By now, everyone must have heard the big news coming out of the UK. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has announced a nation wide filter to block pornography. Internet service providers in the UK already offer optional pornography filters. For the new nation wide filter the default setting will be to have the filter on. Customers will have to choose to opt out. I’ve read about half a dozen general articles on the topic as well as another half a dozen narrower articles about specific aspects and, outside of the “default-on” requirement, I am confused about what it being proposed. Child pornography, which was already illegal in the UK, will continue to be illegal, however the police will be given new, unspecified, powers to pursue it. Images of simulated rape, which was previously illegal to create, will now also be illegal to possess. Furthermore, wi-fi in public places will be required to have a porn filter in use.
As an adult woman going on fifty, I don’t feel that I should spend my life relegated to the children’s section of the library because lax parents don’t know how to protect their children.
One of the reasons I don’t call myself a “sex-positive feminist” is that many of the people who use that term appear to me to be less concerned than they should be about a person not being exposed to pornography at moments when they do not want to be. They deny any potential downside to pornography. Although I almost always actively oppose restrictions on pornographic content, denying that there can be any negative side to it strikes me as wishful thinking. If what we read and view didn’t shape our perspective on the world, many artists and writers would stop tomorrow.
However, government imposed filters will tend to support the status quo and anyone seeking to question it will run afoul of the censors. For this reason, I have always felt that feminists in particular should not support bans on pornography. In an article about the new content filter, The Telegraph mentioned that unnamed “children’s watchdogs” speculate that “boys’ attitudes to women and girls were in danger of being shaped by their easy access to pornography online.” I would like to humbly suggest that boys’ attitudes to women and girls is being currently shaped by everything from advertizing, to movies, to novels, and perhaps nothing shapes their attitudes towards women as much as the interaction of their very own parents. Would the government like to censor the behavior of children’s parents at home? Furthermore, would difficult access to pornography tell them something significantly different from easy access.
Then we still haven’t answered the question of “what is pornography?” Will Courbet be filtered? (I was going to do my own sketch of that painting, but WordPress does not permit close-ups of genitalia.)
Maybe next, the government of the UK will work on the meaning of life and get back to us.
While poking around news from the UK, I couldn’t help noticing in a sidebar some woman was called “brilliant” for producing a boy. I hope the filter isn’t going to block some basic information about how babies are made because apparently Britons need a little more information about how that works.
As an American I’m a little bit concerned by the statement:
A joint British and American “task force” will be created to tackle obscene websites, while Google and other search engine providers will be required to draw up a “blacklist” of the most depraved and illegal search terms, the Prime Minister will announce.
It would be very nice to know exactly what our own government is doing in this regard.