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British government decides to encourage rape

In the first extensive study of the causal/correlative relationship between the use of pornography and sexual offenses, researcher Anthony D'Amato (of the faculty of law at Northwestern University) has concluded that rape statistics have declined 85% while availability of pornography rose significantly throughout the USA over the preceding 25 years. The Reagan-era Meese commission failed to derive a causal link proving that pornography caused sexual offenses; this appears to be a study proving the exact opposite — that availability of pornography reduces the incidence of violent sexual assaults. (Possible explanations are considered; follow the link for details.)

So it is quite interesting to see that the British government has decided to respond to this study by cracking down on pornography in a manner likely to backfire quite spectacularly (as well as infringing seriously on the right to freedom of speech). More details at the Prattle (thanks to Feorag) via the link above. (Home Office consultation process report here; more details on the origin of a stupid moral panic scare campaign here. (It appears the conviction of the man accused of murder that provided the impetus for the campaign has been referred back to the Court of Appeal.)

This government has created an average of one new criminal offense for every day it has spent in power — and it's been in power for nearly a decade. I am getting more than a little sick of these control freaks ...

42 Comments

1:

I've got to agree with you there... I have yet to see a good argument against pornography in general that isn't, at it's heart, "I think it's icky" or "My God doesn't like it."

2:

I have a good argument against pornography...IT TAKES UP TOO MUCH OF MY TIME. I mean, I've got shit to do, but the siren call of the internet and its endless stream of smut beckoning for my attention always seems to suck me in. I wish it would go away so I could get some real work done.

3:

Correlation doesn't prove causation -- not even negative correlation. And as I recall there was a decline in the rate of all violent crimes, not just rape, over the past 25 years in the USA. Reforms in our criminal justice system are more likely to be the cause of that than any change in the availability of porn.

I also recall a bunch of newspaper articles saying that the British government can't be bothered to prosecute for the old criminal offenses, like robbery or burglary. If I were you that would worry me much more than the offenses it's been inventing.

Has anyone in Britian heard of John V. Lindsay, Mayor of New York City from 1966 to 1973? Tony Blair reminds me of him, somehow.

4:
And as I recall there was a decline in the rate of all violent crimes, not just rape, over the past 25 years in the USA. Reforms in our criminal justice system are more likely to be the cause of that than any change in the availability of porn.
I believe there's some evidence for a correlation beween age demographics and that reduction in violent crime in the US.
Specifically, the number of violent crimes increases with the relative percentage of the population between 14 and 29 (or thereabouts, I'm not sure of the exact age range). Maybe we should ban teenagers? :-)
5:

Hm. Books take up too much time also. And let us not forget what's cool sites, like digg. Frankly, the whole thing is hopeless. The only way to avoid wasting time is to be disciplined, but of course that's hard. And the various forms of crack available on the Internet are hard as well. I really don't think passing a law outlawing porn is going to help you with your time-wasting. You just have to get sufficiently disgusted with the time wasted to do something about it.

Personally, having been in Iron Sunrise withdrawal for over a year, I'm more concerned with when the next hit of biblio-crack is coming. :')

Mr. Brazier, the problem with new crimes is that they make a great tool of repression. If everything is illegal, and you can't prosecute all crimes, you get to pick and choose. If everything is illegal, everyone is guilty of something. So now you can just decide to prosecute the people you don't like. It's really quite convenient if you're big on totalitarianism.

6:

While it is true that correlation doesn't prove causation, one of the main arguments put forward by those that would ban pornography is that it causes violence, especially sexual violence towards women. This argument is being used by the government in support of the proposed legislation—that reduced access to pornography will reduce violence against women.

If there was a link between pornography and sexual violence, then you would expect rape to increase with the availabilty of porn. What the study showed is that that did not happen, even with easy access to porn online. So the government is basing its legislative programme on well, complete bollocks.

7:

So the government is basing its legislative programme on well, complete bollocks.

Indeed, if they were actually concerned about sexual violence, you'd think the first thing to do would be to address the dismal (and declining) rate of convictions for rape.

I suppose making good headlines is simpler than solving a real (and persistent) problem.

8:

Matthew: exactly.

9:

"I also recall a bunch of newspaper articles saying that the British government can't be bothered to prosecute for the old criminal offenses, like robbery or burglary. If I were you that would worry me much more than the offenses it's been inventing.

