Tuesday 21 December 2010

Pornblocking: Why It Would Have Killed Me

Guest post from Charlie of All Very Unaverage.

The Conservative MP Claire Perry, representing the good constituency of Devizes, Wiltshire, has suggested the
introduction of a Great Porn Filter. This stalwart piece of software would patrol the borders of our great nation, letting in only the most virtuous, the most pure, the most clean of web traffic. With the filter in place Britain might rid itself of the terrible addicition to pornography that has brought it to its knees (so to speak) and which has led to all the problems that we now face: student debt, benefit cuts and snow over our noble runways. Without internet porn Britain would once again be a place that Mary Whitehouse could smile down upon from her heavenly doilie-enhanced throne. It would become, once again, a green and pleasant land.


I'm not going to go into why the "research" supporting Claire Paerry's little crusade is rubbish. Foxsoup did a
far better job than I could. But I am going to tell you what the result would be.

The filter is an attempt to censor pornographic imagery from young sexual adults. These dirty,
naughty images would enter the country at will, but it would be the task of your ISP to clamp their electronic fists around your home phone line and prevent your household from accessing them. If you did want access to Asian Hot Ass or Mighty Cocks of the Midwest then you would have to phone up your ISP and ask them to remove it.

You would have to beg for porn.

"Hello there, this is Denise, how can I help you?"

"Erm, hello. I'd, er.. like some [mumble] please."

"Some what, sir?"

"Some [mumble] ass."

"Could you say that just a bit louder, sir?" [puts call on speakerphone for entire call centre to hear]


"Just adding that to your account, sir"

Honestly, I feel sorry for Claire Perry's husband. How much porn must he get through in a day that she has thought about bringing in a national ban on porn as the only way to stop him?

But there's a very deadly side to this, as there is to all right-wing authoritarian plans. Because, who
defines porn? There is no National Porn Agency. There is no Inspectorate for Sexual Materials. As far as I can tell, the nearest authority we have for defining porn is The Daily Mail. That self-righteous rag is the only place drawing the line in the sand and saying "this is filth", often alongside a full-page reproduction of said filth.

For those of us who do not have the taste to read the right-wing press we have to rely on personal discretion. For me, porn is heavily literal. I get off on stories and poems - yes, that is pretentious - I need to
imagine an erotic situation to get off on it. From what I can tell of fixing the computers of my friends their erotic tastes cover a range quite different to mine: from comics to pictures to films to, in one case, 'Allo 'Allo slash fiction.

There are even, y'know, some people who, ha ha ha, get off on pictures of the same sex. Heh heh...

Oh. Shit.

I remember being a 15 year old boy (we'll come to that later). I remember how confusing sexuality was. I remember how fucking difficult it was in those pre-web days to get access to porn. We don't appreciate it now, but once it was hard to get porn. It wasn't just a case of sitting down with a laptop and opening your browser bookmarks. Oh no. In those days you had to go into a newsagent. And browse the top shelf. And pick up a magazine. And walk up to the counter. And turn bright red. And experience the leer of the owner as he put it in a discreet paper bag. And walk out, shamed.

Now imagine that if you're a gay teenager.

It isn't easy being gay in a straight world. As much as we like to think that we're all groovy with gays, that we've got some gay friends, it's still not easy to be an out non-straight adult. It's positively
dangerous to be a queer teenager. Can you imagine how utterly terrifying it must be to access gay porn in meatspace when you're discovering that you're not normal, that what you are can get you beaten to death? If you're non-straight, you know how that feels. If you're straight then have a good fucking ponder about it.

But the availability of the internet in the late 90s changed this. Suddenly the world of same-sex genital tittilation was available from the comfort of your own teenage bedroom. You don't have to risk being mocked, or a beating. Or death. Now you could explore your sexuality, discover your tastes, all from the comfort of your masturbation throne.

Claire Perry doesn't want that. In her world, young people don't have a sexuality, or erotic tastes. They're good girls and boys, appropriately attracted to the opposite sex, waiting to marry before they can get any of that nasty, sticky behaviour over with. And certainly not one of those dirty fucking queers. I feel sorry for her children.

And it gets worse. Because, it's the start of the slippery slope. If we start blocking erotic materials "for the children" then what else gets caught up in that censoring dragnet? A lot of things, for certain - sexual health advice. Images of healthy bodies that a worried teen might need to look at ("is my penis meant to look like that?", "Are my breasts meant to be different sizes?"). Sexual health sites fall under the auspices of "porn" for a lot of current parental control software. This is because netnanny software is fundamentally stupid. It doesn't know WHY you or your child are trying to access a site, only that the Scunthorpe council homepage is pornographic (based on SUPER ADVANCE KEYWORD SEARCHING).

Oh, what about abortion advice? Why would nice children ever want to access that information? Better block it! It's not like teenagers are going to get pregnant!

And then there is another group. I give this one special mention, despite its rarity, because I belonged to that group. A group of kids who hated themselves, who were positively terrified of their own bodies, who are desperate to find out why their own flesh has betrayed them. Transgender teens.

Yes, they exist. I hated what I was for nearly all my teenage years., wanting to rip the skin from my body, sobbing myself to sleep at night because I couldn't understand what I was. But then came along the internet. Oh, the internet. It fucking saved me. It gave 18 year old me a view of the world that made me realise that I wasn't alone, that I could do something about the pain that made me want to die.

Claire Perry, and her evil piece of legislation, would take that lifeline away. Oh, maybe not conciously. I doubt she even knows that trans people exist, let alone that there are trans teenagers out there who rely on the internet for vital support. She wouldn't notice as the sites they use to gain crucial advice from are blocked, due to having never-quite-defined "adult materials", as support channels are closed down for "endangering youth". She wouldn't notice as sites all over the net are blocked for containing mention of sex, genitals, puberty and sexuality, when what they are doing is educating a badly unrepresented and unsupported section of society.

