Fri 24th Oct 2014 | Last updated: Fri 24th Oct 2014 at 18:39pm

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo
Hot Topics

Comment & Blogs

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.

  • CullenD

    I’m very surprised that you haven’t made any comparison between the prohibition of porn and the prohibition of drugs. I consider your views on drug prohibition to be well reasoned and very laudable.
    But the comparison is obvious…

    “People who live in a highly INTOXICATED culture are not truly free, given the addictive nature of DRUGS. Even if they were free, DRUGS are not a rational object of choice.

    I apologise if you were simply trying to avoid the negative comments which you normally receive when you address the issue of narcotics.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    I was waiting for someone to bring that up, and the way I resolve the seeming contradiction in my position is as follows. It is possible to ban porn, or at least electonically delivered porn, or so the Icelanders think; it is simply not possible to ban drugs, and making them illegal is counterproductive. But, if we can disable internet porn, then I think we have a duty to try to do so.

  • Cestius

    Yes I think there is an inconsistency here between Fr Lucie Smith’s postings on pornography and drugs. I think it can be summed up as pornography is bad, so ban it, and drugs are bad, so legalize them (or at least don’t enforce the ban on them). I’m struggling to why different responses are appropriate.

  • CullenD

    Fair enough but it begs the question are the Icelanders correct? Look at the world wide co-operation, resources and technology that has been spent trying to eliminate internet child pornography. It simply hasn’t worked. The same could be said of illegal movie or music downloads.

    If anything, it’s more difficult to ban internet pornography in Iceland, than it is to ban DVDs or magazines. Simple proxy servers can be used view or download illegal content and there is no physical evidence. Whereas wide-ranging, but simple customs checks could stop DVDs etc.

    Of course what’s to stop Icelanders creating and distributing their own porn? One of my neighbours was recently “outed” for doing so and I live in a small Irish village.

  • CullenD

    Well there’s that too:)

    Perhaps it’s that drugs are bad, but porn leads to sex or masturbation, so it much badder!

  • OldMeena

    I was waiting for that too. I think you (seem to) have laid the ground for it.

    You are quite right to point out that drugs cannot be banned. But you are wrong to think that electronically-delivered pornography can be banned. Pornography can be delivered by satellite through TV and also by an internet connection made through a satellite link – the latter is quite commonly used in Iceland outside the town – and even in “France Profound” and country areas of other European countries.
    Politicians commonly talk in favour of superficially popular, but ill thought-out, ideas for their own narrow purposes.
    But above all, censorship of a vital modern means of communication is an abomination (although the Church itself has employed censorship).

    The only protection in a free society against undesirable porn is a healthy attitude to matters sexual. There is nothing to be gained from the Church laying-down heavy-handed condemnation of this and that. If there is a God, I’m sure that He has not the slightest interest in this matter.

  • Patrickhowes

    Here,here.here.Double standard at play!I wonder why???We condemn the pervert priests who have been found with child pronography but we would allow them to smoke the whackey backey.Pornography turns sexual love into lust,Drugs turns logic and reality into a  sense of escap.But isn´t that what pornography has done to our young.Rather than equating sexual expression to moral and faithful lifelong partner,it is now cool to be totally licentious and it has turned men and women into sexual machines.

  • Patrickhowes

    You are missing the point in your argument.What is the driving force behind both vices?.MONEY.Huge amounts of it.There are hole areas of California where pornographic companies have turned sleaze into multinational conglomerations.Have the drug barons done anything different.No!They have constrcuted their own international network of dealers and supply links.There is only one way to eradicate both of these and that is to evangelise.

  • aearon43

    Banning porn doesn’t create organized crime.

  • aearon43

    I think everyone knows that porn can’t be eliminated completely. If you want it, you will be able to find it (just like with drugs).

    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. This is a dangerous situation.

    It could be that a compromise could be worked out, for example, a law that states you need to provide evidence of your age (18+) to your internet service provider and “opt in” to having porn delivered. That would at least be a step in the right direction.

    One of the ironic things I remember from high school is that it was actually easier to get ahold of marijuana than alcohol. This was because it was totally banned, therefore was only available in the black market, which was fairly large. Alcohol was regulated so there was no black market, and you needed to find someone over 21 to buy it for you (I live in the US)…

  • aearon43

    The prohibition of drugs creates vast international networks of organized crime, the damage of which exceeds the damage of the drugs themselves.

    The prohibition of porn would create some “work-arounds” as well, but these would most likely be limited to the technical realm, and would not encourage the formation of criminal cartels.

