The Problem of Porn

July 4, 2012 3:18 pm

In the coming weeks and months, the government will begin to look into the different options it has in relation to the regulation of internet pornography. This move comes after pressure from some national news publications and activist groups to adopt an ‘opt-in’ system whereby internet customers who wish to view online pornography would need to ‘opt-in’ to this service. Therefore, the norm would be a ban on internet pornography, and individuals would have to actively express their desire to be able to access sexually explicit material online.

Now, it’s clear that there is a worrying trend regarding the sexualisation of childhood and society in general, and there is clearly an argument for some sort of action into the suitability of the audience who accesses this sort of material online. It is undeniable that if a child of twelve is watching any form of explicit sexual material online then it is going to have a detrimental effect on their wellbeing, but there are many reasons why I believe this ‘opt-in’ system is fundamentally flawed.

Most importantly, we must remember that if something is seen to be ‘taboo’ or ‘banned’ then it only makes the banned substance or social practice seem more desirable to those who wish to become involved in it. This is why we now engage our teenagers in detailed sex education and provide them with birth control free of charge if they feel they need it. Why? Because it prevents expressions of sexuality that are the result of ignorance or inquisitiveness as opposed to commitment and responsibility. We’ve come to the general consensus that informed decisions are better than uninformed mistakes. The same goes for pornography; by simply ignoring it, or brushing it under the carpet, it’s only going to make something seem far more exciting and desirable to those who are unable to access it. We forget that in the naïve minds of the young, things shrouded in a cloud of secrecy are often seen as exciting and attractive. I know when I first tried a cigarette it wasn’t because I consciously wanted to start smoking; it was because everyone around me who had any vague authority over me whether it be my parents, or the school nurse, or the numerous health campaigns that I was submerged with on a daily basis would tell me I shouldn’t smoke. It was my main act of teenage rebellion, and I’ve regretted going down that road ever since.

Secondly, the technological problems this type of measure would have to overcome are enormous. Indeed, in an ideal world, the ‘opt-in’ system would simply be able to block any pornographic websites that exist anywhere online from the internet services of those who haven’t chosen to ‘opt-in’. But do we see these websites simply accepting defeat and giving up their hefty profits? Of course not. Instead they will actively try to undermine this law wherever possible, creating new website names and URL’s; always one step ahead of the game. Furthermore, bearing in mind that every generation are going to get more and more technologically minded than the one they follow, it seems slightly naïve to believe that young people would not be able to get around any blocks that are put in place. Additionally, we need to consider where we draw the line on what is considered explicit enough to block. Is it only the most explicit of material? Or do we even block brief sex scenes from online television catch up services? Who decides what is and isn’t blocked, and why are their moral compasses and motivations any more important than anyone else’s?  If those who are propagating this ‘opt-in’ option begin to actually realise the mammoth task ahead, and the seemingly never-ending number of ethical issues to discuss, would they still be so eager to implement it? I doubt it.

However, it’s important to note the consequences of such an action. When it all boils down to simple fact, pornography is not illegal. Of course if it ends up in the wrong hands it is illegal, but why should it be the government’s responsibility to control this? What with a financial deficit to take care of, a National Health Service full to the brim of disgruntled healthcare practitioners and country that is plagued by flooding, you would think the government would have more important things to deal with than this. My worry is that these measures are yet another example of the ‘nanny state’ gone bonkers.We should not simply put a ban in place when it comes to these issues. It would, in my opinion, be wholly ineffective. It should be the responsibility of parents to ensure that their children are using the internet safely and appropriately, and that the appropriate safeguards are in place. I had strict internet restrictions in my household until I was thirteen, and only then was I gradually introduced to unrestricted access to the internet. My mother made this decision based on my own personal maturity.  Above all, it is a worrying fact of life that even if we were to flirt any further with this ludicrous idea, and heaven forbid, implement it as law, children are still going to be able to play inappropriate and often overly violent video games. If we go down this route of widespread blanket bans and state control over what citizens can and cannot access, we begin to go down a very slippery slope. What will be next on the firing line, who would make the decision, and on the basis of what moral compass would this decision be made? If we open the hypothetical flood gates, the water will continue to come in until we are all drowned in a pool of morality and ‘suitability’ and every ethical decision regarding us and our families will be made for us by someone else. A drastic example? Of course. A realistic one? Possibly, if we even flirt with this route of government led censorship.

Fortunately enough, it looks as if these proposals have been dropped if we are to believe a leaked email that was published online earlier today. However, there is a deeper, more important lesson to learn here. The internet is a social phenomena that has the most fantastic and life-changing pros and the most catastrophic and sickening cons. Yet, when it comes down to it, so does everything. We do not eradicate the negatives by creating knee-jerk responses such as the one discussed above. Instead, we just have to let common sense rule sometimes and not give in to the scare mongering, sensationalist nonsense we are often faced with in our society today. After all, when it comes down to our everyday decisions, we are just grown-up children who are far more interested in the slice of cake that we can’t have, as opposed to the cake offered to us on a silver platter. It’s just the way we’re wired.

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