She wouldn't notice as another young person slits their wrists in utter desperation.

So fuck you, Claire Perry. Fuck you and your plan to block life-saving "pornography". Fuck you and your plan to block REAL pornography.

Just fucking fuck you.


Gary Elsby said...

I don't know so much.
I wanted to teach my new doggie how to cross the road, and as a new owner, I thought I'd search the internet for help.
I came across, what seemed like a the perfect website called:
'Sally loves her dog'.
So I watched it hoping to learn a few tricks.

Well, to cut a long story short,

I'm now on medication and I'm reliably assured, that after a few years of careful psychiatric help and the full support of close friends and family, I may be able to venture outside once more in daylight.

I don't doubt that Sally loves her dog, but she appears to love her dog in ways most of us wouldn't appreciate.

I don't have a dog anymore as it became hooked on the internet and I had it shot.

Phil said...

I'm pleased you found this a suitable occasion to relate a frivolous and oh-so-funny porn anecdote.

d.z.bodenberg said...

I think that this issue is being looked at from the wrong angle.

It's not about pornography, but about censorship.

It's about creating a legal mechanism by which the government can demand internet service providers block access to certain parts of the internet.

They could be pornographic, paedophilic, political...whatever. What they are/will be is secondary - it's the banning/blocking that is the major issue.

In Germany, where, possibly surprisingly to those in Britain, the charge of "paedo" isn't (yet) enough to get mobs out onto the streets or to get people's houses burned down (etc.), and where using the argument (often, the "argument") of child pornography etc. certainly won't silence opposition to certain plans, not even by many bourgeois politicians of whatever political colour.... in Germany there have been rather large demonstrations and campaigns over internet censorship.

The (child) porn issue hasn't played much of a role, no matter how much the government tried to push it. The campaigns managed to show what the plans were really about - about introducing a censorship mechanism. And for all the talk about "illegal child porn" or "illegal porn" (not sure what that could involve over here to be honest: animals (and cannibalism), probably...) "entering the internet from abroad" - it turns out, that most of the genuinely nasty sites (i.e. ignoring all the sex education ones, or other sites that nothing to do with sex whatsoever but were somehow deemed fit to be banned) on similar "block lists" in other EU states are actually hosted on servers in the EU or the USA, Canada, Australia etc. - the question being, if fake bank phishing websites can be closed down - note: "closed down" and deleted, and not blocked - within hours of them being discovered, why can't the kiddy porn and necrophilia as well? Why are new laws required when the old laws would stop them as well? And why aren't those Germans/Americans/EU citizens running those sites being charged and locked up? Why should their sites just be "blocked" and that's it?

Oh, and the methods of such "block lists" as used in some EU states and as proposed in Germany are useless anyway- internet users just have to use a proxy server elsewhere to get around them.

But as the responsible minister stated in an interview about the internet on state television - an interview carried out by 6 year old children - that she didn't know what an internet browser is (yes, seriously) - why would she know what a proxy is and how it works...?

(Eventually it was then argued that people who know such things are probably up to no good anyway and should be watched....)

So the campaigns focussed on censorship vs free speech, while arguing that child pornography sites are deleted.

And despite the main politician involved in the campaign being charged over child pornography possession charges (he said that as part of a parliamentary committee on the issue he accessed such material by post and mobile telephone to show he colleagues (including the Rt. Hon. "what's an internet browser" Minster for Internet Blocking) to also show that the internet is not very relevant the days to the distribution of such material; and that the minister concerned had shown other parliamentarians much worse material on her own laptop in the meetings, but she was not charged), the campaign continued and wasn't tarred with the brush of being there to cover for suspected paedophiles.

Could it be that political debate (or the general education levels of the population as a whole) is of a much higher standard over here than in Blighty?

Phil said...

Cheers for that, DZ.

Yes, going from what you say I suppose political debate in Germany is at a higher level. But I think that might have something to do with neoliberalisation of society and the state there not being as thoroughgoing as it was in Britain.

Gary Elsby said...

I don't see anything wrong with a general porn filter, and I don't see anything wrong with an individual wanting to by-pass the filter.
The general crusade of simplifying it to not hurt someones feelings is a red herring.
I doubt the cause is to create a censorship of the masses, but an attempt to remove harmful images from children.
Maybe Phil should ask his MP to stand up in Parliament calling for universal access to the internet in this debate.
It's them Tories, you know attcking us Socialists.
The left does itself no good when it wishes to sustain a clear wrong.

Phil said...

First you defend the existence of the constitutional monarchy. Now you're saying the state should dictate what we can and cannot see on the internet. What kind of socialist are you?

You've got it all arse about tit. Liberty is the freedom for people to do as they please without harming others. If the couple across the road like to watch porn on the internet to get their jollies, or the kid down the road use it to explore their sexuality what right do you or anyone else have to restrict access?

If you're worried about your kids having access to porn, take the necessary precautions like keeping their computer in view and putting on parental filters. It's easy and a quick search online will show you how.

But this isn't really about dangers to kids. It's about sexual morality. They're being used as a convenient excuse because Claire Perry and your goodself don't like the idea of internet porn. Fine, if you don't then don't watch the stuff. But why should others conform to your rather vanilla preferences?

Gary Elsby said...

Who's restricting access to the internet?
I think it is you who has the proposal completely wrong.
Test your theory in your CLP and on your heroic MP.

Phil said...

Claire Perry wants people to ask companies to let them watch porn. You agree with that. Ipso facto you favour a censored internet.