You have to show violence the way it is. If you don’t show it realistically, then that’s immoral and harmful. If you don’t upset people, then that’s obscenity.—Roman Polanski
In a small town about 40 miles East of Indianapolis resides a woman who is convinced that everything I do is pornography. I don’t know this person at all. We’ve never met. Yet, because she doesn’t like what I do, she is of the opinion that no one else should, either, and has made lives miserable for people who disagree with her. I’ve actually not heard anything from her in a while, but I’m sure she’s still there.
Why do I care? What she’s doing doesn’t hurt me, personally. I’m okay with what I do, obviously. My friends are okay with what I do. Most importantly, the people who care about me the most, and whom I care about, consider my work quite fantastic and wonderful. Okay, so they’re a bit biased. Still, if there are people who like my work, why be bothered with those who don’t?
Because those who are like this woman enjoy imposing their morality on everyone else. We’ve seen it in every issue: women’s rights, welfare, voting rights, abortion, gay rights, healthcare, and marriage rights. There are always those people who not only are sure they know better than the rest of us, they insist they should have the power to stop us.
Now would be the point at which my closest friends ask what has me on my censorship soapbox so early this morning. The answer is an article in Business Insider about a UK initiative to force websites hosting pornography to verify user’s ages. I know, it doesn’t sound like such a harmful idea at all. In fact, pornography’s most popular website, PornHub, actually supports the measure, which I found, at the very least, interesting (in reality, I think they’re hoping it will filter out some of the competition). Protect the dear children and all that bunk, right?
I have two significant problems with what the UK is proposing.
First is the matter of who gets to decide what is pornography? No one has yet created a definition that stands up to legal scrutiny, for there are always artistic exceptions that would be deemed protected means of expression. Exactly what constitutes pornography? If sites that show belly buttons is pornography, then swimwear and fitness websites are pornographers. If sites that show nipples are pornography, then practically every major fashion magazine is guilty and one would have to be 18 to view the stream of a fashion show. If sites that detail reproductive processes are pornography, then medical and healthcare sites need to be taken down.
The article also raises the fact that elements of porn can be found just about everywhere, despite user guidelines prohibiting such. Porn can be found on Twitter. So, does everyone need to verify their age when they log onto the social media site? Porn can easily be found on Tumblr. Some of the things they show there even frighten me. But if one doesn’t follow those accounts, one doesn’t see that material, do Tumblr users need to show proof of age?
Underlying all those questions is the central fact that censorship allows someone else to determine your moral code. You may not agree with their moral code, but they insist that you abide by it. This philosophy is the kind embraced by narcissists and despots alike. They insist that they are always right and you are always wrong, therefore, they must tell you what to do. They would tell you what to eat (consider the GMO vs. non-GMO debates), what clothes to wear (school uniforms, anyone?), what church or synagogue to attend (everyone’s religion is wrong except mine), and even what vehicle to drive (those using fossil fuels are bad). People in power who embrace such a philosophy would soon enslave everyone in order to enforce compliance to their way of thinking. Most all the terrorist activity we see today is the result of exactly this type of thinking.
Second, to censor sexual acts, most of which are natural, beautiful, and necessary for the species to prosper, while not censoring violence, which is not natural, not beautiful, and would bring an end to the species, is the height of hypocrisy. If one is so terribly concerned about what children are watching, then why can any child turn on Netflix and watch Kill Bill, or Pulp Fiction, or any of hundreds of grotesquely violent films. Are you really going to try and convince me, with absolutely no scientific evidence in support of your insanity, that allowing a child to watch realistic violence is less harmful than seeing a nipple like the one that gave him/her sustenance when they were infants?
I’m not going to take the time to show all the studies that detail the dangers of viewing violence in media. I just don’t have the time and you’d grow bored at the length of the list. We have known for decades that violence, not sex, is the greatest threat to children, but we refuse to do anything to stop movies, or television shows, or anything else that feels it is somehow more truthful to show violence than censor it.
I would agree that there are some things children shouldn’t see. However, the way to handle that is through responsible parenting, not censorship. Filtering software is available for every Internet-connected device made. If you have children and allow them to use such a device, the responsibility is that of their parents, and only their parents, to lock down that content, and not only control what they see at any given age, but also how much time they spend on those devices. Studies now show connections between the amount of time a child spends online and an increase in attention deficit disorders. Even the most sanguine of programming can be dangerous in high quantities. Parents, not the government, not the UN, and certainly not any other organization, should control what their child sees and to which media and messages they are exposed.
Even well-intended censorship is still an imposition of one’s moral code over another, it is an indirect attempt to control behavior, which ultimately leads to tyranny and slavery. I don’t think we really want to go down that road. At least, I don’t. You make your own choice.