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Why Cameron's anti-porn crusade misses the mark


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Cameron’s campaign to protect British virtue and children’s ‘innocence’ has divided opinion. Despite unanimous agreement that child pornography is a blight on the internet, many have rejected Cameron’s fight against filth as a broad brush response to a multifaceted problem.

Although Cameron’s backing of anti-porn filters could be an important move symbolically, some view it as a futile gesture. Internet companies, such as Google, are already active in trying toconfront the dark underbelly of the internet by developing technology to eliminate child pornography sites, an objective on which they have already spent around £3.1 million this year.

Furthermore, the causal link between pornography and violent sexual behaviour has left many in the psychological field split over the issue. Some psychologists emphasise the social cost of pornography and its connection with violent behaviour, whilst others point to evidence that suggests that pornography offers catharsis for those with possibly deviant sexual tendencies, therefore deterring sexual assault.

Politicians are, quite simply, loosely applying a sweeping clampdown after buckling under the weight of political pressure to stamp out internet porn in the aftermath of the April Jones case in which her murderer, Mark Bridger, was revealed to be a child-pornography addict.

Cameron’s battle to restore British honour and put an end to sordid late night searches is also rather vague and selective when it comes to what constitutes pornography. Pornography can be defined very straightforwardly: it is the use of erotic material to generate money, which in the case of porn on the web involves drawing in visitors to attract advertisers to their site. However, Cameron draws the line at Page 3 modelling, but doesn’t Page 3 embody the very definition of pornography? Sexual material designed to titillate in order to boost readership and therefore triple funds, check and check.

Apparently it’s only internet pornography that forces an abrupt end to childhood and opens youthful eyes to adult realities, whereas scrutinising heavily edited women baring breasts in a tabloid leaves their innocence intact.

What is a little exasperating is not the inconsistency and selective nature of plans for a porn filter, but rather the tentative dance around the main issue. Why are so many young people drawn to porn in the first place? Firstly, pornography is an outlet for sexual curiosity and crucially, interest in it is often fuelled by ignorance. Alarmingly, many young people use pornography to learn about sex, but who can blame them for being curious? Sexuality is the bedrock of advertising in the media and entertainment industry. Sex sold, sex sells and sex will continue selling.

In order to fully activate a porn filter, we need to purge and whitewash sex from our TV screens and our billboards as well as our laptops. This is, of course, wildly unrealistic unless we topple industries and apply a suffocating blanket of censorship. So instead, why don’t we fight against the real enemy which is not nudity or sexual imagery, but ignorance?

Why don’t we readdress sex education and correct the fact that in the UK you can still withdraw your children from sex education up to the age of 15 and that in Scotland there is no statutory requirement for schools to teach sex education?

We need to confront the glaring truth that sex education in this country is woefully inadequate and needs an urgent overhaul; biological explanations of sex and gender are useful certainly, but this approach often neglects issues such as negotiation and consent, pornography and respect. We need to follow the example of Sweden, which offers comprehensive advice about consent as well as biology, or Canada, which educates children from a younger age about a wider range of issues. In Toronto, for example, children from junior kindergarten age to grade 3 are taught about family diversity and LGBT issues in a child-friendly context.

Anti-porn crusading via online anti porn filtering, that can be easily opted out of, without addressing the issues that lead to children accessing porn in the first place is sadly just another example of image politics. What we need to do is not weakly attempt to weed out pornography, but rather make sure that if children look at it, they can scrutinise it with educated eyes. 

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