I'm reminded of a Simpsons episode where Chief Wiggum explains that they don't have the budget to be able to enforce all the laws, so they only enforce the most recent law...

10:

Part of the issue is that the theories or correlation and of causality are old (predating statistical methodology) and well-entrenched, and evidence is ambiguous. Relating also to the "arousal theory" and catharsis see:

Open Questions on the Correlation Between Television and Violence
by Jonathan Vos Post.

I knocked myself out trying to be objective, to grind no axes, to think like a scientist. As a result, this article is in the curriculum of about a dozen colleges and universities internationally. I could not maintain the same objectivity about pornography, however, which seems more innately political to me, including warring camps of feminism.

11:

Perhaps I was unclear? It's not that a host of new laws defining new offenses is a good thing, or even a small evil. It's that a regime that won't protect the lives and property of its ordinary citizens is failing in its basic duty. People will put up with petty nonsense from officials for a long time if they think they're safe in their beds; they'll start looking for a strongman once they suspect they aren't safe, however competent the officials are in small ways.

Of course, the worst possible state is one that constantly harasses its ordinary citizens and leaves them in fear of being robbed, raped or murdered. Regimes like that get replaced, abruptly and painfully; there's no reason to be loyal to them.

12:

I was intrigued by Charlie's post, so I followed up the link and read the article. Before people get too excited, I should point out that it's actually a pretty flimsy piece of work. That doesn't invalidate the argument, by any means -- the basic qualitative point he makes is unexceptionable, and I'd be willing to bet the general argument is probably true. But it's hardly an "extensive study"; more a sketch of an argument.

What he does is:

A) He notes that the estimated rape rate has fallen by 85% since about 1980(this isn't his research; he's using numbers and a chart from the US Dept. of Justice's Statistics program; summary here).

B) Then he argues that the availability of pornography has increased during that period, because of the spread of VCRs and videotapes, an increase in the number of porn magazines, and (more recently) the rise of the Internet. Unfortunately, he doesn't provide any numbers (or references) for any of this. Frankly, you'd have to be insane to argue that this isn't true; but there aren't any numbers, so you can't make any clear statistical arguments.

C) Then he does a quick comparison of internet availability in 2001 (assuming this is the same as availability of porn, I guess) and rape rates (from police reports in 1980 and 2000) for two sets of US states: the four states with the lowest per-capita internet acess (Arkansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, and W. Virginia) and the four with the highest internet access (Alaska, Colorado, New Jersey, and Washington). He find that rape rates increased in the first four and decreased in the last four.

Of course, if you wanted to argue that rape rates correlate with poverty, or with some set of social factors (cultural conservatism?), or even that we're also seeing variations in how people report rapes to the police... you could also use his results. (And he's glossing over details like the fact that the reported rape rates in Washington actually peaked in the early 1990s.) So I'm not very impressed by his one bit of statistical analysis, and he hasn't really shown anything convincing vis-a-vis internet porn.

The fundamental argument is still pretty damn strong, though: "If pornography promotes rape, then why has the rape rate gone down so dramatically during the time that availability of pornography has gone up?"

13:

It's a very nice trick: the law is clearly unenforceable, BUT will provide a nice way to prosecute people who for one reason or another fall foul of the law, and give employer a nice excuse for sacking people on moral grounds. Cheap, popular, useful.

14:

Exactly, Anonymous.

It strikes me that the key point about this law, from the government's standpoint, has nothing to do with rape, pornography, or murder. It's that it should be very useful in facilitating the police to go in and search someone's computers and digital media on any kind of vague suspicion. And face it, almost everybody's guilty of something trivial if you look hard enough, so this should be very useful in avoiding any embarassment of the police at false arrests or unwarranted searches.

Oops, this one's not a terrorist... any drugs on the premises? No? Well, let's leaf through his porn then, and while we're in his computer we can check if he's dodging taxes or anything else shady.

15:

Clifton: the availability of a gadget like this today is interesting. (16Gb on a flash drive.) Flash drives are doubling in capacity every 12-18 months, so in 10 years we should be hitting the 16Tb mark -- at which point, rotating media are obsolete: never mind holding my entire CD collection, ripped with lossless compression, 16Tb is enough to add my entire DVD collection and the contents of the British Library and the Library of Congress with some space left over.

