Can Iceland lead the way towards a ban on violent online pornography?

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NorthReport
Can Iceland lead the way towards a ban on violent online pornography?

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NorthReport

Let's hope so.

Can Iceland lead the way towards a ban on violent online pornography?

The country prides itself on its progressive attitudes, but anti-censorship campaigners say move is a backward step

Small, volcanic, with a proud Viking heritage and run by an openly gay prime minister, Iceland is now considering becoming the first democracy in the western world to try to ban online pornography.

A nationwide consultation has found wide support for the move from police and lawyers working in the field of sexual violence, along with health and education professionals, according to Halla Gunnarsdóttir, adviser to the interior minister Ögmundur Jónasson. Ministers are now looking at the results.

"We are a progressive, liberal society when it comes to nudity, to sexual relations, so our approach is not anti-sex but anti-violence. This is about children and gender equality, not about limiting free speech," she said. "Research shows that the average age of children who see online porn is 11 in Iceland and we are concerned about that and about the increasingly violent nature of what they are exposed to. This is concern coming to us from professionals since mainstream porn has become very brutal.

"A strong consensus has been building, with people agreeing that something has to be done. The internet is a part of our society, not separate from it, and should be treated as such. No one is talking about closing down exchange of information. We have a thriving democracy here in our small country and what is under discussion is the welfare of our children and their rights to grow and develop in a non-violent environment.

"There are some who say it can't be done technically – but we want to explore all possibilities and take a political decision on what can be done and how."

Gender equality is highly valued in Iceland and by its prime minister, Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir. In the Global Gender Gap Report 2012, Iceland holds the top spot, closely followed by Finland, Norway and Sweden.

An online ban would complement Iceland's existing law against printing and distributing porn, and follow on from 2010 legislation that closed strip clubs and 2009 prostitution laws that criminalised the customer rather than the sex worker.

Web filters, blocked addresses and making it a crime to use Icelandic credit cards to access pay-per-view pornography, are among the plans being devised by internet and legal experts.

Hildur Fjóla Antonsdóttir, a gender specialist at Iceland University, said: "This initiative is about narrowing the definition of porn so it does not include all sexually explicit material but rather material that can be described as portraying sexual activity in a violent or hateful way.

"The issue of censorship is indeed a concern and it is important to tread carefully when it comes to possible ways of restricting such material. For example, we have a new political party, the Pirate party, that is very concerned about all forms of restrictions on the internet. It is very important not to rush into anything but rather have constructive dialogues and try to find the best solutions. I see the initiative of the interior ministry on this issue as a part of that process. Otherwise we leave it to the porn industry to define our sexuality and why would we want to do that?"

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/16/iceland-online-pornography

voice of the damned

I thank North Report for posting the whole article, since I am unable to access the Guardian. Because you see, Korean net nannies, which seem to be installed at all internet cafes now, block the Guardian(along with the Globe And Mail and a few other mainstream newspapers), for reasons that I can't begin to fathom. Though I'm sure the "professionals", just like the ones in Iceland, know what they're doing.  

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

What is a Korean net nanny?  I think I know what a Net Nanny is but not so much a Korean one.

And NR only posted an excerpt not the whole article.  Excellent article.

jas

Very interesting proposal. I had no idea that Iceland was such a progressive utopia - and I don't mean that sarcastically. 

Since they're not planning on banning pornography in general, but just the violent and disturbing content (and if you think about it for a moment, why would anyone, who's not already disturbed, need that kind of content?) it seems like a reasonable move. And Iceland is of a size and geographical isolation that it could prove to be an interesting experiment. 

Bec.De.Corbin Bec.De.Corbin's picture

Who would set the bar for "violent and disturbing content"? I realize some of it (porn) is easy to point out but who would set the boundaries as to what s in and what’s banned?

If they ask religious types I'm sure they'd find any type of pornography "disturbing".

I also wonder how Anonymous is going to take this.

