Should there be laws regulating the viewership of Pornography?
Cambridge English dictionary defines pornography as referring to ‘books, magazines, films, etc. with no artistic value that describe or show sexual acts or naked people in a way that is intended to be sexually exciting’ (Camridge Dictionary). Pornography has always been a highly contentious subject. Perhaps, one reason why it is so is because our social, ethical, moral and religious codes place a certain value on human bodies and the activities that one performs with them. Moreover, our society puts an emphasis upon ideas such as shame around nudity and display of one’s genitalia (particularly, of female bodies) (Durham). Therefore, quite naturally, sexual activity and/or its depiction or viewership often evokes strong reactions from various quarters of our society.
In this essay, I will discuss whether pornography shall be legalized. This issue is a general one and does not focus on any one particular national jurisdiction since pornography is allowed in many European and North American states, however, it remains banned in much of the Asian and African countries. Even in liberal-democratic countries where porn is allowed, pornography remains a taboo, a thing of shame, often being associated with perversion or deviance. The essay supports the idea that pornography shall be deregulated and controls around it shall be relaxed. Ho
However, let us first consider some of the reasons why legal practitioners, sociologists and other scholars believe why porn is bad. In some countries, porn is simply bad because religion says so. For instance, in many Muslim countries, porn is bad because the majority of the population in these countries adhere to a religious belief. As per Islam depiction of sexual acts are deemed as immoral and corrupting in influence (Rinaldo). Likewise, in many European and North American jurisdictions, Christianity remains a dominant religious influence among the masses. Therefore, conservative Christian thought which bans sexual intercourse outside of marriage and one which advocates for a stronger control on one’s bodies finds its way in the way our society comes to think of sex. Therefore, the majority of people with some religious background often view social liberalism and its loosening of sexual moral codes with skepticism. They look down upon secular, liberal and rights-based activism with mistrust and see it as a bad influence (Shapiro).
Likewise, other scholars argue that porn is bad for other reasons. For instance, feminists view porn as exploitative of women. Feminists argue that porn turns women into sexual objects and confirms the stereotypical representation of women as sexual beings whose primary purpose is the satisfaction of the male gaze. They argue that porn turns women into spectacles of men’s sexual fantasies (Kaite). Similarly, it has been argued by some that increase in pornography may lead to violent and sexual crimes of aggression, dominance and violence against women (Goode and Ben-Yahuda).
One may argue that all these concerns may be valid one, however, one may also stress that some of these arguments may not be as valid as they seem at the first sight. For instance, the link between availability of pornography and crimes against women is not a confirmed one. In fact, some studies have suggested that it is a myth to correlate porn access with changes in prevalence of rape rates (Allison and Wrightsman). Similarly, it is also generally argued that not porn promotes stereotypes. Even if some porn does promote stereotypes, does it imply that all porn is bad (and hence shall be regulated?)
Likewise, pornography may be seen in secular terms. If people of faith (such as Christians and Muslims) believe the porn is bad and corrupting, why shall they be given the right to impose their religious worldview upon the non-believers. Thus, in terms of civil rights, other people shall be allowed to decide for themselves (Goodwin). Moreover, it is also contestable whether religious ideologies have any place in determining our public policy in this age of secular democracies. Similarly, one may critique the feminist point of view by arguing that porn can be a means of sexual liberation for women. Female pornstars willingly chose to participate in the porn-making enterprise and see it as a means to celebrate the freedom to do as they please with their own bodies. Moreover, the law would appear to be repressive if the people wish to view porn for their individual personal gratification without offending anyone or impinging upon anyone’s personal rights. Similarly, one may argue that pornography also raises questions about the role of censorship in our society. The laws around porn regulation raise questions about the legitimacy of the state to take on a paternalistic role and to dictate upon its citizens what they can and cannot do in their private spheres of life. Seen this way, the restrictions against porn seem as repressive and hegemonic exercise of control that state exerts over its citizens in an effort to promote a certain conservative and dictatorial ideology.
Thus, pornography can be seen as a social discourse which give rise to the issues of one’s civil rights. Should porn be banned or should it be allowed remains debatable. However, one may argue that law regarding porn regulation shall be eased. However, the critics for and against pornography may find a common ground if only certain kind of pornography remains regulated (such as child-pornography or revenge-porn or underage porn) while other kind of porn shall be deregulated. This way, everyone in society will be free to make their own decisions without exposing vulnerable members of the society to porn’s damaging effects.
Allison, Julie and Lawrence Wrightsman. Rape: The Misunderstood Crime. London: Sapge Publications , 1993. Print.
Camridge Dictionary. “Pornography.” English Dictionary. Cambridge University Press, 2017. Online.
Dines, Gail. Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. Boston: Beacon Press, 2010. Print.
Durham, Sarah. Opposing Pornography: A look at the Anti-Pornography Movement. United States of America: Lulu, 2015. Print.
Goode, Erich and Nechman Ben-Yahuda. Moral Panics: The Social Construction of Deviance. Singapore: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.
Goodwin, Mike. Cyber Rights: Defending Free Speech in the Digital Age. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2003. Print.
Kaite, Berkeley. “The gaze.” Kaite, Berkeley. Pornography and Difference. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995. 67-78. Print.
Rinaldo, Rachel. “Religion and the Politics of Morality.” Encountering Islam: The Politics of Religious Identities in Southeast Asia. Ed. Yew-Foong Hui. Singapore City: Institute of South East Asian Studies, 2013. 247-268.
Shapiro, Ben. Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism Is Corrupting Our Future. Washington D.C: Regnery Publishing, 2013. Print.
West, Richmond. Witch Hunt. United States of America, 2009. Print.