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Politicians are waking up to the fact that pornography cheapens women

None of the arguments against censoring pornography stand up

By on Friday, 28 June 2013

Ed Miliband is the latest politician to speak up against porn (Joe Giddens/PA Wire/Press Association Images)

Ed Miliband is the latest politician to speak up against porn (Joe Giddens/PA Wire/Press Association Images)

It takes a bit of time, but eventually politicians do catch up with reality – one only hopes that they do so in time. Ed Miliband has made a speech in which he says some very sensible things about, among other things, pornography. I quote:

“There is a culture of increasingly sexualised images among young people: a culture that says that girls will only get on in life if they live up to the crudest of stereotypes; a culture where pornographic images, some violent, are available at a click on a smartphone or a laptop.”

This is exactly the sort of thing that the good priest who taught me religious education when I was 13 used to say (apart from the reference to computers, of course), namely that pornography and sexualised images cheapen women. And now, over three decades on, we hear it not just from Ed Miliband, but also from Diane Abbott  and David Cameron too. It seems that there is a building consensus that pornography is harmful. This consensus must have been boosted recently by the cases of Mark Bridger and Stuart Hazell. 

So, what can be done? Because not only do most, if not all, of our legislators realise that pornography is harmful, they also seem unable to act in face of the danger. They should act, and restrictive legislation should be introduced. What are the counter-arguments?

Firstly, any ban would be “censorship”. Yes, it would be. But we have numerous restrictions on expression as it is. Racist material is illegal in this country. Why shouldn’t porn be?

Secondly, such legislation would not work, as it is possible to circumvent any bans thanks to technological sleight of hand. This may be true. You are never going to stop theft, either; but that does not mean it should be legal.

Thirdly, where do you draw the line? True, this is a difficulty, and lines drawn are often arbitrary, but some such line can be drawn – that’s what lawyers specialise in.

Fourthly – and this is the only real argument against legislation: if people want to look at porn, they have a perfect right to do so, and neither state nor anyone else has the right to interfere.

The counter-argument is that no one has a right to do what is evil, and that the personal will cannot transform something that is intrinsically wrong into something right. Just because I want it does not make it right; the thing has to be good in itself or morally neutral to be right. Porn is of itself evil. That assertion should of course be verified, and can be verified by examining the nature of porn itself, something that exposes what should remain private (i.e. consenting sexual acts between adults) or deals with wat is already illegal (acts involving those who do not or cannot consent.)

On top of this comes the argument about the effects of porn, which our politicians have made. It coarsens society. People need to be protected from it, especially the vulnerable, and the young. The freedom to enjoy porn is not a freedom worth having. In fact it is not freedom at all. Porn leads to slavery.

Those who argue for a free market in porn are morally irresponsible. The state needs to enforce the laws we already have more effectively, and do its best to protect all of us, children especially, from this menace.

  • Toshi quaraba

    Freedom to enjoy porn? Let us be honest if we are adult and married. There is a great difference between the joy of sex within a married couple and the “virtual” of porn which leads to dissatisfaction with one’s spouse. Pornography depicts women as objects and what I cannot understand is the lack of protest from the “feminist” wing. Pornography distorts sexual relationship and cheapens a natural act. In my profession I have seen to many couples divorcing because of the consequences of porn: adultery, use of prostitutes, questionable sexual practices and the list is too horrible to mention in this blog. I have seen the distraught men and women, victims of the spouse addiction to pornography: it is not a pleasant experience to see their pain. Pornography should be ousted, or at least if you want it on the web, pay for it: don’t slam it to my face even in the most innocent web searches and pollute my PC and my web history. I pray daily that God will preserve the youth of this country from the detrimental consequences of pornography.

  • John_Seven

    What about making Rupert Murdoch a Papal Knight? Do any of his publications sexualise women as objects? Or does it not count if someone is right-wing and wealthy?

  • Kevin

    What’s your point? That pornography should be legal or that it should be illegal and, in addition, Murdoch should be stripped of his Papal knighthood because of Page Three etc.?

  • Chris McLaughlin

    “The counter-argument is that no one has a right to do what is evil, and
    that the personal will cannot transform something that is intrinsically
    wrong into something right. Just because I want it does not make it
    right; the thing has to be good in itself or morally neutral to be
    right. Porn is of itself evil.”

    Fair enough Father, I don’t disagree with that. But then, why shouldn’t adultery be a crime also?

  • John_Seven

    No, my point is not that pornography should be legal but that it seems that there are double standards sometimes. I am not sure whether someone can be stripped of a Papal Knighthood but I do think he should never have been made a Papal Knight – I think it is gross hypocrisy and an embarrassment to the church to give him an honour which is awarded to someone of “unblemished” character, when it is no secret that he receives an income from what many consider to be peddling filth and scandal, soft porn, and nudity (as well as being divorced several times!).

  • chiaramonti

    Adultery is “unlawful” in English Law – but not illegal!

  • LocutusOP

    I’m wary of any action by politicians who cannot make cannot see that marriage is a social good that ought to be protected instead of attacked.

