Should college networks ban porn?

YES

Jennifer Brown

The St Anne’s Feminist Discussion Group this week mused putting a motion before their JCR to ban the use of pornography on the college network.

There are, of course, cases for the proposal. The most widely used argument is that porn is degrading to women and therefore, in allowing students to watch it, colleges are inadvertently allowing male (and female) students to be exposed to the objectification of women.

As I’m sure you will agree, using the words ‘slut’, ‘whore’ or ‘bitch’ to describe females is hardly progressive. Nor is the idea that a woman will submit to anything her male partner demands. And whilst some may argue that this is reality, that this is how some people behave during sex, it does not mean that such behaviour is right. For if that is the case, it is not just college rules which need to change but society’s perception of women also.

Furthermore, I am sure few will argue that porn which depicts women being raped, put into cages or performing oral sex on a dog, is really ‘suitable’ late night viewing. 

And, yes, you may think bringing this up is all a little over the top for a matter solely concerned with students who are not generally associated with sexual abuse. . The majority of students at Oxford and indeed across the country will not delve into ‘violent’ porn like this. At least I hope not.

But the fact remains that it is available on the internet should a student wish to find it. Banning porn from its college network may seem a ridiculous idea, yet if acts such are these are socially unacceptable in some places, any desire to prevent association with them does become a little easier to digest.

The negative effects of porn do not end here. Porn engenders unrealistic
physical standards for the majority. One only has to look at statistics for cosmetic surgery within the UK: 9,843 cases for ‘boob jobs’ are recorded for 2013 alone. Clearly presenting ideal archetypes has a detrimental affect on the selfesteem of individuals. 

And as increased expectations not only affect notions of physical appearance, but sexual performance too, it is hardly surprising that individuals take issue with the concept of porn even prior to any discussion of college imposed bans.

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Evidently, what people have failed to realise is that banning porn in
colleges would be a good thing. Banning porn would be sending out the message that we wish to disassociate ourselves from porn’s link to sexual discrimination, the promotion of anti-social behaviour and out of proportion expectations.

Considering the collegiate system and heavy workload, many people in
Oxford often find meeting a potential love interest a challenging task. Thus, they regress to the confines of their room, safe in the knowledge that porn will always provide an adequate alternative to social interaction and indeed, sex.

If St Anne’s adopts the potential JCR motion, then it could become the the leading light of Oxford as porn addicts come out of the woodwork and prepare themselves to find someone real rather than sitting behind their desks (where they work and eat) fixating over videos of people they’ll never meet.

 

NO

Anna Cooban

Banning porn is far too moralistic. If watching porn does provide issues for college internet connectivity then any ban on pornography hits no theoretical or moral brick wall, only a practical one.

Porn, in this context, is watched privately by adults in their rooms. What such a ban hints at is an objection to the personal use of pornographic websites, a prudish revulsion to the masturbatory indulgences of – let’s be frank – a predominantly male demographic.

Perhaps it makes some slightly queasy to know that somewhere in college a student may just be reaching their moment of ecstasy while the rest of us are poring over our textbooks.

However, the issues surrounding porn are clearly much bigger than this – it would be foolish to deny that the birth and subsequent boom of the porn industry has not in some way damaged society. The impossible scenarios depicted in these videos warp expectations of an individual’s own sexual experiences. Watching porn would make anyone feel that they had to climax within seconds and possess E-cup (and yet suspiciously perky) breasts, or a ten-inch penis that is perhaps better suited to a travelling circus than symbolising ‘true’ masculinity.

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Porn is a feminist issue and to suggest otherwise is to deny the role it plays in objectifying women. Yet I find it hard to imagine that the proponents of this motion would have the same distaste for pornography if it was a widely accepted fact that men and women enjoyed watching porn to the same extent.

Porn is arguably just as much a male as a feminist issue; from increasingly younger ages, boys are pressured into following this ‘norm’ just as girls are taught to play with Barbie dolls, such that for one boy to buck this trend is an act of defiance rather than an uncontroversial personal choice.

Such a ban would be based on well-founded concerns and a debate that aims to raise awareness of porn-related issues is invaluable. However, forcing through the motion is little more than nannying.

The entire basis of modern capitalism is designed to make us all feel inadequate, encouraging us to yearn for something we do not have. To ban porn on these grounds would be to also ban any women’s fashion magazine that holds airbrushed supermodels as standards of acceptable beauty, music videos that depict pin-thin 20-somethings grinding on their 40-year-old rap overlords.

Men’s fitness magazines promote body builders as the pinnacle of masculinity, yet with hearts so fatty that the irony of the word ‘fitness’ appearing next to these specimens is inescapable.

We are constantly bombarded with reminders of the person we are supposed to be. Any student-led revolt against the porn industry is going to fall on deaf ears when it challenges a problem that is ingrained in our culture.

Porn is a destructive force of modern culture and a result of the 1960s sexual revolution that has, ironically, come full circle to produce a new kind of entrapment. Yet to restrict the personal use of pornography outright is to argue for the banning of any medium which produces the same destructive effect.