Over the past few days my social media timeline has been quite literally stomach-churning. The UK has quietly passed a bill which has banned certain types of pornography from being produced and sold in the UK which has subsequently produced a mini-outcry and reams of discussion in terms of the merits of what has now been banned. In short anything deemed to be violent or involving female bodily fluids can no longer be produced or purchased within the UK. You might still be able to beat Victoria Wood on the bottom with a Woman’s weekly, but you need to ensure that it’s done in a gentle and respectable fashion and not too hard.
One might think that a prude such as me, who obviously hates sex or the idea of anybody enjoying it, would be hanging out the bunting with jubilant delight, but actually the legislation itself seems to make very little sense in terms of what it has banned and what is now allowed.
The new laws will probably have a minimal effect on the average consumer of pornography, unless one is a particular connoisseur of the British genre. I have no idea whether or not British porn varies in tone or content to that of other countries and frankly no wish to. As far as I am concerned it is all pretty base and disgusting regardless of where it’s produced. But for Joe (or Joanna lest I commit the cardinal modern day sin of sexism) Public, wanting to watch all sorts of unmentionable things, whether free or via pay-per-view, very little has changed. It’s all right, just so long as it hasn’t been made in good old Blighty. No imaginative sex please, we’re British.
Naturally enough people are jumping up and down and protesting about censorship and how the impoverished British BDSM industry is going to manage to eke itself a meagre living now that it has effectively been banned. My heart bleeds.
For some it boils down to a question of whether or not we ought to legislate for what two consenting adults chose to do to each other sexually. Most people would probably be against any sort of criminal penalties for deviant sexual behaviour, so long as it didn’t involve animals, children or genuinely non-consenting adults (some of the banned material contains simulated scenes of non-consent) therefore it seems strange that the government sees fit to legislate and thus send signals in terms of what they deem is okay to get your rocks off on.
Nothing better demonstrates that no matter how hard she tries to be the cool swinging Austen Powers kid of the sixties, the UK still can’t shake off her Puritan heritage when it comes to matters sexual, which she still has to control.
There are distinct parallels between this type of ‘politically-correct’ pornography and the sex education which is being pushed in schools. Basically, the government is prescribing and attempting to impose their version of what your sex life should look like and define the parameters. Lots of partners, lots of contraception, every possible orifice should be utilised and all must be clinical, sterilised with absolutely nothing messy or uncomfortable that could give rise to the ‘ew’ factor.
What the government seems to be willfully missing is that all sex is messy, a bit eugh and carries a certain amount of risks. That’s half the fun. Their attempt to eliminate various bodily fluids from the process misses the point. The futuristic society portrayed in the film Demolition Man where sex was conducted only by virtual reality headsets “you want to swap bodily fluids – gross, we stopped doing that years ago” doesn’t actually seem all that fantastical these days.
Obviously, and I suspect in accordance with most of my Catholic readers, have certain ideas or opinions of what constitutes a healthy and holy sex life, and I’ll concede that BDSM would not be a feature. Neither would the use of orifices not designed for the purpose. Enthusiasts may well attempt to argue the point that it can be ‘loving and selfless’, but to me it’s hard to see how deliberately hurting someone else does anything else than instrumentalise another for pleasure, regardless of whether you like to give or receive, so to speak. No doubt a case could be made about ‘gift of self’ but to be blunt, sex should not preclude the procreative act, therefore getting your jollies from tying your genitals to the dimmer switch and being slapped about with a frozen trout, isn’t going to fit comfortably within the confines of Catholic theology and praxis.
One might argue that Catholics are no different to the government in terms of attempting to proscribe the parameters of a sex life, but we are not seeking to dictate or impose what every single person does, or ought to do, in their bedrooms via legislation.
This new porn legislation is fundamentally dishonest and symbolic of society’s general malaise and decline in terms of the debasing of human sexuality. What shocked me about the debate I saw on my timeline on various forms of social media, was how widespread knowledge of what would once have been deemed unacceptable and obscene boutique sexual terms, has become.
Twenty or thirty years ago these words would have been niche; the conversation about what constituted acceptable pornography, taboo, and rightly so. One of the downsides of the internet is that it has consolidated sex as a purely selfish recreational activity – a development which harms both men and women, not only spiritually but physically, affecting their ability to form long-lasting and genuinely intimate relationships.
If my daughter had been able to see my Twitter feed she would have been subject to ideas and material which could have irreparably damaged her and would have done so, regardless of whether she was 10, (as she is now) or 20. I don’t want to name some of the practices that I saw discussed, but I fail to see how knowledge of any of them has made us a better, more enlightened and tolerant society or how they have in any way contributed to human flourishing. All it has done is made our sexual appetites dangerously broad (and yes I’m not afraid to state that certain acts are physically dangerous) and rendered us as slaves. These days if you aren’t enthused or made curious by the prospect of doing it every which way with at least 50 lesbian llamas eagerly watched on by a crowd of onlookers in a car-park in Purley, there must be something wrong with you and you’re missing out.
