We should welcome Iceland's proposals to ban internet pornography

Here is a story of great interest from Iceland. The government there is considering introducing legislation to ban internet pornography. The story is also reported in the Daily Mail 

Why is this interesting?

First of all, Iceland is a highly secular country, and one that takes a rather relaxed attitude to sexual matters. Yet they are concerned about pornography, and in particular its effect on women and children. Banning pornography is seen as a question of civil rights, not sexual mores. This distinction is important and useful in that it establishes an important point: to be anti-porn is not to be a prude or a killjoy. Most campaigners against pornography have traditionally been branded thus – that the Icelanders can think straight about porn is a good sign. Perhaps we Brits could follow?

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Secondly, this represents the crossing of a Rubicon. The talk is of a ban, making something illegal. That necessarily means an infringement on human liberty and the introduction of coercive laws. Generally any ban in a western society is viewed as either unenforceable or simply morally repugnant. But the Icelanders seem to think that the ban should be implemented to protect women and children – in other words that the welfare of minors and women is to be preferred to the personal liberty to view porn. Perhaps they also think that the freedom to view porn on the internet is really not a freedom worth having?

What this opens up is an interesting discussion about freedom and choice. To be free is good in so far as it is freedom to choose good things. To be free to watch porn, and to develop an enslaving porn habit, is a freedom not worth having. The other thing is that choice is all very well, but who chooses and how free is that choice? People who live in a highly pornified culture are not truly free, given the addictive nature of porn. Even if they were free, porn is not a rational object of choice.

So far I have tackled this question using purely secular categories. Now let us bring in God. Did God create us so that we could watch porn? No, of course not. God created us with a procreative faculty which will, if properly lived out, give us great joy, and bring huge advantages to the world through the birth of children. The Devil of course hates that, because he hates seeing humanity enjoy the good things that he, Satan, has lost forevermore. So the Devil, making the false promise that the permissive society makes, offers us a garden of earthly delights, which is the end turns out to be porn, which is in fact a desert of soiled desires.

I am reminded of the famous passage in Marlowe’s Dr Faustus, where the Doctor asks the Devil for a wife, something that the Devil cannot grant, as a wife is good. Instead the Devil gives him a succuba, a devil disguised as a woman to sleep with. That’s what porn is – not the reality of procreative love, but a cheap and nasty simulacrum of it.

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