Government Justifications

On Friday 28th September, ten days before the Second Reading of the Bill on Monday Oct 8th, the Ministry of Justice published a rapid evidence assesment of the evidence of harm relating to exposure to extreme pornographic material, which is being assessed.

The following justifications were cited in the original consultation paper, and have been repeated since.

The material encourages violent behaviour

The Government admits in its consultation paper that years of research do not support this claim, but makes it anyway. This is not evidence-based policy making. It is not even rational.

Note also: the issue is not that the evidence is “not quite conclusive” – the evidence gets nowhere near proving the claim, and often undermines it.

Legislation will break the cycle of supply and demand

People’s sexual orientations cannot be legislated out of existence (as any gay person pre-1967 would testify). If anything, cutting off the supply may well make the demand stronger.

As for supply, nearly all the material is hosted abroad, and the UK is a small market – so legislationhere would have barely any effect.

People need to be protected

Consenting adults who participate in scenes that are staged are not suffering actual injuries and therefore do not need protection.

Consenting adults who participate in scenes featuring real acts that are not dangerous or life-threatening (even if they may appear so to those unfamiliar with the relevant practices) do not need protection either.

Acts involving participants who are coerced violate existing laws everywhere, and anyone foolish enough to put such material on the web would be offering evidence of their crimes to prosecutors. So those who might be thus harmed are already protected.

Society needs to be protected from exposure to the material

The Government does not explain what “society” needs protection from here. Given the weakness of the arguments alleging harm (above) this would seem to boil down to a need to be protected from material that some would find distasteful (see below).

Bear in mind that material of this kind is not widely advertised (unlike mainstream pornography); onehas to go and find it. So the members of society that would be “protected” here would mostly be those who want to see it.

Children need to be protected

This argument is used here selectively. Of course children should not be exposed to this sort of material. Nor should they be exposed to mainstream pornography or certificate 18 films, both of which are far more widely available, and therefore more likely to be encountered by children. Presumably, then,these should be banned too (along with anything children should not see, but might).

People find the material abhorrent

The Government uses this justification repeatedly, presumably because the justifications that need evidential support do not stand up to scrutiny.

In fact, the Government (perhaps unintentionally) conflates two senses of “abhorrence” here – the morally wrong and the merely distasteful. If the arguments based on evidence of harm fail, this comes down to the latter. In which case, the question is whether distaste on the part of the majority justifies repression of a minority. Gay people found themselves in precisely this position pre-1967.