Pornography, and Those Who Would Ban It
It is not very inspiring to fight for the freedom of the purveyors of pornography, or their customers. But in the transition to statism, every infringement of human rights has to begin with the suppression of a given right's least attractive practitioners.
Being asked to offer a "different perspective on pornography" at a Victoria University of Wellington forum was never going to be difficult, but I occasionally wondered if my safety could be guaranteed. The given topic was "Pornography, Censorship, and Freedom"; I was to provide the arguments for freedom, while the other two speakers -- Claire Benson from Rape Crisis (ex-Women Against Pornography) and Bill Hastings, Chief Censor – were to accompany the feminazis in the audience in knocking me down.
The agenda provided 15 minutes each for the three speakers to present their views, followed by audience question time, then a 5 minute ‘Last Word'.
Censorship itself has been covered by Scott Wilson in TFR 34, 35, and 36, so I won't elaborate on the legislation, or the ‘public good morality', or the discretionary powers of the Chief Censor except to say that he began by stating that the official standard was not necessarily his own. He is, it seems, only following orders!
As anticipated, Claire Benson followed the familiar line, using emotive and fallacious arguments to argue the ‘causal force' of pornography. Apparently, pornography creates a perception that women are ready for sex at all times and enjoy being raped. Claire informed us that approx. 90% of all rape victims are attacked by family members or by someone they know, and in some cases the violator had watched pornography prior to the attack. She also claimed that many children are exposed to pornographic material before being properly educated about sex, thereby giving them a distorted view of intimacy. Pornography, she said, dehumanises, degrades, and portrays women as mere sex objects. She mentioned a copy-cat rape where the violator's MO emulated that of an 80's pornographic movie – this, she claimed, was her proof that porn is evil.
She then moved on to the power of advertising. Sex sells, she said! An inner-city hoarding displaying a woman's G-stringed bared buttock was so offensive to Claire that it made her ‘feel physically sick'. She explained that a rape had occurred in that area, and invited us to draw a conclusion.
Recognising that Rape Crisis can provide a valuable service, during question period one of six Libz members in the audience asked Claire how she proposed to increase much needed funding to Rape Crisis. "If it was up to me," she replied, "I would put a special tax on men".
After picking myself off the floor, my allotted 5 minutes allowed me to berate Rape Crisis for lobbying against the legalising of disabling sprays. Claire defended their position by pointing out potential pitfalls. Criminals could get hold of the sprays and use them to disable potential victims; attackers could snatch and then use them; and children would be reluctant to use such a spray on their fathers. (Quite right, a gun would be preferable). She was happy to ignore that criminals can get them now illegally if they want to, and that the choice to carry such protection and take associated risks should be mine. It is my life. Her preferred alternative is that women take self-defence classes and/or carry hairspray or perfume in their handbag. In the event of an attack, she mused, the police would then be on the look-out for someone smelling of Chanel No.5. [That's what the silly bitch actually said – Ed.]
I had thought I was debating with a rational human being. It was at this point I realised I had been mistaken.
I HATE pornography !!
It is banal, inane, thoroughly boring, and quite frankly, an insult to my intelligence!! But then again, I feel the same way about rugby.....
Good afternoon everyone. I am Tina White and the Wellington Coordinator of the fastest growing political party in New Zealand, Libertarianz.
The essence of libertarianism can be described in the phrase "non-initiation of force."
Libertarians believe that everyone has a fundamental right to sovereignty over themselves and their property. The proper role of Government is to maintain and enforce laws that protect those rights and enforce contracts undertaken by consenting human beings. What this means is that libertarians believe that what adult human beings do with their own bodies is their business. People can consent to surgery, have sex, play sport, get pierced and tattooed, but NO one has the right to assault you in any way. The only right to use force is in RETALIATION. If someone comes at you with a fist, you have the right to block them or hit them to prevent you being hurt.
This simple premise recognises that for human beings to live and maximise their own abilities and opportunities there must be a fundamental right of inviolability of the individual, forfeited only when that individual infringes upon that same right in others. Only with such a right can a person be free to grow, develop and to live. Amongst rights which follow from this principle are rights to freedom of thought and expression so people are able to interact, produce and create. Suppressing expression hinders the free exchange of ideas and thoughts.
Censorship per se is anathema to a libertarian simply because censorship is the use of force to dictate expression and consumption. The human mind only realises its full potential when able to receive and impart ideas without force interfering with the process. It is through censorship, as an act of force carried out by Government, that the mind is suppressed and denied. Only Government has the monopoly on the final use of force. Individuals cannot censor a person living in a society where there is the free right to communicate ideas.
Why is freedom of expression so important? Because only through exchange and debate facilitated through such expression can people be sure that decisions, ideas, theories, philosophies, assertions, and religions are constantly challenged to ensure their validity. Censorship is the abandonment of debate and thought, replacing it with force. Censorship says NO DEBATE - THIS EXPRESSION IS NOT CONSIDERED VALID. What, we may wonder, are they afraid of?
Let's clear up some misconceptions.
The principle that force is only legitimately used in retaliation applies also to the expression of ideas. Libertarians do therefore believe in defamation laws - defamation is an attack on the reputation of a person and is, as such, an initiation of force. Calling "A" a rapist is defamation if "A" is not in fact a rapist - it may cause others to treat "A" differently or harm "A's" ability to act - for example, to maintain employment.