    I don’t live in the U.K. but then again one doesn’t have to in order to notice that these are politicians who are making rather cheap political points.

    If we accept the notion that consenting adults can do pretty much anything sexually – which is a notion politicians have imposed upon us – I can’t see how one could even begin attacking pornography. After all, it wouldn’t take long before one was able to argue that masturbation is a sexual orientation of sorts, and that pornography must therefore be legalised in order not to unjustly discriminate against their sexual preference.

    In any case, I would just argue that in a state which does not respect any notion of privacy or liberty, we ought not to be arguing to give the government more weapons which can be used against the populace.

    I do agree with you that pornography – well as all the sexual sins, and others – actually enslave us rather than set us free, but then again , that is why these things are legal….It is also exactly why the use of drugs will soon be legal as well. A population high and overstimulated is bound to be more docile than one which values self-control.

  • $24570317

    There are many popular views about pornography that politicians are keen to latch onto to gain votes. These popular views generally do not bear scrutiny. Among these is the totally false belief that our young people are being widely corrupted by (mainly electronically delivered) pornography. Research shows that these views are dis-proportionally held by some middle and lower-class women. It’s a vote-winning strategy – nothing else.

    Meanwhile there ARE some truly serious issues that concern the welfare of many, including the young people, in our society. These matters concern poverty and deprivation in matters such as health, housing, wages, jobs and education & training. Many people simply do not wish to know, or think, about them.

    A consensus seems to be developing between the three mainstream political parties that these issues should not be spoken about too much and that too much action should not be taken to alleviate them (after all, action costs money). Fighting poverty, deprivation etc is not popular, and is not a vote-winner in our society. Fighting the imaginary chimera or windmill of all-pervasive pornography destroying our young is cheap, easy, popular and a vote-winner.

    I am not arguing in favour of pornography – simply for the truly serious issues to be addressed. Moralists are concentrating on the bath-water, and ignoring the baby – they are being tricked by the politicians, and serving the latter’s shameful purposes.

  • $24570317

    Page 3 IS an insult against women.

  • $24570317

    “Pornography depicts women as objects and what I cannot understand is the lack of protest from the “feminist” wing.”

    Agreed. Page 3 in the gutter press does so. The Guides are trying to campaign about this at present, or when they all break-up from school/college.

  • Bridget

    You must live with your head deeply buried in the sand if you think that it is only deluded middle/lower class women who think our youth is being corrupted by online porn. Even here in the rural SW of Ireland it is widespread and in some schools mobile phones are being confiscated due to the incredible filth on them. Also your use of middle/lower class women is I think grossly insulting, you sound like you think they are not in the loop for knowing what is going on, as mothers and teachers they know a great deal more than you seem to give them credit for.

  • LittleVoice

    Pornography is a truly serious issue as any sin is truly serious but the impact of inappropriate sexual behaviour has a significant impact on the human will and this can lead to obvious difficulties. The corruption of the young is serious, the long term consequences of making commodities of human beings is serious, this way of thinking leads to poverty, deprivation but very few people are willing to admit that. These sorts of issues are trivialized only because the body wants what it wants.

  • $24570317

    “…if you think that it is only deluded middle/lower class women who think ..etc”

    I didn’t say that. I was writing about the (opinion polling) information that our political parties have. It indicates that middle and lower-class women (in England) dis-proportionally hold the popular view (that does not bear scrutiny). All the vote-seeking politicians understandably wish to associate themselves with this view. Upper-middle-class and other women do not dis-proportionally share this view.

  • $24570317

    Reading your comment makes me wonder how you actually come to know so many things. It is simply a list of things which it seems you claim to somehow “know”.
    The question is not whether corruption of the young etc is a bad thing – of course it’s a bad thing – the question concerns whether it is true or not that there is an unprecedented plague of pornography being directed at them, mainly via the internet, which is corrupting them. We say it is not true and that this is a fairly modern (urban and non-urban) myth.

  • $24570317

    My wife tells me that the Guides’ campaign is probably over.
    I saw it reported in the press a few weeks ago, but it has had little coverage of late. There was a photo of a Guide on a beach wearing a T-shirt bearing the message about page 3, and, I think, distributing stickers and leaflets or something similar.

  • Banmeagain

    “I don’t live in the U.K.”

    So where do you live pray tell?

  • $24570317

    I wonder what good purpose you imagine is served by your last sentence (& one or two bits of the rest).

    Well my wife and I have spent most of our lives with young people, in university and schools – and she still teaches part-time in school. We have a large wider family and our (quite big) house is often bursting with young relatives, including the inquisitive crawling baby or two, and their friends. (I have one brother-in-law with a son and SIX daughters – as you might guess the boy is the youngest; they were trying for a boy, but kept on having girls! – although, of course, the girls are all precious, deeply-wanted people).

    So please leave the age thing out, old buddy.

    [As mentioned elsewhere, I shall not be responding to any possible future posts of yours - whether directed to me or to others.]

