Thursday, November 02, 2006

Porn again

Interesting article in The Guardian discussing views on the post-Jane Longhurst anti-violent porn bill. I agree with those in favour - we should prosecute the owners of this stuff. I seem, in this respect to come up against three key arguements:

1) (As voiced by Bonnie Greer) Once we start censoring, the censorship will spread to affect our rights to freedom of speech, etc and be a problem for artists/playwrites/etc.

Well we already have censorship in certain areas. Child pornography is banned in the UK. All we're suggesting is moving the line of what is and isn't censored. If we can't have that debate then we effectively are censored, the decision has to be open to discussion. And no doubt at some point there will be a play that shows an act of child rape which is then debated hotly by the censors and banned in some places amid critical outcry, etc. At the same time I think we have to protect against anyone who wishes to show violent horrific acts for the purpose of tittilation and then cover their backs by calling it art. Good art and good theatre can use symbolism to evoke the situation without having to be gratuitously graphic.

2) (As voiced by Holly Combe) The problem should be solved by stopping such material being produced in the first place.

Well yes that would be an ideal solution, I agree. But the internet is a global network, covering regions where we have no control over the legislation and covering a widely varying region in terms of economic power. If we allow the download and ownership of violent porn, we have to accept that we fund the production of it. Is our aim to end the production of it or just to announce that we don't want it produced. Is it not worth a small decrease in our freedoms to prevent thousands of rapes and murders around the world? Lets be realistic not idealistic. By the same token we might suggest illegalising the sale but not the purchase of drugs, which creates a totally unclear message: if you can get it, ok, but don't let us see you.

3) (As voiced by Mr Cru) But what if someone borrows your computer or you buy a second hand computer and there are files on there you don't know about.

Well sure, some people get wrongly accused of crimes. That's like saying some guy was framed for murder and that's not fair so lets legalise murder. We make the law and then we do our best to enforce it fairly.

As usual Jeremy Coutinho from Object has some great - and to my mind shocking - points to make on the subject, so here he is:

'Obviously these proposals are "a good news day" for women's human rights. They plug a legal loophole whereby the distribution and sale, but not the possession of violent material, was illegal.

Simply closing this loophole, though, does not in itself address society's attitudes towards women, which are still extraordinarily sexist and allow rape, sexual assault and discrimination to flourish. The mainstreaming of a porn aesthetic and outlook is now endemic.

So, for instance, in Virgin Airline's executive lounge at JFK, the introduction of urinals shaped like women's mouths was only abandoned after massive protest. Then there was Zoo magazine's "dictionary of porn" which described abusive porn such as "pink eye" (ejaculating on to a woman's eye ball). Zoo is sold without age restriction as a "lifestyle" magazine, often for as little as 60p.

Or take the Sport "newspaper", which described the sex life of Jane Longhurst's murderer as "an adventurous romp" on a page crammed with graphic adverts for sex chat lines and hardcore porn.

While I welcome this bill, the mainstream objectification of women has to be tackled too if the government is really serious about women's human rights.'

4 comments:

Alan Craik said...

In some ways arguments about censorship follow the relativism vs universalism stances. That is, some argue that morals are relative to particular cultures, whereas others hold that there are absolute values. For example, the age of consent for sex vary between cultures. Of course we live in an age of globalisation in terms more than economics, so relativism is becoming to be used less to make moral judgements. But, this isn't to say that universalism can ever hold full sway because values, moral positions change over time. This is obvious to anyone interested in the censorship of art - and what was pornographic once is not necessarily seen as that now.

But, I would hold close to ideas of consent and empowerment. Children cannot give consent and are readily disempowered. The exploitation of children can never be condoned. But with consenting adults where would one draw the line, if harm is not being caused. Og course though there are other causes of disempowerment, such as mental health problems, and maybe many people involved in violent pornography need therapy and not censorship. (It is none that childhood sexual abuse MAY give rise to loss of self-esteem and subsequent involvement in self-detructive lifestyles.)

Ultimately we need to be involved in ideas around personal and social good (well-being), and answers I think are to be found in social justice and respect for the indivdual.

Sorry, this turned out to be longer than I expected! But finally, taste is a part, I thought the film Saw was gross, but my wife enjoyed it.

Cruella said...

There are people who wish to have their own healthy limbs removed. They may be consenting adults but I think we serve them better by refusing that "treatment" than by protecting their rights as adults.

Andy said...

Oh come on, you know where that line of logic leads and it's not somewhere you want to go...

Cruella said...

I don't see it as a line of logic. For me it's simply a question of degree. We all agree that some people - adults and children - should not be allowed to do things they may claim they wish to do. And we all agree that there are some things that whether we choose to do them ourselves or not, others who wish to should have the right to. The discussion here is about where the line between those two extemes whould be drawn.

Wow I love how I only posted an hour or two ago and already animated commenting is happening. Blogging is so cool :)

Note - the emoticon in the last paragraph is a joke. I don't emote, well not ascimatronically.