The BBC is reporting that prime minister David Cameron is introducing new measures that will block all ‘online pornography’ from UK households. The block will initiate at the level of the Internet service provider (ISP), and will be a default setting unless customers specifically opt out to enable this content. Cameron is also calling for ‘horrific’ search terms (including “rape pornography”) to be automatically banned, for everyone.

pornographyThe BBC’s article used generous scare quotes throughout to editorialize about how stupid this plan is. For example, on questions regarding the technical feasability of such a plan, they had this to say:

“He told the BBC he expected a ‘row’ with service providers who, he said in his speech, were ‘not doing enough to take responsibility’ despite having a ‘moral duty’ to do so. He also warned he could have to ‘force action’ by changing the law and that, if there were ‘technical obstacles’, firms should use their ‘greatest brains’ to overcome them.”

Personally—and I say this as a child educator who has routine contact with impressionable children—I am a little horrified by this proposal. The road to censorship is a slippery slope indeed, and the definition of ‘pornography’ is extremely open to debate. Yes, images depicting rape or children are indeed horrific—but those are illegal already, and their purveyors are actively pursued and prosecuted under current laws.

And as for the ‘legal’ stuff—well, how loose is your definition going to be? Are sex education materials pornographic because they explicitly label body parts? What about information on birth control? Once you start restricting keywords, you run into all sorts of difficulties at drawing that line, and I think that’s a not-so-good path to be going down. I would rather leave legal materials available, and leave it up to each individual to monitor and manage what comes into their house.


  1. Very slippery slope. There’s plenty of mainstream media (TV and movie) which depict rape as part of the plot (and doesn’t objectify the participants/victims). Some of it treads on the pornography line. But I don’t think they should be banned. Now, I’m sure that’s not what he has in mind, but these things do have a tendency to get out of control quickly.

  2. Porn is hate speech against women; eroticized power-over, depicting abuse, torture, degradation and murder.
    Do not forget for a moment that real women are forced to make it and they are forever hurt by that.

  3. In Australia our late, unlamented Communications Minister Stephen Conroy had a plan to do the same thing. Repeated, authoritative assertions that it wouldn’t work by people who actually knew what they were talking about failed to convince him, but a demonstration that it was going to lose the Labor Party votes finally managed to do the trick. If all the porn users in Britain register their displeasure at the next opinion poll then I suspect the idea will be quietly buried.

  4. Do not forget for a moment that real women are forced to make it and they are forever hurt by that.

    I lived in L.A., the porn capital of the U.S., for 20 years and was acquainted with quite a few people in that industry, both behind and in front of the camera. Never once did I encounter anyone forced into porn. Some of the women were quite clever and canny, seeing an opportunity to make good money for short hours and using it to pay for their education to get into a good career in the future; they knew that porn is typically a short-lived career as the market wants new faces. It certainly didn’t seem to me that they felt ashamed or degraded. Porn has become pretty mainstream and not one of them batted an eye at talking about their involvement in it. I don’t think forced porn acting is common, nearly every production company has a long list of applicants and large turnouts at their casting calls.

    As to the bit about it being bad because it is supposedly anti-woman, what about gay porn? No women involved at all and no imbalance of power due to gender roles, so does that make gay porn fine and dandy? I knew actors in that side of the industry as well and never once heard any regrets. The worst comments I ever heard were things like “it is so boring waiting around on the set” or “that cameraman did not get my best angle.”

    I was surprised during my L.A. years at just how many “pornstars” I encountered (probably around 35-40). Most had done just one or two movies and money was often not the motivating factor. They thought it would be something fun and interesting to do once or twice and liked the idea of viewers thinking of them as hot and sexy.

  5. Nothing like painting things in absolutes. I am sure the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Some people get involved in the sex industry through coercion and some get involved for other reasons entirely.

    That being said, while I do agree it would be difficult to enforce, I personally have no particular qualms with making it harder for minors to access. If there are specific opt out provisions, and they are not too burdensome, I think it would be a good thing. After all, it is way too easy for kids (and I mean young kids) to get exposed to porn accidentally.

  6. It must be great to have a government that does the thinking for you.
    The only thing you have to do is vote for them once in a while and pay their exorbitant wages and benefits. Perhaps David Cameron should create a Ministry of Truth.

  7. @Terre – I think you are conflating the sex industry (prostitution) with the adult video industry. Yes, women are used and abused and coerced by pimps and it’s awful. No, actresses in adult films are not the same, they’re voluntary workers and treated quite well (excellent pay, catered food on the set, and so on). If a pimp showed up with his girls, he’d quickly be escorted off the premises. The adult video industry lives with the constant concern that crusaders will attempt to close it down and makes great efforts to avoid any links with bad behavior like coercion and abuse. If you work with women harmed by prostitution, that’s great and I wish them well…but it is a different industry.

    Now if some wacko filmed some bad things with unwilling performers in a backwoods cabin or something, it was not a legitimate adult studio. Blaming the studios for the actions of a rogue operator would be like demanding that all restaurants be closed because one nutjob restauranteur was caught serving dog or cat meat on the sly.

  8. No, Kevin, I have not conflated anything. Both porn cting and prostitution ARE the same industry. Many prostitutes will aver to the all-too-often occurance of their pimp selling them to a porn producer for the duration of a film or two or ten. And many of them die of the injuries and violence. Some are killed intentionally.

    It is a grim,grisly business and I know all too well what the realities of the entire sex industry actually are.

    Read the blog of exited women. They write at length about the whol, ugly truth.

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