And at the same time as the 16Gb USB stick, we see the 8Gb SD card.

I'm already planning on moving my work environment onto a memory stick: the core apps I use are all available for OS/X, Linux, and Windows, and with a bit of squeezing I can fit a working multi-platform environment and all my important data into a 4Gb stick. A 16Gb stick would also hold my email correspondence going back 10 years, PDF scans of all the paperwork stuff for my business, and just about everything else I need -- with a movie on top.

Once this sort of thing becomes standard, there's not going to be much point searching computers -- the hot stuff is going to fit on a chip the size of a postage stamp that doesn't radiate and disappears from view when not in use.

Takes cat and mouse to a whole new level, doesn't it? I'm waiting for the Home Office mandated keystroke loggers myself ...

16:

Once this sort of thing becomes standard, there's not going to be much point searching computers -- the hot stuff is going to fit on a chip the size of a postage stamp that doesn't radiate and disappears from view when not in use.

The other trend is to stop using fixed hardware at all. It's pretty easy to sign up for free services like Google and online storage accounts with fake personal information. And even if they require real identities, it's just another market for ID theft.

Rather than on a computer or a tiny memory chip, my data an apps could be distributed across dozens of remote servers under multiple names. If they don't know I'm Senor Goatman, it will be hard for them to see what I'm doing...

17:

A little poking around with Google turned up this 1999 article from the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry dealing with pornography in Japan, which is more of an "extensive study." From the conclusion: "It is certainly clear from our data and analysis that a massive increase in available pornography in Japan has been correlated with a dramatic decrease in sexual crimes and most so among youngsters as perpetrators or victims." (emphasis mine)

18:

Charlie:

That's why I covered myself with "digital media". Of course it also means they've got to go through every knick-knack shelf looking for something that might be a USB drive, look for hidden files on every DVD and every CD in the music collection - hmmm... reminds me of an incident in a certain fantasy novel! - and then if they do find something they want to look through maybe it's encrypted.

That brings up another interesting point: Didn't the UK also introduce what some called a "rubber hose" law, which makes it a criminal offense to withhold the encryption key for any encrypted files the police wish to search? I thought I remembered reading something about that a couple of years two ago. [Rummage rummage... ah thank Google.]

Yes, consider this bit of legalese, commented on here and here, among other places.

And they've just this summer proposed to activate these provisions, in the name of fighting terrorism and pedophilia, but of course with no limitation to the same. I do think this fits rather neatly.

19:

It's exceedingly unlikely that there's much correlation between "ordinary" rape and access to pornography one way or another.

Rape _has_ declined steeply in the US in the past 20 years; but then, so has murder, armed robbery, felonious assault, and burglary. In fact, all the post-1964 rise in violent crime has vanished since the 1980's, when it peaked.

Eg., at the height of the crack epidemic there were about 3000 murders per annum in New York; now there are about 500, which is about the same as in 1960 or 1930.

Now, there does seem to be some correlation between consumption of child pornography and assaults by pedophiles -- but there's no evidence that the images cause the assault. It's more probable that they're both products of the same wiring problem.

20:

Incidentally, if you follow social trends in the US, the 1970-1990 period is when a whole lot of things peaked and then went into reverse.

Eg., crime rates peaked and then dropped sharply (back to 1950's levels); teenage pregnancy rates peaked and then dropped sharply (to the lowest level on record); divorce rates peaked and then began to drift down slowly; birth-rates bottomed out (in about 1976) and then began to drift slowly upward (among non-Hispanic whites, at least; they've kept right on falling for other groups).

There's some sort of social sea-change involved, some sort of causal link, but I couldn't say exactly what.

21:

Once this sort of thing becomes standard, there's not going to be much point searching computers -- the hot stuff is going to fit on a chip the size of a postage stamp that doesn't radiate and disappears from view when not in use.

And how do you get the new hot stuff in there without being seen?

(Anyhow, thanks for the link, Charlie. i intend to swipe it without credit when doing a paper later this month, bwahahahahah)

22:

Rape _has_ declined steeply in the US in the past 20 years; but then, so has murder, armed robbery, felonious assault, and burglary. In fact, all the post-1964 rise in violent crime has vanished since the 1980's, when it peaked.

