It will from the 1st of January 2009 be an offence to own within England and Wales “extreme pornographic images“. Please read the whole thing. This is an unbelievably weird and draconian law. Essentially it is claimed it is needed to outlaw certain violent pornographic sub-genres. I assume that means that for example rape scenes intended to be “pornographic” are to be made illegal. To call that a can of worms is an understatement. If there is one thing the internet has taught us it is that there is always someone who will get off on something, no matter how weird and no matter how, perhaps, seemingly non-sexual.
America’s favourite blue-haired house-wife, Marge Simpson has a weakness for having her elbow nibbled. Now that’s sort of odd but I’ll bet you dollars to Homer’s donuts that there are folks out their whose deepest fantasy is to do the nibbling. Now, call me conservative but nibbling the elbow of cartoon characters doesn’t fry my onions. Except, obviously, there is no harm in such weirdness. Perhaps there is harm in fetishizing sexual violence and such pornography (or art, or erotica, or filth or whatever you want to call it) is potentially problematic but the way this law is phrased means ‘Staged material would be caught if it “conveys a realistic impression of fear, violence and harm”‘. Now that’s almost vague enough to be meaningless. That could mean almost anything. It potentially criminalizes S&M stuff done by consenting adults. BDSM is a huge porn sub-genre and is probably a more popular (and vastly more fun) participation sport than golf. Of course what exactly is BDSM? Is a film of gentle spanking OK? Are schlocky ’80s horror movies OK (which definitely involve fear, violence and harm and frequently sex – hell we all know the captain of the football team and the cheerleader making-out in the back of his Dad’s Chevy are the first to get slashed)? Is having a sado-masochistic Nazi role-play session with a collection of prostitutes in a basement dungeon in Chelsea OK? And what exactly is harm? Would that include certain body piercings? Or anything that left any other kind of permanent mark or scar? Hell smoking is harmful. Is the possession of risque shots of old stars of the silver screen with cigarette-holders going to land you in the clink and on the bloody sex-offenders register with all the nonces and kiddie-fiddlers and serial-rapists and assorted genuinely dangerous preverts into all manner of nasty, non-consensual preversions?
Everything I know about the BDSM community is that rule one is trust. It is entirely about trust between consenting adults. That is the sine qua non. Of course NeuArbeit doesn’t trust us to trust each other. I of course don’t trust them back.
Bear in mind here that the consensual nature of the activity depicted for real or fake (yes, even CGI) is no defence.
And also bear in mind that this is about the imagery. They are not criminalizing the activity (though certain things already are), merely the images that might be created of it. And this is possession, not distribution even. It might be the video of that session with the missus in your private torture chamber that you made for purely personal, er… use. This is absurd, and this is my most profound objection. How the hell can something be legal to do but not to have images of? How does that make any bloody sense?
This new law merely makes worse one of the rampantly bizarre hypocrises of law in this country. Our age of consent is 16 but any movie depicting sex or porn-mag is barred for under 18s. You can touch but you can’t look. It’s mad. Imagine if you were allowed to get a driving license two years before you were allowed to watch Jeremy and the lads on Top Gear! It’s that raving.
But that isn’t all that really gets me. What really gets me is that wording, “conveys a realistic impression of fear, violence and harm”. The precedent that gets close to setting for making illegal anything which anyone finds offensive is really scary.