  • OldMeena

    “Iceland’s internet ‘porn shield’ is misguided and unworkable.

    Interior minister Ögmundur Jónasson’s proposal to block online porn is censorship and stands no chance of becoming law.”

     Birgitta Jónsdóttir:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/15/iceland-anti-porn-shield-misguided

  • JabbaPapa

    Luckily, the Guardian has no veto powers on the Sovereign decisions of various Nation States.

  • Sweetjae

    It’s NOT censorship but common decency. Porn is NOT freedom of speech as the degenerate liberal media would like you to believe but rather porn is a corruption of freedom.

  • OldMeena

    The article was written by Birgitta Jónsdóttir, an Icelander, and an MP in the Icelandic parliament.

    She must know something of Icelandic politics and is very sure that this proposal hasn’t the remotest chance of becoming law.

  • Acleron

    ‘Porn should be banned to protect women and minors’

    You might try to explain exactly what they need to be protected from.

    The Victorian attitude that natural sex acts need to be hidden away as if they were somehow ‘dirty’ was hypocrisy. Pornography was ever present but restricted to the wealthy and supposed higher classes and disguised as fine art. The small number of Icelanders wanting to return to that state is unimportant.

    The plea by the religious to control what we can and cannot see is also quite insulting. You want to tell us that your 2000 year old rules overrides the choices we can make for ourselves. When you accept that we can decide without referring to outdated and outmoded points of view you might make more sense to modern society.

  • OldMeena

    “…but it begs the question are the Icelanders correct?”
    It is not the people of Iceland who take the view that censorship is the answer, but rather that of a very few politicians – including (very quietly) the PM – who are making a newsworthy remark, probably for their own political purposes.
    The suggestion, it seems, has less than a negligible chance of becoming law in Iceland. This is good because censorship cannot be a valid answer to any problem or matter.

    An Icelandic MP writes:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/15/iceland-anti-porn-shield-misguided

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    The Icelanders want to ban porn on purely secular grounds, you know…. and I too advance a secular argument in the opening paras. There is a religious argument too, but that is not one that can cut ice with non-beleivers. But surely a discussion about civil rights is something that we can all share, believers and non-believers alike?

  • JabbaPapa

    So —

    porn = “natural sex acts” ?????

    /facepalm/

  • Maccabeus

    Excellent article. The Icelandic route is surely the path we must all take in the future. Pornography is anti-social and anti dignity of man and woman. 

  • CullenD

    Very true, I pointed out that a five word reply, on another thread, was inane. It was moderated.

    When did inane become a naughty word?

  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal

    “There is only one way to eradicate both of these and that is to evangelise.” quote from: PatrickhowesSO TRUE!SO MANY RELIGIOUS  LEADERS INCLUDING OUR PRESENT POPE  are so habitually committed to speak so very loud and clear of so many “isms” : relativism, materialism, secularism, consumerism, atheism (communism?) and  of many more. These are projected as causes of all the ills and evils of the modern world AND NOT US.IF ONLY we could spend one fourth of THE TIME SPENT in these talks to examine our  own CONSCIENCE to find out whether we are all like the PHARISEES and the rest of them of whom the evangelist St.Luke(7:29-30) speaks of as sel-righteous people who have not entered the KINGDOM OF GOD…and yet claim to feel GOD on their fingure tips, nay claiming themselves (OURSELVES) to be GOD HIMSELF in person, so arrogant, so self-righteous, so sure of ourselves……………………..This very same un-Godly situation concerning them was exposed by Jesus himself when they questioned him about the source of his authority.WELL, are we even APOSTLES to EVANGELISE others? What fitness have we to claim the authority to evangelise, just because we call ourselves Christian or Catholic?ALL THE EVILS IN THIS WORLD will end when we repent and believe in the Good News and thus enter  into His Kingdom to BECOME TRUE APOSTLES. ONLY TRUE APOSTLES CAN , MEANING ONLY THEY ARE EMPOWERED FROM ABOVE TO EVANGELISE. IF THE WORLD OF TODAY IS FULL OF EVILS, IF IT IS PAGAN AND ANTI, WHO IS RESPONSIBLE, IF NOT WE?

  • OldMeena

    “a discussion about civil rights is something that we can all share”
    Not if it involves the Church’s (and this website’s) much-beloved censorship. This is not Communist China, North Korea or Europe in the dark days when the Church held power.

