For some people, there are some things in life that seem just plain wrong. David Cameron has made it clear that for him (and the readership of the Daily Mail), it is pornography.
He sees porn, it would seem, in the same way that many see smoking. Not only as something intrinsically bad and morally repugnant, but something positively dangerous not only to the individual concerned but to those who may be exposed to it.
The rhetoric of trying to keep children from being exposed to porn is reminiscent of the arguments put forward by anti-smoking campaigners both around the time of the smoking ban and in our own time.
So what exactly is the issue here? I’m sure the attitude of some would be as follows – ‘If, by making it harder for a few individuals to indulge their depraved sexual appetites we can stop the minds of our children being warped, then so what? Big deal.’
I’m sure many would go even further, and conclude that the ban was not just a necessary evil, but positive in itself. Not only are the minds of children not being exposed to graphic sexual images, but those who watch porn can be prevented from indulging their sick pleasures, and their souls can be saved, everybody wins.
People who use this line of argument, however, are missing the point entirely. Leaving aside the issue of child pornography and pornography manufactured by criminals, or pornography produced where one or more of the participants is forced to take part (which, for the record, I am absolutely in favour of trying to tackle), what the crusaders against porn are forgetting is that issue is entirely about value, consent and tolerance.
Everyone places value in things. That’s how things come to be valuable in the first place. Some things, however, are more or less valuable to one person than they may be to another. Hence, values are subjective.
As far as porn goes, there are people like the Prime Minister and those who read the Daily Mail who think that porn has no value or merit whatsoever. They may even go further and regard porn is a bad thing in and of itself, and they may even see it as their moral duty to stop others from getting their hands on it.
On the other hand, there are those (like me) who believe that, providing it has been produced with consent from all the parties concerned (and that they are adults and human), there is no real issue with porn, and that if people want to watch or make it, then that’s their choice. I’m sure that they’re even those who think that porn is positively good, and that more people should watch it.
The point is, which group is right? Is there a way of knowing? Maybe, to use the cliché, the best thing to do would be to live and let live? I’m sure many a legal moralist would encourage us to err on the side of restriction, for the sake of the children, you understand. I’m sure many people of a more liberal outlook would tell them to mind their own business and to stop trying to save people from themselves.
Also, aside from the fact that many (including some who support the proposal in principle) have come out and said that the idea simply isn’t practical, there are still further reasons to be skeptical.
I may be a good few years out of childhood, but I can still remember that many had a crude knowledge of matters sexual around the time we were just moving up to secondary school. This wasn’t as the result of our minds been warped by porn, and many of us had computers in our homes. It was a number of other things which simply can’t be legislated for, the friend whose older sibling fills them in on such matters, for instance.
Besides, if governments really want to tackle the problem of warping the minds of impressionable young children, they should probably, a usual, look to themselves. I also seem to remember during my childhood that been made to endure hours of sex education from as young as 11 left a far bigger impression on me than anything I may have happened upon while sat at my computer.
At the end of the day, as with many things in life, this issue comes down to one of tolerance. If you are that concerned about your children finding adult material on the internet, use some initiative and install parental control devices on your computer.
If you feel so strongly about other people’s children seeing adult material, persuade them to do the same. Don’t, by getting the government to pass these kind of measures, make a few individuals who may enjoy something you find repulsive suffer just to satisfy your desire to make perfect an imperfect world.