British politicians and professional censors join forces with American fundamentalists to demand a ban on porn.
It’s amazing what a name change can do for your credibility. Take NCOSE – the National Center On Sexual Exploitation, an organisation that sounds very much like an official body that will produce reasoned and evidence-based studies on a problematic subject. Unlike, say, Morality in Media, which sounds like one of those ultra-conservative Christian finger-wagging groups of the Mary Whitehouse persuasion. Of course, the two are the same organisation and maintain the same mindset – but by changing from the openly moralising to the more serious-sounding organisation, the pressure group has become much more effective at persuading politicians and the media – even those of a supposedly liberal persuasion – to take them seriously. Despite an ongoing but increasingly hidden agenda against same-sex marriage and relationships, sex toys, sex education and all forms of sexual expression in art and culture – as well as ongoing relationships with extreme right-wing organisations and politicians in the US – NCOSE has been given unquestioning support by those who either genuinely believe that their anti-porn campaigns really are about protecting the vulnerable from exploitation or who are willing to turn a blind eye to the evidence that this is a fundamentalist religious group that wishes to impose a strict moral agenda on everyone because their message on porn intersects with the beliefs of the most extreme RadFems.
It’s bad enough that NCOSE is blighting America – but now the group is spreading its wings internationally, making alliances with similar fanatics overseas. In Britain, it seems poised to offer a ready-made replacement for Mary Whitehouse’s National Viewers and Listeners Association, which itself rebranded as the cooler-sounding Mediawatch UK but then saw its influence fizzle under a series of less charismatic and increasingly oddball leaders following the death of mad Mary. NCOSE’s latest expansion has come in the form of acting as consultants to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Commercial Sexual Exploitation (APPG-CSE), led by veteran anti-porn campaigner Diana Johnson, the Labour MP for Kingston Upon Hull North.
All-Party Parliamentary Groups are informal cross-party groups that have no official standing but which can sometimes influence both government and opposition policy, depending on who are members, what they are concerned with and how many positive headlines and potential votes there are in it for party leaders. Porn rarely has much public support from people with influence – it’s an easy whipping boy for politicians looking to grab a few headlines and distract from bigger issues.
Johnson’s group took ‘evidence’ during their from the usual suspects – not just NCOSE but also Gail Dines, the anti-porn academic writer who is like Andrea Dworkin without the writing ability, and Laila Mickelwait, head of anti-sex work Christian lobbyists Exodus Cry. They did not, you’ll be unsurprised to hear, take any evidence from current sex workers or anyone else who might contradict their pre-existing beliefs – because let’s face it, anyone who is part of a group looking at ‘commercial sexual exploitation’ led by a notorious anti-porn politician is not exactly going in with an open mind.
And indeed, the bullet points of the report read very much like an NCOSE campaign, with a list of claims that almost entirely fly in the face of actual evidence and are, instead, a series of hysterical anti-porn rallying cries that have been mostly disproved over the years :
1. The user base of pornography is highly gendered.
2. Violence against women is prolific in mainstream pornography.
3. Illegal content is freely accessible on mainstream pornography websites.
4. The pornography industry is characterized by market dominance.
5. Pornography fuels sexual violence.
6. Pornography fuels social and political harms against women and girls.
7. Mainstream pornography websites perpetuate racist stereotypes.
8. Allowing or enabling children’s access to online pornography is an egregious violation of child safeguarding.
9. Sexual coercion is inherent to the commercial production of pornography.
I’m sure that we don’t need to demolish these claims by now, but if you do want to research further, you’ll find plenty of evidence to contradict almost everything here. Links between porn (even ‘violent’ porn) and sexual violence have long since been shown to be shaky, while the idea that the porn user base is ‘highly gendered’ is also nonsense. Notably, the entire report seems to think that porn is almost entirely made for straight men, with the existence of gay, trans and feminist porn and porn consumers entirely ignored, because that would just be inconvenient. The suggestion that porn is somehow inherently racist feels like a shameless attempt to seem Woke rather than reactionary, though of course the report completely ignores the fact that porn is the most inclusive medium for race, gender, sexuality, body shape and age – every type of adult you can imagine has been represented as desirable by porn, long before the mainstream advertising and fashion world started to make an effort to be less narrow in its definition of ‘beauty’.
As for claims of ‘violence against women’ and ‘illegal content’ being rife on mainstream porn sites – well, that does rather depend on how you define both. If you see consensual BDSM as ‘violence’ – and let’s be honest, these people do – then I’m sure you see ‘violence against women’ everywhere (though FemDom porn seems a lot more prevalent and popular than FemSub content) and ‘illegal content’ does not necessarily mean ‘illegal acts’ – especially to MPs and campaigners who probably have no idea about what kinks are and are not legal to do/watch.
The assumption of a report like this is that all sex workers are coerced, tricked or otherwise trafficked because the idea of consenting adults making adult entertainment is incomprehensible to those on the committee. They believe that if something is objectionable and beyond the pale for them, it must be for everyone, even the people who have set up solo OnlyFans accounts that they control themselves – they must still be victims of exploitation. It’s an oddly narrow way of thinking. I mean, I don’t like sport – I find its appeal absolutely incomprehensible – but I wouldn’t say that those involved in it, from the amateur level all the way to the very top of the profession, have been exploited and coerced, even though they often run the risk of life-changing/shortening/ending injury.
The recommendations that the report makes are increasingly dubious.
1. Make the regulation of pornography consistent across different online platforms, and between the online and offline spheres.
2. Criminalize the supply of pornography online to children, and legally require age verification for accessing pornography online.
3. Address pornography as commercial sexual exploitation, and a form of violence against women, in legislation and policy.
4. Legally require online platforms to verify that every individual featured in pornographic content on their platform is an adult and gave permission for the content to be published there.
