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Friday, 2 August 2013

The UK Porn Filter: The Plaster Over the Wound?




By: Suk Maklitt


The UK porn filter is a topic causing a lot of debate. It’s one I’m hesitant to comment on not because I have nothing to say on it but because I probably have too much. Where do I start? Well, maybe I’ll start with what I won’t discuss and that’s the censorship/ free speech/ technical issue. I think that’s been covered by enough people.

So, I want to ask is, will this UK porn filter achieve anything beneficial? Abusive porn will be blocked? Sounds good to many (me included) but what will doing so achieve? Will people stop creating abusive porn and images? Will rape culture dissolve overnight? Will paedophilia? Will sexual objectification? Will sexism? Will our relationships magically improve? Will everyone suddenly become respectful of one another’s bodily autonomy and sexuality? No, that would be ridiculous. So what I’ve been thinking about is how a UK porn filter is like sticking a plaster over a gaping, infected, oozing, maggot-riddled wound.

Abusive porn and images do not exist in a vacuum but, rather, sit on the extreme end of a spectrum. A spectrum we are all familiar with although we may not recognise all its elements’ true toxic nature, like certain romantic comedies or Page 3 or MTV or, even, Disney. Abusive porn exists because people move up and up and up that spectrum, from the seemingly innocuous to the mild to the obviously harmful, until they reach those pornographic extremes. It’s an insidious spectrum we’re exposed to daily and it saturates our entire culture. Simply hiding the abusive porn will never remove that spectrum just like hiding symptoms of radiation poisoning won’t remove the risk of others becoming exposed to the same radioactive source.

Additionally, there are the claims that such filters will block out feminist porn, LGBTQ-friendly porn, sex advice, relationship advice, educational materials, forums for sexual assault survivors, etc. It will, inadvertently, censor education and social progression. This fact becomes more terrifying when you realise the internet - despite its many dark, shadowy corners - is currently the greatest source of sex and relationship advice for children and teenagers (and, actually, even adults) we have. To describe school sex education as ‘lacking’ would be exceedingly generous. Sex education in the UK barely covers the basics. I don’t know about you but I distinctly remember a teacher telling us during sex ed class that only “silly girls” got themselves pregnant whilst still attending school. That’s practically state-sanctioned slut-shaming.

Despite these failings, when given the chance to improve the situation in June this year by implementing mandatory and comprehensive sex and relationship education in state schools, the majority of the ConDems voted against. Why? Presumably under another misguided attempt to protect children. There is contradiction in our society where unhealthy sexual imagery such as objectification is constantly thrust in people’s faces but healthy, body-positive sex and discussions of can be taboo; the former is so prolific we’re accustomed to viewing it whilst the latter’s liberal inclusivity and often anti-oppressive nature threatens the status quo and thus appears dangerously revolutionary. One of the biggest issues here, as I see it, is this erroneous conflation of healthy sex and unhealthy sex as one big, bad, dangerous package which should be kept out of the reach of children, at all costs, lest it corrupt their sparkling innocence. Well, too late. Look around. Unhealthy sexual images are everywhere and they are not just relegated to those dark, shadowy corners of the internet that the government think they can block off. Adults and children alike are absorbing these unhealthy messages every day through television, cinema, newspapers, peers, parents, fashion, music, advertisements… like I said, everywhere! This is the reason why abuse is prolific. This is the reason why abusive porn exists. This is what’s enabling abusers. An internet filter will benefit no one because refusing to address problems will never make them go away.

Isn't it about time the government realised there is no greater filter than education?

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