 

 

jas

That's true, I guess, for content like BDSM. Some of it can be perfectly tame, while much of it regularly crosses the line into sexual violence. 

Bacchus

If its consensual BDSM, who are we to censor it?

 

jas

The appeal of BDSM is the taking away of control and self determination for one party, and depictions of it often include the apparent taking away of consensuality.

 

Bacchus

Yes but if the participants are actually acting consesually, then who are we to decry it?

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Bacchus wrote:

If its consensual BDSM, who are we to censor it?

Pornography is not the same as two adults having sex. Canada already bans certain types of pornography as does Iceland. Society has the right to say that we do not want these images of sexual violence polluting our space.  It is not free speech because it is potentially harmful. The same reason yelling fire in a crowded space is not free speech. There is no guarantee anyone will get trampled but the odds are high enough to say it is not allowed.

Bacchus

A little bit hypocritical? Especially since BDSM porn is usually consensual, often run by women and normal 'vanilla' porn is usually exploitative and coersive

jas

It would help to know whether increased acccess to porn (such as we've seen with new media) is attended by increased or decreased incidence of sexual violence in society. I believe the increase in general violent content such as we see in video games, on TV and in movies does correlate with increased violence in society, but I don't know whether it works the same way with sexuality.

Child porn bans so far seem to be working, in terms of reducing its visibility on the internet, and nobody is complaining about lack of access to child porn.

 

howeird beale

jas wrote:

 I believe the increase in general violent content such as we see in video games, on TV and in movies does correlate with increased violence in society,

 

Based on what? Canada has its lowest murder rate in decades.

jas

Yeah, you're right. I was probably thinking of the number of mass shootings that have occurred in the last ten years. I believe those incidents are on the rise, and they do very much resemble violent video game content.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Bacchus wrote:

A little bit hypocritical? Especially since BDSM porn is usually consensual, often run by women and normal 'vanilla' porn is usually exploitative and coersive

Could you please cite the studies to back up this claim? 

ryanw

maybe disproportionately represented is a better phrase

NorthReport

Why does Madison Avenue exist?

And why is so much money spent on advertising?

Because it works.

The more exposed you are to something the more it is going to rub off on you - that's a given and Madison Avenue has proved that beyond a ahadow of a doubt.

And I also wonder what the correlation is between those who don't want violent pornography banned and the people who don't want guns banned.

jas

Pornography and Sexual Violence

Quote:
We understand that pornography alone doesn't make men do it, but that pornography is part of a world in which men do it, and therefore the production, content, and use of pornography are important to understand in the quest to eliminate sexual violence.

. . .

As pornography has become more acceptable, both legally and culturally, the level of brutality toward, and degradation of, women has intensified (Jensen, 2004). As one pornography director put it, ""People just want it harder, harder, and harder ... what are you gonna do next?"" ( Adult Video News , 2003, p. 60).

. . . 

It is especially important to include the experiences of women, the main targets of violence, who have crucial insights (Bergen & Bogle, 2000). What we learn from the testimony of women and men whose lives have been affected by pornography is how the material is implicated in violence against women and how it can perpetuate, reinforce, and be part of a wider system of woman hating. Rather than asking whether pornography causes rape, we can ask how pornography helps make rape inviting.

 

Bacchus

kropotkin1951 wrote:

Bacchus wrote:

A little bit hypocritical? Especially since BDSM porn is usually consensual, often run by women and normal 'vanilla' porn is usually exploitative and coersive

Could you please cite the studies to back up this claim? 

 

Dont really need to. I know most of the companies producing it and they are way open and above board.

 

The producers of the vanilla stuff are a lot more secretive and need a steady influx of women, coerced by financial need or otherwise, ala Traci Lords

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Thank you.

I appreciate you alerting us to your conflict of interest in the debate and confirming that there are no studies.

Bacchus

Oh I have no conflict of interest. Just because I know them doesnt mean Im involved in them. And as far as I know there are studies tho Im not intimately familiar with them. Mostly studies on sex trafficking I believe.

