The Porn Ban: Much Worse Than It Sounds

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Vada Voices

Vada Voices

Vada Voices showcases the best that our readers have to offer with a range of one-off articles, reactions and comments. To get involved with Vada Voices please email adamlowe@vadamagazine.com.
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Proposals for a ban on porn accessed online have been put forth by the government recently, and it all screams of a jerk to the knee as strong as the jerking I inflict upon myself after 15 minutes on Tumblr. Under the incentives, if you wish to have the block on porn removed, you must request it from your provider. The ban is proposed to prevent the ‘corroding [of] childhood’, and sets out to make the possession of online pornography which depicts rape illegal, as well as preventing images of child abuse to surface. As with most blanket bans on anything, individual stipulations are rarely thought through, and this appears to be no exception.

I love porn. I watch porn an awful lot, and have done for as long as I can remember. I am strongly interested in porn, and both use it alone for sexual gratification or with sexual partners. In fact, it’s not unknown for me to watch porn when I’m bored just for something to do – not for sexual purposes, just because in most cases I prefer it to TV and it makes me think. I can assure you, none of this has desensitised me into thinking images of child abuse are ok, that depictions of rape have all the provisions required to make it non-problematic, or that anybody should ever be sexually objectified.

However, I will admit that it is sometimes difficult to find porn that doesn’t propagate these issues. What this really spells out is: we don’t need a ban on porn, we need better porn and lots of it. Porn promoting enthusiastic consent; porn that doesn’t promote idealistic body stereotypes; trans* porn where the trans* aspect isn’t the selling point; porn between people of colour, or interracial porn, where the skin colour isn’t the selling point; porn with disabled people where the disabled aspect isn’t the selling point… you get the idea. When viewed like this, porn has the potential to be an incredibly powerful arena for queer politics and equalising that which a heteronormative patriarchy separates.

Is it so difficult – or so much to ask – that it be a requirement for pornographers to include a five minute discussion at the beginning of each scene between performers, in which they both clearly discuss their willingness of participation, that what they are doing is consensual, and that any fantasies or sex that viewers may go on to have as a result should always be done so on a foundation of consent and respect? For those who say this is hard to implement: it has not been very hard for YouTube to implement ads that you can’t skip on their videos – why should the case in point here be any different?

For me, this is perhaps one of the strongest solutions to porn depicting rape as a role play. Personally, I cannot see the appeal of ‘rape fantasies’ (this term in itself I find problematic), but I know of people who do, and my suggestion is as above: a crystal clear discussion before the scene begins, where the performers make absolutely explicit that everything that happens is consensual, and that any form of non-consensual sex is rape. Beyond this, performers should state that role playing rape is not going to depict the trauma and mental health issues that a victim of rape is often subject to following the attack, and that this porno reflects only the sex act – something which rape victims often consider to be a lesser source of the overall trauma of such an attack.

Banning porn will not stop rape or abuse, and I can imagine quite credible arguments that it would instead have an opposite effect. Rape is a sensitive issue, and damn rightly so. However, online depictions of actual rape, as well as child abuse, are already illegal and blocks and filters are already in place to root it out. We live in a society of rape culture – most cases of rape are dropped as it is made so difficult to prosecute; rarely is the victim listened to; ‘jokes’ about rape are bandied around the internet and everyday life freely, and the term is normalised in common usage with words such as ‘frape’ trivialising what is a horrendous crime. Banning porn is not going to end this: better education of respect and consent, and better porn, will help to end this.

Victims of rape or abuse may also take to searching online in an effort to help them come to terms with, read other experiences of, or understand what happened to them. Is a blanket ban of certain terms really helpful to people who may genuinely need help, but are not ready to talk to others yet? We know how easily blanket bans affect the usage of the internet – you need only be with certain mobile providers to know how much content they filter from the most basic of searches. (As an artist with an interest in the body, I know this to be all too infuriating.)

These proposals also lead to further stigmatisation of people who work in this industry, and the sex industry at large. I have already seen people declaring that, not only do they think porn should be banned, but that people who work in porn should not be paid. Why the hell not? I have no more of an issue with sex work than I do with work in general, and if an oppressive system of patriarchal capitalism excludes queers of all genders from certain forms of work, why shouldn’t these people then go on to make money from sex work if they so choose to? Again, it is not the sex workers that need addressing – it is the sex industry, and the system underpinning it. Provide better safety and better environments for sex workers, and remove prejudice. As it stands, sex workers are classed as second-rate humans, and it doesn’t take a genius to look at the long line of murdered prostitutes, escorts, rent boys and so on of all genders to realise stigmatisation kills. Ban porn, and these people will be driven further underground and further into obscurity.

If the real reason behind all of this is, as David Cameron is claiming, to protect children, he needs to realise this: whatever you do, kids growing up are going to see porn at some point, whether you like it or not. Is it not fundamentally better that children, if they are witness to pornography, see a pornography that helps to form a healthy and educated view of consensual sex? Humans are largely very sexual beings – don’t repress that, or force children and early teens in their formative years to only watch unregulated pornography born out of an underground trade.

But perhaps this is just my scepticism of believing a man who claims to care about children, after just pushing thousands into poverty.

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