delve a little deeper....
"Sexual intercourse was to be looked on as a slightly disgusting minor operation, like having an enema."
"What was more important was that sexual privation induced hysteria, which was desirable because it could be transformed into war fever and leader worship."
George Orwell, 1984
“A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.”
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale
Despite the distraction of the royal sprog arriving at Kate's heirport most people couldn't have failed to have noticed the headlines about David Cameron's porn speech. The speech starts:
"I want to talk about the internet, the impact it’s having on the innocence of our children, how online pornography is corroding childhood and how, in the darkest corners of the internet, there are things going on that are a direct danger to our children and that must be stamped out."
Hmmm, I have two immediate thoughts about this.
1. Tory policy and cuts that plunge people and their children into poverty are more of a direct danger to society and childhood than porn.
2. People should parent their own children. This includes supervising them and educating them about sex.
Cameron goes onto explain that he is highlighting two areas
1. Illegal material
2. Legal material that is being viewed by those who are underage.
He is basically throwing all the responsibility at the UK internet service providers (ISPs) will be putting pornography filters on domestic internet connections. If anyone wishes to access pornographic sites then they have to opt-in with their ISP. So, as a household you will be asked if you want to opt-in to the system. Tricky if you're living with someone who doesn't know about your sneaky knocking one out over a redtube video after s/he has gone to bed. It also means sites like this one and all escort websites, directories and forums such as Punternet will be blocked.
Most ISP currently have filters which you can use to limit content to individual users or devices. For example, you can block adult content on your child's computer or have your own log in on the family PC which allows you to see adult sites. However, with this scheme you will have to contact your ISP to opt in which may well trigger a letter or email confirming this and the person you don't want to know you're doing this may find out!
This isn't the biggest issue by far. The BBC reported that some people discovered that the "family friendly" filters now required on public wi-fi hotspots stopped them reading news articles about government plans to impose pornography filters!
The irony may be amusing but the wider implication of what filters might block is a little ridiculous. 'Adult content' or 'porn' are vague descriptions. When does a photograph become pornographic? Would websites with Michelangelo's David pictured be filtered out on the basis David is stood proud with his lad out? Would Marks and Spencer's lingerie website become pornographic? Is this different visually to an tasteful escort in her scanties?
Of course, the context is blindingly obvious, but we're dealing with computers here. There won't be a group of people sitting about looking at every website and making a decision about it's content. This blog explains beautifully in easy to understand language of why the proposals won't work from a techie standpoint.
The filters that most current ISPs and search engines use are mainly down to certain words. So if switched on you can't get results that contain certain words.
I have done an experiment and turned on my Google SafeSearch.
If I google Minxy Lydia this website comes up top, with the safeSearch on the first hit is my twitter account. Firstly, that's annoying because I want people who have heard of me to find my website and secondly, kind of pointless, because my twitter account has my website address on it!
If I try Escorts in Hounslow then I get told that my search didn't match any documents. uueful if you're stopping a kid from finding whores, but not much use if you're looking to buy a Ford Escort locally, or indeed find a local friendly hooker for your adult self.
If I google Blue Tits (let's say I am doing a project on British birds) Google tells me
"The word "tits" has been filtered from the search because Google SafeSearch is active" Instead of a useful ornithological website, I get hits regarding the boyband Blue!
Oddly, if I search Cunt I get:
The word "cunt" has been filtered from the search because Google SafeSearch is active.
Your search - cunt - did not match any documents.
However, if I try the word Cunts then I do get a list- mainly Jarvis Cocker's Cunts are Still Running The World! (Oh how apt!)
More seriously, would children be denied access to sexual education and health websites? Would a teenage girl who didn't want to tell her parent's her boyfriend had raped her not be able to find support because the word 'rape' couldn't be searched for.
Luckily, when I tried to search Rape it did include rape crisis centres, so maybe there is some sophistication in Google's systems. However, when I googled Porn Filters for this with the SafeSearch still on, I got a list of sites about filters and nothing about the current news!
There have been plenty of jokes about Scunthorpe, Arsenal and Oilseed Rape being filtered out which doesn't happen with Google, but who knows what might happen as results of these changes.
Cameron has admitted he doesn't have all the answers- He said in an interview on Radio 2 with Jeremy Vine; "I'm not saying we've thought of everything and there will be many problems down the line as we deal with this, but we're trying to crunch through these problems and work out what you can do and can't do and what companies need to do."
To be frank, he sounded a bit clueless about it all and much of the critisism has been about how this grand plan will actually work and whether tech savvy kids would be able to circumnavigate any filters and blocks in place. There are already loads of sites that tell you how to get around filters.