 

Just knowing something about a subject doesnt necessarily make one biased.   I know some jehovah witnesses, doesnt mean Im biased toward or against them. Or towards the catholic church because i know people buggered by priests

 

Actually that does make me a biased against them

jas

Actually, Bacchus' claims wouldn't surprise me at all. Because of the risk inherent in BDSM practices, consensuality would, I imagine, be of utmost importance. The fantasies are often about non-consensuality, but the real live role play available as porn would have to be consensual, otherwise you are watching videos of actual sexual assault.

ETA: removing rest of comment since I don't want to advertise it even negatively.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Non consensual fantasies are rape fantasies and have no redeeming value no matter who makes them.  Images convey messages and whether there was coercion in the making of the images is not the point because the images are the product and the product is misogynistic violence.

As a society we ban toxic products all the time and this is a toxic product that needs to be expunged from our society.

Bacchus

Thanls Jas. Its not something Im in favour of personally but Im really uncomfortable with censorship

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

IMO it is not really censorship, it is merely the regulation of a hazardous product.  Do you think that other hazardous products should be unregulated?

Bacchus

You mean like thoughts? Art? Music?

 

No

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Great you've now trying to convince me that violent pornography must be allowed for the greater good.  Have a nice day and don't worry about the effect that this material's toxicity might have on our society.  Freedom of expression is a limited right in Canada and rightly so.  We have criminalized certain types of expression when they cross the line into things like child pornography because of the harm that it causes.  Violent pornography on the internet serves no socially useful purpose and is known to have the potential to cause harm so it deserves no protection as artistic expression. 

jas

I agree with Krop that it's not censorship as much as regulation, and if it was even remotely easy to do, which it won't be, I support Iceland's proposal. It's a tough one, though. I think pornography (as opposed to erotica) is a symptom of unhealthy relationship to or understanding of sex. (And I too view porn at times.) However, I do wonder if there is value in it as a collective means of expressing these issues and working them out, individually or collectively. Not indulging them over and over, but in trying to understand them. So I think there is value in freedom of expression and consumption this way. But unfortunately, so much of porn (and not even BDSM porn) is so kick-in-the-gut nauseating to me in its depiction of relationships that I have little sympathy for those who would defend it, even as freedom of expression.

I resent, in fact,  that I can't enjoy porn online the same way men apparently do, without being constantly assaulted by offensive, nauseating imagery. I just don't see that anybody needs that in their lives, freedom of expression or no.

Bacchus

Im saying consensual BDSM which is not quite the same as violent porn which I dislike. In fact I took part in studies in that at York University in the late 80s and was interviewed by ray bonisteel for the CBC and shown on 60 minutes about the study. 

Jas is right about the imagery and thats why I think Iceland will ultimately fail. First because there is always work arounds and two because who judges whats good porn or bad porn?  Consensual BDSM bad, Choking a woman on your dick ok? Or vanilla porn where the person was economically or otherwise forced to do it but it looks vanilla so its ok?

 

If any country could it would be a small isolated place like Iceland but I dont think even they can.

And Jas, look up Candida Royale, shes a ex-porn actress who now makes erotica specifically for women (and men who like the way she does it)

 

Michelle

Iceland isn't really all that isolated.  They have a huge and thriving tourism industry, constant influx of visitors, and their population tends to be decently off, even after the meltdown, so it's not like they never leave the country.  Immigration is even opening up a bit.  So I doubt that isolation would be a factor at all in whether this succeeds or fails.

It's an interesting idea, and I think that the conversation it will generate around pornography will be beneficial for the people engaging in it there, no matter what they decide to actually do at the end of the conversation.

Mike N

Since this is a political forum, would you ban political and/or artistic pornographic films that have bondage, torture, rape and murder? If you have some time to spare, do a Google search of Japanese Pink Films and the director Kōji Wakamatsu. These films are sold on EBay, Amazon.ca and can be downloaded for free on the internet.

