Germaine Greer and gay exploitation


ManIt is commonly thought that men represent the main producers and the main consumers of pornography. But earlier this year feminist firebrand Germaine Greer alluded to an important and often forgotten fact: men are also its victims.

'Pornography', Greer said on a September episode of ABC1's Q&A, 'also exploits boys, men and children, but most of all, it exploits the consumer of pornography.

'The consumer', she said, 'doesn't realise that because of the stage in your life at which you become aware of pornography, that his sexual responses are being altered by pornography, so that he is expecting a certain kind of mechanical sequence of events, which he's learnt to manipulate in his own self-gratification. This then gets parked on a relationship, which prevents real intimacy from ever ensuing.

'That's pretty grim but it's much grimmer, the fact that people are moving towards each other in a series of pre-programmed responses.'

Like women, men have fallen prey to the unrealistic expectations of a hyper-sexualised culture.

A recent study from Italy surveying 28,000 men found that pornography addiction began at around the age of 14. Men who consumed it excessively became immune to explicit images and developed an idea of sex devoid from physical intimacy. 

Carlo Foresta, head of the Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine, said: 'It starts with lower reactions to porn sites, then there is a general drop in libido and in the end it becomes impossible to get an erection.'

This reflects what Greer says; men who view pornography come to a sexual encounter with certain expectations but, due to the explicit nature of the material they have been viewing, these expectations are unrealistic. The man loses the experience of intimacy because he is unable to become aroused in a normal sexual encounter.

This has ramifications for both parties in a relationship. One is left feeling undesired and unable to live up to a fantasy image. The other is a man impotent and stripped of his masculinity. 

At the same time the man wants sexual release and the urge to view the material which has caused his problems remains; in viewing there is release and instant gratification. And so the cycle continues.

In response to Greer, Sydney journalist Joe Hildebrand asked 'What about gay porn? What about when it is two blokes doing it? Which one is being oppressed then?'

Hildebrand raised the issue in jest and the question went unanswered. But to offer Joe an answer, just because it's two men doesn't mean it is not exploitative or harmful. Gay pornography has the added element of the sub-ordinance of the homosexual male to the heterosexual male.

Common power play scenarios involve teen-looking or less typically masculine males being taken advantage of by alpha males. In some cases this can involve a competition; the male who finishes last is submissive to the other male or males. The symbolism is clear: the male who is less masculine needs to submit to and worship the other males as his superiors.

In other instances, some popular websites attempt to coerce males in financial hardship to put a price on their sexuality, and perform gay sex acts (or, more commonly, have sex acts performed on them) for money. Once again this portrays an image of submission by a vulnerable male to another powerful male.

How many bi-curious young males may be exposed to this material and act out the role of submissiveness, especially when questioning their own sexuality and feeling emasculated? A homosexual male, or a woman exposed to pornography, could take on board this image of submissiveness as sexually arousing, and become conditioned to subordinance.

All elements lead to what Greer described as pornography's ability to promote the acting out of pre-programmed responses devoid of intimacy. Ultimately we need a movement away from porn, and to re-assert a sexuality that is not based on images of actors from a specifically geared, targeted and manipulative industry.

For years the pro-porn lobby has tried to win the argument and take the ground from the left and right by portraying them as either censorship fascists or religious conservatives. The truth is that you can not have exploitation in the name of liberalism. 


Matthew HollowayMatthew Holloway is a freelance writer and social justice advocate from Tasmania, where he stood for state and federal parliament and co-founded Tasmanians for Transparency. 

Topic tags: Matthew Holloway, porn, Germaine Greer



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Existing comments

What a remarkable article!

Congratulations, Matthew, on teasing out the full truth of Germaine Greer's insight.
I would love to think that our current crop of psychologists and psychiatrists agree with her but I fear they will dismiss her as unprofessional. As if English literature was not full of life-affirming insights.
Uncle Pat | 28 November 2011

Remarkable and insightful
Germaine remains an icon

GAJ | 28 November 2011

A perspicacious appraisal. It seems that Greer might finally has gotten something right.
john frawley | 28 November 2011

The article doesn't specify how many of the 28,000 men surveyed in the Italian study "consumed it excessively". It would also be important - perhaps necessary - to survey the wives/partners of those 28,000 men to see how they would assess the impact of the porn viewing on their personal intimate lives. Maybe there is not a problem there.

