This morning I read an article on the BBC news website reporting calls to close a ‘loophole’ allowing the existence and viewing of rape pornography. The article (here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22803502 ) explains that much of the motivation behind the campaign to tighten these laws has been driven by violence against women and children. While I fully agree the motivation is worthwhile, attacking pornography of all things seems senseless to me.
While porn can be stereotyped as artistically bankrupt, the same general artistic forms used in pornography — a slender or non-existent storyline, combined with immediate wish fulfilment and catharsis — are widely used in everything from children’s television programming (where the wish fulfilment and catharsis are embodied in bright colours and joyful emotions) to mega-budget action blockbusters (which have made the inevitable ‘money-shot’ of an explosion part of their trade).
All that divides a film glorifying joy and good feeling from pornography is that one will show us scenes of families reuniting after a tragedy, and one will show us sex. And sexual arousal, whatever its form, is a part of the human condition just as worthy for artistic examination as any other.
Pornography fictionally depicting rape, under-aged children, and other sex crimes are obviously disturbing, however I cannot draw the conclusion that it is inherently immoral and to be censored. As Anaïs Nin put it, ‘Eroticism is one of the basic means of self-knowledge, as indispensable as poetry.’
In the past century we have seen a figurative explosion of violent media, but in general appear to live in a more peaceful world than the one our ancestors left us. That women’s rights are being taken far more seriously in the past few decades — after the arrival of the internet and ubiquitous access to various kinds of pornography — seems strange to me, if pornography is truly the demon it’s being made out to be.
Pornography is an artefact of our culture, and we shape that culture every day with everything we do, and every opinion we hold. Forcing us to cease expressing or exploring ourselves in one way will not change our opinions, or our culture.
I think that, if anything, the low number of cases reportedly brought to court against rapists sends a message of far more cultural power than a few dirty videos on the internet ever could.
Censorship may provide the illusion of having done something, it may provide campaigners and politicians with the claim that they have exercised power in the name of good, but it achieves very little for a great deal of effort. I would much rather see that effort be used pursuing goals that are far less uncertain.
Our goal should be to make rape a crime like any other — a crime where victims can feel reasonably secure and safe from suffering it, and that if they do, they can expect justice, support and care from the society around them.
Censorship of any kind will never be able to achieve that.