Below is some worthwhile commentary on Cameron’s proposal on banning rape porn (excerpts are posted and there is more on all of the links). Headlines: the proposals are naive, potentially very cynical, and largely unworkable.
Don’t ban ‘rape porn’ – introduce more porn with negotiation and boundary-setting (independent).
As a feminist, I am against rape, against abuse of children, and wholeheartedly in favour of grinding the culture which allows these things to happen into dust. That’s why I’m against David Cameron’s latest proposals for increased filtering of the internet, blocking search terms and banning porn depicting simulated rape.
Taken as a whole, the plans are technologically unworkable and politically dubious; with content blocking possibly leading to decreased access to support for survivors of abuse while allowing the state a frightening level of control over internet freedom. An integral feature to nostalgia, along with Spangles and white dog poo, is the cultural memory of the Porn Fairy, the mythical beast who leaves jazz mags lying around for any young lad to peruse: blocking content would do little to stop children from looking at porn.
However, little of this broader critique of Cameron’s proposals covers my reservations about banning “rape porn”. The general rationale of a ban is rooted in social psychology from the early 1960s: Albert Bandura’s the iconic “Bobo Doll” experiments, where children watched an adult act aggressively towards a doll, and then, when offered the opportunity to play with the doll, they repeated the behaviour they had seen modelled. Therefore, it follows, if someone watches violent behaviour in porn, they will act in a more violent manner sexually. However, actual evidence of cultural harm caused by rape porn is very weak. [Rest.]
Why I support criminalising pornographic depictions of rape (closetheloophole):
I’m writing this in response to the confusion and misinformation circulating about the campaign from Rape Crisis South London, supported by the End Violence Against Women Coalition, Law Professors from Durham University including Professor Clare McGlynn and Professor Erika Rackley, Rape Crisis (England and Wales) Women’s Aid and many other individuals and organisations to amend existing Extreme Pornography legislation in England and Wales to include images of rape.
To begin I want to say thank you to everyone who has expressed their support and to the women and men who were unsure about the campaign and contacted either myself or other campaign supporters for more information, one of whom suggested I write this public response. I’m doing so not in the hope of getting everyone on board, I understand and oddly support dissent within feminisms (I think as long as its respectful, it makes us interesting), but rather to make clear what the campaign is and is not about. I also want to locate myself within what I am about to say. These are my thoughts and my words and may not be representative of Rape Crisis South London or our campaign supporters. [Rest.]
Porn is only damaging when it’s not Murdoch’s porn (weekwoman):
Today our esteemed PM, the right honourable David Cameron, announced that from henceforth, ISPs will have to block all online pornography – and consumers will have to take practical steps to exercise their inalienable right to watch other people fuck, by “opting-in”. And up and down the land, the feminists they cheered, yea, they anointed Cameron with balm and placed a crown of roses upon his shiny, red face. For Cameron had revealed himself as a champion of women, and protector of the innocence of children.
Except, not so much.
You see, beyond the fact that far wiser heads than I have expressed grave doubts about the efficacy of the plans, Cameron is only concerned about “corroding childhood” when it suits him – or to be precise, when it doesn’t bother Rupert Murdoch. [Rest.]
Three concerns about Cameron’s porn plans (ontoberlin).
The announcement today that the government is to take action on a number of issues surrounding pornography have, predictably, caused an enormous backlash. The news that internet providers will block UK households from accessing pornography (introducing an “opt-in” system), that possessing pornography that depicts rape will become a criminal offence in England and Wales (as is currently the case for that depicting bestiality, necrophilia, and life-threatening injury), and that search engines will return no results for certain terms associated with pornography depicting the abuse of children, has prompted more discussion about censorship, free speech, and morality.
I started my life as a feminist speaking out against porn. Very quickly, I found out that people don’t like it when you do that. I know a lot more now than I did then, and those debates might pan out differently. It’s actually something I don’t write about much now, because it often prompts so much anger from both sides of the debate and that’s more than I can be bothered to get involved in. What I’ve seen today, however, is a lot of really great discussion and engagement between people holding a variety of opinions – and that’s quite heartening. That’s not to say that I haven’t found some of the backlash against the government’s plans unpleasant and some opinions from both sides dismissive of the concerns of all involved. But considering that my last blog post was actually quite down on the state of internet feminism, it could have been worse.
Many people have highlighted many valid concerns about today’s announcement. I want to write about three of mine. [Rest.]