What's interesting about the Dept. of Justice statistics, though, is the differences within that trend. For example, the total violent crime rate peaked in the early 80s, went down, then peaked again in the early 90s, after which it's declined steeply. Nonviolent property crime (except for auto theft) peaked in the mid-70s, and has declined pretty steadily since then (with a pause in the mid-80s and another pause since 2002). Rape has been declining since about 1980. So they're not all quite in lockstep.

23:

Ah, I feel like I've just staggered into an oasis of sanity!

The truly astonishing thing is that this government regards consensual acts of simulated sexual violence a suitable topic for state intrusion and legislative time. Meanwhile, of course, 'mainstream sado' entertainment like 'Hostel' can trumpet its 'sick' credentials from giant posters in the underground; one can only assume, though, that the simulated acts of brutal torture involved in that don't involve people getting naked. As ever, it's the sex rather than the violence that gets our moral guardians in a lather.

Of course, the most ironic aspect of this, as someone has just pointed out to me, is that the same government hellbent on banning pretend torture is a good deal
more ambivalent about the real thing.

24:

I think one thing to do is contact your MP, point out the disruption that a search could cause, and ask who they would trust with the power to make such searches.

What worries me is that so many police forces seem in favour of the law, but computer forensics is so under-resourced. If they come knocking on the door, your data is lost to you for months.

Charlie, if you're not putting copies of your work texts somewhere safe from such abuse, you'd be horribly hurt by the lethargic process of such investigations.

(What trade associations are there for writers? The disruptive effects of modern investigations should be an issue for them. Journalism, obviously. Somebody writing a high-tech thriller too...)

25:

Sorry that I can only cite USA + Canada data here. I find that the "sea change" referred to by S. M. Stirling is that, although violent crime has declined (my data showed that during the past century it peaked during the Great Depression of 1930s) the PERCEPTION in the public is that violent crime has been increasing. My students were split on whether the fear is appropriate, or is anxiety whipped up by politicians and media.

Of the 2,000+ students I taught of ages 60-95, regardless of the subject, I polled on these 2 questions.
(1) When you were young, did you keep your front door unlocked, and/or car unlocked?
(2) Do you now?

With 2 or 3 exceptions among the 2,000+ [self-selected nonrandom] subjects, nobody now keeps their car nor front door unlocked. Those exceptions being in very remote rural residences.

When I ask why this change has taken place, I am presented with a very voluminous and complex analysis (I have hundreds of pages of notes). Broadly speaking, these men and women of North America [USA + Canada] cite an interlocked failure of "role of women in family" + "education system" + "law & order" + "global tensions" + "pollution" + "nature of employment" + "drugs & alcohol" + "technology" + "nature of democracy itself" + other factors, differing from group to group.

After a week of discussing "The Structure of Scientific Revolution" to develop a precise vocabulary, the subjects make individual and group presentations. Almost always they tell me, men and women, blue collar and white collar, nominally liberal and nominally conservative:

(1) There is or will shortly be a revolution [not necessarily armed insurrection, but anomaly piled onto anomaly until the system breaks down];

(2) This is happening not just in the subject's neighborhoods, towns, states, but to some extent worldwide;

(3) It is past the point of no return;

(4) There is no real debate anymore, as centrists have been marginalized and extremists amplified;

(5) The mechanisms and authorities for resolving this are now causing more problems than they solve;

(6) Things cannot be fixed one at a time because of the way that they interrelate;

(7) Things will not necessarily got better, nor necessarily worse, but will become chaotic;

(8) The future will be different, in ways hard to predict;

(9) This is too important for politicians to decide, nort scientists for that matter;

(10) We have some responsbility to discuss this with family, friends, neighbors.

Beyond that, little is majority belief. I was surprised by the strong plurality of these statements (somewhat paraphrased here). As a Science Fiction author, I am pleased that our deeper message and utopian/dystopian menu has become widely accepted among these subjects of the generation older than myself.

26:

The explanation is simple - 1979/1980 - the year the lunatics took over the asylum, as is obvious from the fact I was born.

27:

Alex: methinks you need to look back to the preparations the lunatics put in place for their asylum-capturing bid. (And no, I'm not casting aspersions on your parents.)

