What Are Your Honest Views Of Internet Porn? [You Told Us]

The Internet and the Web are fantastic creations that have opened up a new world for everybody in connected parts of the world. But the freedom these worldwide networks brings us also means temptation is placed in our way. Whether it’s illicit streams of copyrighted material or content that our governments would rather we not be privy to, the Internet and the Web have expanded our options considerably.

One of the avenues opened up in this way is pornography. While sexually-explicit material has been around for centuries, it’s now available in huge quantities and accessible by all and sundry, assuming no controls or restrictions are placed in the way. This – as well as Christian’s recent feature article about addiction to online pornography – prompted last week’s We Ask You.

What Are Your Honest Views Of Internet Porn?

We asked you, What Are Your Honest Views Of Internet Porn? I made sure to insert the word “honest” in the title to ensure people gave their unedited opinions on this tricky subject that so often gets swept under the carpet. The majority of people took note, and not only did we have a very good response to the question, the range of views expressed was wide and varied.

This is clearly a subject that people feel strongly about, evidenced by most people airing extreme views rather than sitting on the fence. On the one hand we had people condemning the very idea of pornography and wishing it wasn’t even a topic for discussion, while on the other we had people admitting to viewing porn regularly and seeing nothing wrong with doing so.

It’s extremely hard to draw any conclusions from the debate, as it’s an open and frank discussion that generally fails to find any common ground. Many people like the idea of the .xxx domain – which already exists and is used by some online porn producers – but even then there was disagreement over how it should be used. Some people would like to see all porn sites consigned to that domain, while others feel this would be the start of a slippery slope towards censorship.

Several people discussed how the question of online pornography should be raised when parenting children, with most agreeing that open and honest discussion is the way to go. Barring access is obviously a good idea for those who feel the need to do so, but ignoring the subject completely may lead to problems further down the line.

Comment Of The Week

Laga Mahesa, slywlf, Austin Halsell, and Juan Carlos Espinosa Agudelo all made vital contributions to the debate. But Comment of the week goes to Cary, who won with this comment:

I believe there was a working party put together by “the great and the good” in UK some decades ago to clarify the legal definition of “obscene”. It was a group of bishops, judges etc.
They divided porn into 3 categories: erotic, explicit, obscene.
How I understand that is:
Erotic may be sexually stimulating and may have a postive/beneficial effect in some situations, does not necessarily involve nudity.
Explicit is comparatively cold could be kind of sex manual stuff “here are the bits” and “how to” – frankly not the kind of stuff you want to see, part of the reason we wear at least a swimming costume in public.
Obscene is degrading acts. Even if the participants are being portrayed as “willing” then a (subective) opinion is that there is a high probability that poverty, coercion or drugs play a part in their apparent compliance. It may involve subjects unable to give knowing consent – e.g. the young, animals, those with low mental capacity. Anything involving physical damage (mental damage too but that’s hard to assess from a photo.)

Of course the boundaries are not clear, it’s a spectrum – I guess that ranges from those societies where it seems the men are judged to be unable to control themselves to the extent that a square inch of visible female skin must be covered lest it set off their animal urges to the most extreme porn which I’m not inclined (or qualified) to describe.

As regards censorship, yes I use OpenDNS to protect my family at least from “accidental” internet porn, those explicit pop-ups some websites used to deliver. I’m sure if teenage son wants to he can find his way around that obstacle but the key point is that he knows it’s “wrong”. Yes censorship is a slippery slope, where do you stop? For example OpenDNS gives a whole range of choices so I can choose to block lingerie and swimsuit sites. In my opinion that’s going too far. In an ideal world everyone would understand what is morally acceptable and would “self censor”. There always has been censorship and always will be. I don’t see any of the “no censorship” brigade arguing for newsagents to bring their top shelf magazines down to the bottom next to the kids comics. I don’t see them standing up for the rights of paedophiles. There is a line that most people won’t cross. The arguement is not whether or not to censor, it’s about where to draw the line. What do we do about those without a moral compass? They represent a risk to society. It’s all very well to dismiss “morals” by sniggering at the dirty priest stories as it’s they whose role ostensibly includes promotion of moral values. That is to introduce a misunderstanding of the word as something to do with religion. Most if not all traditional religions do include a set of moral guidelines not vastly different from the Christian ten commandments which is an indicator that morality is not “to do with religion” it’s to do with humanity. It’s the UN declaration on human rights. Read it in the context of this question about porn.

My preferred approach would be to require ISPs to provide OpenDNS style filtering blocking some porn as standard but for those who request it (i.e. not openly promoted as an option and subject to some validation so my teenage son can’t impersonate me to request a change in filtering). Those who want porn will find it regardless but they will get the message that they are doing something that much of society regards as unacceptable, that it is shameful.

Is porn damaging? I’m not an expert. To find an answer would need the testimony of psychiatrists and criminologists who had completed peer-reviewed scientific research on both viewers of and participants in a range of pornography. Personally I find it hard to believe that, at the more extreme end in particular, participants are there because of “their right to freedom of expression and the love of their art”. I think that by portraying some acts there is a risk of “normalising” them. There’s pressure on the parties in normal girlfriend/boyfriend relationships to get involved in activities they find distasteful because they now think that it’s “normal” and one party has expectations the other is not comfortable with. One might argue “just say no” but bring youth, inexperience, drugs or alcohol into the picture and freedom of choice is compromised. And what about the effects on those disenfranchised from normal sexual encounters (such as sociopaths) when they see the possible and want to participate?

This may seem contradictory but that’s why I’m in favour of legalised properly controlled prostitution. Among other things it provides a means for those creepy guys that stand no chance otherwise and might be induced to find an unwilling partner. And the girls – well can I refer you to “Belle du Jour” as an example. I accept that there’s a big difference between high-class prostitutes operating hygenically and in safe locations for very substantial earnings and the girl on the street charging the visiting truck driver a few quid for a quickie in his cab. But I think I’m drifting too far from the question of porn so let’s leave that debate for a different time.

This comment raises more questions than answers, but it made me think, and that’s an important contribution, especially in the midst of a debate such as this one. It also concludes that we don’t really know the full effects pornography is having on society. There is evidence it’s harming some, but what about the majority?

We will be asking a new question tomorrow, so please join us then. ‘We Ask You’ is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. We ask you a question and you tell us what you think. The question is open-ended and is usually open to debate. Some questions will be purely opinion-based, while others will see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps for your fellow MakeUseOf readers. This column is nothing without your input, all of which is valued.

Image Credit: Bernard Goldbach

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