But should we close down the shop?
a pathetic sense of the ridiculous, making them almost comedic in their marketed constructions of sex.
Sparrow examines the problematic porn industry and the equally problematic objective of imposing censorship on it. He meets Julie Gale, founder of Kids Free 2B Kids, Fiona Patten of the Australian Sex Party and a host of others associated with the porn industry, from willing participants to staunch critics.
As Sparrow’s journey progresses, the victims of the porn industry widen: it’s not just women who inhabit a society shaped by viciously misogynistic depictions of sex but also the porn shop owner prosecuted for breaking laws most people break without consequence, and the Aboriginal communities policed in ways that urbanites would rail against as a human rights violation.
The hypocrisy of a system that outlaws X-rated material, only to tolerate, even embrace, the sale of it in stores across the country, is demonstrated through the experiences of Darrell Cohen, jailed for selling X-rated material a few doors down from similar stores whose owners had not faced prosecution. If this case and similar stories cast doubt on the legitimacy of censorship and associated law enforcement, then where do we even start with websites that contain restricted images but are hosted overseas?
Sparrow deftly moves through the multitudinous perspectives on the debate to end up at what is arguably the lowest form of commodified sexuality: websites such as Is Anyone Up?, where photos of ordinary women (and occasionally men) are mercilessly judged against pornographic standards. The website’s creator and its users defend the right to freedom of choice. Sparrow makes the connection to a neoliberal market economy, in which our sexuality has become a product, and although Is Anyone Up? is perhaps an extreme example, this commodification of sexuality has broad consequences.
The sexual freedom fought for in the 1970s in an anti-capitalist context has been co-opted by the ‘‘ neoliberal struggle to break down whatever stood in the way of market freedom’’, Sparrow writes, adroitly connecting the dots between sexual liberation and market economics, consumerism, censorship and passivity.
Censorship comes with its own challenges. Internet filter systems such as Net Nanny may protect children from the grim depths of online porn but also prevent them from accessing helpful information about sexuality and sexual health. At one point Sparrow finds it necessary to remove Net Nanny from his home computer so he can research his book.
It would be ideal for Sparrow to present answers for how to move forward in the porn debate, but that is not easy, nor is it his objective. Money Shot should serve to generate more debate around the contentious and complicated issues of porn and censorship in an era of perceived technological and market freedom. It should be essential reading for anyone interested in a nuanced examination of the state of pornography and censorship in Australia.
Jeff Sparrow’s wry observations of Sexpo convey a pathetic sense of the ridiculous