I liked Greer back in the days when she a left-wing and radical. Now she seems eccentric and very conservative - we don't need protecting from ourselves on this.
Barry York | 28 November 2011

I agree with your insights Matthew. But I think it is also important to acknowledge that we as a society are so scared of "sexuality", and so unable to deal with it and talk about it, the attitudes and behaviours you have outlined are just one of the sad outcomes of our ignorance of matters sexual.
Tim | 28 November 2011

This article doesn't really get to the heart of what's wrong with homosexual pornography, which is: not only 1. it's porn, but importantly, 2. it's homosexual sex.

After all, on the assumption that homosexual sex is morally acceptable, what's wrong with deciding to be a "submissive" homosexual and feeling aroused by that? I mean, someone in this relationship has to take on that role, or nothing would happen! Or is there some rule that in the ethically ideal homosexual relationship, partners oscillate with regular periodicity between roles of submission and dominance? Or maybe that in the ideal homosexual relationship all traces of submission/dominance have, like the Marxist state, "withered away"? Well, how is that reflected in the couple's sexual activity, which in itself symbolises, in a certain way submission and dominance? And how does all this map onto an evaluation of lesbian porn?

In reality, there's nothing at all wrong with submission per se and there's nothing wrong with exerting authority per se. Both have their place, as Our Lord, who was at once Suffering Servant and King of the Universe, shows. In the realm of human love expressed genitally, they find their place and glory only in the marital act - natural sexual intercourse between a husband and wife. Only there is the balance struck.

HH | 28 November 2011

"someone in this relationship has to take on that role, or nothing would happen!"

HH, how do you come to be such an expert on the subject? Experience, I suppose. But could it be that there is more variety of human and sexual relationships than you have discovered?
Russell | 28 November 2011

HH: Thanks for your deep and insightful analysis of the situation. I am sure you are sincerely concerned with the spiriual welfare of your fellow gay Christian brothers and sisters. And yes, even the church acknowledges that the homosexual condition exists. The reason the church considers homosexual sexual activity disordered is because it deemed to be non-procreative and against natural law. As such, pre-marital heterosexual sex should be regarded the same way - but obviously it isn't, and it would be difficult to find a priest who would not marry a young couple already enjoying their matrimonial duties. So the church is begining to realise that sexual activity is broader than just procreation - and that denying homosexual people a right to express their sexuality within a moral framework is denying their humanity. Celibacy is also against the natural law.
Watch this
AURELIUS | 28 November 2011

I am appalled at HH's presumption that there can be no sex - 'nothing happens' - without submission and domination. This very attitude is part of the pornography problem.
Sandie Cornish | 28 November 2011

Russell - no experience necessary, just basic logic. If two people are engaged in sexual activity, either they are both consenting to it, or one is consenting and the other isn't. In the latter case it's rape. I suppose there is the third possibility that they are doing the activity at gunpoint. Even then they would still have to agree with each other to take on this or that role. There aren't any other alternatives of sex without consent ... are there?
HH | 28 November 2011

Thanks, Aurelius - yes I am concerned for homosexuals and the cross they must bear. I am good friends of a few. While the Church always should welcome new empirical data on human sexuality, her definitive and perennial teaching, that the only completed sexual act permissible is that of natural intercourse between a married couple, is not something that empirical science or philosophy or new theology, can overturn. With the same certainty, this proscribes all other possibilities, including homosexual sex, and pre-marital or extra-marital heterosexual sex. The fact that some priests might officiate at marriages between heterosexual couples who are "living together" may reflect on their lack of due pastoral diligence. But someone can be validly married in a state of mortal sin - be it unrepented fornication, or unrepented bank robbery. Incidentally, I omitted to note above that Matthew made some very good & timely remarks in his article.
HH | 28 November 2011

