Best Intentions yet unknown consequences: Cameron’s Porn Filter

Backbencher July 29, 2013 1
Best Intentions yet unknown consequences: Cameron’s Porn Filter

By Joe Peverill

This week David Cameron prepares the legislative proceedings for the filtering of online pornography, which will undoubtedly be renowned as one of the political highlights of the calendar year. Strategically speaking, the motives behind this proposal will translate into a vote winning operation conflating two forms of modern day atrocities that come without criticism – innocent children alongside the extreme and intolerable deprivation towards the helpless. Indeed not even many die-hard libertarians would argue against these intentions. It provides the prime minister with the perfect platform that incorporates public support and even salvages some broken relations with the far right of the Conservative party. There are, however, aspects of the implementation that cast a dubious shadow over this initiative and raises certain questions that make for an uncomfortable debate, as speculation mounts to how far state-driven censorship of internet pornography should actually go.

Amongst this assault launched against the dark depths of internet pornography, Cameron has announced that it will soon be a crime to possess certain types of the most extreme porn that sustains the warped fantasies of individuals who have enjoyed easy access to this material so far. I would firstly go on to say that there is a general consensus amongst people in the UK regarding its disgusting nature among other types of pornography. However when the Prime Minister decided that it was time that the state must play a more prominent role in restricting what types of pornography a person can and cannot watch, a liberal approach would logically raise the significant notion of consent. Now if the pornography is non-consensual – which child porn automatically is – then the full force of the law must be used to investigate those behind the production and distribution of what is undisputedly a horrific wrongdoing. What then becomes an ambiguous and often uncomfortable debate for many is then whether or not the state should involve itself when the porn is consensual. Is it the states’ business as to the way in which individuals have sex, and what others think whilst watching others have sex?

The pressures that have led to Cameron enforcing this ban stem from the engagement of anti-rape groups that, rightly so, campaign against the eroticisation of violence against women which parts of the online world depicts. Again, the motives behind this bring about a common goal that strives towards eradicating the evils of this world, but the fantasies of men and women are not so easily understood in the same way legislation can be. One may argue that it omits the message that rape is acceptable to the individual, yet do other types of pornography do the same? By that logic, do younger looking women dressed in school girl uniforms insinuate sex with a minor is acceptable? As much as it is a question of where to draw the line, it is also a question of a matter of judgement and who gets to decide what is deemed acceptable and what is not. Assuming that even if there was some sort of ‘porn panel’ that systematically assesses each video on its acceptability, it will always boil down to interpretation. The Prime Minister has himself stated the Fifty Shades of Grey novels which incorporate elements of BDSM into its erotic fiction would escape censorship, again demonstrating the ambiguity of the ban.  Furthermore, the ban on rape porn may very well prove to be counterproductive. With the present, consensual procedures outlawed it would not be illogical to assume that this legislation would push the market underground, where it is less viable to safety procedures and where consent does not apply.

 

Cameron explicitly associated these forms of extreme pornography as a cause of crime, as many on the more Conservative side of the political spectrum concur that these simulations would result in imitation. Yet what seems almost hypocritical is that our television programs and movies are full of depictions of rape, murder and mutilation, acted for our entertainment. Therefore should violence in video games or violence in films/TV then be classed under the same roof as violence in sex? If, as the Prime Minister implies, porn does significantly affect the way in which one should behave, then why aren’t methods being used that converges online pornography to teach people about consent?

This remains indeed a sensitive and controversial topic for political debate where authoritative figures must tread carefully. The minds and sexual fantasies of individuals has long been an area where the state has often avoided, and for good reason.

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