Toronto
2 min

No porn for lesbians…

Because bad ole het men will see it

JANINE FULLER. Leading the fight for Little Sister's. Credit: Xtra files

Lesbians shouldn’t be able to look at pornography because straight men like to watch two women together, says the international rights group Equality Now.



“As a practical matter as well as a matter of principle, we think it is problematic to start drawing distinctions between straight and gay/lesbian pornography, particularly in light of the extent to which so-called ‘lesbian scenes’ are a component of straight pornography,” says Monique Widyono, the deputy director of the New York-based organization, in an e-mail.



Equality Now, which also has a regional office in Nairobi, Kenya, is an intervenor in the Little Sister’s bookstore case scheduled to be heard before the Supreme Court Of Canada on Mar 16. The group is arguing in favour of Canada Customs agents’ right to decide what gay and lesbian porn is considered “harmful, degrading or dehumanizing” and seize it at the border.



The 24-page document was filed by York University professor Janine Benedet on behalf of the group.



Equality Now – largely through its Women’s Action Network, which claims more than 4,000 members in more than 100 countries – spends most of its time campaigning against female genital mutilation, rape in war zones like Bosnia or Kosovo and child sex tours in south-east Asia. Over the phone, Widyono says that the group seeks “to add to the campaign and debate on harm and violence against women.”



And that’s where Little Sister’s fits in.



“Our concern really is that link to violence and it really has very little to do with sexuality and the depiction of it. It’s not an anti-sex position. The standard really should be the depiction of harm and violence.”



In the brief submitted to the court, Equality Now asserts that gay porn, by adopting “male dominant roles,” renders stereotypically gay men “more susceptible to homophobic attack.”



“You cannot really distinguish when you look at a video or newspaper,” says Widyono. “You really cannot tell who is looking at it. Take Xtra. It may be intended for a gay and lesbian audience, but hundreds of heterosexuals may read it.”



Asked whether Equality Now had consulted with gay and lesbian groups in Canada, or even in the US, Widyono equivocates in her e-mail.



“On the board of directors, which consists of seven members including myself, the following nationalities are represented: US, Kenya, Argentina, Nepal, South Africa and UK. Some are lesbian and some are straight.”



Widyono, in fact, says she isn’t sure whether Equality Now even consulted with lesbian individuals in Canada.



“We know there are activists in the women’s movement in Canada who support our position. We also consulted members of our Women’s Action Network in Canada – but we do not distinguish in our membership between straight and lesbian women.”



But Widyono says that the Butler decision – the Supreme Court porn ruling upon which arrests and seizures are now based- and Equality Now’s position are what’s best for gay men and lesbians world-wide.



“We think that the Butler case is also a model for other parts of the world beside Canada…. We maintain that sexually explicit materials that are intended to help foster a positive sense of sexual identity in the context of homophobic hatred should not portray the degradation of or violence to any person.”