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The freedom to watch porn is a freedom not worth having

We should welcome Iceland’s proposals to ban internet pornography

By on Friday, 15 February 2013

Iceland Views

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?

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.

  • Linesman

     Not a very well thought-out answer, James. I am not a flagrant anti-Catholic and it is foolish of you to suggest this.

    If Catholics simply deny that views which we (rightly in my view) reject even exist,  or that they have any coherence at all or status as moral arguments, then we shall quickly be back burning people again. Personally I would regret this.
    Of course Cameron, Harman, and co have a relatively coherent set of moral views — it is just that they are shallow, objectionable, and inadequate. But they have a right to hold them, unless you want to take us into a repressive theocracy. Catholic morality rests essentially on religious revelation and the idea of natural law—things which I imagine DC and HH reject. Their morality is not based on the innate virtue or badness of actions but on their perceived public consequences.

        Demonising or even rubbishing your opponents is the first step to all sorts of evil actions against them, starting with attempted use of the law against them. We are not in a position to do this today but we should, for our own good, not even dream about it

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000977900788 Dylan Morgan

     Nobody should be dictating to us what we should and should not read or watch. We are healthy responsible adults and we can make that decision for ourselves. We have to ask if the Priesthood was more open, and priests not forced to be celibate. Would we have had the terrible child abuse within the church?

  • Patrickhowes

    But surely the common thread between the two is addiction.Both sinister industries want to hook us on both of their products so that we fall under their spell.This is why I cannot understand Father Alex´s rationale as a priest.We should always reject satan and all his works.Not start chosing between this and that.

  • Patrickhowes

    But surely the freedom to take drugs is a freedom not worth having.The agony of a parent watching a child destroy theirself?

  • Jeffocks

     They may not take the ‘route’, but it is a step to have clearly identified it as a possible one.

  • Jeffocks

    ” Nobody should be dictating to us what we should and should not..” But in Iceland, or any democratic jurisdiction, it is a matter of legitimate representation not despotism. On the issue of priests and child abuse, there is no evidence that abuse by priests occurs at a different rate than other constituencies of the population of all men. Celibacy does not appear to be a factor. There are simply men who abuse. People perceive the catholic church to be pre-occupied with sex – I don’t know! but I do think the rest of the world is pre-occupied with the idea of celibacy in the catholic church!

  • Jeffocks

     Neither Cameron nor Abbott routinely reflect what I “want” (sadly). But I find myself subscribing to the process that allows them to create agendas in my name.  There are deep flaws with this of course and the process of political legitimacy in today’s world is far from perfect. But the PM cannot act unless he can make  claims on behalf of collective entities such as ‘the British People’.  If Cameron and Abbott have talked about porn then that’s probably a good thing.  Though they are clearly both of very limited abilities.

  • MsAneem

    This wouldn’t apply as I have raised my children to be rational and clear thinking (and also with a healthy view of sexuality).

    They consequently do not smoke and do not use porn.

  • MsAneem

    You simply don’t understand.
    I am not in favour of pornography – but I am also not in favour of censorship and moralising.

    The solution to porn is a healthy attitude to sex devoid of feelings of guilt, awkwardness and shame. The Catholic Church (and some other religious organisations) are experts at producing all three of these vices – and consequently stoke-up the demand for porn.  

  • Kevin

    In essence, I do not know what the fuss is about with regard to the censorship of pornography. It is not as if Britain in the age of the Board of Film Censorship was the Gulag.

    That said, I think the principal concern here is with censorship of the Internet. It is not that long ago that access to information was strictly controlled by a small number of broadcasters, newspaper owners and bookstores. Now it is very difficult to keep things hidden from the public – such as the existence of the Traditional Latin Mass.

    This subject reminds me of the character in A Man for all Seasons who wants to strike down every law in England to give the Devil nowhere to hide, only for Thomas More to remind him that in that event he too would have nowhere to hide – from the Devil!

  • Sweetjae

    You simply don’t understand the concept of basic human decency for the good of Society. Then why we have laws that ‘discriminate’ the acts above? Why do we not tolerate nudists to roam around our neighborhood? Well, these nudist have the right not to wear clothes, if they so desired, right?

    Quilt, awkwardness and shame are natural human reaction of your conscience that is telling you something is not right.

