Why the ‘Rape Porn’ Ban is Troubling

bill-murray

A current proposal by UK prime minister David Cameron has once again brought together the strangest of allies: the conservative right and women’s rights activists.  The quest to ban pornography has a time honored tradition of getting these two groups on the same platform for very different reasons.  Currently, Cameron is calling for a ban on violent pornography.

Of course, that’s not to say that all women’s rights activists support this ban.  In fact, this issue, like many others, creates a massive divide within between women’s rights supporters.   On one side you have those who believe that banning rape pornography is a positive step towards gender equality, as pornography in general, but particularly that of a violent nature, is seen to play a major role in naturalizing violence against women.

Others find the idea of government bans, particularly led by conservative leaders, to ban any form of pornography troubling.  This first of all, relates to the issue of censorship led by the government, and questions of where exactly these regulations will end, and how violent pornography will be defined.  Zoe Stavri’s blog post entitled “Don’t ban ‘rape porn’ – introduce more porn with negotiation and boundary-setting” contains an excellent critique of the major problems with this sort of legislation, namely that its difficult to enforce, and that the causal relationship between this sort of imagery and violence against women is unclear.

Stavri goes on to discuss the nature of BDSM pornography, in which boundaries and consent are clearly defined by participants before taking part in acts which would often be defined as ‘rape porn’ under this proposed legislation.  She suggests that these images are a good example of the best way to combat the negative impact of pornography by providing more positive images of consent and adult discussion of boundaries and desires.

The truth is that bans suggested by moralist campaigns such as that of Cameron would most likely end up banning images exactly like these, which promote consent and discussion, as well as other forms of underground pornography which emphasize non-standard sexual tastes but generally come from outside the oppressively standardized and often brutal pornography industry.  This is because the driving force behind conservative campaigns to ban porn is not a desire to protect human rights.  Instead, they claim that their motivation is to prevent children from viewing said material.  Instead, I think it is clear that any such campaigns are deeply rooted in conservative efforts to purge undesirable images of sexuality.

What I find most disturbing is the quickness with which women’s rights activists are willing to promote these sorts of bans rather than promoting more positive ways of addressing rape culture and sexuality through education and discussion.  Instead they jump onto a conservative bandwagon which obscures rape culture by banning its most distasteful products rather than addressing its source.

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