Dec 072013
 

According to the International Business Times :

“A new restriction on the possession of rape porn is part of a crackdown by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced this summer that lawmakers wanted to close a ‘legal loophole’ in the law. Currently, possession of rape porn is legal in the U.K., even though publishing and distributing it has already been outlawed. The new restriction, which goes into effect in January, will put England and Wales in line with Scotland, which banned the possession of rape porn in 2008 under its Extreme Pornography legislation. Cameron has argued that images depicting rape normalize sexual violence against women, and that exposure to such images is ‘poisonous’ to young people.”

According to The Metro:

“The prime minister will announce a new law that punishes possession of rape porn with up to three years in prison. ‘Rape porn’ is the depiction of rape in pornographic videos or images – this includes simulated rape.”

In response to these efforts, several bloggers have come out in support of access to pornography depicting simulated rape for a variety of reasons. The overwhelming majority of those arguments are thoughtful, reasonable, and rightly deserve a place in the public debate.

Some of those arguments fall short. For that reason, I’m wading into the debate.

It’s my position that some writers are using misleading language, poor arguments, and irresponsibly using correlative statistics as the basis upon which to suggest causation, ultimately making misleading inferences and forwarding faulty theories about the relationship between pornography and sexual assault. Additionally, the worst omission or oversight, in my mind, is the implicit and explicit dismissal of rape culture as a possible link between rape pornography and incidents of sexual violence against women.

What will follow here is primarily a discussion of the arguments against criminalization of rape pornography; it will not be an argument about the legality, morality, or ethics of its production or consumption.

Put simply, it is not my intention to argue for or against rape pornography. What will follow is not a defense of obscenity law or censorship. It is not an argument for the criminalization of simulated rape pornography. It’s not an indictment of your fantasies or your exploration of them. It’s not an indictment of pornography or your viewing of it.

My intent is to argue for more responsible discussion of the issue and argue for the inclusion of cultural factors that have been omitted, dismissed, or diminished in the arguments of others writers.

It’s a call for continued thoughtful discussion and responsible dialogue about the issues surrounding the criminalization of rape pornography. It’s a call to avoid fallacious and ineffective arguments. It’s a call to be responsible with the statistics we cite, ethical about the implications we make, and more transparent about the possible inferences readers draw. It’s a call against reductiveness and a call to consider reasonably related issues, even if there aren’t statistics and studies to directly support their role (as we often do in consideration of other issues for which there are no clear cut quantitative studies).

Tentatively, this series will be in four parts: 1) criminalizing fantasy, 2) slippery slope arguments, 3) (ir)responsible data and inference, and 4) rape culture.

I anticipate the final two parts will be lengthy, and for that, I apologize in advance. In my mind, the final two parts are the most important because 1) they speak to statistics that are overemphasized and/or used as the basis on which irresponsible and misleading claims/inferences are made, and 2) they speak to important, influential discussions of factors that are too-quickly dismissed or entirely omitted from public debate.

In closing this introductory note, I’ll offer several caveats about what’s to follow:

  1. While the UK PM lumps together ‘pornography’ that depicts actual sexual assault and pornography that simulates sexual assault, I don’t consider the former ‘pornography.’ Any film or still image of an actual sexual assault isn’t pornography; it’s evidence of a crime.
  2. For the most part, I refer to ‘simulated rape porn’ and ‘consensual non-consent porn’ as ‘rape pornography.’ We don’t call pornography that simulates bondage (situations where the bondage is easily escaped, unbeknownst to the viewers) ‘simulated bondage pornography.’ We don’t call films where actors play funny, romantic roles ‘simulated romantic comedies.’ We don’t call films that depict horrific violence (however fictional) ‘simulated horror.’ For that reason, I choose not to call rape pornography ‘simulated rape pornography.’ It’s a choice, and it’s one I deploy purposefully within the context of my discussion. (Of course, the classification and ‘naming’ of such pornography is terribly important in order to communicate consent, but that’s not an issue I intend to engage here.)
  3. Generally, I use the language ‘sexual assault against women.’ I apologize that my choice of language, in effect, dismisses the very real problem of sexual assault against men and people who don’t identify with a particular gender identity (or non-identity) in the gender binary, people who identify as gender fluid, and people who eschew the notion of gender altogether. It’s no excuse, but my use of particular gender terms is for the purpose of simplicity. With that said, sexual assault against women is no more or less important than sexual assault against any human being.
  4. None of what I plan to present here is unassailable or inarguable. By all means, I invite discussion and dissent. You may take issue with my thoughts, my suppositions, arguments, assertions and/or inferences, just as I take issue with those of others. While I invite discussion in good faith (towards better understanding, correction of mistaken notions, and thoughtful argumentation and persuasion), I will not entertain reactionary or reductive assaults on my own or others’ good faith, ‘sex positivity,’ or ‘morals.’ Similarly, I will not entertain dismissals of my own or others arguments on the basis of our pasts or our emotions. Surely, we’re all influenced by emotion and by reason, and I won’t tolerate the dismissal or discounting of thoughts or words on the basis of emotion — frankly, that’s the sort of patriarchal tactic that’s been silencing women’s voices for too long. I won’t provide space for that here.