    So regarding the nudists in your neighborhood, do we censor them or not? Please explain.

  • scary goat

     No it doesn’t actually…..it makes him ahl al kitab. (people of the book)

  • Sweetjae

    Nobody is dictating you what to like or not but rather if the acts are being done to the detriment of the common good and Society then must be censored.

    The same reason why we have laws that ‘discriminate’ against underage driving automobiles, sibling marriage, no alcohol, tobacco under 21, etc.

    For a common sense of human decency we also do not tolerate nudists people roaming around in our neighborhood. Same with pornography, aside from the fact that it brings nothing but just negativity (looking at our women as meat, tendency to rape, stripping her of dignity etc) to the common good of the Society.

    To remain holy and pure (celibacy) has nothing to do with child abuse….it is the opposite that the abuse came about.

  • Parasum

     Presumably someone has a limited vocabulary. I used it once – & have no idea whether the post has survived

  • Parasum

    “The only protection in a free society against undesirable porn is a healthy attitude to matters sexual.”

    ## And that requires self-restraint & self-discipline. One of the objections to censorship is, that it does not require either. 

    “There is nothing to be gained from the Church laying-down heavy-handed condemnation of this and that.”

    ## If X (regardless what X may be) is prohibited, that tends to create a desire for it – even if no such desire existed. The forbidden is apt to be attractive because it is forbidden. Add to that the agency of the CC as prohibitor, and a Churchly prohibition of internet porn would make the forbidden thing all the more attractive. There is also the thought “If the CC disapproves of X, then X can’t be all bad”. 

    It would be far better to encourage people in goodness. Mere prohibition of what is not good, does not show what is good.

  • Parasum

    “But the situation we have now is very harmful for children especially because it’s easy for them to find porn ACCIDENTALLY given that NO effort whatsoever is made to limit it”

    ## Internet filters are imperfect, but a lot better than nothing.  It’s hard to believe that children can disable them accidentally.

  • Parasum

    “There is only one way to eradicate both of these and that is to evangelise.”

    ## Which the CC is terminally useless at doing. It has no sense of urgency. Its zeal is turned to other things. And evangelising is what Prots do. If Protestants do X, then X must be bad/suspect/undesirable/heretical, so Catholics don’t do that kind of thing. Granted, one also gets exceptional people like Pauline Jaricot & Frank Duff, but that is the problem: they are exceptional, not typical.

    Besides, the Church moves (to misquote the hymn) “like a mighty tortoise”. It’s too big, too weighed down with baggage of various kinds, too old, too inflexible, too set in its ways, to be capable of evangelising anything. Even if it wanted to. Does it want to ? What it needs is a C. Northcote Parkinson:

    “Parkinson’s barbs were directed first and foremost at government institutions—he cited the example of the British navy where the number of admiralty officials increased by 78% between 1914 and 1928, a time when the number of ships fell by 67% and the number of officers and men by 31%. But they applied almost equally well to private industry, which was at the time bloated after decades spent adding layers and layers of managerial bureaucracy”.  

    http://www.economist.com/node/13976732

    The CC has too few bureaucrats, and far too much paperwork. No wonder evangelisation counts for little.

  • Parasum

    “If Catholics condemn the moral absolutism of Harriet Harman or David
    Cameron being legally imposed on them, how much of a right do they have
    to impose their own views by law on society…”

    ## That depends what vision, moral or otherwise, the views & actions of Catholics are based on. The same applies to Harriet Harman & to the PM. Catholics don’t have any right to “impose their own views by law on society”, if by “society” you mean UK society. If OTOH all society freely agreed with what Catholics wanted, that would be a different matter entirely; but we don’t live in such a society.  I don’t think the moral absolutism of those two people is being imposed on Catholics – many people have  spoken on both or all sides of the issue, within Parliament & out: and will continue to do so, in the Lords & elsewhere. To blame those two people for the measure is absurd – perhaps it’s a reflection of living in a Church society that really is ruled by an omnicompetent & absolute autocrat. A PM has nowhere near as much power as a Pope. It’s impossible to imagine a “Pope’s Question Time”….

    “But where does the line begin for the imposition of absolute values begin?”

