Friday, September 01, 2006

The Pornosphere

3 years ago Jane Longhurst was murdered by Graham Coutts who is said to be obsessed with violent pornographic websites. This led to a huge campaign & more than 50,000 people signed a petition in support of her mother Liz Longhurst's struggle to change the law. Yesterday, a bill that would allow police to prosecute those in possession of violent porn was announced. Today The Guardian asked 5 writers and campaigners if this is a victory for women's rights, or an attack on civil liberties?

There is no good evidence to suggest that watching violence/violent pornography causes violent behaviour; it could just be true that violent people are more likely to watch violent images. Changing the law based on the anecdotal evidence of one case = bad law & the burden of proof will be unrealistic. Any alteration to legislation needs more consideration than a reaction to an understandably motivated mother. I am appalled by anything which debases women, but probably more bothered by the advertising, magazines and other media which surrounds us in a pornosphere which normalises images of women which would once have been considered pornography. On the whole I think I am with Bonnie Greer;

Bonnie Greer, playwright
The creation and use of pornography is as old as humankind. In the 18th century, pornographic novels were used to spread ideas that later became the foundation for the Enlightenment. Ulysses, arguably the greatest novel of the 20th century, was called porn. So was Manet's Olympia; Goya's The Naked Maja; Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. While snuff imagery, female mutilation and gynaecological surgery is not my idea of entertainment, these sites are usually made by adults and consumed by adults and it is as important to protect consenting adult behaviour as it is to protect children, the aged, racial minorities, and the disabled. While any decent human being can sympathise with a grieving mother, particularly in the face of an especially horrendous crime; we can allow neither her, nor 50,000 petitioners, nor a government that has lost its way, to criminalise legitimate, private, adult behaviour. The arena of adulthood must be allowed to exist for the sake of democracy.


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