If we are not trying new and diverse ways of having sex, or find certain things perfectly distasteful, according to the new ‘progressives’ we are ourselves dysfunctional and intolerant. Sexual libertinism is not a positive development; people may well have wanted to do all kinds of depraved things hundreds of years ago, some of them undoubtedly did, but the difference is that they were kept underground and not encouraged for a reason – namely it was accepted that they would have a deleterious affect on society.
Legislation regarding what sort of porn ought to be allowed and acceptable to produce and watch in this country is therefore pointless tinkering, especially when the rules seem to be quite so arbitrary. One example is that graphic close-ups of a male achieving orgasm wherever he choses are permitted, however the female equivalent is now strictly banned in a move which has intensified the victim rhetoric employed by mainstream media feminists.
The problem is that the government is attempting to differentiate between what constitutes good and bad pornography in the absence of all evidence and in a profoundly unscientific fashion. For this exercise to be undertaken, a degree of honesty is required. The conversation ought not to be based on subjective notions of harm, but whether or not porn is proving to be a positive or morally neutral influence in society. There is a growing body of both scientific and anecdotal evidence to demonstrate that it is not, and yet there seems to be an unspoken consensus that certain types of porn are harmless; an opinion that has made its way into the curriculum for those wishing to teach sex education to children. (Don’t believe me, just check out Bish training, which is widely vaunted as an industry standard and who will charge a school £1,000 a pop for some leaflets to facilitate discussion of what constitutes good and bad porn in the classroom).
There is no evidence to demonstrate that pornography, whether online, on TV or in printed format has had any positive effects, either on the economy or society as a whole and yet this is taken as a given.
Any government claiming to be serious about tackling the insidious damage done by pornography ought to consider a much wider consultation and examination of the issues, along with measures which would ban UK USPs from supplying material considered pornographic, no matter which country it originated from. Turning off the porn tap could prove the most positive step that the country could take in terms of protecting its citizens. Nothing would send a stronger signal when it comes to reversing the often sexist and misogynist culture which seeks to reduce humanity into objects of desire for the selfish pleasure of others.
The concept of ‘safe’ porn is an utter misnoma. Not only does it violate the dignity of everyone involved in its production and consumption, which ought to be unacceptable to any forward-thinking society, especially one which is seeking to stamp out sexual exploitation, but it contains the same potential for addiction as substances such as tobacco and alcohol, but in common with other mental health issues, the damage is overlooked and hidden because it is psychological in nature and thus not easily quantifiable.
Either we accept that the internet means that the government can no longer control the viewing habits of the public as once it did and ban all watersheds, or a wider discussion needs to be had about whether or not the proliferation of online porn is in the interests of the common good. Do we as a society wish to mandate the watching or pornography and the exploitation within that industry or not? Why are we so afraid of taking definitive moral positions in terms of deciding policy that has the potential to affects the welfare of future generations. Why for example is it acceptable to all but force people to accept and welcome developments such as same-sex marriage as an unfettered good, but not to take a decision that pornography is damaging and harmful.
This is not the issue of free speech that some might claim – we already have laws about the type of material and behaviour that can be exhibited in public and pornography is fundamentally not about artistic expression or communication of intellectual ideas. Pornography is neither tasteful or discerning – it may pander to different and often increasingly hardcore palates, but always with the same aim in mind.
Back in the ‘70s a woman who found pornography in her husband’s bedroom would certainly not have been advised to relax and perhaps join in her husband’s habit. It was seen as the betrayal of intimacy that it is, women did not face the same widespread pressure to be accepting of or or even join in a mainstream culture of porn.
The banning of pornography would cause a massive outcry and inevitably incite false comparisons with North Korea. It’s scary: never mind the invasion of the state into our personal details and confidential information, forget secretive trials and closed family court proceedings, access to unfettered graphic pornography is the defining mark of a free society.
People don’t like having their fun turned off. It would mean that they’d have to return to the bad old days of having to furtively sneak off to the corner shop and face someone else actually knowing about their seedy little habit, rather than celebrating it and passing it on to to others. Women wouldn’t have to be forced to pretend to be open, liberal and accepting about men’s pornography habits and vice-versa. Heaven forbid we might have to go back to a more authentic and less superficial acceptance of others physical appearances and sexuality. What if sex became about a mutual overflowing of love and affection rather than a series of prescribed functional performances to suit a taste that has been shaped and moulded by a commercial industry.
But perhaps without a constant on-stream supply of (frankly unappealing) sexual images, people might find some other, better, more constructive ways of channelling their sexual energy and appetites. Heck they might even turn off the computer and go and do something far more fulfilling than an empty and shallow act of auto-eroticism. Why does that scare everyone so much?