    ## I don’t think that is either possible, or (even if possible) benign. “Imposing absolute values” sounds like a short-cut to making people virtuous. Restraining  people from doing wrong, is not the same as freely choosing to want to become virtuous. STM that – within wide limits – people have to be allowed to be imperfect, and plain wrong. Maybe the line is not one line, but  many, and falls in different places for different individuals. For some people – e. g. RC clergy – to marry is sinful; but for most people it is not at all sinful. The lines fall in different places. 

    STM that some values are “absolute”, but that their application is full of relativities.

  • Linesman

    Go the Middle East and speak the vernacular.
    Pity Mr Carter was so curt — and a pity my  comment drawing attention to the wider implications behind the ban on filth was deleted. It isn’t just obscenity which is banned in such places. It is also Christianity.
    True, the first church has been opened in Doha
    http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2008/03/2008525173738882540.html

    But the same report points out “some say the church flies in the face of Qatar’s Islamic values,
    religious leaders and government officials have been cautious about
    trumpeting the news too loudly”

    I wonder if this comment will get deleted too.

  • Linesman

     i.e a tolerated (in the first centuries of Islam) but inferior group, known as dhimnis and subject to higher taxes and many social restrictions. Kafirs are indeed technically complete pagans but in popular parlance, the word   usually means Christian these days. It is a vulgarism but a widespread one.

  • Linesman

     @Parasum. Well yes, I agree with you. They don’t have the right to impose their moral views on us e.. gay marriage, adoption etc, invading the sphere of religious freedom and freedom of conscience.
      That is precisely what all Catholics are objecting to and they are quite right. But HH and DC do have one enormous advantage. They are legislators elected by society, they have got power, and so they claim “a democratic mandate.” This is much the same as Henry VIII’s royal authority. It means “Power rules. Obey.”  And they are using notions of ‘equality’ as their absolute value.
         My point is that if we say (pointlessly because we do not have power) we would like ban this or that, we are committing an infringement of the  rights of others who do not share our beliefs: or do we believe we are a holy people with a mandate to rule them? When we protest against abortion, it is not the law such, it is the intrinsic murder that we are protesting against.

    Is this an orthodox position? I hope so.

  • LocutusOP

    I’m conflicted.

    I don’t agree that the state should impose limits on what you watch online – especially when it concerns acts performed by consenting adults. However, I would also agree wit you that watching pornography is not a way to exercise freedom – and can indeed itself be a form of enslavement to one’s passions.

    However, I don’t see how you can make the case against pornography from a civil rights point of view. The performers are adults and the viewers are adults (or ought to be anyway). This seems to be one of those anything-but-God-or-morality argument, whereby we have a moral case and we’re not willing to present it as such.

    Furthermore, how can we ban pornography yet allow sex education in schools which promotes the very mentality exemplified in pornography? How do we ban pornography while allowing women’s magazines which are essentially pornographic in textual – and often visual – content? We have TV shows which promote pornography or at least encouragte it. Should we ban them as well?

    What is this effect that pornography has on women and children that infringes upon their civil rights? I’ll take it that we’re not talking about child pornography here, which is another matter altogether.

    One can only be against pornography on moral grounds and to claim otherwise is to be deceitful. Whichever moral argument you wish to choose would be up to you – as there are a myriad of them – but we need to be clear that it is a moral argument and not a ‘civil rights’ one. Which civil rights would these be anyway?

    Furthermore, one thing perplexes me about you Father ALS. I have a very hard time seeing how you can favour a ban on pornography (a very private vice) and advocate for the legalisation of drugs (whose effects are anything but private).
    Surely drugs are a greater threat to civil rights (especially those of children) than pornography ever will be?

    I’ll submit that we should hear more about pornography from our pulpits, but in a society which allows all manner of perversions, I would never go along with an arbitrary ban on pornography, especially not when it is sold on the disingenuous grounds of “civil rights” – whatever that means.

  • Patrickhowes

    Your point is extremely valid and true!Is it not for this reason that millions in Latin America are being reconverted by evangelical protestants?.The CC in Latin A,merica especially in Brazil is quite evangelical and it is for this reason that I pray for a Latin American Pope.I think he would instill the spirit of the early Church into the Vatican.Cardinal Borgoglio (Argentina) and Cardinal Braz wonderful candidates.They would also continue the reforms of the Curia and the Vatican Bank.At times I feel that the CC appears to be more a PLC than anything

  • Jonathan West

    “Unless a deliberate attempt is made by society, acting through the agency of the law, to equate the sphere of crime with that of sin, there must remain a realm of private morality and immorality which is, in brief and crude terms, not the law’s business.”
    Wolfenden Report 1957

    There are two possible arguments for banning internet pornography.

