The Politics of Porn

by Ray_North on July 23, 2013

images-4I welcome David Cameron’s announcement yesterday that he is going to make internet service providers put in place filters that will prevent pornography from being accessed unless someone opts into it.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not prudish or pious or indeed politically correct in my attitude towards porn, but, like many others I have become increasingly worried about the way in which porn, thanks to the internet, has perniciously become part of the mainstream over the last couple of years, because, in truth it is more often than not a source of harm.

For kids, looking at porn at an early age, gives them a wholly false impression of sex and relationships, their own bodies and the bodies of others.

For many people in relationships, porn can become a substitute for actual intimacy and lead to the breakdown of long held partnerships and couplings.

And, for many, porn can lead to something far darker. In my job, at least once a month, I’d say, I’m confronted by someone who is charged with offences of possessing child pornography. The cases are almost always predictable – the defendant will be a middle aged male, often hard-working and of impeccable character in every other way with no previous sexual inclination towards children. For years, the computer in the spare room will have been used for sending the odd e-mail and doing a bit of online shopping. Then it will be used to look at adult porn. Then, search engines will be used to look for teenage girls (or boys), and this will slowly and surely lead to the horrible world of child pornography. The individual will develop an almost insatiable appetite for the stuff. Constantly looking for new images and new themes. They will intellectually divorce themselves from the reality that the photographs they are ‘innocently’ looking at in the small hours on their own started with horrific child abuse and rape of children.

When I meet these people, they have often had their lives shattered already after the police arrived at their door and told them that their IP address has popped up during an investigation into child-pornography sites. At first they will declare that their viewing was innocent or accidental – but, it wasn’t, you can’t accidentally look at 10,000 images; nor can you accidentally type in the words ‘teen rape’ into your google search bar.

More often than not their families will disown them, they will lose their jobs and the fear of prison becomes absolutely overwhelming. By the time they meet me, they don’t want to go near a computer, let alone a porn site.

But, it’s too late.

If porn is not so easily available, then there is a good chance that very many people will be saved this.

But, the question I ask is will David Cameron make good his promise?

Because, and I’m not trying to score soft political points here, the Prime Minister does have a record of u-turning on issues like this as soon as his political partners and backers get cold feet. Think only of his promises on the environment, on cigarette labelling, on alcohol unit pricing – all good ideas, but destroyed by the power of the big-business.

The Porn industry is pretty big too, and, I fear, that David Cameron is going to come under a fair bit of pressure over the coming months to water down his proposals as some fairly powerful men, with big wallets and loud voices suggest to him that, though they don’t condone child porn, of course not – they quite like the fact that porn is now more accessible than every before.

On this issue, I hope that Cameron hold his nerve and sticks to his guns. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if the ‘opt in’ element of his proposals, suddenly and quietly becomes an ‘opt-out’ sometime in the future. I wait and see.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

George_East July 23, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Ignoring for the moment whether the proposals on filters as spun have any merit (and I am far from convinced) they are undoubtedly all spin. There is no question of any pressure being put on David Cameron over this, the government itself has written in terms to ISPs telling them that they aren’t asking them to change anything, merely to rebrand what they already do. Cameron as ever is being the spin merchant supreme. As usual the press has fallen for it hook line and sinker.

This is the relevant passage from the letter sent from the Prime Minister’s office to the ISPs:

“Using the phrase “default-on” instead of “active-choice +”

The prime minister believes that there is much more that we can all do to improve how we communicate the current position on parental internet controls and that there is a need for a simplified message to reassure parents and the public more generally. Without changing what you will be offering (ie active-choice +), the prime minister would like to be able to refer to your solutions are “default-on” as people will have to make a choice not to have the filters (by unticking the box). Can you consider how to include this language (or similar) in the screens that begin the set-up process? For example, “this connection includes family-friendly filters as default [or as standard] – if you do not want to install this protection please un-tick the box” (obviously not intended to be drafting). Would you be able to commit to including “default-on” or similar language both in the set-up screen and public messaging? ”

Note the ‘without changing what you are offering….the prime minister would like to refer to your solutions as default on…’.

In any event it consists of one reversible tick in one box. It is about as tokenistic as it gets.

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Charlie_East_West July 29, 2013 at 7:53 am

How ironic that one of the biggest wankers in the UK wants to block online porn.

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