Porn-blocking is a terrible idea. Full stop.

Anarchism suggests that the forces of the state, capitalism and religion interact with each other to restrict liberty. Sometimes anarchist propaganda writes itself, when the state, capitalism and religion get all nice and chummy with each other and join forces to restrict liberty.

In this case, four major ISPs have decided to start up an “opt-in” system for viewing “adult material” as part of a “think of the children” initiative from the government and a Christian lobby group. They have also set up a website to make it easier for people to complain about things that are unsuitable for children, although the site does not facilitate complaining about a government which is thoroughly unsuitable for children and will put almost half a million children into relative poverty during their existence.

The “porn-blocking” system will be based on the principles of adult content locks on mobile internet, which is hugely problematic. SonniesEdge has written a fantastic post about what is wrong with this system. For gay teens, internet pornography can save them from unwanted outing and risk of violence. For young people everywhere, blocking “adult material” means blocking advice about sexuality, sexual health, abortion and, very importantly, information for trans teens that they are not alone. To block this content is dangerous. Such systems do block this important content: my phone wouldn’t even let me open the post in which SonniesEdge talked about these problems!

There are issues with feasibility for porn-blocking: the internet is a big place, and there’s a lot of content. Two options are available: the “baby with the bathwater” option, where an overzealous internet filter also merrily blocks out innocuous websites about birds with slightly rude names or common names, so most people opt-in for adult material because it’s really annoying not to. The other option is a lighter filter which is rendered thoroughly useless by the fact that most porn gets through anyway. At any rate, either is useless. You can find anything on the internet if you work hard enough.

There will be ramifications from such policy, and for a system so geared towards “family values”, problems will arise within the establishment-sponsored nuclear family. What of relationships where one partner wishes to opt-in to see porn, while the other does not want hir partner watching porn? Furtive porn-wanks are rather harder when the internet bill differentiates between whether you get the porn or not.

I don’t believe porn is inherently misogynistic or racist or homophobic or transphobic. The thing is, most of it is. You have to work hard to find porn that isn’t somehow oppressive. By my own value system, I would rather not have my theoretical kids stumbling on material of that nature, lest they internalise somewhat that set of beliefs–and statistically, given the abundance of oppressive porn, that’s the stuff they’d be bumping into. I still think the porn block is an utterly rotten idea.

The problem is not that the big evil internets are corrupting our children. The problem is that we live in a world that allows oppressive porn to be the default, the dominant, the mainstream. The problem is patriarchy, the problem is kyriarchy, the problem is prejudice, both benevolent and hostile. The problem is that capitalism sees these things as a wonderful way to make money and reinforces these horrible beliefs, making itself richer while conditioning consumers to buy further into these values.

Capitalism is cleverly playing both teams in this little porn-blocking escapade. Its Ronald MacDonald head smiles benevolently and vows to protect the kids. Its Hugh Hefner head leers and asks a young woman if she would please bleach her anus so she can look just like all the other porn stars. Both become stronger: if they block the internet, young people will have a far harder time accessing information about why the mainstream porny view of sex and sexuality is so incredibly off, and what sex and sexuality can be. And that’s far more dangerous than accidentally stumbling on a close-up of improbably double penetration.

The solution is not to block the internet. The solution is to block the means for oppressive, artificial power structures to thrive.

About these ads

5 responses to “Porn-blocking is a terrible idea. Full stop.

  • Richard

    “For young people everywhere, blocking “adult material” means blocking advice about sexuality, sexual health, abortion and, very importantly, information for trans teens that they are not alone.”

    Very true. There have been many reports of filtering systems at schools and workplaces blocking sites that are not pornographic. I imagine this system could suffer from the same flaw.

    I think it would be good if pornography and its contribution to the objectification of women was discussed in citizenship lessons and in the mainstream media more.

    The best way to beat back the twisted messages arising from porn is to promote and discuss the alternate and more realistic narratives, not to censor it.

  • Nodder

    The censors also forget that there are adults in the world as well as children. Their idea of protecting one infantilises the other. I think mainstream porn is dire and nobody should bother with it – just as I think nobody should eat McDonald’s or lie on a tanning bed – but it would be better if these organisations used their considerable finances not to shut things down, but move them forward. Why not have a macrobiotic, fair-trade, free-range porn filter instead? Surely no harm can come from that :P

  • Richard B (@Slacker_richb)

    Aside from the arguments given in the post-there is also a privacy/anonymity issue here. Having an opt in system erodes the concept of internet anonymity even further.

    Would you trust your ISP to hold and store this information securely?

    ISP’s are already cosy with government and its hard to imagine that this information wont be shared.

    There is also the potential for the release of any information to be damaging to a persons career or reputation-as seen in the case of Jackie Smith. If the tabloid press got hold of such a list (Which it inevitably would) it would have a field day with it.

  • sciamachy

    Totally agree with you there – also, not just gay teens but pretty much anyone with any kind of non-mainstream sexuality. As Rule 34 states, if you can think of it there’s porn of it, so by that logic there has to be some good porn in among all the crap – but then a lot of different people like all different kinds of stuff. Even if we said “Let’s just block *this* sort of porn, someone’s going to end up feeling like they’re victimised, and far more devious types will always find a way round it. The more you forbid things, the more they gain an allure they didn’t previously have because now they’re so deliciously naughty.

  • Little Ershin

    Not a fan of porn, but blocking it seems strange, like some kind of substitute for actually supervising your kids. Or discussing with your partner whether or not you’re comfortable. You know, stuff adults do.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 15,327 other followers

%d bloggers like this: