Children should be taught about porn on the net

Children should be taught about porn on the net. A statement of the bleeding obvious, one might have thought – but not to Michael Gove.

Now the Telegraph are ratcheting up the pressure, with a ‘Better Sex Education’ campaign.

NSPCC ‘research’* commissioned by The Telegraph claims to show that in the absence of meaningful sex education in schools, the internet is ‘warping’ young people’s views about relationships. Backlash agrees the internet is certainly influencing them, and both parental and school advice is essential.

Sadly the NSPCC spokesperson who said ‘What pornography teaches boys is that girls are for sexual gratification’ obviously hasn’t seen any FemDomme material.

And despite the soundbites beloved by headline writers such as ‘Many girls feel they have to look and perform like porn stars in order to be liked by boys’ are uttered by the NSPCC not children, this initiative is to be welcomed.

The Telegraph enlisted the support of Claire Perry, Conservative MP and the Prime Minister’s advisor on children, and a moving force in banning everything in sight.

Amusingly she displays her class privilege. ‘Teenage girls now routinely remove all of their body hair saying that boys their age find pubic hair ‘disgusting’ (a fact that I find particularly depressing as a mother of teenagers – we did not try to raise our children to think like John Ruskin)’ is a reference that will go over the heads of 90% of parents. True, Oxford educated Gove will get it.

Perry also betrays her real disciplinary preferences. ‘Regulation and technology can never be the complete answer in such a fast moving and borderless world, and so we need to make sure that parents and children are well educated about the potential risks lurking online and how to avoid them’.

Interpreted, that says ‘we don’t trust parents, we’d ban porn if we could make banning work; freedom of expression is not suitable for most people’.

Nonetheless, her statement ‘the rise of sexting, online bullying, porn and young people documenting their entire lives on the web, needs to be a core tenet of how we teach sex and relationships to children’ is unarguably valid. Perry deserves credit for saying so, and for trying to do something about it.

Asks the relentless Telegraph, Mr Gove, why do you want to omit sexual health from the national curriculum?

* Backlash may comment further when we have analysed this research properly

Intimidation within the law

There has been widespread uproar at the 9-hour detention of David Miranda, the partner of investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald. Crooked Timber has a useful discussion of the Terrorism Act 2000 which seems custom-designed to allow abuse by UK border authorities whenever its politically convenient.

What is significant about this case is that no crime had to be alleged, or even reasonably suspected, before this treatment was meted out. Much recent UK legislation involves giving powers not  just of criminalisation, but of investigation. ‘Lawful’ stops and searches can be made so intrusive that, in essence, the investigation becomes an extra-judicial punishment. This is before we include the loss of personal property frequently involved in such searches. Anyone disliked by state officials can have 9 hours taken from their life whenever they have to go through an airport terminal – no reason given. That’s legal. With penalties like that, who needs courts to gain convictions?

‘Rape porn’ ban would not close any supposed loophole

Myles Jackman, legal adviser to Backlash, has written a forensic analysis of the case for banning rape porn for Lexis®PSL Crime, reproduced on his blog. Here is a key section:

How do the Government’s proposals fit in with the law on the possession of extreme pornography?

 In brief: they don’t. According to the CPS’ Guidance the elements of the offence can be found here; and according to section 63 (7) of the CJIA 2008, such an image must be “explicit and realistic”. It would seem inconceivable for a consensually created adult image depicting a simulated act to be considered “realistic”. Thus the attempt to shoehorn the rape-porn amendment into s63 would seem to be defeated by the existing legislation’s “realistic” test.
The “realistic” test was applied in the test case trial of R v Webster, where the defendant was charged with possession of “fake-snuff” pornography; in which the same performer demonstrated a Lazarus-like resurrection ability to die seven times subject to different make-up, wardrobe and location changes. An expert witness for the defence called the images “less realistic than the average British soap-opera”. The jury found the defendant Not Guilty.

Jackman also spoke to TechRadar about the legal perils of online pornography.

Essential links defending sexual freedom on the Internet IV

The UK Porn Filter: Limp And Unwelcome

Guest post by Helen Dale, cross-posted from Thoughts on Liberty

So, David Cameron wants to institute a UK-wide porn filter. This news has now reached the US. You are probably laughing at us. If so, that’s a good thing, because the proposal is laughable.

It means socially awkward Brits will now be forced to ‘opt out’ of the clean feed, thereby disclosing to their ISP or landlord that they watch porn. Europeans and Australians are willing to admit to porn use (in part because they often live in states or countries where prostitution is legal, and where they don’t just have sex shops, but sex department stores). Not so the British, who react to situations of social discomfort by curling up like a slug exposed to naked flame.

Humour aside, however, what makes this scheme particularly ludicrous is that it is a direct copy of an identical Australian proposal. In Australia, Labor’s Stephen Conroy first floated the idea, and was then rapidly forced to retreat when it became clear that it was incapable of enforcement. Australians are the world’s most brutal pragmatists: they will take your ideal to the woolshed and beat it to death with a cricket bat if it proves unworkable in practice:

[I]t’s really hard to get inside the heads of the proponents of one side of the question. In order to support the internet filter, or drug prohibition, or rent control, you have to not just hold a certain set of values, you have to be willing to spend public money based on those values even on measures that will be completely ineffective.

In Britain, however, there is still a broad strap of clueless idealism when it comes to the state’s use of laws to make us more sexually moral people. This is especially the case when at least part of the scheme is meant to tackle child porn — forgetting, of course, that child porn is already illegal. This is why Brits pointing out that Cameron’s scheme won’t work have not suggested that there may be something to be said in favour of porn.

