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New UK law to outlaw violent porn

August 30th, 2006

Dr Petra

As you may have seen in the news today a UK mother has won a battle to ban the possession of violent pornographic images after her daughter was murdered by a man who allegedly consumed violent porn regularly.

There is violent porn available that features the abuse of children, adults and animals and most people would agree it is something that needs to be targetted and controlled.

However, it’s not really clear if this proposed legal change will really protect those at risk.

This proposed legal change is part of the Home Office’s reporting back on its controversial consultation exercise on ‘Extreme Pornography’ launched last year. They didn’t at the time define what exactly they meant by Extreme Pornography and now have replaced the term with ‘Violent Pornography’. Whilst all respondents to this consultation were in agreement the abuse of children and non-consenting adults was wrong, there was also concern from those involved in bondage or SM who felt the vagueness of the term ‘extreme pornography’ could lead to them being prosecuted for creating or participating in consensual sexual activity that may appear violent.

They were worried such an approach might lead to people being unfairly investigated, prosecuted and judged. The police and legal system could be spending a lot of time arresting and charging people who are into safe, sane and consensual activities amongst adults that are violent but not abusive. There’s a worry that in not being specific about what ‘violent’ porn is that those who are abusers may be overlooked whilst those into alternative sex are being investigated.

All these concerns were put to the Home Office who in their response document out today touches on but does not address. Nowhere in the response document does it mention how the Home Office relied on vague terms and references to ‘evidence’ that were never substantiated. Interestingly the news coverage has been mostly around the change in the law rather than focusing on the consultation report.

Previous Home Office consultations on sex (specifically prostitution) were criticised for setting agendas prior to consultations and not listening to views given by the public.

Worryingly in this consultation a response was taken from The British Psychological Society that claimed the evidence is that violent pornography causes violent sexual behaviour – and yet the overwhelming amount of psychological research either does not show this or is based on studies so flawed it’s impossible to draw safe conclusions from them.

If this current law is put in place people caught with violent porn will face up to three years in jail. However if we still aren’t clear what ‘violent porn’ is this could lead to varying arrest rates and also stretch or legal system and overcrowded prisons. If found guilty of owning such materials people would be classed as sex offenders and getting a job post prison would become more difficult – so again this could result in more costs in benefits. This is not to excuse people who consume violent and non-consensual pornography, but to make clear that such a law will have repercussions we may not be ready to deal with at this time.

It also means our attention will be focused towards those who access violent materials, who are in far fewer numbers than most of us who are fed a steady diet of sexist imagery in lads magazines, music videos and other areas of popular culture. Arguably this could have greater impact on the way women are treated and potential links to abuse – and yet the focus is on the extreme end of the spectrum, not the mainstream.

We need to ask why the state would be focusing on identifying and prosecuting individuals who have violent porn rather than those involved in making and distributing it?

Where violent abuse of children, adults and animals is captured on film or photo we should prosecute all involved to protect the victim and further victims of such crime. But this law doesn’t help those who are into activities that look violent but are consensual – and we have to ask if it is the role of the state to interfere in such cases, particularly when those involved in BDSM have tried hard to educate Home Office staff about their lifestyle. For more information on this you may find the pressure group Backlash’s site useful.

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