I think HH is using 'dominant' and 'submissive' as euphemisms for being the penetrator or the penetrated in anal sexual activity. He may be surprised to learn that anal sex is only one, and often not the primary, expression of sexual activity between gay couples. Whenever I hear someone ranting about sodomy in this way, it makes me suspect that their objections to homosexual activity are firstly visceral, and only secondarily moral/ethical/biblical in nature. In other words all their moral/ethical/biblical arguments have simply been formulated in order to justify the fact that they think poo sex is yuk.
Charles Boy | 28 November 2011

HH - now you've segued into rape? You wrote: "I mean, someone in this relationship has to take on that role, or nothing would happen! Or is there some rule that in the ethically ideal homosexual relationship, partners oscillate with regular periodicity between roles of submission and dominance? Or maybe that in the ideal homosexual relationship all traces of submission/dominance have, like the Marxist state, "withered away"? Well, how is that reflected in the couple's sexual activity, which in itself symbolises, in a certain way submission and dominance?"

Which seems to me to display not only a very limited concept of sex, but co-incidentally, the one seen most often in pornography. But I won't get sidetracked by your notions of "the only completed sexual act permissible" when I also want to congratulate Matthew for his piece - he may have us all in unusual agreement with: "The truth is that you can not have exploitation in the name of liberalism. "
Russell | 28 November 2011

"Definitive" sounds like infallible teaching, which I am not aware is the case. So if you disagree with the modern teachings of psychology, would you also advise someone with a mental health disorder to ignore the advice of their practitioner? Or is this so called "new-theology" just the parts that are uncomfortable to you?

AURELIUS | 28 November 2011

Catholics and Christians on this forum who continue to ignore the despairing situation of gay youths who commit suicide while going on to rattle off rationalisations and justifications for traditional Catholic Church teaching on homosexuality should hold their heads in shame.

Catholics who ignore the suffering their church's teaching causes need to be told that they have nothing, nothing at all, of worth to say in response to the tragedy of young gay suicide if they cannot recognise the complicity of their own church and its defective, disordered moral teaching in the hate which destroys lives.

Please, please, if you have any sense of decency at all, remain silent. Your sense of Christian compassion is so profoundly offensive and inappropriate. (Jesus never once mentioned homosexuality, and most references to it in the Bible refer to abusive/rape situations)
AURELIUS | 28 November 2011

Aurelius, 1. It's infallible. Scriptural, common teaching of the fathers & doctors of the church, re-affirmed in recent magisterial pronouncements. The Church has never taught anything but that the use of one's genital sexual powers is strictly confined to marital intercourse. Not a single authoritative pronouncement of any consequence whatsoever over two thousand years hints otherwise.

2. If a psychologist's advice to a mentally ill person was manifestly in conflict with authoritative Church teaching, eg: "have an abortion" or "you're sexually frigid: go and have sex with a prostitute" or "use contraception" (actual examples), most certainly I would urge that person to ignore it - not least for the sake of their mental health.
HH | 28 November 2011

Whoa, Aurelius. What next? Law suits and gaol terms for Catholics and others who declare and defend the proposition that sex is for marriage?

Australia is not Canada ... yet.
HH | 28 November 2011

Sandie, while I may concede that "dominance" and "submission" may be terms of art in the perfectly valid discussion as to why all pornography and the viewing thereof is morally repugnant, I will nevertheless invite you to consider that "dominance" and "submission", more precisely understood, are integral to authentic, i.e. marital, sex and indeed marriage itself. "Sex is political", as they say (and the converse, correctly understood, is also true).

As a first reflection, on the traditional view, consider that at the very onset of marriage, that is, when a man and woman exchange marriage vows, what they are doing on one essential level, going to the validity of the contract, is conceding the right to the lawful use of their body by their spouse. In other words, that he or she MUST - morally speaking - hence submit (sic) to any reasonable request for the "marital use" by his or her spouse.

