The British Government yesterday announced plans to outlaw all ‘violent pornography’ with a potential three year stint in jail for those found in posession of such material, however the legislation seems to be devoid of real logic and substance and is more of an attempt to appease rather than improve.
As is my understanding most Western countries, including Ireland, put restrictions on the production, sale and ownership of pornography (or any genre for that matter) which features an illegal act. This makes sense as a video featuring an illegal act is in itself proof that the act was committed and the sale and ownership of such material simply encourages a black-market where these acts are carried out for financial gain.
With this in mind pornography featuring actual violence (such as rape or murder) is already legislated for and is already illegal and to this extent the extended provisions announced yesterday will move to outlaw pornography featuring mock or simulated violence.
This attempt to legislate opens up a whole plethora of questions about the application of the law. Firstly what is violence? The definition of violence may go from someone enduring some pain to someone’s life being put at risk (or put at risk in a simulated fashion) and without going into any crude detail there are numerous examples where the definition of ‘violent’ could be imposed where the content is not intended to be overtly such.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly the debate around the effect of pornography is brought to the fore. Can pornography really manipulate someone’s thinking and encourage them to commit violent acts? I’m sure that many people have watched a porno film in their lives and attempted to replicate it in some way; perhaps a position or chat-up line however no normal person would watch a porno film and take it as an account based in reality. Pornography is a form of escapism and a simple way for people to nurture personal fantasies and as with all fantasies they are grounded completely in fiction.
Of course some people do like to fulfill their fantasies from time to time but again no normal person would confuse an innocent, if not slightly uncommon fantasy with one grounded in illegal behaviour. If people are willing to think of violent and dangerous acts as acceptable in reality then they have there own personal problems to deal with.
Someone prone to commit violent attacks or violent sexual attacks do not need to be encouraged by movies; they are willing to see violence as acceptable in the real world and can only come to that conclusion themselves. Porn, movies or games do not blur the lines between what is real and what is not, or what is acceptable and what is not, no more than books do; they are all forms of entertainment and escapism where it is clear that the real-world is disconnected and different. Do you believe that someone who decides to have an affair is encouraged to do so by a promiscuous character in a porno too? Of course not. Do you believe that watching (non-pornographic) movies featuring homosexuals will encourage the viewer to become gay themselves? Of course not. Does reading Hamlet encourage the reader to commit murder as an act of revenge? No.
Placing the blame on a form of entertainment, which some may see as tasteless but is unquestionably grounded in the confines of the law is to ignore the fact that human beings are capable of terrible things independent of the “evils of modern media and society”. Why does the British Government think that taking visual representations of sexual violence out of the equation will suddenly make potential rapists upstanding citizens? Remembering that question, why is it that the British Government seems to have no understanding of the realities of sexual violence whatsoever?
Afterthought; With the DRCC’s new figures out how long is it until the tabloids call for a similar law to be introduced to Ireland (if they haven’t already started).