    The first is basically to say that matters of private morality and sin are the state’s business, that in essence the church should be permitted to run the state and the state should legislate on the basis of the church’s understanding of sin and morality.

    The second is to claim that in purely secular terms internet pornography causes tangible and substantial harm to individuals and/or society in general. I’m not talking of danger to people’s souls, but rather damage to their earthly welfare.

    With regard to child pornography, that is already banned on the second of these grounds – that the children used in its production are harmed in the process and unable to give their free consent to it. But that argument can’t so easily be used with respect to paid and consenting adult actors.

    So what is the argument for banning internet pornography, and if the second of the  arguments above is being employed, what is the supporting evidence of the harm.

  • bill

    Not to advocate porn or anything, but to choose only “from good things” is not a real freedom. Freedom is not really valuable if it excludes controversial matters. Chosing apples versus oranges or vanilla versus chocolate ice-cream is not a big deal. You can ban chocalate and prescribe vanilla for everyone, I won’t care too much. Who will determine what things are “good things”? What authority? The Pope? Freedom is only freedom when you are allowed to choose the things that may seem wrong for others. Ok, so we ban porn? What’s next. How about pre-marital sex? Is it good? According to whose standards? According to Catholics, this will lead you straight to hell. Ok, something less controversial: smoking. A totally useless deliberate infliction of damage to your heallth, which harms your body and shortens your life, thus hurting your family and enourmously increasing your health costs for the society… Where do we stop?

  • gabriel_syme

    Yet they are concerned about pornography, and in particular its effect on women and children.
    ——————–

    Why the bias against men here? 

    Why not consider the harm pornography does to ALL society, including men?

    The negative effects of pornography wrt women and children are well known; but its true that a great many men, (particularly young men), become addicted to internet pornography.  (Anyone can access all manner of filth in seconds, at the click of a mouse, including material which would be illegal to sell in print or on film in the UK).

    This naturally distorts their view of sex and sexuality, which clearly has the potential to damage their ability to form relationships and enjoy a healthy and mutually satisfying sex life with their spouses.

    Also, the secular hypocrisy amid this discussion is staggering.  If the Catholic Church was driving for the banning of pornography, this would be called dictatorial, interference, repressed, censorship and the rest of it.  And yet it is taken seriously purely because it comes from a secular source.

    Worse, for years secular society -particularly certain shades of feminists – have promoted pornography as a good and healthy thing, including for women.  It has been touted as a useful sex aid, for example.

    And there is no chance of a ban here in the UK – in recent years a court refused to convict a homosexual man for distributing what the law regarded as “obscene” material, on grounds of the primacy of the individual and privacy etc.

    Pornography, by its nature, must become ever more extreme and bizarre, to prevent its users becoming bored with it.  What is presented as human sexuality is a perverted freak show.  I believe that its likely that certain politicians and activists regarding this as a very useful thing, against the context of their efforts to distort and confuse what we recognise as fundamental human sexuality.

  • MsAneem

    For goodness sake, I am not arguing in favour of pornography but against the silly hysterical fuss made about it.  
    This fuss is regrettable enough when made by simple folk who join in some cry or crusade to ban it.  But it is quite deplorable when carpetbaggers (whether politicians or moralists in the Church or outside it) join in for their own advantage.  
    This is nothing more than deception.
    You are being manipulated and fooled by these people.

  • Martin Luther

    yes your right and I agree with your sweet words………….

    http://www.kgbstudioslive.com/webcam/anal-sex/

     

  • spudbynight

    A just society bans many things which are deemed harmful.

    We ban theft, murder, rape for a start. 

  • rigmarole

    Good answer!

  • rigmarole

    Nooooooooooo, OldMeena. It is not hear-say, as you call it.

    Marriages have broken up because of pornography addiction. The pornography of Victorian England cannot be compared to the filth that is easily accessible these days! 

    Yes, it is an addiction!

    It doesn’t take a moralist to work that one out.