JvP: nobody I know personally is content with the way things are being run. And despite the selection bias inherent in my choice of friends, I do know a few Tories, and they're as dissatisfied as the fuzzy liberal democrats like myself and the hardcore socialists I also know. (Except the hardcore socialists have rather more practice at being disappointed with the direction politics has taken.)

I am deeply worried by prophecies of revolution, and hope that if there's a sea-change in our politics it won't follow the pattern of previous revolutions. Because, you know, this time the OGPU/Stasi/Gestapo/Committee for State Security will have Google. No chance of hiding your dissent now, comrade!

28:

Charlie: This goes considerably beyond discontent with the status quo, or nostalgia for status quo ante.

I am not eager for revolution, political. Nor am I preaching it. I am open to revolution, scientific. You are yourself part of revolution, literary. In the short run, everything gets worse for some time after a revolution. Robespierre reboot.

For the 2nd rate in Germany, the Nazis were good news. Plenty of 1st rate folks were kicked out, and the 2nd-raters got their slots. That allowed the 3rd-raters to be promoted. It is no side-effect to me that numerous relatives of mine were killed in and out of concentration camps.

I'm happy that my students told me that the future will be different. I'm alarmed that they told me we were in prerevolutionary times. It is not the message of my chronological peers. It is not the message of the Press. I would not really listen to my students at first. But they told me essentially the same thing, again and again. I'd be a fool to want revolution. I'm a homeowner, husband, father, with good reason to want stability. But I'd be a fool to ignore my 2,000+ students. That's my conundrum. As for dissent, government agencies have already told me to my face that they had, more than a decade ago, more than 6 linear shelf feet of dossier on me. I have a lot to lose. But, on the other hand, no fear of continuing to tell the truth, as I see it, given that I'm already on the of those that need to be rounded up.

Oh, and didn't Hitler get elected by people who were afraid of a revolution by the Communists, or others? When things get chaotic, folks want someone to ride in on a white horse. If their lucky, they get Churchill, FDR, Ghandi, Lincoln. If they're unlucky, they get Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Hitler. The nature of the chaos is that small perturbations lead to outcomes as different as that.

So, which comes first: revolution or singularity? Will the new boss be the same as the old boss, or much much worse, or the Eschaton?

29:

Mr. Post, what your students describe is not a pre-revolutionary situation; what's missing is the popular lack of confidence in the regime as such, the crisis of legitimacy. The UK has that, apparently, but the US does not. Your students are describing a pre-insurrectionary situation: a split of the political classes into factions, between whom rational argument is believed impossible, and each of whom presents itself as the true interpreter of the regime's basic principles. We are facing civil war, not anarchy.

Though I doubt, really, that the USA will see real mass violence in either form -- dirty legal/political manuevers are more our style. Some things you might watch out for are a dispossession of non-profit foundations, or political tests on government research grants.

30:

It seems to me that both right-wing and left-wing politics (if we read that as conservative and liberal) both have dangerous extremes. What struck me is how much a right-wing fascist police state (e.g. the Old South Africa) can resemble a left-wing communist police state (e.g. the USSR), and how accurate George Orwell was when he wrote about "thought-crime" as an indicator of such totalitarianism. Pornography to me fits the definition of thought-crime almost perfectly. The only truly "moral" ground to argue against it is that it is the production, rather than the consumption, of pornography, that is harmful - to the individuals involved. And that argument only holds water in the case of child pornography. As far as consumption is concerned - being gay, I know what it is to have sexual desires that are "wrong" and also to know how completely innate (by which I mean natural) those desires are. I suspect people who find children sexually attractive (and let's distinguish between paedophiles and pederasts while we're at it) suffer from exactly the same problem and find it as intractable as I do attraction toward men. If I had kids, and the guy next door was into kids in that way, I would far prefer him to find his quota of fulfillment in pornography (let's assume it's all virtual and CG to get around the production issue) instead of with my son or daughter. I suspect he would prefer that, too.

The point I'm trying to make (I think) is that what is proximately distasteful might be ultimately good. And, given the correlation-causation problem that no-one in any left- or right-wing government or newspaper seems to understand, who is in any position to define any thought-crime as harmful? Tracking your browsing habits is a perfect example of Orwell's nightmare - just a few years too late.

31:

To keep a sense of proportion, note that until the 1960's all 'pornography' was illegal in the English-speaking countries and the ban was often harshly and arbitrarily enforced.