 

Bacchus

Michelle,

 

I meant isolated in regards to the internet. One way in, small population, etc

6079_Smith_W

Didn't Britain already try something like this? 

Never mind that it won't work; I am not in favour of it. 

Yes I recognize that it is material that can have a very bad influence on impressionable minds, but I'd say it pales in comparison to the misogynist and harmful content that is freely available and broadcast on TV, the internet, advertising and video games, and which no one is doing a damn thing about.

Never mind that it is often those who are into edgy material who are the most concerned with keeping things safe, sane and consensual.

As for what consenting adults want to do to get themselves off, it is really no one's concern what that involves, whether it is pain, excrement, or anything else, so long as no one else is being harmed (and I don't buy the argument that all pornography is, by definition, harmful).

More impotantly, just try controlling it. I don't see it turning out any different than any other social control experiment that has tried and failed.

 

ryanw

I think the argument that it is harmful also implies that it is harmful to someone. The public set up barriers to access it based on age(and the expected developmental milestones that go with it), barriers which no longer suffice within cyberspace(if they ever did)

theres lots of adults out there that do not meet the minimum benchmarks for development, they won't be well served by the laws that protect other freedoms, what does the public see as the priority here? what about on issues where the public is historically wrong?

 

NorthReport

Good on them for at least trying.

Iceland moves forward with plan to make country a porn-free zone

 

http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/02/25/iceland-moves-forward-with-plan-...

Michelle

I think Bacchus raises some good points in this thread.

I was appalled by one part of this rabble blog post on the subject. 

Quote:

Now, talk of bans or of criminalization of things like pornography often lead to people to say things like: "FREE SPEECH!" "RIGHTS!" "CENSORSHIP!" But these people are stupid.

Well, isn't that charming.  Thanks for that bit of insight.  So, for the record, in this thread, the stupid people are: voice of the damned, Bacchus, Smith...and now me. 

Because while I wouldn't reject this idea outright if the right safeguards were able to be worked out, I would be very concerned about the censorship aspect, for the reasons Bacchus outlines.

Thanks for the points you raise in your posts, stupid Bacchus.

MegB

jas wrote:

The appeal of BDSM is the taking away of control and self determination for one party, and depictions of it often include the apparent taking away of consensuality.

 

Actually, it's about the consensual surrender of control. If it isn't safe and consensual, then it's something else entirely. That is, it's not a good thing. Not at all. There was a really interesting series on TV a while back called Kink. Canadian, out of Montreal I believe. It took a look at consensual BDSM and fetishism and a number of other "alternative" sexualities in a way that was exploratory, explanatory and creative.

I've no objection to pornography in general. Mainstream porn is boring and panders to a very narrow view of heterosexual male fantasy. It's big business, big money, but pornography produced by and for women, for a diversity of sexual orientations, fetishes, etc., is far more creative. 70s porn star Annie Sprinkles makes this kind of pornography, or erotica if you will, and has been fairly successful. I would go so far as to say that her erotica could be deemed feminist pornography (not a contradiction in terms). I saw her show a number of years back when she blew through Toronto. Very smart and creative woman with a fabulous sense of humour and appreciation for the absurd. Candida Royalle is another feminist producer of pornography - hers is aimed at women and couples.

If you want an example of degrading sexual violence towards women in film, you need look no further than Hollywood. And what makes the fundamentalist churchgoer, ramming it home to his wife every night, her pinned down in the "classic" missionary position somehow more righteous than a couple of people who have fun tying each other up, dressing up, and playing with bondage and other sex toys?

I'm not much of a consumer of pornography/erotica, but I do find it fascinating. Not the mainstream crap, and certainly not the violent and degrading sewage out there, but rather the work by women and by progressive people who operate outside of the "vanilla" spectrum.

