In the Court proceedings against Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 1960, the jury was invited by the prosecution to consider whether “It is a book that you wish your wife or servants to read?”
Unfortunately, there are many people in this ostensibly more enlightened age who would share these sentiments, the Hungarian Parliament and Russian Parliament for example, and they are not all Christian fundamentalists. Indeed, some would claim to be progressive and liberal, Belfast Men Against Pornography is a group of “right-on” or “politic-all-correct” individuals who say they are ‘opposed to’ pornography because it is a key element in the oppression of women and it works on men by manipulating our sexuality.
The notion that porn exists because people (women and men) derive a great deal of pleasure from it is of no consequence to this group. they have made their minds up that they, self-appointed ‘representatives of the social good, what material is or is not fit to be seen by all of us.
Their policy aims are to “increase awareness of the harmful effects” of porn on men and to “campaign to end the production, distribution and sale of pornography here (*remember this was pre the internet explosion).
With friends like that, you may well ask, who needs H.M. Customs and Mary Whitehouse!
The two men from the group who attended the NIGRA meeting attempted to draw a distinction between (harmful) pornography and ‘erotica’. the latter was defined as “sexually explicit material premised on equality”.
Their argument was not particularly convincing – one said that porn “degraded women” by portraying them as “objects to be dominated”, but was unable to substantiate this claim. He became defensive when challenged on this point, and said something about “some feminists” he knew who found porn “offensive”. It soon became evident that BMAP’s definition of pornography was fairly wide-ranging and would include most, if not all SM material.
It has always been my contention that the only legitimate purpose for which state power can be exercised over an individual against her or his will is to prevent harm to others.
BMAP maintain that porn has “harmful effects” on men as it (non-Gay porn) tells us that women” want to be dominated”. Whilst some such material undoubtedly exists, it is simply not possible to legislate against heterosexism by attemp6ting to impose a ban on people’s fantasies.
I am not suggesting that women and young men should not be legally protected against exploitation. People who work in the ‘sex-industry’ should demand fair pay and decent conditions for their work. Women who want something more raunchy than Playgirl (*what is the equivalent today I wonder) should make their voices heard, only then will “sexually explicit material premised on equality” become more widely available.
There are enough right-wing groups and clerics campaigning to “end the production, distribution and sale of pornography” without people who claim to be politically progressive demanding censorship, whatever their reasons.
If people demand repressive legislation, of which there is enough on the statute book already, they will almost certainly get it (*again, remember, this was written pre the internet explosion of pornography sites, and every time that government attempts to look at this problem it runs away). Quite how this will promote sexual equality is beyond my understanding. Laws banning pornography will drive it underground (*the dark web) and suppress a great deal of open, rational discussion about sex and sexual inequalities.
BMAP did not have much to say about lesbian or gay male porn, although they were inclined to the view that most of it is probably OK as it is not premised on”inequality”.
It is all very well for them to think along these lines, but the fact remains that the advocacy of repressive measures aimed at depriving people of the right to the reading of material of their choice could all too easily result in the targeting of the ‘gay’ community as purveyors of “material likely to deprave and corrupt”. It is not long since HM Customs used their draconian powers to seize material from gay book shops (In 1984, Customs and Excise, assuming Gays’s The Word, London to be a porn store rather than a serious bookstore and ordered the destruction of imported books without reference to the Obscene Publications Act.)
Sexual equality and ‘Gay’ liberation can only come about as a consequence of the removal of oppressive laws which purport to regulate people’s sexual behaviour, women’s fertility – in short – Gay Liberation means nothing if not the removal of all constraints on consensual sexual activities and the lifting of restrictions on the rights of individuals to look at sexually explicit material, regardless of the opinions of others.
…first published in Upstart (Reasons to be cheerful ) – a paper copy of this magazine is held in the Linenhall Library, Belfast…