There is no ban on porn

ban  /ban/

Noun

An official or legal prohibition.

Synonyms noun.  prohibition – interdict – proscription – interdiction

 

There has been no ban on porn announced. No ban on simulated images of rape in pornography. No ban on your common run of the mill pornography, on user-uploaded pornography, on gonzo pornography. In fact, there has been no ban whatsoever announced on pornography in England and Wales.

It may seem a small thing but the word ‘ban’ sparks deep-rooted psychological resistance in most of us, reeking as it does of being stopped, being refused, being forbidden from that which we feel we have the right to access. Ever tried to quit smoking or gone on a health kick? Being told we can’t have something, even by ourselves, often makes us want it more.

The term ‘porn ban’ has been applied interchangeably to three separate announcements made recently by the Government.

1.)   Default pornography opt-out

2.)   Criminalising the possession of rape pornography

3.)   A blacklist of terms related to online searches for images of child abuse.

I have only been involved in the campaign for the second, criminalising the possession of pornography simulating rape, so that’s the only announcement I have most thorough knowledge of and backing for.

Default opt-out means that new customers will have to contact their internet service provider to opt-into accessing most pornographic websites … but there still is access. This is not a ban.

Criminalising the possession of rape pornography means that if you are found to have accessed pornography simulating rape you will have committed an offence … but there is still access. This is not a ban.

Indeed the only announcement that could be described in part as a ‘ban’ is that of blacklisting particular search terms for images of child abuse. This is not a ‘ban on child pornography’ as ‘child pornography’ does not exist. These images are not pornography. They are evidence of a crime. Blacklisting particular terms means certain searches will return no results and searchers will be directed to a splash page pointing to the consequences of watching images of child abuse. As has been pointed out by many commentators this proposal will be technologically difficult to implement and as many images are shared on peer-to-peer networks, child abuse images will still be distributed and consumed by those who really want to. There may be a ban… but, unfortunately, there is still access.

Words are important. They frame debate, articulate boundaries and values, and reveal our ideological location. Lack of care in terminology can result in limited definitions and sideline conversations into narrow categories, the moral panic of the Daily Mail, the libertarian panic of the Guardian.

I don’t fault the impulse to resist a ban, but I do want us to question the language.

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