I'm also not much for quoting Trudeau (Sr.), but what he said about the state having no business in the bedrooms of the nation still holds true. Indeed, what any of us does, consensually, in our bedrooms (or in the kitchen, on the living room floor ... you get the idea) is nobody's business at all.

ETA: If you ban violent and misogynistic pornography without addressing the underlying issues of violence and misogyny in society, you can expect to fail. It isn't violence, misogyny and degradation in film that makes society violent, misogynistic and degrading. It's the violent, misogynistic and degrading aspects of society that make the commodification of these dark things marketable.

6079_Smith_W

@ Rebecca

Agreed.

It seems to me like the equivalent of thinking you are protecting morals or preventing exploitation by sticking a pastie over a nipple.

Or the facebook ban on that same (female) body part.

I don't watch much TV, but my partner and I happened to catch a bit of the new show trailers on Sunday night. Everything we saw seemed like a knockoff of those gruesome torture movies.

A couple of years ago when I had family visiting I walked into the room and turned the TV off because the adults didn't seem to think there was anything wrong with chopped up body parts and bloody instruments (on a prime time TV show)  all over the screen right in front of my kids, who were five and seven at the time.

Not that I want that stuff banned either, but it shows how narrow this is.

I agree with the with the sentiments above that their hearts are in the right place, but I don't see how it can work. Perhaps it is because they are a small island nation. On the other hand, they tried the same thing with beer, didn't they?

(edit)

I also think part of this stems from people confusing cruelty with things that they find personally disgusting. Fact is, there is nothing that any of us do that someone doesn't find shocking and revolting. There are bans on certain exploitative acts that are in place for necessary reasons, but that notwithstanding, I don't think anyone is in a position to judge whether someone else's desire is right or wrong.

 

jas

We're talking about images of violence toward and degradation of women, Smith. I'm not in a position to judge whether someone who gets off on this repeatedly has some problems? Too bad. My judgment is in: yes, they do. And it's a social problem that requires a social answer.

 

 

Slumberjack

Isn't non-consensual pornography of any type already addressed to some extent in the applicable laws prohibiting it?

6079_Smith_W

jas wrote:

We're talking about images of violence toward and degradation of women, Smith. I'm not in a position to judge whether someone who gets off on this repeatedly has some problems? Too bad. My judgment is in: yes, they do. And it's a social problem that requires a social answer.

I realize that is a fairly common opinion, and I'm not challenging your holding it.

But I do think my point - letting our perception of things which we personally find disgusting influence our judgment of what is cruel and exploitative - bears thinking about, especially concerning matters of desire.

And then there are the broader question some of us have already posed as to whether this is the most effective approach, and whether it can even work. I think the record shows it will not. I wouldn't go so far as to say I think it is scapegoating, because I think it is honestly intended. But I do think it is so narrow that the backlash will far outweigh any good, and that the vast majority of manipulative imagery will be left untouched.

To use a similar example, I don't think the imposition of the comics code did much at all, other than spur the underground comics industry, and build a market for material far more shocking than anything the censors were trying to get rid of in the first place.

 

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Comics were criminalized?

I thought the comics code was an industry self regulation regime.  I would agree that having the porn industry self regulate would not lead to anything good but I am not sure how that relates to society passing laws to regulate harmful activity.

What people do consensually in their own bedrooms is nobody's business but if they film it and distribute it then it is no longer between the two consenting parties.

The real problem of course remains our misogynist culture that is on display in all our MSM.  The question is how to change that culture.  One of the ways IMO is to ban certain outrageous practices.  Lets face it when the CBC hires people like Flanagan who admits to being on a National Man-Boy Love Association list server for years then we have a problem.

The children involved in the making of that swill were sexually assaulted and many of them will suffer for a long time as a result of the abuse.

Tom Flanagan wrote:

"I got put on the mailing list of the National Man-Boy Love Association and I started getting their mailings for a couple of years. That's about the closest I ever got to child pornography.