  • OldMeena

    “The Icelandic route is surely the path we must all take..”

    Has it not yet dawned on you that Iceland is NOT going to take this “route”?

  • OldMeena

    Let people decide for themselves whether that is so.  

    What gives people like yourself and Fr. A L-S the right to impose their view on others?
    What gives you people the right to censor what others can read or view?
    Why should anyone take any notice of what you believe they should or should not do? 

  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal

     

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

     

    SO TRUE!

    SO MANY
    RELIGIOUS  LEADERS INCLUDING OUR PRESENT POPE  are so habitually
    committed to speak so very loud and clear of so many “isms” :
    relativism, materialism, secularism, consumerism, atheism (communism?)
    and  of many more. These are projected as causes of all the ills and evils
    of the modern world AND NOT US of course.

    IF ONLY we could spend one fourth of
    THE TIME SPENT in these talks to examine our  own CONSCIENCES to find out
    whether we are all like the PHARISEES and the rest of them of whom the
    evangelist St.Luke(7:29-30) speaks of as sel-righteous people who have not
    entered the KINGDOM OF GOD…and yet claim to feel GOD on their fingure tips,
    nay claiming themselves (OURSELVES) to be GOD HIMSELF in person, so arrogant,
    so self-righteous, so sure of ourselves……………………..This very same
    un-Godly situation concerning them was exposed by Jesus himself when they
    questioned him about the source of his authority.

    WELL, are
    we even APOSTLES to EVANGELISE others?

    What fitness have we to claim the
    authority to evangelise, just because we call ourselves Christian or Catholic?

    ALL THE
    EVILS IN THIS WORLD will end when we repent and believe in the Good News and
    thus enter  into His Kingdom to BECOME TRUE APOSTLES.

    ONLY TRUE APOSTLES
    CAN , meaning only they are empowered from above to evangelise.

     IF THE WORLD OF TODAY IS FULL OF EVILS, IF IT
    IS PAGAN AND ANTI, WHO IS RESPONSIBLE, IF NOT WE?

     

  • athelstane

    “You might try to explain exactly what they need to be protected from.”

    Men so deformed by pornography that they are no longer fit husbands or fathers, sometimes violently so. Secondly, the brutal exploitation of young women that is par for the course in the pornography industry.

  • athelstane

    “You might try to explain exactly what they need to be protected from.”

    Men so deformed by pornography that they are no longer fit husbands or fathers, sometimes violently so. Secondly, the brutal exploitation of young women that is par for the course in the pornography industry.

  • athelstane

    To underline that point about violent crime, that’s the *secular*, not religious, reason that this move has some support in Iceland:

    “Ogmundur Jonasson, Iceland’s interior minister, is drafting legislation to stop the access of online pornographic images and videos by young people through computers, games consoles and smartphones.””We have to be able to discuss a ban on violent pornography, which we all agree has a very harmful effects on young people and can have a clear link to incidences of violent crime,” he said.”

  • athelstane

    Tell it to liberal lifestyle puritans like Michael Bloomberg, who are working hard to restrict access to, and use of, soda, fatty foods, and tobacco (among other things).  

    If that is not imposing a view on others, I don’t know what is. Yet the people outraged over restrictions like these, save possible for hardcore libertarians like those at Reason Magazine, never seem to work up indignation about *those* restrictions.  Which suggests to me that many of you are quite happy “imposing your views” on others – just so long as they are the *right* views. 

  • Sweetjae

    Because if it just brings negativity and harm to the Society and morality then it must be stopped. The same reasons why there are prohibition on Sibling marriage, no alcohol below 21, no sex even consenting between a man and a man below 18, same-sex marriage etc. Etc. Etc.

    So what does pornography brings on the table? Aside from having a tendency to rape and look at women as meat?

  • OldMeena

    “…you are quite happy “imposing your views” on others – just so long as they are the *right* views.”

    I’m totally happy about you doing all these things – so long as you don’t smoke near me. Bloomberg is exactly the same as this Icelandic politician – it’s known as increasing your visibility. Both Right Wing and Left Wing politicians in the UK have have increased their visibilities by playing the pornography card.

    But these moralistic views appear in articles on this website – even down to using sugar!

  • OldMeena

    “…you are quite happy “imposing your views” on others – just so long as they are the *right* views.”

    I’m totally happy about you doing all these things – so long as you don’t smoke near me. Bloomberg is exactly the same as this Icelandic politician – it’s known as increasing your visibility. Both Right Wing and Left Wing politicians in the UK have have increased their visibilities by playing the pornography card.

