Sides of the Story – Pornography

Facts of the matter

The cynical view is that David Cameron stuck his oar into the internet censorship debate merely to distract the conservative press fromhis party’s dismal performance in the recent local elections. If so, the stunt worked. His statement last weekend that he wished to ‘make children safer’ in relation to online content has been seized upon by the British media as an opportunity to rehash an old favourite: the pornography debate.

Sides of the story
Our take on other takes on the
online pornography debate
Facts of the matter
The cynical view is that David Cameron stuck
his oar into the internet censorship debate
merely to distract the conservative press from
his party’s dismal performance in the recent lo-
cal elections. If so, the stunt worked. His state-
ment last weekend that he wished to ‘make
children safer’ in relation to online content
has been seized upon by the British media as
an opportunity to rehash an old favourite: the
pornography debate. The campaign to regulate
internet porn has been led (noisily) by
Claire Perry, a Tory backbencher. She chaired
an independent inquiry into online child pro-
tection last month which found that youthful
over-exposure to porn can lead to ‘early sexual
involvement and an increased consumption of
sexual media’.
Confronted with this new evidence, David
Cameron has promised a review of a range of
options for filtering porn. These include the
opt-in system favoured by Perry, whereby cus-
tomers would have to specifically request ac-
cess to adult content when signing up to a new
broadband contract.
Laugh-a-minute
The Daily Mail has fallen over itself to back
Perry and prevent “the wholesale corruption
of childhood”. Its preferred call to arms has
been a string of real-life stories on the victims
of the wave of perversion sweeping Britain. ‘Ja-
mie is 13 and hasn’t kissed a girl. But he’s now
on the Sex Offender Register after online porn
warped his mind’, read one headline.
Voice(s) of reason
Michael White’s article in The Guardian hits
the nail on the head. The libertarian position
on porn, adopted by many left-leaning colum-
nists, is superficially attractive. Unlimited ac-
cess to porn / drink / cigarettes is easy to justify
if you bandy ‘liberty’ around enough. But the
consequences can be unpleasant. “Whether
it’s sex or violence, physical or mental, being
bombarded with the stuff is bound to coarsen
young sensibilities.” At the end of the day, White
says, “It’s easy to tease the Mail… but surely we
should do our best to make it difficult for eight-
year-old computer whizzes to stumble upon
disturbing and unsuitable material online?”
Charles Arthur, also at The Guardian, disa-
grees. Arthur believes that “nothing short of
a direct meteorite” will stop adolescent boys
accessing porn. Maybe so. But this does not
mean that they should be confronted with it
whenever they surf the net – we should make
it harder for children to find adult content
online. Arthur’s solution to the problem of on-
line pornography – that parents should keep a
tighter rein on their kids – is also unconvinc-
ing. Children “don’t need legislation; they don’t
need complicated filters… they just need to be
part of the family.” This smacks of middle class
complacency.
When children do not have access to the sup-
portive environment Arthur envisages, the
state must step in.

The campaign to regulate internet porn has been led (noisily) by Claire Perry, a Tory backbencher. She chairedan independent inquiry into online child protection last month which found that youthful over-exposure to porn can lead to ‘early sexual involvement and an increased consumption of sexual media’.Confronted with this new evidence, David Cameron has promised a review of a range of options for filtering porn. These include the opt-in system favoured by Perry, whereby customers would have to specifically request access to adult content when signing up to a new broadband contract.

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Laugh-a-minute

The Daily Mail has fallen over itself to back Perry and prevent “the wholesale corruption of childhood”. Its preferred call to arms has been a string of real-life stories on the victims of the wave of perversion sweeping Britain. ‘Jamie is 13 and hasn’t kissed a girl. But he’s now on the Sex Offender Register after online porn warped his mind’, read one headline.

Voice(s) of reason

Michael White’s article in The Guardian hits the nail on the head. The libertarian position on porn, adopted by many left-leaning columnists, is superficially attractive. Unlimited access to porn / drink / cigarettes is easy to justify if you bandy ‘liberty’ around enough. But the consequences can be unpleasant. “Whether it’s sex or violence, physical or mental, being bombarded with the stuff is bound to coarsen young sensibilities.” At the end of the day, White says, “It’s easy to tease the Mail… but surely we should do our best to make it difficult for eight-year-old computer whizzes to stumble upon disturbing and unsuitable material online?”

Charles Arthur, also at The Guardian, disagrees. Arthur believes that “nothing short of a direct meteorite” will stop adolescent boys accessing porn. Maybe so. But this does not mean that they should be confronted with it whenever they surf the net – we should make it harder for children to find adult content online. Arthur’s solution to the problem of online pornography – that parents should keep a tighter rein on their kids – is also unconvincing. Children “don’t need legislation; they don’t need complicated filters… they just need to be part of the family.” This smacks of middle class complacency.When children do not have access to the supportive environment Arthur envisages, the state must step in.