Charles, for all I know, you may be on to something. But please tell me if you agree with Matthew (as I understand him to say): if in a homosexual relationship, X finds being "submissive" sexually arousing, then the process which gives rise to X being so sexually aroused (in Matthew's thesis, pornography) is therefore morally wrong.
HH | 28 November 2011

I consider myself to be something of an armchair advocate against pornography but I'll admit to being blown away by your article. Whereas my ex-husband's addiction to porn was the major factor in us getting divorced, I never stopped to think about how he was as much a victim of pornography as I.

To those who are interested, the evidence that pornography is damaging on both the collective as well as on an individual level is overwhelming, to whit;

1. Pornography was a significant factor in two out of three divorces, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in 2003 (
2. Pornography establishes your sexuality completely apart from real-life relationships, causing huge problems in your intimacy with real significant others (
3. According to the London School of Economics, nine out of ten children aged between the ages of 8 and 16 have viewed pornography on the Internet, in most cases unintentionally (
4. Fully 10% of adults admit to internet sexual addiction (
5. Addiction to pornography changes your brain chemistry by the same way taking either dopamine or oxytocin being would (

Mothers, don't let your babies grow up to be porn addicts!
Casha R | 29 November 2011

HH: To answer your question to Charles - There is nothing immoral about any physical act of loving making between two CONSENTING adults, given that they are married of course. In the case of homosexual people, the law will not allow them to marry, so obvioulsy they can never engage in sexual activity within marriage along with the rest of humanity.
AURELIUS | 30 November 2011

Good thinking Mathew! I also remember hearing on an interview with Ted Bundy (serial rapist/murderer) that the majority of people in jail for sex related offences have a predilection for pornography. He noted that the media barons would not advertise that fact because it was their bread and butter.
Leonie | 02 December 2011

Aurelius, with respect, we disagree. There are many forms of immoral lovemaking which might be carried on consensually by married couples. So says the Church (and natural law) from time immemorial, anyway. I won't catalogue those activities here, but suffice to say the bottom line is: if the end result isn't natural sexual intercourse, then the activity is proscribed. Natural sexual intercourse is the 'gold standard'. Which is why, on reflection, I'm probably overly harsh on Matthew's piece in my first assessment. The error can actually be traced back to the vagaries in Greer's reference to a "normal" sexual encounter. What she means by that, I suspect, is an encounter between two flesh and blood human beings. But that's not enough to be "normal", unless she means some sort of statistical norm - and who's to say there's not more pornographic sex, statistically speaking, than flesh and blood sex these days? So it comes down to: "What's 'normal' sex?" I put it to you that normal sex is natural intercourse between man and wife. Any deviation from this in any direction is counterfeit sex. It simulates, and for its pleasures and other "goods" is parasitic upon, the real thing and thereby does damage both to the parties directly involved and to the common good in a myriad of ways. That's what's wrong in principle with pornography in itself. And that's what's doubly wrong with homosexual pornography. Matthew's domination/submission model is a distraction.
HH | 05 December 2011

I love this story, it sounds like a coterie of old parish ladies. Homosexuals leading innocent Godly straight boys into the wiles of demonic pornography. Not all men are born to be breeding dogs, pigs, and cattle in God's barnyard (Or, at least not all of them all of the time). Homosexuality is a natural extension of male sexuality. Take you eyes off the eastern horizon waiting for Jesus to come back and wake up.
Ray Laing | 16 April 2013

It took Germaine Greer 70 years to grow up but she finally did it. What she is saying now is far more intelligent and genuinely caring than the rubbish she talked in her left-wing young days. She is mature at last! As for the bloke who comments that as a society we are scared of sex and ignorant of it - go back to sleep mate.
Tom | 09 May 2013

I'm amazed at how people assume that just because she's a self-proclaimed feminist that she's never spoken up for men before. It seems like just because her focus in this particular comment is on men that she proves herself 'grown up' and 'genuinely caring' and that she's 'finally gotten something right'? She has always said whatever she felt right to say.
Loom | 15 August 2013


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