And therein is a real problem. Cameron’s argument that the killers of schoolgirls April Jones and Tia Sharp had accessed legal pornography before moving on to images of child abuse tells us nothing: they did a lot of things before moving on to images of abuse (eating bread, for example), but that doesn’t even faintly demonstrate a causative link. Even worse for the anti-porn brigade, what evidence we have indicates porn is a substitute for rape and other sexual offences, not an incentive for them: rates of sexual violence tend to drop when porn is freely available. Finally, even if a tiny group proves incapable of distinguishing reality from fantasy, if we restrict everyone’s freedoms based on the weakest members of society and their inclinations, then no one will be left with any liberty at all.

That means that not only does ought imply can, but that even if we could institute a workable porn filter, we shouldn’t. Can does not imply ought.

Essential links defending sexual freedom on the Internet III

Developing a consent culture

Guest post by Emily

Rape. Sexual abuse. What distinguishes those two horrific things from sex – generally accepted to be one of the most enjoyable pastimes available to us?

It’s consent. Consent is vital. Consent is key. Meaningful consent is what makes the difference between sex, and sexual abuse.

And so if you want to do something about rape, or child abuse, you’d put consent front and centre, right? While only adults can give free consent, children can still be taught how to judge boundaries of consent within their own activities. You’d teach children to enshrine consent as a key value. It’s not hard. The difference between wrestling with a sibling who wants to be wrestling, and with one who doesn’t, is the difference between playtime and assault. “You sure he’s happy? Does he want you to be doing that? Timmy, are you still enjoying the game?” “Yes, we’re just playing.” “Oh, okay, carry on then.” Boom, the importance of consent in action, aged five.

David Cameron, meanwhile, has decided that instead of enshrining consent, he’s going to completely ignore it. He’s going to kick it in the teeth, without even asking nicely first. Because that’s what he’s doing, when he correlates role-play between consenting adults with rape. When he says that two consenting adults, playing out a pretend scenario for their pleasure, or the pleasure of others, is in ANY way equatable to rape.

And that is not only an incredibly stupid thing to do, and incredibly insulting to the many people, male and female, who have those sexual fantasies, but it’s an incredibly dangerous thing to do. Blurring the boundaries between consensual, and non-consensual sex is only going to make the problem worse.

Encourage education. Encourage open conversation about sex. Encourage young people to feel unashamed about their sexual desires, and empowered to make the right choices for them at the right times. Give young people the tools to talk about consent and sex, and to value both. Encourage pornography producers, commercial and amateur, to film the pre-scene procedure where the actors demonstrate clear consent about what will follow.

If you want to do something about rape, or child abuse, then tell David Cameron that his plans to drive pornography – and any hope of open discussion about it – even more undercover, and to criminalise consensual sexual activity, are only going to hurt the very people he professes to lose so much sleep over.

The Conservatives are banking on people being too embarrassed to fight them on this. Show them they’re wrong.

Sign this petition:

And most importantly email your MP. That barely takes seconds, just click here to find their email address:

Essential links defending sexual freedom on the Internet II

Essential links defending Sexual freedom on the Internet

Statement on proposed extension of extreme porn ban

‘Extreme pornography’ ban useless for tackling violence against women, dangerous for civil liberties

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Internet pornography, Backlash urges the Government to reject recent unfounded calls to expand the definition of extreme images to cover so called ‘rape pornography’ and to abolish existing extreme pornography legislation.

Backlash notes that pornography of all kinds has become much more accessible in the years since the Internet has become available to the general public. In that time, the prevalence of sexual abuse has not increased in the United Kingdom and may have decreased. It is mistaken to suggest that pornography is a cause or contributor to violence against women. Serious academic studies of pornography and sexual violence show that increased availability of pornography is, in fact, associated with less violence and abuse.

Backlash notes that fictional and consensual portrayals of rape are a common and popular sexual fantasy, and that fantasising about violent sexual acts does not pose a risk to women, or the general public. Criminalising the intimate thoughts of loving and law-abiding individuals is bad public policy.

Banning ‘rape porn’ exposes women as much as men to having their private sexual feelings examined and shamed in public. This could be psychologically traumatising for women who download pornography, as well as men. Ordinary people could, due to their fantasies, be forced to associate with real sex offenders, either in sex offender treatment programmes, which are inappropriate for people who pose no real harm to the public, or in prison.

The most notable use of the extreme pornography legislation so far was the prosecution of Simon Walsh, a former aide to Boris Johnson, whose practice had included prosecuting corruption within British police forces. His career in public life was derailed by a prosecution that was rejected by a jury after 90 minutes deliberation. Prosecutors failed to prove that images depicting consensual sex acts between him and two other gay men were ‘extreme’.

The prosecution also threatened the reputation of the Crown Prosecution Service as an impartial public servant by showing that gay men risked having their lives destroyed in court over intimate acts which were consensual, safe and commonly practiced within the LGBT community. Bad laws do not harm only the individuals prosecuted; they also harm the institutions tasked with enforcing them.

No evidence has been presented that the thousands of other prosecutions for extreme pornography have contributed in any way to tackling sexual abuse that might in some way justify the manifest harms that the law has caused.

The ban on ‘extreme pornography’, just like the ban on homosexuality before 1967, is an invitation to blackmail. The careers of public officials can be destroyed not by their actions in office, but by their intimate feelings and personal lives. Such legislation also allows ordinary members of the public to be made the victim of malicious allegations that waste police time and prosecution resources.

The ‘extreme porn’ ban poses a greater threat to the morality and stability of this society than the speculative harms of possessing images merely depicting violence.

  • Backlash is an umbrella organisation providing academic, legal and campaigning resources defending freedom of sexual expression. We support the rights of adults to participate in all consensual sexual activities and to watch, read and create any fictional interpretation of such in any media.