TV

“Gaping Arseholes” And “20-Foot Schlongs”: Australia Debated Porn Last Night And It Was Magnificent

Welcome to ABC2's sex week.

Welcome to ABC2’s 2Sexy week: a glorious seven days in which our national broadcaster is delving into the legal, ethical and interpersonal complexities of the Australian sex industry and straight-up asking people how much they wank.

You likely know a little about this already. Triple J’s Tom Tilley has been creepily hounding you about what kind of porn you watch every time you jump into the car. A promo clip has been doing the rounds which is almost entirely comprised of close-up shots of his smile and the word SEX in giant pink neon type.

But last night, this gloriously shameless celebration and interrogation of sex had its first official climax in Australians On Porn: a 70-minute debate on the pros and cons of pornography, hosted by Tilley and fearlessly broadcast live to the nation. It was just as eventful as it sounds.

Slotted straight after a powerful and decidedly sombre Australian documentary on the harms of revenge porn, this unprecedented program was an all-in bacchanalian feast of outrage, terror and lust. While discussion consistently swirled around complex and important topics such as exploitation, sex education, and violence against women, the whole thing was made decidedly unruly by the fact the wonderfully diverse panel seemed to actively despise one another.

Here’s a little of what you missed:

The Players

Brendan Maclean: musician, actor and the self-described “token gay”. Brendan was proudly representing the Men Who Enjoy Jerking It To Fun Consensual Queer Porn. He wore a magnificent earring, compared watching porn to eating KFC, and at one point screamed at an anti-porn activist while rocking back and forth on the couch with his head in his hands.

A bearded man who watches porn: I mean, what a guy. He has no problems with porn, he watches a lot of it, and he would like the whole nation to know that. This was his sole purpose during the debate, and at one point they played a clip of him touching himself.

A man with a terrible porn addiction: On the other side of things, there’s this poor fella. He suspects his addiction started when his dad came out as gay in his adolescence and he wanted to prove his “manliness”. Since then he’s struggled disengaging from it and the constant friction causes him to occasionally bleed from his penis.

Laura Pintur: anti-porn campaigner. Laura is a member of feminist group Collective Shout and was also behind the petition to get Zoo Weekly off the shelves at Coles and Woolworths. She argues that porn consistently promotes violence and against women and skewers young boys’ understanding of sex. As this is the sole point she seemed willing to talk about, at one point she was outnumbered five-to-one in the most cringe-inducing grilling since Joe Hockey was last on Q&A.

Melinda Tankard-Reist: an infamous anti-porn campaigner and leader of Collective Shout. Like Pintur, MTR is concerned with what she sees as a common thread of violence in pornography and to make this point she regularly screams phrases like “HUMAN TOILET BOWL DOT COM”, “VIOLENT PENETRATION” and “GAPING ARSEHOLES” with little to no context.

She continued doing this while Tilley was trying to wrap up the show which reduced him to stammering, “Are you really going to talk over me? Are you? Okay.”

mtr

Yes, this is also the person Brendan had a problem with.

Lucy Bee: porn actor. While acknowledging negative aspects of her industry, Lucy defended the positive side of porn and the ways it can be used in a healthy sex life. She also called for more sex ed in schools to help young people better understand sex and pleasure, and willingly stepped up as MTR’s main foe for the evening.

David Hollier: a counsellor who has specialised in helping those with porn addiction. David is a very measured and empathetic voice in this whole debate. For this reason, he’s often spoken or yelled over.

Jacqueline Hellyer: a sexologist who is all about healthy relationships. She thinks porn has its positive and negative sides just like anything else, and also advocates for better sex ed in schools.

A Christian couple who have an issue with porn: After waiting until marriage to have sex, this woman found out her husband had been watching porn and kicked him out of the house. They view porn as a break in their own monogamous intimacy and manage to look slightly paler each time someone brings up BDSM.

A couple who love porn: Much like old mate beard-o, these guys were around to mellow things out a little. They find that watching porn together stimulates their own sexual intimacy and generally refute arguments from the Collective Shout ladies with statements like “…Yeah, but porn’s pretty good though”.

At one point, while laying topless in bed with his girlfriend, the dude offered this stellar insight:

The Issues And Solutions Going Forward

The conversations between all these incredibly different people jumped between the nature of addiction, the origins of sexual violence, the need for a better formal sex education, the problems of exploitation in the industry and the defining features of sexual intimacy in the digital age. Should there be better censorship or prohibition of pornographic material online? How exactly does porn affect our real-life relationships? Should it be within any one body’s purview to decide what types of sexual expression are acceptable and which are not?

There are no easy answers. Nothing was ever going to get solved in 70 minutes. However, some important advances were undeniably made.

For starters, the fact that this happened at all is completely great. Though it could have made for some extraordinarily uncomfortable viewing, people all across the country likely stumbled across this show and left it on “for laughs”. That makes it an in for parents to subtly address sex with their teenage kids; for friends to trade stories they likely would have been too embarrassed to talk about; and a catalyst for couples to more openly discuss their sexuality.

This openness is important. It can give people the confidence to speak frankly with their partners about what they want in bed. It removes stigma from behaviours and practices which have previously been shamed or fetishised, which can have a positive impact on people’s mental health. It can let a young queer or questioning kid know that they’re not alone; that sex and sexuality is negotiated and expressed in myriad ways.

john

This is John. John is a 46-year-old virgin who likes to dance for cam girls. He is fabulous.

Of course, an hour-long scream-a-thon may not be the best way to get those things across. It takes some reading between the lines. However, much of the topics they raised will be later dissected in other ways. Tonight ABC2 are airing a BBC doco interrogating the way young people use the internet for sex and porn, as well as a Four Corners report on escorts. Tomorrow, local filmmaker Maddie Parry is diving into the world of Australian brothels and there are accompanying films and docos on stripping and sex work from around the world.

This is all part of an evolving and complex conversation. Maybe you need someone to get up and inadvisably yell “GAPING ARSEHOLES” to finally get people talking.

Watch the full show on iView now, or read more about ABC2’s 2Sexy program here.