This didn't make those countries 'fascist dictatorships'.

Freedom of speech, _sensu strictu_, was seen as applying to _political speech_, narrowly defined, and you can make a good argument for this definition.

You'd probably get a majority vote for recriminalizing pornography in much of the world.

32:

Steve: all your points re pornography are technically correct ... but miss the point.

In 1945, the Allies in Europe kept the concentration camps open afte VE day for one category of inmate -- the homosexuals. Does that make them fascist dictatorships? Obviously not. Were they right? Equally obviously (to me), no.

The big problem worldwide in the 20th/21st century is communication. It shrinks the world and brings us into contact with people we don't want to know about/talk to. Learning to selectively ignore other people's habits and get along peacefully is the big challenge of the coming decades. (And if you consider how far we've come since the 17th century, it's not that big a step -- at least for those of us in the west.)

33:

Stirling, you said :

Freedom of speech, _sensu strictu_, was seen as applying to _political speech_, narrowly defined, and you can make a good argument for this definition.

You'd probably get a majority vote for recriminalizing pornography in much of the world.

I said nothing about freedom of speech. I said criminalizing pornography is, essentially, creating a thought-crime.

And since when does a majority vote mean anything? Just because a large percentage of US citizens believe God created the world in 7 days 4004 years ago doesn't make them right, does it? (Let us not forget, a majority voted for Bush - although, technically, given the existence of electoral colleges, that doesn't have to actually be true). I believe - and here I stand to be corrected due to my habit of pulling facts out of thin air to support my argument - that the Nazis were elected into control of the German government.

Of course, you may not have meant that all these people were right. You may have been saying that pornography is not necessarily in fashion. And I'm saying that we shouldn't make laws based on fashion, but rather on principle; and I would like to know which (non-religious) principle is being violated by the consumption of pornography.

34:

Freedom of Speech in the USA, to simplify here [I am Not a Lawyer, but have worked part time in law firms for 15 years] has at least these 8 different threads:

(1) Political Speech (the first one emphasized by the Founding Fathers);

(2) News as published in Newspapers [severely restricted by the Alien & Sedition Act, and again under Executive branch attack];

(3) Literature (as with "banned books", often for allegedly pornographic content);

(4) Commercial Speech (the most recently recognized at Supreme Court level);

(5) matters of Intellectual Property (copyright, patent, trademark, look & feel, and the like).

(6) Academic Freedom (begun when Europe invented nondenominational universities many centuries ago, enshrined in US law since the Stanford case of the 1920s, and subsequently chipped away to uselessness)

(7) Intelligence Law (related to national defense in various ways, and with the use of a secret court, and under the most all-encompassing attack by the Executive in the USA today);

(8) Parody (the cartoon in Hustler; the 2 Live Crew sampling case, and the like).

What has resulted is a chaotic hodge-podge of contradictory theories and precedents, arguably worse than nothing.

35:

MISOGYNY
hard to spell
EASY TO PRACTICE

36:

S, I'm not sure if that's a criticism of this discussion or simply a recommendation.

Either way, we're discussing the theory of pornography consumption. I personally support the idea that pornographic images should be treated as art. Bad art, perhaps, but certainly art that has something to say. And, being lonely, I'm strongly in favour of most forms of pornography, be they heterosexual or homosexual or something else.

The only thing pretty much everyone agrees on is that the production of child pornography is (I hate this word) morally indefensible, since it removes consent and potentially victimizes legal innocents.

If you've read the whole thread, you'll have seen that sexual crimes against woman tended to decrease when the availability of pornography was on the increase. The causes and evidence can be debated, though; but it might stop a knee-jerk reaction to label anything sexual that involves women as "misogynistic". (You're right, that's a tricky word to spell, and even more difficult to type).

37:

"And I'm saying that we shouldn't make laws based on fashion, but rather on principle"

-- what's a principle, if not a high-status fashion that's been around for a while?

What your statement amounts to is that you'd like the laws to conform to your preferences rather than those of people you disagree with.

Well, yeah, me too.

"And I would like to know which (non-religious) principle is being violated by the consumption of pornography."

-- any number. For example, a lot of feminists think pornography degrades and injures women.

Personally I think that's bollocks, but it's a non-religious principle.