  • $24570317

    removed by author

  • ostrava

    An insult delivered by, among others, the women who appear on it.

    The price of a free press is a lot of nasty but non-criminal rubbish.

  • $24570317

    Of course this is true.
    But page 3 remains an insult. It’s like some pornography: it’s much easier (in a free society) for the young girl to earn good money working in it than it is in stacking shelves in the supermarket.
    And some of the poor dears on page 3 see no other way of earning good money or of improving their lot in society.
    This is why deprivation in education and training needs to be fought.

  • $24570317

    There is a prime example of this (the above) in Jenny McCartney’s article in today’s Sunday Telegraph. (Linked to the origins of Fr L-S’s article)

  • Bridget

    Sorry but you are proving yet again how out of touch you are. Lots of page 3 women are educated, many hold degrees. Models such as Katie Price are far from stupid or illiterate. It is not a lack of education that is the issue, but a lack of morals.

  • $24570317

    Don’t be sorry Bridget. I am aware of such people. Not long ago in the UK there were newspaper reports of female PhD students acting as pole dancers and even prostitutes in order to finance their studies and residence costs.
    Both my wife and I have experience of young women undergraduates and post-graduate students posing nude for photographers and engaging in pornographic filming.
    Most of them were/are very pleasant people (I must say all, really – as I can’t recall a disagreeable one). These individuals are able to take care of themselves – as is Katie Price, no doubt.

    But the majority of young women taking part in these activities, and ALL of those who are really at great risk, are ill-educated, without good conventional jobs (for which there is no training) and abandoned by the selfish state.

  • Guest

    I wonder how old he is.

  • LocutusOP

    I live in that bastion of liberty called Sweden.

    That’s obviously a joke….However, it’s sad to see that the U.K. which has done so much in the promotion of liberty has become every bit as bad as Sweden in most issues and worse in many – with no improvement in sight.

  • scary goat

    Hahaha I had to ask the same question a few threads back.

  • scary goat

    Myth???? I am guessing you live on a different planet from the rest of us…although we already knew that.

  • $24570317

    Well if you “know” it, you hardly need to guess.

    This of course is the crucial point: how do you people “know” so much about the catastrophic flood of pornography poisoning our young?

    It’s on the telly of course, and in the newspapers and our good, honest, clean-cut politicians as good as say that if you elect them they will do this, that and the other to prevent it.

  • Urusigh

    Pointless diversion tactics.

    1. Outlawing porn will accomplish absolutely nothing. It will still be easily available online (digital piracy is illegal too, but that hasn’t kept rips of movies and TV shows from showing up online). You can make better arguments for outlawing alcohol (porn may wreck relationships, but it doesn’t kill thousands every year), but Prohibition proved quite firmly that driving an industry underground doesn’t do much to reduce either the customer base or continued use, it just wastes law enforcement time and effort. It would also actually worsen conditions for the female performers, denying them employee protections and legal recourse. There will always be women willing or desperate enough to do porn. Making their work illegal would only give the producers more leverage to trap them in the industry.

    2. It’s unenforceable. There’s an old joke “What’s the difference between porn and high art? A government grant.” Much of the most famous artwork in the world depicts women in various states of undress. Everything from the Greek sculpture to Roman paintings to life drawing classes and old National Geographic issues show unclad/partially clad women. The only definition I’ve heard of “Porn” that works is “you know it when you see it”. That’s not a basis that can be written into legislation. No handwaves here, “it provokes male interest” is no basis for a crime sentence. Never make a law that you can’t enforce, it undercuts the legitimacy and authority of all your laws.

    3. Enough with the double standard. To ban “porn”, you’d also have to ban “romance” novels. Anyone here read 50 Shades of Grey? The actions described in much of the “romance” genre would be considered hardcore porn if filmed and outright rape if done in real life. Frankly, as far as moral content goes, “rape fantasy” seems to be far more common and popular in these books written for and supported by a primarily female audience than it is in most porn. The take-away seems to be that women WANT to be “ravaged” despite their protests while men prefer a partner who not only consents but participates with enthusiasm. You’re going to have a hard sell if you want to tell me that the image of sexually enthusiastic and even aggressive women is somehow more demeaning than the “romantic” novels of women enjoying technical rape so that they can have their wild passion and still deny any responsibility. The format may be different (text vs picture), but the content is no different.

    BTW: To whoever it was that wondered why feminists aren’t an active voice against porn: did you know that Playboy was considered a significant stride forward for women when it first came out? Portraying women’s bodies as something beautiful for her to be proud of and for others to appreciate was considered an empowering advance from the attitude of shame that prevailed at that time. Trying to tell women that their sexuality doesn’t belong to them to use and display as they please, but rather belongs only to whichever man she’s with? Yeah, that sounds like it will go over great with feminists. /sarcasm

  • Sandy

    Pornography cheapens everyone, not just women.

  • J.James

    Paypal just started taking payments for pornographic websites, reversing their longtime stance on pornography. You should let them know how you feel about the subject.