Last weekend, the Libertarian Alliance conference featured one particularly broad platform offering three perspectives on liberty, ranging from the arch-conservative Sean Gabb to the leftwing James Panton. The discussion revealed plenty of healthy disagreement on the proper future of liberty in the United Kingdom but there was a surprising level of agreement on key issues. One idea shared by all was that the 21st century state seems intent to classify all citizens as both potential victims and perpetrators of crime, presenting a public in need of constant management, protection and discipline in order to function.
Hence, we need ASBOs for teenagers because we can no longer rely on communities to enforce reasonable standards of behaviour; smoking has to be banned from venues because we aren’t able to evaluate for ourselves whether we are content to be in a smoky environment; and drinking has to be taxed and the drinkers admonished. Citizens are held unable to evaluate their own health risks or stop themselves from lashing out at others. The state doesn’t think of them as responsible, nor free. This applies to the new Dangerous Pictures Act with which Backlash is concerned, more than anything else, as it takes as its starting point the idea that adults cannot be allowed to choose what is suitable viewing for themselves, that the law must punish us for looking at material outside the norm because it might damage us.
Behind that lies an even more dangerous assumption. Many of the images covered by the new porn law are of consenting (for now) legal acts, since the law includes mere depictions/simulation of violent acts. By making the viewing of this mere consensual play-acting illegal, it suggests that the government is not entirely happy about those acts themselves, fearful that others may decide to imitate them. So either they must think that adults cannot tell the difference between reality and simulation OR that the simulation itself is harmful, that people cannot be trusted to evaluate the safety and joy they derive from their own personal relationships. That kinky people are defective and in need of correction (and a ban on imagery is the start).
Our new vision of freedom should challenge these assumptions: that we don’t need the state to decide for us what we currently choose for ourselves. That one of the most important aspects of our autonomy, our sexuality, is ours to express as we wish with any consenting partner or participant. We are neither victims nor perpetrators when we engage in consensual sexual acts.