38:

...what's a principle if not a high-status fashion
There's something very wrong with that argument but I can't think of it right now...hmmm.

And, yes, obviously, I would prefer the laws to suit my preference. But - more to the point - I would prefer laws that don't make my *non-harmful* behaviour illegal because *some* people find my behaviour icky.

A lot of feminists think pornography degrades and injures women

Only if it's done properly. :)
Two points regarding this

1. I specifically stated "the consumption" of pornography, not "the production". I can understand feminazis complaining about the production of pornography; but any claims they make about the consumption being degrading and harmful have yet to proved. What I do in private on my own time is entirely up to me, provided it doesn't harm someone else - *that* is what I want the law to reflect.

2. What principle, then, is violated by the consumption of gay pornography?

39:

Steve, Colin, I take it you are unfamiliar with Feminists Against Censorship.

(The "pornography degrades and injures women" argument isn't intrinsic to feminism; it's a bolt-on option that comes with certain other elements, and it's highly convenient for certain political campaigners to play it up.)

Colin: 2. What principle, then, is violated by the consumption of gay pornography?

It is worth noting that the Canadian anti-porn legislation, which was largely campaigned for by Catherine McKinnon, was almost exclusively deployed against lesbian and gay bookstores.

(In other words, the anti-porn feminists are a stalking horse for something very different.)

40:

Thanks Charlie, that's very interesting. I was, um, subliminally aware of the existence of sensible feminists. This is one of my "button" issues (i.e. push it and get a response) because of the concept of sexual freedom (i.e. non-legislated consensual sexual activity). As an aside, SA's gay marriage bill is about to go through our parliament, and of course the fundamentalists are out in force, and - USA redux - they're trying to pass a piece of legislation called "The Protection Of Marriage Act". Grrr. It's all part of the same thing. I really, really wish I could understand what the problem is; what are these people getting so excited about? And why, why, why, is there always a rabble-rouser or three with "degrees" from a divinity college lurking in the background...? Plus there's some new "online porn" law coming into effect that I didn't even know was on the horizon. How exactly does one get one's voice heard? I'm strongly tempted to go into politics.

Sorry for the rant.

41:

Colin: I really, really wish I could understand what the problem is; what are these people getting so excited about?

In a word, money.

There's a very ugly picture that's been building up over the past decade, of what's behind the current wave of barking mad islamicism in the Middle East. Mostly it's powered by the Saudi royal family who, given (a) their tremendous wealth and discreet debauchery, and (b) their origins in a puritanical bunch of city-conquering near-barbarians only 80 years ago, are trying to buy off the preachers by giving them all the mosques and mission funding that they can eat. As someone else put it, it's as if all the oil money in Texas was being funnelled straight into the Aryan Nations.

And oddly enough, there's a similar pattern in the Christian sector. A lot of extremely rich, very conservative American money is being funnelled into the most overtly reactionary preachers and churches, world-wide. (This leaves aside the issue of the Catholic church, which seems to have an institutional objection to the Protestant enlightenment of the 18th century.) It starts in America; it's very cheap for the fundies there to buy enthusiastic allies abroad, and it gives them lots of leverage at their church conclaves or get-togethers or whatever. The quid pro quo is, the recipients of this largesse get to tow the American fundamentalist line.

You know that in the UN, when sexual health and AIDS funding come up for votes, the USA usually votes with the Saudis and the Iranians, and against just about every other country that isn't actually a priest-ridden theocracy?

42:

Charlie : I suspect you're right; although I would have to apply Heinlein's law (attribution dubious, but Wikipedia seems to agree) - never suspect conspiracy where stupidity will suffice.

Also, I guess no-one is going to give gay activists a whole bunch of money since the gay population will always be a vanishingly small portion of the population. This would also explain why the fundamentalists get such a large portion of the publicity pie, only countered here-and-there (at least on SA TV) by a really annoyed-looking lesbian spouting the gay party line. The other thing, of course, is that the loudest lesbian is always the ugliest one...this goes for gay men, too, except in that case it's always the most effeminate man. I have no problem with the ugliness or effeminacy (being ugly and on occasion effeminate myself), but if you're attempting to change public perception, asserting the stereotype is not the way to do it. Anyway. Thanks for your perspective, and you, too, Steve.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on August 31, 2006 7:17 PM.

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