 


 

  12 Responses to “rape porn debate: introduction and explanation”

  1. I applaud any rational discussion of sexual issues that avoids knee-jerk reactions and specious arguments. I look forward to your coming posts on the subject. I always enjoy arming myself with solid, reliable information.

    • Thank you, Night Owl. I’m anxious about the whole thing, and I appreciate your comment.

      I promise to do my best at rationality, credibility, and reliability, but the only thing I can absolutely assure is that my words are in good faith — an attempt at doing what I say I’ll do.

      Cheers to reaching those goals. :)

  2. This should prove to be very interesting. While I abhor the banning someone’s right to express themselves, I also know the terrible damage rape does. My mother, and ex were both victims of rape and so I have personally seen the type of permanent damage that can result.

    I am looking forward to hearing a reasonable discussion of the topic.

  3. Admirable forensic clarity in your exposition of the question.

    Looking forward to the rest of the discussion.

  4. Personal Story:
    .
    Before I went down on my knees, I once had an acquaintance who worked at a sex call-centre to pay her way through college. She had this regular client, a pensioned gentleman, who rang her up so that she would playact the part of his 6-year-old granddaughter, and he’d wank off to her baby-talk. That was way beyond my sick-o, psycho, pervert borderline, and I asked her how she could go through with this, when in principle, she was facilitating his incest and child rape fantasies.
    .
    She said, “But that’s all it is. It’s just a fantasy he has, and he’ll never actually do it.”
    .
    And I asked, “Yes, but how do you know you aren’t fortifying his desire to rape and abuse his granddaughter?”
    .
    And she said, “As long as he has me to facilitate his fantasy, his desire is met and it’s probably me (or anyone else who baby-talks with him) who’s keeping him from becoming a real criminal.”
    .
    Incidentally, she asked me if I wanted to work with her, and I said “no” just because I never wanted to talk to this ‘entity’ on the telephone.

    • PhareduFour,

      I’m not sure I understand why you’re relaying this story. It’s presented with almost no comment, so I’m not sure what purpose you intend for it to serve.

      I don’t want to launch into all the many reasons her justification is terribly misguided and dangerous if you intended for it to illustrate exactly that.

      Can you say more about why you shared this story?

      • My apologies if the parabel wasn’t clear. Essentially this: Society has this spongy, vague borderline of what is kinky and what is clearly perverted (or criminally psychopathic). The moment our personal borderlines are crossed, we often feel the need that we must (as a society) censor, even though a true crime has not (yet) been committed, because we fear indulging (or catering to) others’ alleged perverted fantasies is “aiding and abetting” true criminal behavior.

        • Ah. That makes more sense.

          even though a true crime has not (yet) been committed,

          Yes, but in the case of rape, crimes are being committed. Like most other rational voices, I certainly don’t think watching rape porn means someone will go out and rape, but I wonder about the extent to which these materials normalize sexual violence and contribute to a culture where rape is excused, ignored, or explained away.

  5. Excellent post! I’m really looking forward to reading more. Thanks for compiling this information for us and for creating dialogue about it.

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