More knee-jerk[off] reactions from the Safety Elephant

Not content with pitching the idea of a cyber-war on terrorism, Charles the Safety Elephant now turns his attention to violent pornography on the strength of ‘shock, horror’ one case in which a violent sex offender was allegedly ‘addicted’ to sexually violent internet porn.

The suggestion seems to be, as with alleged terrorist websites that the government would like some sort of Chinese-style controlled national gateway to the internet to prevent UK citizens being corrupted and depraved by pornography which is illegal in the UK, but otherwise perfectly legal in other countries, plus all the usual array of intrusive monitoring of whatever people might be getting up to in the privacy of their own homes – building, apparently, on the government’s experience of the fight against child pormography.

Unfortunately, whether or not some of this kind of porn is what floats your personal ‘boat’, the fact is that, unlike child porn, things are much less clear cut when it comes to some of things that the Safety Elephant appears to want banned.

Child pornography is, more or less, a clear cut thing – either the unfortunate participant is under the age of 16 – in which case its illegal, or they’re not and they just look under age in which case you might find it all a bit distasteful, but its certain not, of itself, illegal under UK law.

When you get down to the question of what Clarke now appears to want to ban; necrophilia, rape, strangulation, torture seem to be the list being touted around the press, things start to get altogether less clear.

In the case of necrophila and rape, the question has to be how can we be sure that what’s being accessed is actually real and not a simulation – is the corpse really a corpse, or just someone made up to look like a corpse – you might be able to spot the telltale signs of breathing if your delaing with video footage but if its a still image then there’s little or no way to be sure one way or another.

What do we do here, do we ban outright the depiction of necrophilia – an outright act of censorship which could easily inhibit legitimate artistic expression – yeah, seriously, like anything else with the parameters of human experience one cam explore our ideas and conceptions of necrophilia within the context of art without engaging in the act itself.

Perhaps we take a best guess and prosecute on the basis that a particular website claims that its image are real and, therefore, that the offender must reasonably have believed they were looking at real pictures of necrophilia – but how do we know that that is, in fact, what they really believed at the time of viewing – is it not simply case that claim the images are real is nothing more than reinforcing the fantasy, part of the process of promoting the suspension of disbelief in the viewer.

What happen if we prosecute, only for the ‘corpse’ to turn up a few months later, live and shagging on another website? If, in such a case, it transpires that its was a fake to begin with and no illegal act has been committed in generating the images which put someone in jail, have we not then committed a miscarriage of justice – after all all they’ve actually viewed is standard porn with added make-up not actual necrophilia.

The same arguments apply when it comes to depictions of rape and are even more marked in relation to torture and stangulation – can we be sure, beyond reasonable doubt, that what is being accessed is the real thing or a fantasy being acted out be consenting adults?

What we’re talking about here are things which as fantasies and when acted out between consenting adults are well within the ‘normal’ parameters of human sexual behaviour, things which become problematic only when the occur in the absence of consent. They may not be to your own, or my own, personal tastes but so longs as they remain in a realm of personal fantasy or are acted out between consenting adults then no real harm is done and what people get up to in their own bedrooms is none of either ours or the government’s business.

While I’m certainly not suggesting that its wrong to take action against websites which contain images of real necrophilia or rape and of torture and strangulation which is carried out without consent – most BDSM is fully consensual and very carefully controlled, as I understand it – I’m really not sure that anything other than very minimal changes to UK law are necessary and any such changes need to be confined to dealing with access to and posession of images which are real, and not simulated or faked. In that sense, the situation is very different from that which exists in law in relation to child pornography, which does cover ‘pseudo-photographs’ which I presume to images which have be deliberately manipulated in order to create the appearance that the subject is under age. This is really an international issue, one of tracking the perpetrators in their own country and cutting off the supply of such images at source.

What I am clear about is that the one thing that isn’t justified is this idea of ‘blocking access’ to offending websites which, as with the idea of blocking access to information about terrorism, sets a very dangerous precedent and a licence for further unwarrented snooping into the private lives of citizens.

This is more ill-thought out knee-jerk crap from the Home Office. Horrific as the murder of Jane Longhurst undoubtedly was, her murderer’s tastes in pornography were not the cause of this murder, merely a reflection of his character which led him to act as he did – his tastes in pornography are merely a side-issue and have little real bearing on the case, itself.

Far from jumping on a yet another victim-led bandwagon, the government should think this through properly and use this an opportunity for reform of a truly abysmal piece of legislation, the Obscene Publications Act.

As we’re in the area of sex and sexuality its worth noting the constrast between this particular Act of Parliment, from the late 1950’s and the more recent Sexual Offences Act 2003.

The former, which regulates pornography in the UK, defines obscenity in purely vague and subjective terms – something is obscene if it considered to the likely to ‘deprave and corrupt’ the reader/viewer. It is a badly written and prudish – in the manne of its drafting – piece of legislation.

By complete contrast the Sexual Offences Act is an extremely well-drafted piece of legislation, one that is clear, concise and precise in its terminolgy -read this act and you can be in no doubt at all what each offence it covers is and what the burden of evidence is in each case.

If we are to look at trying outlaw violent pornography then it needs to be done properly on the basis of the complete replacement of the Obscene Publications Act with an new act which deals with pornography with the same degree of precision and rigor as the Sexual Offences Act deals with sex offences, its should be drafted in the very same clear, precise and matter of fact way.

Sadly, I doubt that’s what we’ll get.

  • Puzzled of Tunbridge Wells

    So Charlie boy wants to ban Mr & Mrs Amateur Perv at No.18 from posting pics of their whips-and-chains antics? At least there’s some consistency here with the White House who are banning further release of Abu Ghraib torture images.

    The difference, of course, is that Mr & Mrs AP are neither embarrassed or guilty of abuse.

    Raise the Double Standard and salute.

  • Bob Lloyd

    I think you might be flogging a dead horse with this one Dave.

  • Spike

    The Backlash was created by various groups and individuals in an attempt to collate evidence for an informed debate on censorship of pornography, which the Government’s tendentious and one sided consultation paper spectacularly failed to provide.
    http://www.backlash-uk.org.uk/index.html
    http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Ban_High_Heels/

  • John

    Excellent.

    This abysmal piece of proposed legislation seeks to ban WORKS OF PURE FICTION based on some strange belief that because some people don’t find them nice, anyone who views them must be thrown in jail – and it doesn’t even define with precision what those “unacceptable” works of fiction are.

    If this becomes law, there will be good people who will fall foul of it. Good people who do no harm to anyone, who pose no danger to anyone, and who just want to do their own thing in the privacy of their own bedrooms. This is an outrageous injustice.

    Most people can watch Arnold Swartzenegger in “The Terminator” without grabing a gun and rampaging down the local high street killing people while yelling “Asta la Vista, Baby!”.

    To be a killer you need to be emotionally and mentally inclined to kill – and if you’re NOT, then no amount of violent, action movies will make you.

    Similarly a rapist is a rapist because THAT’S WHAT HE IS INCLINED TO BE. Sure, a rapist might ALSO be inclined to view violent porn, but he is not made into a rapist BY it!

    I suspect it’s likely there is a statistical connection between men who wear three-piece suits with gold pocket watches and men who are obese. This does NOT mean that three-piece suits and gold watches make you fat.

    This proposed legislation is BAD LAW. The Home Office cannot actually justify it in any meaningful way – so instead they say it is justified because “most people would find these images abhorent”.

    Fifty years ago most people found homosexuality abhorent. To be honest I suspect a substantial minority of the population probably still do – but abhorance of the public has never been a valid justification for prejudice and injustice.

    It will be a sad day if this law is passed.