"It is a real issue of personal liberty as to what extent we put people in jail for doing something in which they do not harm another person."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=LqS4qKkE_SY

6079_Smith_W

kropotkin1951 wrote:

Comics were criminalized?

I thought the comics code was an industry self regulation regime.

Right.... and there was no anti-communist blacklist because it wasn't legislated.

And I didn't say they were criminalized, but I don't think I have to give you any lectures about corporate hegemony.

 

kropotkin1951 wrote:

The real problem of course remains our misogynist culture that is on display in all our MSM.  The question is how to change that culture.  One of the ways IMO is to ban certain outrageous practices.

See, that's where I think the danger lies here. because if you focus on what most of us think is outrageous you kind of leave out the root problem (that aspect of it which is a problem). It's like putting that pastie on the nipple. Because anyone with half a brain can find a way around rules like that, or just go underground. Hell, half the thrill isn't in the reveal, it is in how you hide it.

Also, these laws are almost invariably used not against big players (and they are mostly international anyway, so who cares? ) but against the most vulnerable - individuals, artists, bookstores, and so on.

 

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

So do you support our laws against child pornography or not?

6079_Smith_W

Sure. Why do you bring that up?  It is not quite the same thing as we are talking about here,

MegB

kropotkin1951 wrote:

So do you support our laws against child pornography or not?

I'm really hoping you're not suggesting that questioning how effective pornography bans (above and beyond the legislation that already exists) are indicates an acceptance of child pornography. Besides this not being about child pornography, which is already illegal, criminalized, as it should be, it being about forms of pornography not already legislated, bringing this up in this manner, in this context, is inexplicably hostile, insulting and fairly outrageous.

Retract and apologize.

MegB

jas wrote:

We're talking about images of violence toward and degradation of women, Smith. I'm not in a position to judge whether someone who gets off on this repeatedly has some problems? Too bad. My judgment is in: yes, they do. And it's a social problem that requires a social answer.

I'm not clear: gets off on what? The depiction of violent non-consensual sex in pornography or the depiction of consensual kinky sex in pornography?

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Quote:

But I do think my point - letting our perception of things which we personally find disgusting influence our judgment of what is cruel and exploitative - bears thinking about, especially concerning matters of desire.

This is what prompted my question.  I was not implying that Smith agrees with child abuse I was trying to find the limits of his believes in the right to produce and distribute offensive material.

I find both non consensual sexual imagery and child sexual imagery extremely disgusting and yes they do influence my views. The Man Boy Love association makes exactly the same claim for child pornography as Mr. Smith is using for rape imagery. 

I have never presumed that Mr. Smith was either a rapist or a pedophile and I apologize to my detractors that they somehow believe that is what I meant.

That was a retraction by the way not an apology. 

 

6079_Smith_W

kropotkin1951 wrote:

I find both non consensual sexual imagery and child sexual imagery extremely disgusting and yes they do influence my views. The Man Boy Love association makes exactly the same claim for child pornography as Mr. Smith is using for rape imagery. 

Well I find cats and pickles extremely disgusting, but both are quite legal and easy to procure. Too easy, if you ask me.

My point was that any decision to ban should be made based on whether something  is cruel and exploitative, or whether it is inappropriate for certain people. 

As for people's desires, it's not really valid to pass judgement on that based on what you or I might find disgusting. As I said, someone is sure to feel that way about almost everything most of us enjoy doing. The quesiton is whether it harms others, not whether it is popular.

I am just saying that it is very important to not confuse those two things.

jas

Rebecca West wrote:

I'm not clear: gets off on what? The depiction of violent non-consensual sex in pornography or the depiction of consensual kinky sex in pornography?

The depiction of violent, non-consensual sex, or sex that degrades another in a way that is depicted as non-consensual.

But since you bring up "kinky" sex, would you consider depictions of consensual sex leading to death or dismemberment as non-problematic? (Yes, these depictions exist, as fiction.)

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