"Pornography features prominently in the accounts of women experiencing Intimate Partner Sexual Violence."  - University of Melbourne Professor Laura Tarzia and RMIT University’s Dr Meagan Tyler

Anyone concerned about the dehumanisation of women and girls through pornography is typically mocked as a ‘wowser’ from both sides of the political fence – from the left and from the libertarian right.

But the renewed outrage at Australia’s horrific murder rate of women has thrust porn’s role into the spotlight, thanks to the courage of criminologist Michael Salter.

Today after a hastily convened National Cabinet meeting in Canberra, Communications Minister Michelle Rowland announced a $6.5 million commitment to a pilot program of age-assurance technologies to block children accessing pornography online.

“The Australian government will commit $6.5 million in the May budget for a pilot of age-assurance technologies to better protect children online and reduce their exposure to harmful content,” she said.

“The pilot will identify available age-assurance products and assess their efficacy, including in relation to privacy and security. The outcomes of this pilot will support the E-Safety commissioner’s ongoing regulatory work to implement codes or standards under the Online Safety Act to reduce children’s exposure to inappropriate content and that includes online pornography.”

Family First welcomes this as a good start.

Despite politicians’ promises and the spending of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money on “prevention” programs, violence against women has only gotten worse and the murder rate higher.

A woman is killed every four days in Australia by a domestic partner.

While surely some husbands are killers, it seems overwhelmingly the danger comes in the form of “intimate partner violence” – from partners who have not made a life-long commitment through marriage to the woman they killed.

Shock and outrage is the right response.

But what’s also clearly not working is the ideological “blame all men and boys” approach to dealing with this scourge.

As Claire Lehmann writes in The Australian, we’ve all seen “ad campaigns that encourage boys and men not to slam doors or tell sexist jokes, as well as educational efforts in schools on ‘toxic masculinity’”.

While these messages are not wrong in themselves, they have not worked. The imputation that “maleness” in and of itself is the problem is wrong.

Salter has been arguing the focus of government must change.

He told the told the Sydney Morning Herald:

In the wake of this horrific spate of [alleged] murders over the last couple of weeks, we’re seeing prevention leaders say: this is about conversations that fathers need to have with their sons; men need to step up and speak out.

We’ve been doing that for 10 years, and we’re still here.

Alcohol, pornography and gambling are clear accelerants to men’s violence ... Why is it the responsibility of a 13-year-old boy to change the culture around sexual violence, when it’s not the responsibility of an adult man earning millions of dollars a year promoting violent pornography to that teenage boy?

Salter’s observations about porn – along with the role of alcohol and gambling – needs to be taken seriously.

He welcomed today’s announcement posting on X:

This is fantastic news. The government will implement the eSafetyOffice's original roadmap to age verification of adult pornography, which involved a trial of age assurance technology.

We are in this mess partly because as a society since the sexual revolution we have normalised porn and legalised prostitution, which inherently is a form of violence against women.

Through popular culture we’ve made sexualised images of girls and women the wallpaper of successive generations’ lives.

So-called soft porn is highly addictive and becomes a gateway to violent porn and other forms of depravity.

We’ve venerated Playboy founder Hugh Heffner and refused to filter the internet, despite the Rudd Government’s attempts which were shot down by the Liberal party and libertarians.

We’ve since given every kid an iPhone – a portal to porn - and now wonder why we have a problem with violence against women and girls.

While not all porn users murder women, all porn dehumanises women and girls.

Sadly the average age of exposure to pornography for boys keeps getting lower.

Some say the average age is 10 but that is probably on the high side.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies says:

Nearly half of children between the ages of 9-16 experience regular exposure to sexual images. Young males are more likely than females to deliberately seek out pornography and to do so frequently. Pornography may strengthen attitudes supportive of sexual violence and violence against women.

While the AIFS may be equivocal about the link between porn and violence against women, even its suggestion of a link should ring alarm bells given the ubiquity of porn.

But much social science research, sadly ignored or scorned by the left and the libertarian right, is unequivocal.

Recent research by University of Melbourne Professor Laura Tarzia and RMIT University’s Dr Meagan Tyler has found that “pornography features prominently in the accounts of women experiencing Intimate Partner Sexual Violence (IPSV)”.

Any plan National Cabinet comes up with this week that doesn’t attack the problem of pornography and the easy access to it will fail to get to one of the root causes of violence against women and girls.

A culture which has devalued marriage and family values in favour of the ideas of Hugh Hefner and the internet’s Porn Hubb is going to struggle with preventing intimate partner violence against girls and women.

In fact, it won’t just struggle, it will fail.

The violence and killings will continue.

Today’s announcement of an “age assurance” trial to filter the internet is a good start but it doesn’t go far enough.

ACTION: Join the fight for the dignity of girls and women. Join Family First today.