5. Give individuals who feature in pornography material the legal right to withdraw their consent to material in which they feature being published and/or distributed.
6. Hold exploiters to account by making it a criminal offence to enable or profit from the commercial sexual exploitation of others.
7. Conduct a comprehensive review of laws on pornography and obscenity.
Those first two points don’t seem all that unreasonable at first, but the truth of what they want quickly comes out. “Address pornography as commercial sexual exploitation, and a form of violence against women, in legislation and policy” again denies the existence of anyone other than exploited women in porn – no mention of the men who also appear, you’ll note. Once you’ve defined all porn as ‘exploitation’, then making it “a criminal offence to enable or profit from the commercial sexual exploitation of others” becomes rather more all-encompassing and allowing people to withdraw consent retrospectively is very dubious – would they then have to compensate the producers for loss of earnings (or at the very least, have to repay their appearance fee)? Retrospective withdrawal of consent might seem like a way of allowing people who become ashamed or stigmatised by their porn work in later life a ‘right to be forgotten’ – but we should remember that the shame and stigma are driven by the moralising, religious finger-waggers who are driving this sort of report to begin with. Perhaps if we took the whole idea of shame out of sexual expression rather than driving it further home with an insistence that all those involved (well, just the women) must have been coerced and so must now be ashamed, we’d be in a much better place.
All that in mind, and with the closing point about “a comprehensive review of laws” – which I think we can assume doesn’t mean liberalisation – then the suggestion that we “make the regulation of pornography consistent across different online platforms, and between the online and offline spheres” feels a bit less like a levelling of the playing fields and more of a way of just banning everything. And when I say ‘everything’, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that this would stop at kinky porn or even the most vanilla hardcore content. I imagine the definition of ‘porn’ for these people stretches into nude and semi-nude glamour photography, lascivious dancing and the written word. Even, perhaps, the image that we have very purposefully headed this article with.
Let’s be honest – this is not a report compiled by people who are actually familiar with porn. Just as Mary Whitehouse didn’t feel the need to actually look at the material that she wanted to be outlawed, so modern anti-porn campaigners rarely actually look at the thing that so upsets them. At best, they go by very subjective descriptions or clickbaity PornHub clip titles that they take as a genuine description of both the content and the relationship between the performers.
And who was there, speaking at the launch of this dodgy report and happily photographed holding a copy for the cameras? Why, the BBFC’s head David Austin, a man who you might think would be expected to have a rather more neutral stance, especially as more or less all the arguments against porn and iffy claims of harm were demolished during the BBFC’s own R18 hearings, though of course the chance to gain yet more power over what the public can see – and the BBFC are already designated as the body to enforce internet censorship – must have the Board members salivating like dogs. Other supporters include The Age Verification Providers Association – who of course stand to profit from further restrictions on what we can see online and somehow seem to think that the goal of this group is mere age restriction rather than absolute annihilation of adult entertainment – anti-porn know-nothing Floella Benjamin and MP Sarah Champion, most famous for campaigning against children’s underwear.
Clearly, porn is not for everyone and not all of it is made by the best of people. But we don’t deal with the bad players in other industries – some of whom make even the dodgiest of pornographers seem wholesome in comparison – by damning everyone. There are many ways in which we could improve the lot of sex workers, most of which involve stopping treating them as criminals and victims (often both simultaneously with the former taking precedence), but you won’t find any of that in this report. Neither will you see a call for better sex education that teaches consent, sexual safety and – just as importantly – that porn is not real. None of this is really about protecting anyone – women, children or sex workers. It’s about enforcing a strict Christian morality on everybody and maintaining that sense of shame and social displacement for those who dare to think and behave differently.
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I don’t know how to feel. Many of these I’ve only mildly taken seriously as while they’ve had impact they’ve had little overall impact even when new laws have been created they either don’t get inacted or quietly dissappear over time, but this is really frightening particularly the part about reviewing obscenity law, I know what that means and it took years to lossen the laws, it was only till 2019 that they reflected something close to what is allowed in America. It also angers me that it only takes a few minutes research to know what NCOSE are really about, and while this is anecdotal I’ve noticed if you look at these swerf’s you find a lot (if not all) are also terf’s which if that was exposed would really show more what there about.
Hopefully, this is history repeating as farce … These bozos should be challanged to produce a list of permissible sexual acts, it’d be hilarious … Actually, I’d bet they squirm off the hook with a lot of faux-modest, misty obfuscation , trotting out the ‘… in the context of a loving relationship …’ drivel as a kind of screen … wonder what’ll happen. We’ve got the hypocritical mock-puritanism of your Guardian types on the ‘liberal’ side who won’t put up a fight … MAybe everyone ends up on some kind of registry. EMoticons like pink triangles or yellow stars. No such thing as a free orgasm … Or a legal unionised Sex Industry. All Houses Of ‘Sin’ must be well kept and outwardly modest. No pimps, just whores – whore no longer a term of opprobium, after all, we’re all whores, right? BBFC could be wound down, made into a strictly advisory administration – but with a secondary function as Brothel-inspectors. Unrealistic? Of course. There’s enough realism about – but it’s no less unrealistic than these clowns proposals. The future is grinding compromise. Cocks, bottoms, tits and pussy – these things cannot be uninvented. Isn’t God Hisself the ultimate pornographer? He shure has a funny sense of humour. It’s vital to point out that Porn is vastly fantasy. Watching most people fuck would hold the appeal of watching a pile of old clothes outside a charity shop collapse (see the foursome in above picture). All this stuff only harms people with a lack of imagination. Everyone else can conjure infinite obscenities from within the depths of their own minds, many such image formulations preceding having even seen any porno. Ask your priest, he’ll know all too well. Long Live The New Flesh!
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