violence, we could try making X-rated material easier to obtain, not harder.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey