The Porn Ultimatum

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The UK’s upcoming ‘porn ban’ is an ill-thought out, regressive and ideological policy that isn’t fit for purpose. From the 15th July, radical and sweeping age-verification laws will take effect on adult sites, requiring an alcohol-style need for physical photo-identification. As one might expect, the backlash has been fierce. For a government ostensibly committed to a small-state and deregulated nation, it has hardly shown restraint in imposing restrictions to enforce a socially conservative agenda. 

The actions of the incumbent Conservatives only serve to reinforce the stigma surrounding pornography and sex in general. A quick nostalgia trip back to Cameron’s 2014 ban of sex acts deemed to be ‘extreme’ or ‘life-endangering’ exposes the Conservatives’ archaic, out-of-touch and sexist approach to adult content. For in a bone-headed move that didn’t receive nearly enough scrutiny at the time of its passage, the acts banned were those that explicitly cater to women. I won’t go into specific detail here, but it’s telling that the Tories see women actually enjoying sex as ‘extreme’. 

The current legislature trajectory surrounding censorship is thus not based around protection, but ideology. Yet it is an incoherent and contradictory mess of beliefs. Perhaps the ultimate fear surrounding this upcoming restriction is the Pandora’s box of privacy issues it would unleash.

Legislation like that of 2014 reinforces a societal demonisation of sex, so the proposed database of all porn-watchers, including their real names, addresses and photographs, has unsurprisingly drummed up irate indignation from those brave enough to readily admit to consuming adult content. For with its rash actions, the government makes the grave assumption that pornography only has an audience on the fringes. Pornography is popular, watched by around 20-25 million Britons, yet forced out of the mainstream as a shameful secret. Creating a database of all consumers of adult content, open to being leaked, therefore seems to be something an ostensibly small-state and rights-of-the-individual focused government would want to avoid. 

There’s serious doubt that this age restriction would even work. The Guardian was able to create a successful fake account in seconds. One might, therefore, think that because the law can be so easily circumnavigated, the backlash is unwarranted as porn-watchers are free to view it at their leisure. The mindset and thought pattern behind the legislation, however, is dangerously inept. 

First off, with the threat of such an unnecessary collection of data, the law makes criminals out of consumers justifiably evading this practice. Secondly, because there is logistically no way to block every site with adult content, consumers and children are more likely to view darker and more niche content than they otherwise would. The law, obviously counterproductively, throws children into the proverbial deep end. Finally, most damningly of all, the actions reflect the worrying trend of placing the burden upon the consumer. Rather than productive legislation encouraging a more ethical production of porn, the government shirks this duty for the far lazier alternative of pursuing the individual, antithetical to their ideology. 

As such, this government’s legislature trajectory surrounding porn and censorship is confusing, crude and contradictory. A piece of legislation worthy of this farcical excuse for a government. 

Alfie Coulstock-Cockeram

Image: Flickr.