When arsonists torched two Vancouver-area outlets of Red Hot Video last Nov. 22, the B.C. Federation of Women, representing a wide political spectrum of 36 groups in the province, stopped short of condoning the action. But the federation was clearly sympathetic with the
arsonists’ goal. Said the federation: “While we did not participate in the fire-bombings ... we are in agreement with the frustration and anger of the women who did.” The stores specialize in the sale of sexually explicit videotapes, and the outlets’ unrestricted operations infuriate antipornography
groups whose rage is fuelled by the rapid proliferation of pornographic videotapes imported from the United States, sold locally and shipped across the rest of Canada. Angered by the provincial administration’s apparent unwillingness to regulate the sale of such material, antipornography groups have now intensified their efforts to close down Red Hot Video.
The franchise operation, consisting of 10 stores, opened during the past year. And, until four months ago, the provincial government did not support police efforts to lay obscenity charges against the tape sellers. But in January then Attorney General Allan Williams authorized raids by RCMP and local police on video outlets in 12 B.C. communities. The raid was followed by a police seizure of more than 4,000 tapes from a Richmond, B.C., man, who the authorities claim is the main B.C. distributor of pornography.
The police momentum continued. On Jan. 21 police laid the first obscenity charges against a Red Hot Video store.
Angry B.C. antipornography groups are picketing video stores and dumping chicken excrement on sex magazines
Since then, police have charged six more video outlets with obscenity. Also in January, RCMP disguised as a road crew arrested five people (subsequently dubbed the Direct Action 5) on the Squamish Highway, charging them with the Nov. 22 arson. The shortage of legal aid funds in the province has led Glen Orris, a lawyer representing one of the five accused, to declare that “the whole concept of a fair trial is out the window in this case.”
Antipornography sentiment in the province is running high. Despite those police actions, antipornography groups have kept up the pressure against a new wave of violent sex. Vancouver’s People Against Pornography has co-ordinated a picket at the Main Street outlet of Red Hot Video, condemning what it alleges is the store’s “Kentucky-fried violence,” pressed leaflets upon the store’s security guards and organized a mass rally against the business. Vancouver antipornography groups have adhered to legal protest measures. But a renegade Victoria group, Angry Wimmin Rising (wimmin is a spelling favored by radical feminists who wish to avoid any reference to men), has resorted to such tactics as spray-painting the exterior walls of video shops, harassing magazine store owners and dumping chicken ex-
crement and fish offal on racks of sex magazines. Another Victoria group, Women Against Pornography, also picketed Red Hot Video, organized educational workshops, staged demonstrations and screened a sex-and-violence movie called Snuff for public officials, then destroyed the videotape.
The groups waging the war against pornography claim that the urgency prompting those measures stems from the alarming increase in pornography. Explained Staff Sgt. Terry Roberts, head of the Vancouver police vice squad: “Ten years ago it was grainy 8-mm films. Now it is TV-picture quality, and some of the stuff we are seeing combines sex and violence.”
The perceived link between violence against women in pornography and violence against women in real life lies at the root of those concerns. Vancouver researcher Jillian Ridington, in her report for the National Association of Women and the Law released on Feb. 18, outlined recent psychological studies of the effects of violent pornography. In it she identified the two current philosophies. One is that pornography has a “cathartic” effect—defusing hostile sexual behavior; the other is an “imitative” effect—promoting behavior viewed in rape-fantasy films. In the study Ridington condemned “positive outcome” rape films which suggest that women enjoy being raped. Noted Megan Ellis, a member of Women Against Violence Against Women Rape Crisis Centre: “For all the work we are doing to prevent rape, here is an industry doing countereducation.” Added Thomas Mills, a 29-year-old Vancouver-area teacher who is active in the antipornography movement: “Pornography is a two-bladed knife. It is dangerous to women as targets and it becomes an element of men’s undoing in their own sexuality.”
Red Hot Video refuses to comment on the effects that the antipornography crusade is having on business. And, despite the recent police actions in British Columbia aimed at curbing the rising tide of video pornography, antipornography groups remain skeptical about the results. The groups point out that no charges have been laid against the alleged distributor of the tapes and that Red Hot Video stores continue to stock films that have been cited in charges against the outlets. While the antipornography groups are anxious about what they feel is their slow progress in convincing B.C. authorities to clean up the province’s pornography industry, they hope that the publicity their actions have generated will persuade other governments across the country to intensify their efforts on their behalf.
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