Equally, if a person is raped and that rape is filmed, then cameramen become an accessory to that initiation of force. The production of the video required that a person be violated and is a product of the initiation of force. Libertarianz would rightly prohibit distribution of such a video, except by permission of the victim - for example, as evidence in a trial. If a child is photographed being sexually violated, That also is an initiation of force, and the same reasoning applies. Since a child cannot understand the nature and consequences of sexual activity, inducing a child to perform an illegal act and recording it would in itself mean a person was an accessory to the crime.
However, beyond those examples - involving actual force and those unable to consent - Libertarianz would allow all pornography, not because we think pornography is inherently good, but because the force used in banning it is bad. Pornography after all is simply the recording of sexual activity between consenting adults.
We reject the notion that pornography is a cause of rape. Rape is caused by people who inflict sexual violence on other people. It is their conscious choice. Many may have consumed pornography, but many may also have consumed alcohol; many may have been raised in a violent household, many may have had toast for breakfast - none of these links CAUSE the crime. The cause is contained within the mind of the rapist, as the cause of mass murder is contained within the mind of the murderer. There was no film inciting Hitler to organise the Holocaust, or Mao to wipe out tens of millions of Chinese. Denying personal responsibility denies the rational ability ALL sane adults have to NOT act on the whim of imagery. Violence has existed since our species emerged – it is violence that must be outlawed, not the free exchange of ideas.
True, pornography may loosen inhibitions, it might arouse a potential rapist, but is that a reason to violate freedom of speech? If so, it follows that we must engage in wholesale censorship of all media. Films portraying robbery or theft should be banned, because it may encourage such acts. Essentially, it gets to the point where the portrayal of ANYTHING perceived to be "bad" is banned. And let's be clear, most pornography portrays consenting adults enjoying each others company - acts which, at worst, most people would think are harmless.
Some argue pornography can be positive. Many couples watch pornography for ideas of technique and for titillation, for fantasising - it enhances their lives. For some people it can give expression to private fantasies and fetishes, which might otherwise attract shame and derision. It offers catharsis, enabling them to get on with their lives having realised, privately, their sexual thoughts. To say that all such material should be banned because of a possible link to the actions of a tiny minority is to say that laws should be based on the actions of the lowest common denominator.
And what of the couple who make an amateur pornographic video and give a copy to like minded friends? Who are they harming? Whose business is it?
Many people have fun with pornography. Fun is something most authoritarians care little for. They care more for ideology, banning what they don't like and making compulsory what they do like. This philosophy would mean that because SOME people drive cars carelessly and kill others, cars should be banned. SOME people get drunk and hurt others, so alcohol should be banned. SOME people use knives as weapons, so knives should be banned. The utility and pleasure many people get from pornography - yes, predominantly men but also many women - is no LESS important that the utility many get from their cars, alcohol or knives. This philosophy views sex as immoral, as less than respectable – it reflects the bigoted religious view of sex - that sex is a sin except when producing blessed innocent children. Little wonder such people are called killjoys!
It is claimed that pornography is somehow 'degrading to women'. As a woman, I dispute that. This view is predicated on "women" being a homogeneous entity, with one consciousness, one common interest and one agenda - in other words it marginalises any women with a contrary view. Women consensually participating in pornography would no doubt disagree with the view that they are degraded. Many enjoy it - but this IS a matter of taste and taste should not determine laws.
The argument goes that pornography depicts women as "sex objects", denying their minds, their character and emotions. Pornography is therefore seen as stereotyping women and offending them all. Let us examine this notion.
First - Clearly it offends neither the participants, nor the women who consume pornography. Many women LIKE to be seen as sex objects at some point in their lives, to be seen as sexual, attractive and alluring. This is an individual CHOICE and NOBODY should deny anyone that right. To put it bluntly, a woman can choose to be a proud slut, and some do. Disapproval of such a lifestyle is no reason to prohibit pornography. Tolerance is one of the most important virtues in a free society.
Second - Even if EVERY woman was offended by pornography - much as it would be fair to claim that virtually all Jews are rightly offended by Mein Kampf – does that make prohibition a legitimate response to the offensive material? I say NO. I return to my statement about freedom of speech being so very important. If you don't approve of pornography, don't buy it. Produce material advocating that view. Debate. Use the power of free speech to present your perspective and let the validity of that perspective be challenged by others. You should have nothing to be afraid of. Boycott shops that sell pornography. Reject partners who participate, produce or consume it. In other words, act VOLUNTARILY; use persuasion rather than the government's force. To do otherwise suggests you can't convince others of your view.
Consider, in conclusion, that pornography has been with humanity for millennia. First religion restricted it - as it restricted sex (being one of the most primeval acts) in order to control all of society. More recently, the people sanctifying control of media based on religion have been replaced by those preferring control based on collectivist notions of what "being a woman" is all about. I can say right now, that for all that is said about pornography - and despite my own revulsion of it - it does NOT degrade me.
By contrast, the Ministry of Women's Affairs, which I partly and involuntarily fund, DEEPLY degrades me. I am my own person, an individual beyond my body parts which make me a woman; I have interests, thoughts, beliefs and emotions, and I am DAMNED if I am EVER going to accept that a bureaucratic agency can represent my interests based on one dimension of who I am!
There is one thing I can say for pornography – unlike governments, porn stars DON'T force me to pay for them to cock-up and screw around!!