Revisiting "’Violent porn ban’ revisited"

by Stephen Tall on September 9, 2006

[NB: there are links and content below relating to some explicit websites. Click back now if easily offended by arguments about freedom of speech.]

My post last week, ‘Violent porn ban’ revisited, attracted a lot of traffic from users of a discussion board, Informed Consent, which linked to it here. (“This Stephen Tall chap seems like he could be a valuable allie [sic].”)

IC is, I now know, “the leading UK BDSM website” – for the uninitiated there’s an enlightening definition of BDSM here (it encompasses most sexual submission and domination practises) – with 89,331 members.

To be honest I’m not sure how valuable an ally a district councillor with a blog read mainly by liberally-inclined folks can be.

What they really need is to be able to convert someone like Melanie Phillips to understand the logic of her alleged libertarianism, and bring the rest of the Daily Mail with her. (As The West Wing’s Josh succinctly put it: “I like you guys who wanna reduce the size of government – make it just small enough so it can fit in our bedrooms.”)

Anyway, as a result of being linked from IC I received a few e-mails from board users, thanking me for putting across the argument that laws which deliberately seek to blur the distinction between make-believe and reality should be resisted.

They make a number of cogent points which I feel deserve a wider airing. (Most were sent to me from anonymous e-mail addresses using assumed user-names – at least I assume they’re not their real names – so I hope I’m not breaching their confidence.)

As you’re reading through them, I ask you to consider this: are these the kind of people whose actions we should be devoting time and trouble to legislating against, and expecting our police then to enforce such laws? Is that really our society’s priority?

[Anonymous]: “Thank you for posting the above article – it’s good that someone stands up for freedom of speech, personal responsibility, and a lack of state interference.
Being a football fan does not make one a football hooligan; watching violent pornography does not make one a rapist. Obviously we need to ensure nobody is harmed non consensually or for money in the making of such material. But it is not the business of government to invade the bedroom
There is a large BDSM community – you could look at www.informedconsent.co.uk, where your article was referenced, to see how real that sense of community is – which is oppressed like homosexual men and women were before their activities were legalised. For a collapsing Blair government seeking some easy targets to keep his retirement off the redtops’ front pages this is a shoe in.”

Lumpy Custard: “This law could criminalize at least 1.8 million people. I myself am what is known as a male submissive, Im not a pushover or anything its just part of my sexuality. Millions of people enjoy kinky sex, this law will be hailing to dark ages where homosexuals where persecuted by the vocal hardline biggoted minority. …
BDSMers are NOT all freaks sitting at our computers waiting to find our next ‘Victim’. We are polatitians, firemen, Doctors, coppers etc every thing else.”

Graham: “You make some good points, but there is one area I would take issue with where you say: “it would be illegal to own such material in print or on film, but it is legally available for download from foreign websites. This particularly tragic case is an open-and-shut case of a legal loophole that deserves to be closed without delay.”
How exactly do you propose that that “loophole” be closed?
Should we monitor all internet content or force it through state-approved proxy servers as is currently happening in China? Imagine what other power that would give the Government to control what we are or are not allowed to see, based solely on a subjective judgement of what is “acceptable”!
Should we ask the operators of foreign websites to stop UK citizens from downloading material that our Government considers “abhorrent”? They would laugh in our faces and say “it’s not illegal here, stop being such a bunch of prudes!”
If, as you point out, “there is still no proof, after half a century’s research, that watching violent films causes people to commit violent acts. […] In other words, ‘violent pornography’ reinforces attitudes, it doesn’t create them”, why should this “loophole” be closed at all?
Who exactly would this protect?”

Marquee Sardine: “… the sites which are cited in the longhurst petition are: “necrobabes”, “deathbyasphyxia”, and “hangingbitches”. I can say with certainty, since www.necrobabes.com is still an active site, that it is entirely staged and consensual, i.e. it does not fit your definition of violent pornography. Here are the reasons for my belief:
This is the blurb from the front page of the site (if you go to the link, you won’t be plunged straight into the content as there is a page of small print to read first, but in case you don’t wish to do that, I’ll quote in full here for you):
“These sites deal with very politically incorrect fantasies. If you do not have these sorts of fantasies, you will likely find them shocking, if not offensive — our sites are not for you, please go away. … The material we produce is fanciful, even cartoonish in many regards; there is nothing realistic about it. Our viewers know this. Far from normalizing violence, it relegates it squarely into the realm of fantasy.” …
A few points to note from this:
– the site explicitly states on it’s frontpage that it is all fictional and consensual.
– the site admits that its content is not realistic.
– The site is self-censoring – it has registered itself with IRCA to make it very easy for parents to block.
– There is nothing on the site that is ‘sexual’ by the US definition (I guess they must have a very strict legal equation of sexuality with genitality in the US).
– the site has now been online on this domain for over a year, since this was when the trial took place, I believe. It is very easy to find out who is responsible for the site using
www.whois.net, which contains a register of all domain owners. Therefore the US authorities could easily trace the producers if they suspected any violence was taking place.
Finally, if you access the site, you will find that it features various ‘performers’ who have their own personal websites, and make their living doing this, i.e. they have lived to fight another day!!!

I hope that you will take this into consideration and amend the text of your website accordingly. Moreover, I hope that this will strengthen your already very rational position with respect to the proposed laws and I trust you will oppose them in your capacity as a liberal
democrat.”

Fenella: “I was very impressed at your thoughts on the extreme pornography issue. I am one who thinks it wrong to legislate in the bedroom.”