I have a huge problem with the whole nanny stateness about it all. Of course I don't think children should see explicit pornography, but that is down to the parent's to manage that themselves and deal with sex issues so boys don't grow up thinking that sex is like porn and girls don't grown up thinking they are expected to look and act in a certain way. That's parenting, That's what you sign up for but nor should we have a government that tells us how they want us to raise children or what grown up adults should and shouldn't be able to see.
Which brings me to my next point.
The PM also stated at his speech this week; "We are closing the loophole, making it a criminal offence to possess internet pornography that depicts rape."
OK. Rape shouldn't be available as porn for titillation. It seems simple but it isn't.
Rape fantasies are common for women. Nancy Friday wrote in her 1973 book My Secret Garden, "Rape does for a woman's sexual fantasy what the first martini does for her in reality: Both relieve her of responsibility and guilt. . . . She gets him to do what she wants him to do, while seeming to be forced."
There are several fantasies in the book that are, in effect rape and I have read and heard of plenty of other evidence to say that it's something women do think about and something that couples are happy to roleplay together. In addition if you look at some of the more graphic S&M films out there to the uninitiated they look horrific and terrifying, but to many they are a turn on and again, I know many people (men and women) who are excited by bondage, sadism and being forced to do all manner of degrading things. However, it is consensual and people get great pleasure from it. It is not actual rape.
Cameron is talking about making any depiction of rape illegal. This means rape porn which is actually two actors pretending to rape and be raped will become illegal. As far as I am aware actually raping someone and filming it is already illegal so as far as I can tell the government now want to control our sexual fantasies by wrapping it up in a 'think of the children!' cake. I'm unsure whether the law will extend to prose as well as pictures and film.
Does this mean owning a copy of The Accused become against the law? Or does because Jodie Foster won an Oscar for it make this OK? What about A Clockwork Orange, Straw Dogs, Boys Don't Cry or Thelma and Louise to name a few films that deal with sexual assault. How do you draw the line between rape that is OK and rape that is pornography and therefore not OK?
Why is it down to the government to dictate what we must and must not get off on? If pornography is defined as getting sexual pleasure from it then there are a whole generation of men out there who have just turned their mum's Freemans or Kays catalogues into porn!
Of course what really needs to happen is the problem of those who make, distribute and use images of actual children being abused. This is very different from 'teen porn' which is a totally different kettle of fish. Even the dirtiest websites ensure the actors (actor being a key word) are over 18 and state so on their sites.
The Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre (CEOP) who are affiliated to Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) already exist and surely should be given more resources to do their job, of course their budget has been cut recently as have many local councils who have seen 10% cuts which of course has impacted on Child Protection Services.
Cameron really needs to make up his mind what his priorities are.
It feels kind of selfish to complain about how the potential changes may effect me. I rely on this website, various directories, Adultwork and Punternet to provide me with marketing for business. It's my livelihood, it pays my bills and it's what I enjoy doing. Not to mention the fact that support sites such as SAAFE might be bracketed into the filters. For some, who can choose to opt in to the porn it's OK, but what about women who are controlled and rely on such sites for help and advice. What about people who do this secretly from their parents, partner or housemates. Leaving the decision of what can be viewed to one member of the household is unfair and dangerous.
This whole thing feels like yet another attempt from someone to make the lives of sex workers difficult. I don't think it is directly though.
It could be the start of something more sinister. Is it a path to using the Internet to monitor us more closely, to legitimise spying on us and leading us down a road not too far from the one Mr Orwell visualised in 1949? He might have been 30 years later than predicted, but the more we hear about spying, the treatment of those who whistleblow and the forced poverty that is falling on the 'proles' of the country who knows?
Read THIS. It's long, especially after you've waded through all I have written, but it's food for thought!
References and Further Reading
Full transit of Cameron's speech HereDavid Cameron knows nothing about online porn filters, The Inquirer, by Dave Neal
PM's child-abuse police figures are wrong, says ex-CEOP chief PCPro, by Barry Collins
Family filters won't block 'soft' porn: The Independent by Oliver Wright
Q&A UK filters on legal pornography BBC website.
10 Questions about Cameron's 'War on Porn The New Statesman by Paul Bernal.
Police Federation Fears to Cut online Safety Work BBC Website
Rape Fantasies and Knowing What's Real New Statesman, by Glosswitch
What's Behind Rape Fantasies?, The Village Voice, by Rachel Kramer Bussel
Not directly linked to the porn filter issue but interesting Western governments are 'seriously spying on the internet', says Sir Tim Berners-Lee The Telegraph by Radhika Sanghani
If you wish to sign the petition regarding the filtering of pornography I found this, but haven't looked into it to say whether it's the right one to sign! I expect many will be popping up!