    But these moralistic views appear in articles on this website – even down to using sugar!

  • OldMeena

    “…you are quite happy “imposing your views” on others – just so long as they are the *right* views.”

    I’m totally happy about you doing all these things – so long as you don’t smoke near me. Bloomberg is exactly the same as this Icelandic politician – it’s known as increasing your visibility. Both Right Wing and Left Wing politicians in the UK have have increased their visibilities by playing the pornography card.

    But these moralistic views appear in articles on this website – even down to using sugar!

  • OldMeena

    The alcohol age limit is 18 in the UK although some stores impose their own on sales. The “age of consent” differs through time and is different in different countries.  Girls in the most respected families once married in their early teens.
    These are mostly conventions. 

    “Aside from having a tendency to rape and look at women as meat?”
    I don’t believe that.

  • OldMeena

    “this move has some support in Iceland”

    Very little – and it will never become law there.

  • OldMeena

    “Men so deformed by pornography……..etc”
    Nonsense. What gives you that impression – apart, that is, from hear-say from like-minded moralists.

  • OldMeena

    “The Icelanders want….”

    Do they really? A couple or so MPs have talked…… .
    They do in the UK as well (recently Cameron and Dianne Abbott) have talked…… .

    So will you write “The British want…..”?

    If you find a few MPs who say something that you approve of, do you always make the incredible leap and claim that the British people agree with your opinion?

  • scary goat

    ”  so long as you don’t smoke near me.”  What about advertising smoking to your children and having no legal restrictions preventing your children from obtaining cigarettes?  That is a closer comparison.

  • scary goat

    Porn is vile anyway.  I am surprised to see anyone (particularly women) defending it.  :-(

  • Linesman

    There is a problem here. 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 — as they did in many societies until the 20th century? What punishments would be appropriate for failing to do so? And which issues will they select to impose? Objections to abortion and euthanasia are easily justified: they involve murder and unnecessary death. In the same way, Catholics objected (yes they did) to Nazi death camps. But where does the line begin for the imposition of absolute values begin? Or should they not be working via legislation but by example and argument for a voluntary change in attitudes and standards in society?

    W

  • ThePharmacistofLanceArmstrong

    Iceland seems to be doing all the right things. They kicked out the usurers also. It’s a measure of how far we have sunk elsewhere that a secular country is leading the way using natural law/logic.

  • Sweetjae

    It’s just exercising your God given conscience to know between right and wrong. What does pornography brings on the table except other than stripping women of her dignity, tendency to rape, selfish self-gratification, look at women as meat???

    Give at least one good contribution of pornography has to Society, morality and common good of humanity? Or you have lost the sense of what is bad and what is good?

  • Sweetjae

    Your reply doesn’t in any way refute my position because there still exists ‘prohibition/discrimination’ on the said laws which you didn’t address.

    Your last sentence just amounts to denial. What else is there in pornography aside from women being stripped of her dignity? What? The sensation of self-jerking? Tell us the good contribution of pornography if you will.

  • James

     “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 — as they did in many
    societies until the 20th century?”

    Do you really think that Harriet Harman or David Cameron have any morals?  They are just mere opportunists.  I think you are getting really mixed up here and wading into flagrant anti-Catholicism without any thought to the real issue.  Read the article again to realise what nonsense you have just said.

  • James

    ” Or you have lost the sense of what is bad and what is good?”  of course they have, they are exchanging the truth for a lie and worshipping at the altar of “secular humanism” which leads only to despair, meaninglessness and moral ruin.

  • Sweetjae

    Your statement is contradiction Fr. Thomas with all due respect. All the “ism” that the Pope and the Church condemned as the cause of evils and ills came into being borne from the free acts of men.

    In other words, the Pope is just describing the deliberate acts and choices of men as the cause of evil and ills. (materialism, relativism, secularism, atheism etc).

  • Sweetjae

    The Pope is just describing the deliberate acts and choices people made from which all the “ism” you mentioned came from. The Pope is not letting us off the hook.

    So in other words, the Pope is blaming the sins and evil choices of men (like materialism, relativism, atheism etc) that caused all the ills of the world.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    I now live in Qatar, where such sites are blocked. And well done the government here for so doing. A little less “liberty” in the West would be a very, very good thing. I am in favour of Russia’s new law against homosexual propaganda too – this is clearly the way to go for any sane society. 

  • Jonathan West

    Matthew 7:1-5