Yes, porn can be vile and degrading but an authoritarian crackdown won’t work (CommentisFree).
“What did you do in the war, Mummy?” my children ask me. I assume they are referring to the great feminist “sex wars of the 80s”. What else could they mean?
Well, in the great kerfuffle that we had at the time, one in which hardly any mainstream media were interested and that certainly involved no male politicians, I was on the side of sex, of pornography and of freedom.
Having passed through radical feminism, an always necessary phase, I still revere the work of Andrea Dworkin: “Pornography incarnates male supremacy. It is in the DNA of male dominance.” We had been fully against the objectification of women and the passivity of the “porn stars”, and in those days you could still see pubic hair and unsiliconed breasts. It didn’t do much for me so I started watching gay porn as it was the only place I could see the male body sexualised.
All this of course was pre-internet, but there was a division between what were called “sex-positive” and “sex-negative” feminists. Both these terms are pretty dumb. No one was against sex per se but certainly against the commodification and trading of the bodies of women and children. Pornography was and still is seen as the legitimised pathway to all abuse, incest and rape, an obvious symptom of a culture that hates women. [Rest.]
It’s page three, not online porn, that is the real threat to young women’s health and happiness (newstatesman).
David Cameron is confused about pornography. The coalition government has just moved to impose mandatory filtering on the distribution of online smut, putting measures in place to ban certain search terms and impose an “opt-in” filter on explicit content. When challenged, however, about page three of the Sun
– the topless softcore wank-matter that’s still distributed daily in Britain’s most-read newspaper – the Prime Minister was loath to support a ban. “On this one,” he argued, “I think it’s probably better to leave it to the consumer rather than regulate.”
This may or may not have anything to do with Cameron’s career-defining hesitancy to challenge Rupert Murdoch under any circumstances. Yet the fact remains that, according to the Conservatives, boobs on the internet are “toxic” for children, but soft porn all over the paper, where little boys and girls can easily find it and see their parents reading it, is just fine.
Page three has never just been about page three. Rather, it is a litmus test for whether or not one supports the objectification of young women as part of the cultural discourse – and what you think should be done about it. For some campaigners, page three is a symbol of everything wrong with our “sexualised” society; others are prepared to go to rather extreme lengths to defend an institution they claim is “traditional”, which means “archaic and sexist”, and “just a bit of fun”, which means “fun for men at women’s expense”.
I am not of the school of feminism which believes that the answer to the ubiquity of sexist imagery is to slap bans on everything we don’t like. I do not support David Cameron’s porn ban. I believe that it is extremely difficult to achieve radical ends by conservative means, and that censorship is invariably conservative. I also believe that giving this government, or any government, the power to monitor and control how we use the internet is a very risky proposition – because we’ve already seen, in the past few months, how such powers can be abused. I do, however, support the campaign against topless models on page three, and there are specific reasons why. [Rest.]
And, related to my previous post on twitter abuse and how it is addressed, here is an example of what happens when internet crack-downs go wrong (it’s a different context but there are lessons to be learned): Tumblr cracks down on porn – and censors the #gay, #lesbian and #bisexual tags (newstatesman):
While Cameron announces that he’ll be forcing all of Britain to make slightly awkward phone calls to their ISPs in order to be allowed to see all of the internet, Tumblr is providing a salient demonstration of some of the problems that can come with attempting to block porn.
The company, which was bought by Yahoo! in May this year, has announced a crack-down on explicit material being hosted on its service. The changes, which come despite Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s promise to “let Tumblr be Tumblr“, affect the search functionality on the site.
Initially, it looked like the site had made “adult” blogs (full-blown porn, compared to the lesser “NSFW” category, which denotes soft-porn) all but invisible. Blogs which are flagged as NSFW will no longer appear in search for logged-out users or users on mobile devices who don’t follow that blog. On logged-in computers, they will show up to users who aren’t browsing in safe mode, which is enabled by default for new accounts. Blogs flagged as “adult”, however, were completely removed from internal search and external.
That would have meant that the only way to find an adult Tumblr was to actually know the URL of it, or have it reblogged onto your dashboard. That’s a major change, not only because Tumblr has a lot of porn sites which use it for hosting, but also because the site has the sort of “alternative” userbase which sees sharing explicit images as just another way to express themselves. As a result, a lot of personal pages end up with NSFW or adult flags. Those pages remain censored by Tumblr, and users will just have to change their behaviour or deal with it. [Rest.]